"Should I go? What if Jack doesn't remember me?", I said. "Oh, just go knock on the door...", said my friend. We sit here debating in my car, parked in the McDonald's lot next to Jack's house. What does she know, she has never met Jack and I'd only met her a few hours ago. What if he didn't even live here anymore, it's been close to 6 years since I have laid eyes on this old place. Even if he still lives here, why did I want to see him? Why had I driven my car to his house?
Jack was a middle-aged Italian man with weathered skin. His hair had been black, I think, but had turned mostly gray. The stubble that always covered his face, the same. His thick Brooklyn accent and Fonz-like mannerisms always made me wonder how he came to live in Murray, KY. Combine all that with bit of that mad scientist guy from "Back to the Future", throw in just enough chemical imbalance to make him sort of scary... that was Jack. He had been a student at Murray State University. He defined untraditional student. I had crossed paths with Jack years ago, when I dated Julie. She was also a student there at the time. She had lived there at Jack's house for a while.
I remember her calling to tell me of a chance to move into a "better" place. She had met this Texan kid, Pedro, walking home from campus. Being an international student, she never had a car or drove. Somehow Pedro mentioned that he lived with this guy named Jack and that he may have an extra room to rent for cheap. I could just see Julie's eye's widen, "Cheap? you say?" (in her Russian accent). She never had much money left after paying for school and basically had to live wherever she could.
I drove up to look at the place with her. I could not believe she was really thinking of living there. It looked like a shack from those "Feed the Children" tv ads with Sally Struthers. All rotting gray wood, everything was dark and broken, strange patterned, peeling wallpaper. You had to step carefully and make yourself very light as you walked up the stairs to Pedro's room. I was positive we would fall through the floor at any moment. "I'm not sure about this, Sweetie.", I said. "But it's only twenty backs!", said Julie. "Backs??", I questioned. "You know, dollars."..."Oh, twenty BUCKS, you mean.", I smiled. She was always trying to add new English words and phrases to her already huge vocabulary. It was cute. We precariously made our way back down the dark staircase. Julie turned and smiled up at me, trying to convince her Kazakh tongue to correctly pronounce this new word..."Backs...Baawks...hmmm?".
The deal was actually twenty dollars a month along with doing all the dishes. She took it, thrilled with the thought of all the money she'd save. I was not very thrilled at the thought of my girlfriend living in this dump with these two weirdoes. But as her boyfriend, I wanted to support her and let her make her own choices. It'll be OK, I thought... After all, they did have a phone, one of those old, heavy black ones with the real metal dinger inside... so I could call...more importantly she could call for help if she needed. I made sure she knew about 911. So, I bit my lip and planned to visit as often as I could, living an hour away.
The next weekend, I helped her move in. She didn't really have a room per say, just the front little area. Jack had moved a tall bookshelf to form a makeshift wall, blocking the view from the front door and the staircase to Pedro's room. He'd also hung an old door between her new "room" and the kitchen. I made sure to buy and install a working lock onto that door.
My girlfriend's new place... this was going to be an adventure, I thought. I like adventures. Turned out to be true. We made lots of memories there, I am left with a handful. Seems those memories have carried me back to Jack's place all these years later. At least, I hope it's still Jack's... I seem to recognize that red, white, and rust truck in the yard? I KNOW Julie's ghost still lives here, that I am sure of, I can feel it. Is that still the same yellowed plastic over the front window? I can hear a loud tv inside Julie's front room. She never had a tv. I'll knock and hope for the best. I just want to say hello to old crazy Jack, and good bye to the ghost of my ex-girlfriend.