Daniel Rosler is a local NEPA writer and musician. He writes and performs with his bands, “Esta Coda” and “A Fire With Friends.” He has published a short story, “Dog Whistle,” in the Jawline Review, and a non-fiction piece, “Technology and the Death of the Individual: Chaplin’s Critique of Modern Times” for Moviejawn. He enjoys literary criticism and theory, particularly psychoanalysis and Marxist criticism, as well as continental philosophy. He is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, a minor in psychology and received the 2016 Academic Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in English. He currently works at the Scranton Times-Tribune and is debating whether he can afford pursuing his Ph.D at Binghamton University. He’s the loving father of daughter, Nora Kate, his dog, “Dobby” and grateful for his girlfriend, Ashley Farrow.
Daniel Rosler’s excerpt from a longer fiction piece is called, “Remembering Jane.”
“There’s nothing funny about the situation,” she would say matter-of-factly.
“As a matter of fact,” was something she also said a lot.
I met Jane in the summer. She wore a sundress that I thought was strange but later found out was a supposed rare, vintage outfit she picked up at a thrift store in her hometown. Either way, I told her then, and still believe now, that her shoes were stupid.
We ran into each other again at a mutual friend’s house shortly after. This time, and maybe it was the wine, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The summer was nearing end, but it was still hot as hell. I watched her wipe sweat from her forehead near our friend’s pool. She refused to go in because she was afraid of public pools. I explained to her that a pool in someone’s backyard was hardly public.
“That doesn’t mean I know who’s been in here,” she said.
“Who cares who’s been in here?”
That’s when she pushed me in the pool. Everyone laughed. As soon as I came up for air, I laughed too. She had a huge smile. I hadn’t noticed it before.
“Now, I’m definitely not getting in there,” she said.
Later that night, she joined me in the back of my car, and there was hardly any time to come up for air.
We started dating. Became a serious thing I guess. We moved into a small, upstairs apartment. Jane would sit on the floor and listen to her records. Said she could feel the music better there. I told her she was crazy and would pour myself a small glass of Scotch and watch her. She would keep her eyes shut and stay there for hours. I remember her saying she could hear eternity like that but could never explain what that meant.
“Can you flip it for me?” She would ask every so often.
There were a lot of nights like that. Even though I thought she was nuts, I never minded.
She told me that when she was younger people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she’d tell them, “myself.” The grown-ups got a kick out of that. They’d laugh, always noting that “kids say the funniest things.” They stopped laughing when she turned eighteen and her answer didn’t change.
“Just being yourself is hard enough,” she would whisper to me in bed. We liked to lay under the sheets and talk. I thought it was strange, but she said she felt safe like that.
I worked for a local garage and she stayed home working on her paintings. I guess she was pretty good at it, too. I wouldn’t know. Sometimes, she’d tell me in great detail of what she was trying to say in her art. A lot of it was political. A lot of it was about environment. And war. And peace. And people. And religion. And the economy.
It just looked like colors to me.
One day, I came home from a long day and Jane wasn’t home. I passed out early. When I woke up the next morning, Jane still wasn’t there. I started to worry, pacing around our living room. That’s when I finally noticed her newest painting. It was a portrait of me. She never painted me before. There was a note underneath it that said:
“You are the kindest, most gentle, and loving thing that’s ever happened to me. And yet, for some reason, I’m still not happy. I can no longer accept how unfair that is to the both of us. One day, you will hear from me again. I promise.
With all the love I can muster,
I spent the day sulking, had a little too much to drink and decided to drive around town to see if I would find her anywhere. I knew it was pointless. But people used to tell me love was pointless, and every single one of them still tried.
I tried for hours that night.
I stopped in a local pub, and the bartender Bobby told me I looked like I had seen better days.
I feared I had already seen the best.
Years and years passed before I finally heard from Jane.
It happened yesterday. A neighbor of hers called me. She told me she didn’t know of Jane having any family or friends. Told me she would check in on her when she could. After Jane died, her neighbor helped clear some of the stuff from Jane’s house. That’s when she found a photo of Jane and me. It was taken many years ago outside of an art show Jane had one Friday evening. The photo made it into the paper and had our names beneath it. Her neighbor told me she looked me up and decided to call me, thinking maybe Jane and I stayed in touch. She seemed disappointed to tell me the funeral had already happened. I told her not to worry about it, and she told me Jane passed peacefully. I’ve always thought that was a weird expression, but I thanked her. I couldn’t help but feel a little numb to the news.
I spent that night nursing a Scotch. I set up an old record player and put a Sam Cooke album on. Jane loved Sam. I used to hear her humming “You Send Me” while she painted. I flipped Sam Cooke records over more than any other.
That’s when I remembered something Jane told me once, that she could never be content with just “trying.” She said she had one life to live and that it didn’t mean anything unless she left something behind to feel proud of. She was full of passion, but I disagreed with her and still do now. I used to tell her to at least try meant everything. Made a world of difference. I wonder if she ever learned to agree with me. Or if, even better, she felt she had reached whatever goal she had set for herself. The kind of goal you can’t really explain to another person.
“Maybe those kind of goals are unattainable,” I would tell her.
“Nothing in this world is unattainable,” she would tell me.
She painted her whole god damn life away, and all I ever saw were the colors.