The first time I heard the song “Hey There Delilah,” it was playing on the radio, in my little blue rental car. It was Sunday morning, and I was packing up the Toyota Yaris in Jack’s driveway, rushing to get to the airport in Toronto to catch my flight home.
Jack was busy writing down driving directions on a very small sheet of memo paper, because I realized I had no idea how to get back to the city from his house on Glasgow Street. I leaned against the driver’s side door and watched as Jack concentrated on writing. The sun had turned his hair blonder than ever and it was still tousled from the night before. I reached out and rested my hand on his arm, trying to memorize how it felt when our skin touched. He looked up and smiled because he knew.
I looked around one last time and thought about how much I would miss Waterloo and this old historic house that had become our cocoon for the past ten days. The overgrown vegetable garden, our large sleeping nest in the living room, the bright yellow kitchen where we sang Bob Marley songs while making enormous batches of homemade guacamole, leaving the entire city without avocados.
I thought about our leisurely drive out to Amish Country and how we stopped at a farm to buy peaches. I photographed the Amish family who sold us fresh produce from a large wooden wagon, as their overdressed children ran through waist-high, 19th century fields.
I thought back on the days we spent camping on the dunes of Lake Erie. How we swam all day in the warm waves of that vast lake and then sunned our wet, tired bodies on faded towels. We were so content lying side by side on the shore, pretending that our days weren’t numbered.
I thought of our last evening at the lake and how we relaxed on the beach in our camp chairs. Our feet sunk into the warm sand as we drank the last two cold bottles of Corona from the cooler. The water was calm and our world was right, until the conversation changed gears. Jack started arguing about child labor laws and the gross injustice of retail clothing stores, and sweat factories. In the end, he stormed off, leaving me with a half-finished bottle of warm Corona in my hand and feeling a bit homesick.
Jack was ten years younger than me. He was not long out of college and was still at the age where he thought he could change the world. I loved that about him, but his strong opinions were sometimes a point of contention. So when he didn’t return after our argument, I packed up the folding chairs and walked back to our campsite, seeking refuge from the now swarming mosquitoes. Meanwhile, Jack walked inland and meandered through trails of low brush, strolling obliviously past the numerous signs that warned of dangerous parasites and the high threat of lime disease. Just after dark, he showed up at our tent with an apology and a tick. Once the small bloodsucking insect was killed, I calmed down and we made up.
When we woke the next morning, we saw that Jack had also brought poison ivy back with him to the tent, because two oval rashes appeared on the insides of my thighs. Within a few weeks the rashes healed, but the poison ivy left scars. Six months later the scars were completely gone. I cried the day I noticed their absence.
“Hey there Delilah, don’t you worry about the distance, I’m right there if you get lonely, give this song another listen, close your eyes… I’m by your side.” We said our aching goodbyes and with a brave smile I backed out of the gravel driveway. With a heavy heart, Jack waved as I left our cocoon and eased my way back into the world he helped me put back together. And as promised, he was there by my side, every time I closed my eyes and visited Glasgow Street.
She wanders through a grand old Victorian, long abandoned and forgotten. There are dusty, tattered cloths draped over the once-lovely furnishings, and it’s dark inside. The only light comes from the grime-glazed windows that glow with a diffused softness, and sunbeams that filter down through gaps in the buckled roof. But it’s enough for her to see her way through the shambles. She knows these halls all too well.
She moves from room to room, pausing, observing, reflecting. She does this day after day -the same rooms, the same path, until she sees It. It’s standing in the foyer, at the base of the staircase, looking up at her. She walks down the splintered stairs, and without speaking, It leads her towards the large front door. It has come to collect her, hoping that she won’t want to stay there. But she doesn’t want to stay, of course. She never has. She very much wants to be somewhere else. She just hadn’t noticed the front door until now. Has it been there all along?
Hand in hand, they step over the threshold, down the front steps, and into a field. The clouds drift overhead, revealing the sun, and she smiles. It leads her further into the field, and when she feels the warm breeze on her skin, she laughs. It leads her further still, and she feels Its arms wrapped around her. She feels connected and loved and full of life. And then she hears Its voice, as It tells her goodbye.
Stunned, she watches It walk far out into the field, and down a slope, until It is almost out of sight. It disappears without looking back, so she turns her gaze back to the house. It has been a long time since she has seen it from the outside, and she notices the extent of the disrepair.
She doesn’t want to go back inside, but she’s exhausted. Her heart is broken, and what she needs now is rest. She realizes there might be other options, but sees no other path in the tall grass. As she walks, she takes in the sights. These are the things that people see every day, she marvels to herself. And that burst of joy she had as they walked together just moments before – that is what others must feel all the time.
She stops and tries to remember how It made her smile and laugh, and the delight she felt at the nearness they shared. But it already felt like so long ago. She tries to form a smile again, but the smile doesn’t come. She tries to recreate her easy laugh, but it now sounds weak and hollow. She knows she might be able to do these things again, but she has no idea how. So she climbs the broken steps, turns the knob on the front door, and walks back into the place she is destined to return to.
Back in the foyer, she closes the door behind her. As soon as the large frame clicks shut, the door vanishes once again. So she goes back to her wandering. She holds close her new memories, hoping they will be enough until the door to the other world appears once more.