Note: This is part one of two. The Second Part is called "Give It Away — Reprise".
I can't get this song out of my head so I might as well write about it. It's by George Strait and I consider it to be one of the finest country songs ever — and I know that takes in a lot of territory.
"Give it Away" has great lyrics, a compelling rhythm and melody and one of the smoothest singers — George Strait has that impeccable sense of timing that the very best singers have. The lyrics and music for this song are by Jamey Johnson, Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon.
Thanks to techsan for being there for me — first-rate editor that he is. And thanks to Lady Cibelle for her feedback, encouragement and kind words.
A special thanks to DG Hear for trying to make me believe I can write as good as he says I can. It surely does make me want to keep trying!
STRUGGLES — JERRY'S STORY
She was stormin' through the house that day,
An' I could tell she was leavin'.
An' I thought, "Aw, she'll be back."
- George Strait
We had been fighting a lot; some weeks it seemed like every day. Most of it was small stuff: she wanted a new car and I wanted a new HD plasma TV. She wanted to go to Montego Bay for vacation and I wanted to go to Durango. I wanted kids; she didn't. She wanted to go out partying all the time and I liked to kind of hang around the house — I worked hard and liked to relax on my time off.
Maybe part of it is that I was ten years older than Cindy. I'm forty-two and she's just over thirty and we had been married for ten years. I kept up with her for a while but lately I've just been so damned tired.
It's not like we didn't try to work it out. A couple of months ago we did go for two weeks of lying on the beach at South Padre Island — a compromise choice that neither of us was really happy with. It wasn't the place so much — it turned out we both loved it — it was just that we both knew it wasn't what we wanted to do. I did feel though that this would give us the time alone together to rebuild our love and our marriage.
Unfortunately the vacation turned into a kind of daily bickering war. Each of us would take pot shots at the other — cheap shots really — and while we didn't exactly fight we didn't achieve the reconciliation that I had hoped for.
And now we were back and she was storming all through the house. She seemed restless — I had the feeling she had made some kind of decision but for some reason she didn't want to tell me about it.
I was sitting in the living room in the half dark of twilight holding a beer that was already turning warm from neglect. She walked in and from her actions she apparently hadn't see me sitting there.
She looked at the picture on the wall, my favorite picture of her. It was taken during the Dinner Cruise on San Francisco bay. She was at the front of the boat leaning casually against the rail, the constant breeze on the bay streaming her long, heavy tresses of raven black hair. The background was perfectly formed: the sun was setting over the Golden Gate, the sky was on fire with the clouds saturated with color ranging from a pale, almost transparent pink at the higher levels to a deep red, almost purple closer to the water.
The picture was framed just right with the best that nature and man could provide only serving to accentuate her God-given beauty. Her hand was at her throat, resting on the pearl necklace that had been my wedding present to her. The diamond ring on her finger caught one of the few glances of sunshine remaining and it glowed with an inner beauty.
The ring was special to me. Although I was a detective with the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, my family had been in the jewelry business in the Kansas City area for three generations. My Uncle Hiram had worked with me to design a ring. It had a one-carat aquamarine — a gem-quality of transparent beryl (similar to an emerald) — flanked by almost colorless diamonds of three-quarter carat and one-half carat. This was set on a platinum ring.
I don't know what this would have cost me - I'd guess around eight grand - but Hiram had never married and I was his only nephew so I got it for an affordable price considering my salary.
Anyway, Cindy was staring at the picture for what must have been a full minute. She was shaking her head, slowly, and I could see her shoulders slump. Then she turned abruptly, decisively away from the picture with her posture firmed. I knew at that instant our marriage was over. She was leaving me.
BEGINNINGS — CINDY'S STORY
That picture from our honeymoon,
That night in Frisco Bay: just give it away.
- George Strait
While I was growing up in Limon in eastern Colorado everyone told me I was pretty. When I went to the University of Kansas to study architecture, they started calling me beautiful. I was never comfortable with either of these descriptions. I didn't like to be pigeon holed — to be put in someone else's box with them thinking they knew me. When I looked in a mirror, I just saw... me. I was who I was.
That's not to say I didn't realize I was attractive — it's just that it wasn't important to me. I was always well groomed: nice clothes, always clean and neat, and I was blessed with this hair that I considered my best feature. I wore it long, hanging down over my shoulders in a flowing fountain of black with highlights of bluish-black. I wasn't tall but I wasn't short either. I didn't think much about my body; it just felt right for my height.
I liked men and considering the little I'd had of it, I liked sex. I'd had only two brief affairs - both with other students — one in my first year at KU and one last year, my junior year.
I met Jerry Knox at the dance after the homecoming game: a nice 23-15 win over Colorado. I was the homecoming queen and was escorted to the dance by this arrogant quarterback that thought he was God's gift to women. I danced the first dance with him but, as soon as he started making inappropriate touches, I just stopped, stared at him for a minute and walked away... right into the arms of Jerry.
He was walking alongside the edge of the dance floor to his table with a drink in his hand. Luckily it was a vodka tonic so the small amount of the drink that splashed over my dress wasn't a disaster. He looked so chagrined that I gave him a big smile, brushed off his apologies and retired to the powder room to salvage what I could of my dress. It turned out not to be too bad but I stayed in there a few minutes to let my dress dry while I was chatting with a friend from my dorm.
When I got out Jerry was standing there looking like a lost puppy. He had two fresh drinks in his hand and I knew he was going to make a pass. Instinctively I got ready for my brush-off routine, which I had down to a science. If he told me I was pretty, I was going to kick him in the shins and spill the drinks all over him.
Instead, his face lit up in a huge grin and he told me, "You have the nicest smile I have ever seen. Will you join me for a minute so I can properly apologize?"
I looked at him closer and liked what I saw. He was a few inches taller than me with a slender build on what looked like a runner's body. I found out later he had won the conference championship in the quarter and half mile track races when he had been at KU ten years earlier. He had short brown hair with a cowlick above his right eye giving him an aura of being a fun-loving rascal. But what melted my heart, and made my breath catch with a hitch were his warm brown eyes.
All in all I got this mixed sense of a guy that was fun to be with but one that had a sense of sadness in his eyes — like looking into the eyes of a Basset hound.
I followed him back to his table — he was with two couples there for the tenth reunion that was going on concurrently with the homecoming — and wound up staying with him for the rest of the evening.
He turned out to be a surprisingly good dancer and before the evening was over I was half in love with him. He was a rookie with the Johnson County Sheriff's office driving a patrol car. He had a lot of funny stories about things that happened. What I liked about him was the sense that he was a nice guy that treated me with an easy courtesy. He didn't fawn over me telling me how pretty I was and sprout some line to try to get into my pants; although right then I'm not sure that I would have had any objection.
While resting between dances, we were talking and the quarterback came around acting like he owned me and I should get up and be honored to dance with him. I looked up and cut him with a sharp glance, "I'm sorry but I'm busy. I danced once with you and that was more than enough."
I know it was unkind, maybe even a bit cruel, but I had less than zero interest in him and more than lots of interest in Jerry. He shot me a dirty look, something that looked like, "Up yours, bitch!" and walked away. My heart did not go pitter-patter.
I had a great time — the most fun I ever remembered having on a date — and this had turned into a date as far as I was concerned. We hit it off well enough that Jerry started driving over about once a month to see me. We kept it light, doing fun things. As the weather turned warmer we would go on picnics, sometimes just a drive around in the country. We seemed very much at ease with each other and I was beginning to feel what I considered to be love.
That might have been it for us... meeting periodically and eventually drifting away from each other but when I graduated I was offered a position as a trainee with a well-known architectural firm in Overland Park — Jerry lived in Lenexa, about five miles away. We started going out with more regularity and gradually became more intimate.
One thing did bother me some but I didn't brood on it or anything. Jerry told me about it; I didn't feel comfortable with it but I did let it go.
This is what he told me:
I was on the night duty shift when my partner and I pulled a car over for driving erratically. I got out and walked over to the driver's window. Wayne, my partner, circled around the back right of the car and put his hand on his gun.
I told the driver, an older man that looked kind of seedy and twitched like he was high on something, "Put your hands on the steering wheel! Now get out slowly... okay, put your hands on the roof, step back and spread your legs." Just then a big semi whizzed pass uncomfortably close and I turned to look at it.
I heard a rustling then I heard my partner holler, "Freeze, asshole!"
The guy had a knife in his hand but when he heard Wayne's shout he dropped it. If Wayne had been careless and had not followed protocol, the guy might have killed me.
Jerry laughed while he was telling me this but I could tell it bothered him. Many times over the next ten years I wish I had let it bother me more. It might have saved us a lot of heartache... well, heart break, really.
After about four months of dating we finally were intimate. I was hesitant for some reason. I had no reason to be but something was telling me to go slow. When it happened it wasn't planned or anything, it just... happened.
Jerry was over at my apartment — it was close to Shawnee Mission North High School — for dinner. He had brought a couple bottles of Chianti and I made lasagna and a nice tossed salad. We finished one of the bottles while we were eating and were sitting on the sofa listening to music after dinner — talking, as we were wont to do.
We finished the wine and I took the empty bottle and the empty glasses back to the kitchen. When I got back I started to sit down next to Jerry but I caught my bare foot in the throw rug and wound up sitting on his lap instead of the sofa. We quite nicely settled into a kiss that quickly turned more passionate than we'd been before that night. I was relaxed from the wine and Jerry was clearly in lust.
Before either of us fully realized it we were both naked on the sofa — hormones and wine don't mix... or I guess they do mix depending on your perspective. Jerry was a considerate lover — he didn't exactly ask, but I knew he was thoughtful of me in our embraces, our touches and finally in our coupling. I did have several intense orgasms, once on the sofa and twice after we moved into the bedroom. The other two guys I'd been with never came close to making me feel what I felt with Jerry.
The next morning I woke with my head on Jerry's shoulder. He slowly woke up which woke me up. He turned and started caressing my breast and I noticed a deep bruise on the upper part of his right arm. I pushed him away slightly and touched it, gently really. He unexpectedly winced so I guess it was painful for him.
"Jerry, what's this? That's a pretty nasty bruise!"
He mumbled something, pulled me closer and put his hand on my stomach.
"Jerry," I said a bit sharper than I intended, "How did you get this?
He sighed and sat up, leaning back against the headboard. He clearly didn't want to tell me what had happened but I insisted.
It happened a couple of days ago. We were patrolling Shawnee Mission County Park, the area near the picnic area on the south side of Shawnee Mission Lake; Wayne was driving. There had been a lot of problems lately with small time drug sales going on and we were doing more frequent patrols.
We were driving around with our lights off and we saw a dim light coming from a car behind the restroom next to the picnic tables. We slowly approached and saw that there were two cars. We lit up and turned on the siren. A guy was standing by one of the cars and froze, looking bewildered. The other car — its engine must have still been running — took off across the grass.
He went south on Barkley Drive onto the South Park Entrance Road. When he turned right onto West 87th Street Parkway we were about a hundred yards behind. Wayne took the corner too fast and we spun out. Out patrol car started sliding in front of an oncoming car but Wayne wrenched it back to the right and we slid off the road and hit a tree.
It was nothing really. I went in for x-rays but it was only a deep bruise.
But it seemed like something to me. I lay there thinking about all the things that could have happened and realized for the first time that Jerry's job was dangerous. Oh, I knew intellectually that it was but I'd never had the visceral feeling of fear I felt now. What would it be like to marry Jerry, have a couple of kids, and then have him die on me? I felt a clammy, cold chill grip me and went in to take a hot shower.
The next night while Jerry was working I realized I had to come to terms with my fears. I knew I loved Jerry like crazy... and I always would. I knew from when I first started thinking about marriage that I was a one-man woman. Jerry would never have to worry about me cheating on him.
But could I deal with my fear of Jerry being hurt on the job? Maybe I was being irrational? Finally I decided I didn't have any choice — I had to push my fears away; I had to conquer them. Easier said than done, but I had to try.
I guess I did get over it but looking back years later I realized I should have talked to Jerry more about it. He loved his job so much that I knew he would be unhappy doing anything else. He loved me, I had no doubts about that, but I had to wonder whether he would choose his job or me if he had to pick. Maybe I was afraid of the answer.
We did get married about six months after that. I wanted to go home to Limon for the wedding but Jerry insisted we have it at the church we went to.
"Cindy, all of our friends are here. All the people we both work with."
Again, I should have pressed harder on this. I agreed but I did feel some resentment about it.
The honeymoon though was special. San Francisco must be the most romantic place in the world for a young couple in love and lust. Neither of us had been there before. My dad got us a suite at the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill. It was such a lovely place and when we weren't in bed we were sightseeing, our camera recording the beautiful places we visited.
I think the highlight for both of us was an evening dinner cruise on the bay. The sun was setting and the glow in my lovely ring took on a new life, energized by the dying ball of flame slowly sinking into the ocean.
After we turned around at the mouth of the bay, we were facing that beautiful bridge; the lower part was in shadow, an inky darkness, and the twin towers stood proudly with their golden-red majesty. The bells on the buoys anchored near the rocky shoals sounded their sad, lonely warning — steadfastly ignorant of the lack of fog, soldiering on, their lonely clamor pricking some part of my heart with a cautious warning.
I shook off the feeling and we went in to dinner. Jerry wanted a bottle of Zinfandel for dinner but I, feeling a bout of contrariness, insisted on a bottle of Chardonnay that we had tasted during a visit to Bouchaine Vineyards. We had shared a bottle during a lunch at their charming picnic area.
As we argued about it Jerry noticed the wine steward smirking at us, so he told him, "Fine. We'll have the Chard."
I wasn't happy I got the wine I wanted — it really wasn't all that important to me. For some reason I felt that I needed to keep my independence. The emotion I had was that tugging sense of loneliness that fills the heart on hearing the mournful cry of a train faintly heard in the quiet middle of the night. Later I did my best to make it up to Jerry. He did have a smile on his face when I gently woke him the next morning.
Our honeymoon turned out to be a good predictor of what our marriage was to be. There were periods of intense passion, of an almost regal happiness, interspersed by an increasing level of bickering... a stupid stubbornness gradually drawing a line between the two of us.
About a year after we got married we moved into a large new home near where I worked in Overland Park. It was bigger than we needed but Jerry insisted we have room for a couple of kids.
It took me a couple of years to understand that what was between us - what was causing the problems - was Jerry's job. Every once in a while — not often but too regularly — there was something that could have turned out very badly for Jerry. He wasn't ever really harmed... but it seemed he was always in harm's way.
It started bothering me more and more. I hated the fights we were always having and in some small ways I could feel my for him love fading. I loved Jerry very much; there was never anyone else or even the thought of someone else for me. I'd come to realize I'd made a big mistake in not having it out with him before we got married.