Doug Poms and Jane Hulstrunk

Jane Hulstrunk
Inspiration Piece

By Doug Poms


The day after you left was a quiet one.  By then, all my muffled screams, my agonizing cries, my echoing sobs were absorbed into the lingering snow from last weekend’s unexpected early season blizzard. I wondered if I would have to endure again those painful sounds harbored in the frost, upon April’s meandering thaw.  But for now I was okay, all was calm, all was quiet.  It was a brisk, bright day, the sun now rising into a cobalt sky, emblazing the snow-covered evergreens along the path before me.

I noticed some dainty animal tracks, most certainly the vestiges of trespassing elk that regularly wandered the local area in search of green.  I recollected the first time I saw deer tracks in the snow.  It was Christmas of 1969.  I was 6 years old.  My family had decided to spend the holiday alone in our family’s summer home in Vermont (instead of with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, all of whom had fled to Florida).  It was a white Christmas, thanks to the bountiful snowfall we had a couple days earlier.  That morning, I went outside looking for my father, who I thought must be chopping firewood by the tool shed down the lane. It was very quiet, just the dull whistle of the soft, cool wind could be heard. I had gone only thirty yards when I saw those unmistakable impressions in the snow.  I was so excited. I ran back to the house.

“Santa was here.  You can see his reindeer left some tracks.  I knew he would come. See I told you guys.  He’s real.  Ernie was wrong.”

Of course, years later I later discovered the truth; my brother Ernie was right.  Santa Claus was not real, and neither was love.

Our relationship ended in ice. “I’m going to take the job in Paris,” you coldly sprang the news of your impending departure while we were walking through the snow covered path in the woods. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, yesterday.  You continued, “I think it is a good thing for me to go away for a while. We both need some space.  The time is right. I think I should leave tonight.”  I felt the insides drop out of my body onto the frozen tundra. “I’m sorry,” were the last words you spoke before you brushed an icy tear from my flushed cheek with your copper-colored crocheted mitten (a gift from my mother last Christmas) and left me in the cold while you went to pack.

To be honest, it was not a complete surprise.  You had been rumbling the past year or two about going overseas to work with one of the fashion houses.  But I had at least thought that you would ask me to go with you. (Would I have said yes? Probably, but I guess we’ll never know).  I have to wonder whether it was it the job that lured you away or just the opportunity to leave me without having to go down the painful path of explaining your feelings about us and the pain we had endured together.

We had been fighting a lot, two or three times a week.  You were unhappy as a graphic artist, and I was forced to work as a temp after losing my Wall Street investment banking position following the economic freeze a couple years ago.  Neither of us dealt well with disappointment.  We were both miserable each night, except Fridays and Saturdays when we often drank two bottles of white wine and further dulled our pain with camembert, cupcakes and carnal indulgence.  We lived for the weekends, and I knew that would not be enough to sustain us, at least not indefinitely.  You had your own deep-seeded dreams and ambitions, and I knew that they would trample ours one day.

Now the sun was shining through the evergreens, as if striving to offer me warmth from the heavens.  I found it wonderfully consoling.  If it had been cloudy today, I don’t think I would have been able to bear it.

I was grateful for the quiet. I was not ready to tell my family about us. Mom would be disappointed. I believe she truly liked you, and she definitely admired your sharp fashion sense.  Dad would not have noticed that attribute, but he did love hearing your zany stories, and living vicariously your pursuit of the proverbial glamorous life.  How he would love to hear about your new life in Paris!

I knew that Ernie would make some snide comment about you (You were right, he never liked you, though I did my best to hide it from you).  Ernie recently celebrated his tenth anniversary with Suzanne and considers himself an expert in romantic relationships (the new Dr. Phil, God help us!).   He warned me over and over again that you would break my heart one day. Now he had to be right about something once again.  Arrggghhh!

But Ernie did not know the real you, at least the good parts of you.  The parts that made me love you (and still do).  Your goofy smile, your tender touch.  How you would surprise me with little gifts from time to time, like that stunning violet scarf I had admired at Bergdorf’s, but could not justify buying without permanent employment. How you would draw me those beautiful pictures of women in stylish dresses and bring them home from work to brighten our home, while the world around us bleakened with flakes of white ash and dust from crumbling towers.  How you would bake me those scrumptious peppermint brownies, my favorites, when I was losing regular bouts with depression afterward.  How you gave away beloved designer suits to neighbors newly homeless, so they might find work and life again.

Maybe we will yet share Paris in springtime.  Perhaps these frigid, frosty days will prove to be the winter of our discontent. I expect not.  You rarely change your mind about anything.  You may have left tender tracks in my thawing heart, but I do not believe in Santa Claus anymore.  Still, with the glistening sun warmly bursting through the evergreen branches today, I have the slightest of hope for the days ahead, and if I was honest with myself, I would have to admit that the jury is still out on love.



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