Jane came into my life headfirst in 1973 when I was 8 years old. I was starting into my bowl of Cocoa Puffs, listening to my new 45 of Simon and Garfunkels "Sound of Silence," when I heard a repetition of small, passion-filled breaths that are usually reserved for nubile porno stars. My eyes followed the sound through the sliding glass window, across our backyard, up the fence, and collided intermittently with what I can only describe as the perfect embodiment of everything that I find wonderful about this life. I never noticed anyone moving into the house that ours shared a rear fence with, much less that they had a trampoline, or a lot much less that Jane would bounce on it. My hatred of gravity was punctuated by the fact that it only allowed my short glimpses of Janes face before calling her back down, never failing to notify her long black hair last so it hovered in the air just that much longer. From that moment on, Jane would be the catalyst for all my ideas, secrets and dreams, never allowing my passions a moments rest.
The next day, although completely unaware of it, Jane became the star of my first short film. I documented her rhythmic bouncing on an old windup Bolex movie camera that my grandfather had given me--one five-minute shot of the top of my fence with Janes head coming in at regular intervals. I kept the film in an old Charles Chips container in my closet along with all of my other prized possessions. Either projected on my bedroom wall or out my back window, Jane bounced to "Sounds of Silence" all summer long.
I came face-to-face with Jane for the first time when a brainstorm told me to confront my claustrophobia by locking myself in the trunk of my fathers car after figuring out how to open it from the inside. I was determined to stay in for 10 minutes, and I was halfway through the first five seconds when panic set in. My brain was on sabbatical somewhere near the engine compartment, and I couldnt get the latch (whose mechanism I had committed to memory) to be my friend. I hollered and yelled as I flailed around in the trunk until it finally popped open, at which time I leaped out, gracefully catching my shoe on the rim and going into a 10-point face plant in the center of the driveway.
Why fortune sent Jane walking home via my front sidewalk on this very day haunts me still, but she stood there staring at me from no more than 10 feet. It wasnt until then that I realized that Jane was nothing less than an alien being beamed down for the sole purpose of making a mockery of our female population. Her presence caused me to slip into inarticulateness, and after an inordinately long pause, I searched my vocabulary and came up with, well, "...Hi." She then answered back with an equal if not more gusto-filled "Hi," the only difference being that it was then followed,after what seemed like three weeks, with a devastating "Bye."
After our chance meeting by the car trunk, I began writing letters to Jane and sending them to a fictitious address, my rationale being that if she were meant to get them, then the postman would recognize the name and reroute them accordingly. I began receiving the returned letters unopened and eventually starting mailing them from the 7-Eleven mailbox, after getting a verbal reprimand from the disturbed postal worker who couldnt understand someone making the same address mistake over the course of many years.
I never told a soul about my affection for this tempestuous creature, but she moved me so much that I kept on going. Jane was a drug that could completely reorganize my chemistry from across the fence, so I was privately devastated when my mother sold my Charles Chips can in a garage sale, oblivious to the magnitude of its contents. I learned early in life that there were 17 important people in the universe and that Jane was nine of them. I am convinced that she was the prototype for Lenny Kravitzs "Butterfly."
Janes parents were Woodstockers who actually numbered their children. Jane was originally Two, but it became her middle name by the time I discovered her. Jane Two. She was a true flower child, and the more I learned about her, the more I fell in love. Most of my information came from her mother, who ended up being my homeroom teacher in eighth grade. She would often speak of her daughter, and because she was their only girl and went to a different school, I was sure I was the only one who knew who she was. She would bring pieces of art that Jane had painted to show the class, but it wasnt news to me, as I had watched Jane create them in her garage weeks before.
One day, Janes mother asked everyone in the class to write down an invention and turn it in the next day. She even brought an example for us to look at. It was for an antigravity machine that utilized two objects that wielded the same attraction and would thus cancel each other out. One of the objects was a cat, because that no matter how you held a cat and dropped it, it would land on its feet. The other was a slice of peanut-butter toast that, with 14 years of breakfasts to the inventors credit, had been proven to always land peanut-butter-side down if dropped. The inventor suggested that if the toast were strapped to the back of the cat, peanut-butter-side up, then the cat would just hover, each side insisting on hitting the ground when only one could be allowed to.
I didnt need to see the Two at the top of the page to know who wrote it. This was the Jane vernacular, and I was in love. John Lennon once said: No one I think is in my tree, but I had definitely found someone in mine. her nonsense suited my nonsense, and to say I was smitten would qualify for the Understatement of the Year contest. Jane was the most perfect person in the history of perfect people, or in the history of ever for that matter. Jane was the answer.
By the time I left for California in 1989, I had accrued 143 letters stamped RETURN TO SENDER and postmarked as early as Nov. 14, 1973. Jane had moved to another part of the city in 84, but I kept sending them to the same address, as they had become a sort of therapy. The day I left with my car packed, I drove by the art supply store where she worked and sent a goodbye letter to her from the mailbox right in front of her store.
In October of 96, another 44 letters later, I found myself back in my hometown at a friends wedding, listening to the obligatory "How ya been?", when someone asked if anyone remembered "that love child, Jane, who always had her head in the clouds." I froze. he then proceeded to address the table with some other shit he called language and ended the sentence with "You know shes got cancer?"
I had never wanted to violate a person more severely with a carving knife, but my claustrophobia had spread to my fingers, and I could no longer make a fist. I got up and left, and an hour and a couple of phone calls later was outside Janes hospital room, trying to control my heart rate before telling my hand to knock. Her mother opened the door with her lips moving, but nothing coming out. I walked past her and saw Jane on the bed looking more beautiful than I could have possibly remembered. She said, "Sean," and at that moment the viscosity of my blood changed. I couldnt move. Jane not only remembered me; she knew my name.
That night, I told her all the times I watched her bounce, and I was the one who stole her Charlies Angels T-shirt from the swimming pool. She admitted that she had left the copy of Ultravoxs Vienna on my doorstep for my birthday in 1981, and that shed read all of my papers her mother brought home to grade, and that the bastard who had taken her to every festivity was actually her cousin because all the other boys thought she was weird, and that she had seen me standing in line one Halloween for the schools haunted house and jumped behind the counter so that she could be the one to hold my hand and place it in the bowl of grapes while whispering in my ear that they were eyeballs, and that she was angry that shes missed out on so much of life, and why the hell didnt I talk to her sooner? Before she fell asleep, I told her that I would send her a box with the last 23 years of us inside.
I leaned over the pillow that she was dreaming on and kissed her goodnight at 6:43 a.m. and promised her that I would attend her gallery opening in two weeks, after a brief return to Los Angeles. As I left, I couldnt comprehend how anything wretched could live inside something so beautiful, nor how her new haircut could be sufficient in keeping her thought cage warm.
Jane died on Nov. 1. her mother said that shed received my box of letters, and the she had read every one of them. She also said she would send me a package that she said Jane had wanted me to have. This wasnt the plan. I had dreams to live, and I didnt remember Janes absence being in any of them. I was welcomed into this Jesus time-share experience when I got here, and I knew that some stays would be shorter than others, but somehow now I felt betrayed. Janes stay was too short, but she drove her point home... straight into my heart.
A month later, I pulled into my driveway and noticed a UPS box on my doorstep. With a mixture of trepidation and desire, I opened it up. Inside was a partially rusted Charles Chips can that was much smaller than I remembered. It contained about 100 feet of slightly yellowed film and a 45 of Simon and Garfunkels "Sound of Silence" with Sean + Two written in the center in purple Crayola.