Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: After the Gold Rush
Definitive Version: Year of the Horse, 1997.
As great as the summer of 2004—the first year I worked in professional baseball—was, it could have been even better. The stars were aligned … but only all-too-briefly.
My head still was buzzing for weeks after I helped Janice paint her living room in August 2003 (good ol’, No. 389). Was it possible that after desiring this woman for eight years something might happen between us?
I couldn’t think about it. I had work to do in Cleveland, but I always looked forward to getting an email from her, just checking in, seeing how I was doing, how the book was coming. Unfortunately, she was still married, and with three kids at home, I just had to let things play out however they did.
Being only two hours away made it so I could get back to Columbus easily, for almost any reason—to paint someone’s living room, for instance. So it wasn’t unusual for Dad to still offer me his Blue Jackets tickets if he couldn’t find anyone else to take them off his hands.
One of those times was in February 2004. By now, I knew that I was coming back to Columbus to take the scoring job with the Clippers. So did Janice, who seemed to be as excited for me as I was. I wondered whether her excitement extended, like mine, for reasons that went beyond the work experience.
No matter. What I knew was that she was a huge Blue Jackets fan but didn’t have the access to tickets that I did, so I invited her to go. She readily accepted, saying her husband could watch her kids. OK, so this is innocent, too; the pressure’s off. It was a fun evening—we’re just friends, after all—but I definitely had more on my mind than the hockey game.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this, but, if not, Fight Club is one of my all-time favorite movies. In the early Aughties, I must have watched my videotape of the movie 50 times.
Anyway, there’s a classic scene where Edward Norton’s character meets Brad Pitt’s character on an airplane. At the end, Brad Pitt’s character poses a “question of ethics”—when you pass someone in close quarters, do you give them the front or the back? (It was phrased more eloquently in the movie.) He then gave Edward Norton the back and the stewardess the front.
Late in the Blue Jackets game, Janice said she had to go to the bathroom during a break in the action, and I immediately thought of that scene in Fight Club. What would it be? She gave me the front! Yes, I read into that as much as I could.
I read even more into her big announcement over lunch in March. We met at Claddagh, a chain faux Irish pub on the edge of German Village, while I was in town moving some stuff from Cleveland. Over fish and chips, Janice announced that she was getting divorced. The friend in me was very sorry to hear that. The man in me was doing the Yes-Yes Dance, feverishly.
However, I got some (relatively) bad news soon after. Janice had to go to the hospital for female-related surgery. I don’t think that it was for a hysterectomy, but whatever plans I had for us were going to be put on hold for a while.
Oh, and I had plans all right: A woman going through a divorce on the rebound. A single guy who was hot for her and in town only for the next few months. You do the math.
When I moved back, I had a few distractions—a teenager (good ol’ No. 238) and a nurse (good ol’ No. 213)—but I had my eyes on the prize. So while Janice was recuperating in the hospital, I took it upon myself to visit her.
I had a healthy debate beforehand about whether this was a good idea, but I decided, as part of my philosophy honed in Cleveland, that if I were going to err, it would be on the side of commission. I wasn’t going to let myself wonder whether I should have done something after the fact. Go see her, and let the chips fall where they may.
Janice was at Mt. Carmel East, and I showed up during visiting hours … when her mother was in the room with her. Crap. It was bad timing, but I stuck with it.
Since I knew Janice was having the procedure, I figured I could check in on her, see how she was doing, like you do, innocently enough. We chatted for a few minutes, then I left to “let Janice get some rest.” Lord knows what was said after I left, considering that Janice was only “getting a divorce” and wasn’t yet divorced.
Whether I’d made the right or wrong call was decided in early May. Janice called to say she had rented a few movies on a Friday night that the Clippers were on the road. After she put her boys to bed, was I interested in coming over for a couple of beers and watch? I think you know what my answer was.
I can’t to this day remember what the movie we saw was. It was inconsequential, because after it was over, we started talking about this and that and … us. I don’t remember what changed the topic of conversation, but I’ll never forget what she said as she began to lean closer to me. “I’m very afraid right now.”
Whether she was afraid that what was about to happen was about to happen or not happen isn’t known. What happened next was … amazing. I’d been attracted to Janice for nine years, and now, I was kissing her, touching her, helping her take off her clothes.
I knew we weren’t going to be able to consummate our erupting passion because of her recent surgery—doctors orders—but everything else was fair game. Janice was beautiful, and I told her she was beautiful. Apparently, she wasn’t used to being complimented thusly. Well, she’d better get used to it if I had anything to say about it, but I wasn’t thinking any further ahead then the next 10 seconds. I was fully invested in the moment for however long that it lasted.
After awhile, we broke for the evening, and I left with this song on my radio and my head buzzing once again with visions of Janice, Janice, Janice. I was envisioning the greatest summer of my life—working Clippers games and spending blissful nights with Janice whenever her kids were with their father.
Well, you already know how this was going to end, don’t you? I got the call a couple days later: Things were moving way too fast for her. She needed time. I told her to take as much time as she needed; I wasn’t going anywhere.
Unfortunately, we never got together again. That amazing night in May was our only night together. For that I’m sorry, but unlike so many other relationships in my past, I have no regrets about what happened with Janice. I gave it a shot; it just didn’t work out.
But after my trio of experiences in spring 2004, I had a rebuilt romantic confidence. I knew I’d meet someone else soon, and when I did, I’d be ready for it.