The main road that passed by the scenic overlook at Laurel Point stood quiet and eerily deserted that frigid winter evening. Any other night, the two-lane highway would be steady with traffic, countless commuters traveling through Lodi to get to the outlying cities. That Christmas Eve, the Jersey suburb might have been a ghost town. In over two hours, one car had idled by, leaving the city limits. When night fell, not a single soul was in sight.
With the setting of the sun came the threat of sub-freezing temperatures, and the slick, wet pavement that hadn’t already turned to ice undoubtedly would once the mercury dropped. Black ice obscured by darkness on those winding roads made the going that much more treacherous. That particular night, it could be safe to assume that anyone who was heading somewhere for Christmas was already safely at their destination by now, cozy and warm and in the company of loved ones--where they were supposed to be.
A fine notion, Jerry thought bitterly, when one had someplace to be.
Leaning against the frozen guardrail, Jerry Only sighed and stared morosely out at the city far below. The night was bitter cold. The wind tore at his sleeve and whipped across the pavement like a banshee, its chill cutting straight through clothing, to flesh, to bone. It was the sort of cold that could chill a man to his core. No sane person, mused Jerry, would be out and about on a night like this one. He could safely assume that he, himself, did not fit into the category of most sane people.
He sighed again, a heavy sound lost on the rush of the hollow wind. Far below, the city skyline was miles and miles away, a distant kingdom of glittering lights and cold concrete. Somewhere down there, Jerry knew, his brother and band mate were spending Christmas Eve in the band‘s house, preparing for their first holiday as a together. They would partake in all the holiday customs that couples traditionally took part in on Christmas Eve--hanging mistletoe, sipping warm cocoa by the fireplace and spend the evening wrapped in one another’s arms. As the snow fell, they would count their blessings and thank their lucky stars for the love they’d come to find.
And frankly, there wasn’t enough “holiday cheer,” alcoholic or otherwise, that could possibly have helped Jerry endure that.
His setting at present seemed, at the very least, to suit his mood: frigid and dark, desolate and alone. Well, mostly, alone. This time of year seemed emphazize that notion. The holidays were made for lovers, not loners. As far as Jerry was concerned, Christmastime was just an excuse for happy couples to get together, and to make the lonely and miserable that much more lonely and miserable.
It was no wonder suicide rates went up during the holidays.
Now there’s a hell of a thought, thought Jerry, nearly laughing aloud to himself. Take the easy road. Just end the whole damn shebang. For the briefest of moments, Jerry entertained the idea of jumping, and letting merciful gravity do the rest. In the end, it was a bitter jest, and the joke was on him. Glenn would probably use it as an excuse to dance on my grave, the sorry bastard.
And in that instant, unbidden, Jerry felt a sudden tightening in his chest, a physical ache that accompanied a rush of an unnamed but familiar emotion. It was the same sensation that had whitewashed Jerry for years without fail whenever Glenn Danzig just so happened to cross his mind. Which, these days, seemed to be quite often.
You brought this on yourself, jackass. Don’t even fucking deny it.
Jerry couldn’t have denied it if he’d tried. Indeed, it was his own grave and selfish mistakes that drove Glenn from him never to look back. That ship had sailed and sunk and the ghost of it still haunted him relentlessly. All that remained now of the love that had slipped through Jerry’s fingers were nostalgia and lukewarm feelings, and a single physical memento: the small silver ring that had belonged to Glenn. Jerry wasn’t sure why he still held on to it, but he did. He wore it on a silver chain around his neck, always beneath his shirt collar, but always there. It was all he had now--of his love, of his life. Of him.
Jerry took a deep breath, exhaled it shakily. He reached beneath his collar and wrapped his fingers around the dainty band.
He could still remember with stunning clarity the night he had presented Glenn with the ring.
“This ring is a symbol of my love for you,” Jerry had told Glenn as he slipped the silver band onto his dainty finger. A perfect fit, Jerry remembered. “With this ring, I promise you my heart, my soul, everything I can give you, from now until the day I die. I swear it, Glenn. I love you.”
He could remember the look on Glenn’s face clearly at those words--sheer adoration, intermingled with shock and a hint of amusement.
“I’ll love you until the day I die,” Jerry had told him, and he had kept his promise. It had been the truth then and, as much as Jerry hated to admit, it still was.
Until the day I die.
It was amazing how terribly the past could sting.
“Christ,” Jerry muttered aloud. “The hell did I go wrong?” The rush of the wind was his only reply. Jerry raised his eyes to the sky, beseeching the heavens for answers. It was snowing again, small crystal flakes beginning to whirl down from the grey clouds above. “Lord,” murmured Jerry aloud. “Tell me how to fix this. Give me a sign, anything.”
The snowflakes were falling harder, faster now, and in the deafening silence, Jerry could almost hear the soft patter-patter of them hitting the ground.
Suddenly, Jerry felt he was no longer alone. The back of his neck prickled as his ears picked up the faintest of sounds, perhaps a soft footstep, in the snow behind him. When he turned to look over his shoulder, there was nothing there, nothing behind him but the snow and windy night.
Fuck me, I’m losing my damn mind.
He turned back to the railing, shaking his head, absolving himself back to the silence of the winter night--and nearly jumped clear out of his skin when he heard a voice speak up behind him.
“Fucking bitter cold out here, isn’t it?” Jerry fairly leaped a foot and whirled around so quickly he nearly lost his bearings. The being that stood before Jerry winced and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Shit, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to give you a coronary or anything.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Wide-eyed, Jerry took in the sight of the entity that stood before him. He was dainty in stature, reminding Jerry of some sort of pixie or elf. His large green eyes offered an innocent façade--never mind that this particular apparition seemed to swear like a sailor. His petite frame was draped in a full-length white fur coat, and he wore a sprig of holly tucked behind his ear.
“What the hell kind of Christmas spirit are you supposed to be? Because if you’re the Ghost of Christmas Past, you’re the last person I want to see right now.”
“I’m not a ghost.” Jerry arched an eyebrow.
“What are you, then? Some sort of Christmas pixie or something?”
“No, I’m Danish. Ass.” The small Dane sighed irritably. “My name is Lars. I’ve come to offer you tidings of hope and good will on this Christmas Eve. Or, if you want to get fucking technical, I’m the answer to your prayers.” Jerry blinked again.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You asked for help. Here I am.” Lars gestured theatrically with one white-gloved hand. “Now, what’s the problem? If you’re asking for help from the Man Upstairs, it must be pretty fucking heavy.” Lars eyed Jerry with scrutiny, green eyes narrowing. “Oh my God. You weren’t thinking of jumping, were you?”
“What? Of course not!”
“Good, because that’s a pretty sissy fucking Mary thing to do, anyway.”
“You know,” Jerry said pointedly, “when I asked for assistance from the Big Whatever, I don’t think you’re quite what I had in mind.”
“Well, I’m what you’ve got. Non-fucking-refundable. Now, tell me, Jerry.” His tone softened, just slightly. “What guidance do you seek? Something tells me you’re in mourning for someone on this supposedly festive night.”
“You don’t know the half of it, kid,” replied Jerry grimly.
“Well, talk to me.” Lars leaned against the rail beside Jerry, green eyes studying him intently. “Enlighten me, Jerry.”
“A long time ago,” Jerry reflected, “there was one person who meant more to me that anything or anyone else in this entire world.”
“Well, that’s a start.”
“We were in love,” he continued. “It was perfect, like something out of a fairy tale. We just, you know, happened. Like we were meant to be. He was my entire world. Everything I did, I did for him. Or, at least, I thought I did.” A dark shadow crossed Jerry’s face, and he gazed sullenly out at the skyline again. “In the end, I screwed up. I let my ego get in the way, and I hurt the person who meant more to me than anything ever had.”
“Time heals wounds,” Lars pointed out. “Did you ever apologize, you know, tell him you were sorry?”
“No,” admitted Jerry. “It doesn’t matter. He’d never forgive me, not in a million years.” Lars rolled his eyes.
“Well, how the hell are you supposed to know if you don’t try?”
“That’s easier said than done,” responded Jerry.
“Jerry, listen to me. If nothing else I’ve said tonight has made it through your skull, for fuck’s sake, then hear me when I say this. Time on earth, Jerry--it’s fleeting. And it doesn’t come with a guarantee. Each second that you let tick by is another second of your life you’ll never have again. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you should do today, because tomorrow might never come.”
“As much as I admire your ‘seize the day’ philosophy, Lars, I’m telling you. Here. Today. Now. That is simply not going to work. Not today, not tomorrow, not ten years from now. Simple as that.”
“Motherfuck!” Lars swore. “You’re exasperating! Don’t be such a pessimist!”
“Only a miracle would ever make him forgive me.”
“Well, in case you didn‘t get the memo, Christmas is the time of miracles. Just go to him. Tell him how you feel. Speak from your heart, and you won‘t be wrong.”
“What if he doesn‘t forgive me?” asked Jerry dubiously.
“Then you can’t say you didn’t give it a shot,” replied Lars. “But, Jerry, if you don’t try--fucking try--this will haunt you until the day you die. The what-ifs, the could-have-beens. Could have, would have, should have--it’ll drive you fucking crazy. At the least, your conscience will be clear.” He patted Jerry reassuringly on the shoulder and stepped down from the curb. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I‘ve got to get going. Lemmy Kilmister is having a Christmas bash down at the Whiskey and I can‘t be late.”
“Wait a minute, that’s it?” Jerry turned to face Lars, agape. “You can‘t just leave me now, can you?”
“Well, I can’t do everything for you.” Lars smiled, wrapping his white scarf snugly around his neck. “Don’t worry, Jerry. You’ll be fine.” With that, he turned and started walking up the sidewalk toward the highway. At the end of the sidewalk, he turned and called back over his shoulder. “Faith in yourself, Jerry. You should try it sometime. Merry Christmas.”
When Jerry blinked, Lars was gone, seemingly having vanished into the night in same way he had come. Glancing about, Jerry saw no sign that anyone but him had been there to begin with. There were no footprints in the snow next to where he stood, no white-clad pixies in sight. Jerry’s head reeled.
Or maybe, it was possible. Presently, Jerry found he wasn’t quite so sure.
The one thing he did find himself sure of was that the little Dane’s words made more sense than any of his own jumbled thoughts. Suddenly, he found a wave of valiant resolve taking command of his processes--go to him. Tell him how you feel. Speak from your heart, and you won‘t be wrong.
There was no time to lose. Yanking his keys from his pocket, Jerry turned and headed for his car. He jammed the key into the ignition and brought the engine roaring to life. Throwing the black Mustang into reverse, Jerry sped out of the parking lot, driving much faster than he should have been on such a treacherous night.