Short Story

Altared States

A few days after my wife Celestine died suddenly from encephalitis, I got a phone call that I suspected was some form of condolence. I had not recovered enough to talk to anyone, but the caller ID – Jellane Jefferson – shocked me into answering.
“Duke, I’m so sorry that your wife died. I know that we parted on bad terms, but I never wished anything as horrible as this to happen to you. If it is OK with you, I’d like to see you and see if I can at least heal some old wounds.”
As I said, I was surprised to hear from the woman that I had called Jelly – “It must be Jelly, ‘cause Jam don’t shake like that”. My father, who appreciated voluptuous women, had frequently used that phrase. Jelly had passed the off ramp to voluptuous at 100 miles per hour and showed no signs of slowing down. Jellane thought Jelly was short for her name, but then she got a lot of things wrong.
A few years before Celestine and I married, Jelly and I were hot and heavy. Jelly was ready for marriage and children in some order, but I insisted on graduate school first. Her response was to elope with Edgar Grand after knowing him for a week. Before she left, she complained about my masculinity and social skills. I seem to remember something about “unconscious, undermanned nerd”. It hurt, but at least it was a well turned phrase and not completely inaccurate. I had taken her for granted. Our dates could have taken place outside of my car, and I could have worked more on her pleasure. A six pack and Jelly in the back seat was all I cared about.
I hated her and her treachery at the time, but it set me free to meet the not-Jelly. Celestine was multi-talented, intelligent and sophisticated. Painting, music, swimming, comedy – she excelled at whatever she tried. Her athleticism carried over into our bedroom. She was hard to keep up with, but I tried my best. I can’t imagine getting over losing her as long as I live.
So why let Jelly drop by? Maybe it would take my mind off my grief for a little while.
When she came over, I asked how she knew about Celestine. “I saw it in the obits. She got a big spread. Wow, you were really lucky”. I let the implied insult and insensitivity go, but did note that there must have been some low level stalking for her to get my phone number and address.
I can’t claim to be the good guy here because I asked how she and Edgar were doing. I already knew that Edgar was seeing several women while married to her. She said “I shouldn’t have rushed into marriage so young and unprepared. We divorced after a couple of years.” She didn’t elaborate and I didn’t push. She looked down into her lap and said quietly “I’m really sorry about the way that I treated you. I hope that you can forgive me.”
To keep the ball rolling I said “I should have treated you a lot better. We were both young and made mistakes.”
We ended up talking for an hour. A week later, we went out to dinner and a movie. The week after that we ended up in bed. A month after Celestine died we had planned our wedding.
With all of Jelly’s negatives, I will give her credit for her amorous acrobatics. To belabor a point, she was built for comfort, but she had several speeds. I made a mix disc from my music collection including things like “Super Freak”, “Venus”, “Work With Me Annie”, and “Kashmir”. I tried to finish our session with the line “they were dying to get off” from “Life In The Fast Lane”. If I hit the timing right, I’d reward myself with some pear brandy. If Jelly knew what was happening she never mentioned it.
On the big day, we had each invited twenty friends. As we stood in front of the minister, Jelly asked to say something before we said our vows.
“Duke, you are the same self-centered creep you always were. You still don’t have any social or bed skills. No way am I marrying you.”
“Please Jellane, stay for the music I prepared, maybe you will change your mind.” I could see that she wanted to go, but her curiosity kept her from leaving.
“See the old loss, same as the new loss. Go away Jelly-Jam, I don’t give a damn. I’m surprised you don’t limp; you are as big a blimp. Think you can do better, go back to Edgar.” The song goes on like that. I had taken the “Who” classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, stripped out the lyrics and added my own.
It was her turn to be shocked. She stayed through the whole song before running out. Would I have played the song if she had not burned me first? We’ll never know. Either way, it hurt that she got to me first.
We have not talked for months, but I have a feeling that we’ll get back together in the future if for no other reason than murder. We deserve each other. Maybe I should call her this time.