The In Between

John F. Kennedy Jr.: New documentary focuses on John F. Kennedy Jr. and  Carolyn Bessette's turbulent relationship - The Economic Times

He went missing on a Friday night, and then came the waiting.

I remember the waiting because it was mind numbing. It was like knowing too much without knowing anything at all. In the morning, the glimmer of hope we all held to felt like the kind of lie you tell yourself when faced with the ugly truth. By the afternoon, there was no glimmer or lies left to hold to. All that was left was to stop pretending there was a miracle to be had.

We spent those desperate hours holding hands with the voices on the other end of the line. Because there were a lot of phone calls being made the day after. It was as if John was a part of our own families. We cursed and we drank and we cried just that very way. We wanted it back, we wanted all of it back.

Camelot was long gone by the time I was a boy, but I read and learned and knew enough about that magical idea to know the theft that had been perpetrated. Two brothers lost to assassins’ bullets, two men’s lives cut short with decades worth of legacy yet to be written. It was Shakespearean in its lonesome destiny, the idea that brilliant men could be silenced so damned easily.

The kid was going to introduce a final chapter to this hard wrought tale, and while it was no certainty he would assume the family mantel, there was always that whisper of anticipation. He was never inevitable, but neither was he blind to the responsibilities he had been born into. He wasn’t John or Bobby, and in a lot of ways, that was a very good thing. His soft spoken tone and his ability to get along with everyone seemed the kind of difference that was going to serve him well in the next chapters of his life.

And we dreamed what those next chapters would look like. Man, did we ever. We imagined a marriage of history and nostalgia because his was the family seal that came closest to American royalty. It was okay that he kept such talk at arm’s length while we embraced such a thing fully. He had time. He had all the time in the world. And dammit if I really did believe it would be different with him. All of it.

And then, just like that, it was late Saturday afternoon and all the time in the world had run out. The final act was playing out in the same way as the two which had preceded it. Only this time, it was all happening in slow motion. It was the cruelest of flourishes sent down from that cursed star that had taken a father, an uncle, and now a son.

It was the day after John went missing and the day before the news became official that I still remember most distinctly. That long Saturday, the in between, from one forever to the next. It’s where we mourned the prince of a city who had so much left to write. It’s where we said goodbye to an idea like Camelot one final time.

I’m always going to want it back.



44 thoughts on “The In Between

  1. A touching tribute. One wonders – and hopes – that Kennedy family branch would have made it impossible for another family (whose surname starts with a T) to sneak into power.

    I remember after, wanting answers because they were lost while flying a small airplane. What happened? It’s all speculation, of course, but I was comforted when my father (a test pilot) surmised that John Jr. suffered a bout of vertigo while flying. Vertigo is any pilot’s worst nightmare. It can be caused by atmospheric conditions, or a sudden inner ear issue coming on with no warning. At the time he shared that possibility, I didn’t understand how someone couldn’t overcome the sense of vertigo and land an airplane to save their lives. Years later, I suffered a bout of vertigo. I suddenly and completely understood. Down is up, the world spins, and nothing you do makes it stop. Terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe this. Completely.

      I was always of the opinion that if the kid had lived, September 11th would have become his call. He loved the city and he had helped his pal Mark Green through the years when Green was thinking of running for office. I think the attacks would have compelled John to become that person. His own person, on the stage.

      I can’t even think about that. When I wrote this last night, it still brings it all right there again.


  2. B,

    We Canadians waited breathless, as well as we waited. The sadness we felt at their passing was rather deep.

    I think many of us also wonder at the potential what ifs of American politics had he heeded the warnings and not flown that night.

    Beautifully written.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are right / that family did feel like our version of royalty – and I was so busy during this time that I really only heard the news late – it was interesting to read your Experience

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dale alerted me to this. Sorry I’m only reading it now. One of the things I came to realize after our many exchanges was, and I say this sadly…we are two of the too few who still care. It’s why the Daily News had no interest in putting my remembrance in there Sunday feature section. Not important nor interesting enough for his fellow Americans who don’t recall him or his father. We’re the last generation Mr. Imma. I shuddered just now.

    I love what you wrote….so heartfelt, so personal since, that it was. To lose him so suddenly when it never should have happened. If only…If only.

    The Kennedy Curse I used to think it was a tabloid myth, but alas, not anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m never going to not miss the kid and the idea of Camelot revisited. And I am never going to stop believing that If only . . . 2016 and all the rest of it could have been so very different.

      And the hell with the Daily News. Because they’re running stories on Kim K, latest ass tat but they fall short on the rest of it. That paper used to have quite a Hall of Fame lineup.

      Your piece, like mine, is about love and better angels. If that’s an antiquated notion? I’m moving to that island in Castaway. Forward all mail to my pal Wilson.

      Liked by 1 person

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