She told me once, what seems like a lifetime ago, that the reason I never let anyone get close to me, the reason I was always pushing everyone away, was because I was afraid of being alone. Afraid that I'd be abandoned again, as I had been so many times during my life.
I told her she was full of it, but the truth was, she was right, and we both knew it.
Maybe that's why we ended up together. See, she always had this annoying way of seeing through my defenses, of knowing what was at the very core of who I was. I could lie to myself and to the rest of the world, but she was never fooled, and I hated her for it.
Looking back I can admit that I never really hated her. She aggravated me, of course, and there were times I would have rather had a root canal than dealt with her, but I never hated her. How could I? She might have been a shallow, self-centered bitch on the surface, but underneath that hard exterior she was just as lost and alone as I was.
I used to say that she had it better than I did. She had the big house, the fancy cars, her daddy's credit card... but she went without more than most people realized, hell, more than I realized. Her father never had time for her, and her mother was never around, and not even all the pretty things in the world could make up for the loneliness.
She never said anything, of course, she had too much pride, and she hated it when people felt sorry for her. We're a lot alike in that sense. Too damn stubborn for our own good.
While Jackie's the cheerleading, prom queen type, I'm the rebel, the outcast. Our roles were very clearly defined and by all logic our paths should never have even crossed, much less come together.
But they did.
She was Kelso's girl, at first, and that's what came between us in the end. I couldn't get it through my head that she wasn't always going to be Kelso's girl. That she wanted me over him.
What can I say, I'm an idiot.
I don't know why she chose me. Hell, I wouldn't have even chosen me. But she did. Even back when she was still with Kelso, she was always turning to me when things got hard. I didn't know why then, and I still don't know now, but for some reason Jackie felt like she could trust me. We fought like cats and dogs, but when it mattered, when it was real, she knew that I could never hurt her on purpose.
I didn't like her back then, but for some damn reason whenever she got that look in her eyes, that helpless, vulnerable little puppy eyed look, it did something to me, man. It made me do all sorts of crazy things. Like taking her to prom when Kelso went with Pam Macy. I hated dances, but she'd started to cry and I could never stand to see her cry, so I caved and offered to take her myself.
When Kelso cheated on her with Laurie, she turned to me for comfort. I remember telling her that she deserved better than Kelso, that she didn't deserve to be cheated on. I always used to think I was better than Kelso, but now I know I'm not. I knew what Kelso cheating on Jackie did to her, I saw it firsthand, and then I went and did the same thing, only my infidelity hurt her worse, because I was supposed to be better than Kelso. I was supposed to be the one guy that she could trust to never hurt her that way.
Turns out I'm just as much of an asshole as Kelso.
Jackie and I have had a very long road together, one that's had its share of ups and downs, twists and loopholes that were downright unholy at times. But we had moments, even before we were together, where I knew, deep down, that she was something special.
Like when I taught her the art of Zen, and she was so excited about it that I couldn't help but feeling a little proud of her, you know? And when she kicked Laurie's ass, I think everyone was proud of her for it, especially Eric, who called her his hero.
That time when she bought "film" she was trying to impress me, to prove to me that she wasn't some prissy little girl. I don't know what she was thinking, she's always going to be prissy, man, but that took a lot of nerve, and I have to admit I admired her for that. Maybe that was why I took the rap for her when the cop showed up.
Of course, that backfired on me, because after that Jackie had it in her head that she was half in love with me. She wasn't, I knew it, and deep down I know she knew it, too. We were friends, nothing more, and barely that at times.
And yet when she showed up at the Forman's barbecue with that jerk Chip on her arm, some part of me was actually a little jealous. Was it because I liked Jackie even back then and was just denying it? Or because I liked the attention she gave me? I don't know, I tried not to think about it. Girls like her and guys like me just don't mix, you know? It wasn't right, it wasn't normal.
But when Chip revealed he was only with her so he could nail her, something inside of me got protective, and when he called her a bitch... I couldn't help it, man, I had to deck him. He deserved it, there was no question about that, but Jackie and Mrs. Forman had to go reading things into it, and they forced me to look at things a little harder, too.
So I took her on a date, and it was almost... nice. Jackie's good company when she's not babbling on and on about hair-care or cheerleading, although after we started dating I found I actually liked the listen to her talk, even if it was about stupid stuff like her hair. Because sitting there and listening to her talk, watching how animated her expressions are, always stirs something within me.
At the end of the date, we kissed, and it was this amazingly hot kiss, man, the kind you read about in Penthouse.
She felt nothing.
That's what she said, anyway. I always wondered, after we got together later on, if that was really the case. She couldn't have felt nothing, not when I'd finally felt... well, I don't know what it was I felt, but it wasn't nothing.
After that we settled back into the normal routine. Jackie hooked up with Kelso again, and we went back to trading insults and burning each other. I pushed the kiss out of my mind, and denied everything it implicated, even from myself.
I'm real good at lying to myself, I've had a lot of practice at that.
But then Kelso went and screwed everything up. Jackie wanted to get married and Kelso, being the jackass that he is, took off to California, leaving her heartbroken. As if it wasn't bad enough having to deal with Eric moping around all summer over Donna leaving, now Jackie was getting all depressed, too.
That changed after a while, though. One thing I've always admired about Jackie is that she's strong. People don't notice it very often, but the girl is always being knocked down, and yet she always manages to bounce back. She's the kind of girl with fire in her eyes, and in her heart, you know?
It was that same fire that caught me in its snare one morning when we were watching "The Price is Right" in the basement. We were bored, we had nothing to do, and somehow we ended up making out on the couch.
It should have been a one time thing, something that we put behind us and never spoke of again, but it was addictive. I kept coming back for more, and when she wasn't around, I actually started to crave her presence, her touch. It was frustrating, because I wasn't supposed to feel those kind of things for Jackie. She was supposed to sicken me, and I was supposed to sicken her, but instead we spent the entire summer making out in Forman's basement.
When Forman and Donna caught us, we told them it was just a fling, that we could stop at any time, but the truth was, we couldn't if we tried. We were in too deep to back out now, and soon everyone knew what was going on when no one was around. In a way, it was easier once Kelso found out. We didn't have to sneak around anymore, we didn't have to tear ourselves away from one another whenever footsteps sounded on the basement stairs. He was angry, and pretty upset, but I figured he'd get over it in time.
It was just a fling, after all, right?
But then the college weekend came, and she made that promise not to let anything happen with other guys, and even though I blew her off, I was secretly relieved. Of course, I didn't think that was going to stop me if I got the chance to hook up with some college girls, but then when a sure thing came along, I found myself turning it down.
Because of her.
It was just supposed to be a summer fling, but somehow it turned into something much more.
I don't think I realized how much more until her dad got arrested. She was hurting so bad and I couldn't seem to find words to comfort her, and I think maybe Mrs. Forman was right about that being because no one had ever comforted me before. Still, I couldn't just do nothing, and since I wasn't the kind of guy who could say the right thing, I shaved off my beard, the beard that I had been so proud of, simply because I thought it might make her feel better.
And then I caved and showed up at that stupid dinner party Mrs. Forman threw for Fez and his girlfriend, and Forman was right, I did it because of Jackie. Making sure Kelso kept his hands off her was definitely a part of the reason for going, but mostly it was because it meant a lot to her.
Being with Jackie wasn't always easy, and I'm sure it wasn't always easy for her to be with me, either. Like the weekend the bank foreclosed on her parent's ski cabin and she and the Formans went to clean it out, while Kelso, Fez and I unknowingly headed up there for a weekend of partying. That was a disaster. We argued and we fought, but we also learned more about each other and what being in a relationship really means. Jackie wanted me to be there to help her out, even if she didn't say anything, and after she took the blame for Kelso's stash to keep Red from throwing me out, I finally got what she meant by that. When you care about someone, you try to find a way to help them even if they don't ask for your help.
That stuck with me, and when Jackie's mom didn't come back, I could tell that she was hurting, even though she never said a word. The thought of her staying in that big, empty house all by herself bothered me, man, and I knew it bothered her, too, so one night when we were laying on my bed talking, and I just didn't let her get up. When she said that she had to get going, I simply told her that she didn't, and that was that.
I've slept with my share of women, but that night was like nothing I had ever experienced. All I did was hold her, and watch her sleep, and it was the best night of my life.
It left me terrified.
We'd been through some rough spots recently, and that made the moment even more powerful somehow. The whole "get off my boyfriend" thing nearly ripped my heart out, and it kills me to think of how close I came to loosing the best thing in my life over something so stupid. She was right, of course she was going to still have some feelings for Kelso, they'd been together for so long, how could she not? And when she'd come to the basement that night, with tears in her eyes as she'd told me she loved me, I knew it was true.
I couldn't say it back, though, because I've never said those words to anyone in my entire life, but she didn't care. In that moment I saw how much she'd really grown up since she was with Kelso, and dammit if that didn't make my heart ache for her all the more.
At the dance that night, it was amazing how right it felt to just close my eyes and hold her close, feeling her heart beating against my chest, seeing her eyes bright and full of love, cradling her small hand in my own.
If I'd had any doubts about what I felt for her, they faded in that moment.
And when she began staying with me at night to escape the echoing loneliness of her house, I knew that this was the first thing in my life, the only thing in my life, that had ever made sense.
She wore my shirt some nights, the Led Zeppelin shirt that I had given her for her birthday, a small gesture to show her how deep my feelings were, even if I couldn't voice them. It was an incredible turn on, seeing her wearing my clothes, but it paled in comparison with the feeling I got when I laid there in bed, watching her sleep.
Jackie has always been beautiful, but when she was asleep she looked so peaceful, so still. So small and innocent. It made me want to keep her there forever, safe in my arms, protected from the harsh world around us.
I never thought she would need to be protected from me.
But I hurt her worse than anything the world could have thrown at her. In one night, I hurt her worse than Kelso did in all those years of cheating. And you know what the worst part is? I did it because I was scared of loosing her. What had started out as nothing was suddenly everything to me, and I've always been paranoid about abandonment. Jackie used to make jokes about me needing therapy for that, and now I'm not all that sure she's wrong.
It doesn't matter, though, because I screwed up. I screwed up big time. Jackie was the only person who had ever really loved me, and I blew it. Guess my mom was right, I am a failure, but when I was with Jackie... I don't know, man, somehow she made me feel like I was worth something, you know? Like she really believed that I could do anything.
She never believed I could cheat on her, though, and the funny thing is, neither did I.
When her mom bailed on her, Jackie handled it much better than I did when my mom split. She didn't try to deny it, she didn't try to act like her mom was going to come back one day or that she wasn't hurting because of it. She didn't do any of the things that I had done. Instead, she let me in, she opened up to me, because we're a lot more alike than either of us ever knew. We've both been abandoned, we've both been alone. It meant a lot that Jackie let me see what she considered her weakness, because she never let anyone else see her that way.
For the first few weeks after she moved out of my room and in with Donna next door, the scent of her perfume lingered on my pillows and sheets, but it's starting to fade now. Sometimes when I can't sleep at night, I lay awake in bed and just breathe her in, knowing that I probably won't ever get that close to her ever again, and dying inside because of it.
I know our friends don't get it sometimes, and I can't really say that I blame them. I mean, me and Jackie? It's just so weird, and yet it's just so right, man. We might be opposites on the surface, but there was always a spark between us, and once we gave in that spark grew into a raging storm of passion.
But there was something missing from out relationship, and that was trust. It wasn't Jackie's fault, she had more faith in me than anyone ever had, but I didn't trust her, I couldn't trust her, because I didn't trust anyone. I'd spent my whole life keeping everyone at a distance so that I wouldn't get hurt, and when I realized that Jackie had gotten past my defenses, it freaked me out.
So when I thought she was with Kelso, I lost my head, you know? I loved her so damn much, and the thought of her with him, with anyone but me, made my blood boil like nothing ever had. I wasn't angry, I was livid. I was hurting, and I wanted to make her hurt, too, so when the nurse approached me, I didn't say no.
God, I wish I had. Out of all the mistakes I've ever made, out of all the problems my life has had, that's the one I wish I could undo most of all. I love her, and not being with her, not being able to touch her, to smell her hair, to kiss her... it's torture, man.
But it's no less than I deserve.