When tragic events happen or when circumstances drastically change a person’s life, maybe these changes affect a person or maybe it doesn’t affect them at all. In the case of Joy and Randy, I wish I was smart enough to figure this out.
Joy and Randy didn’t know what to make of me when I first moved to Covington, Kentucky in the middle of July, 2011. They’re a young couple and suspicious of people they don’t know — or at least that was my take on them. I’d say hello when I passed them on the sidewalk. They would look at me like I was from Mars.
Gradually, that changed. Joy and Randy lived a few doors down from me in an older apartment building that looks a lot like the one I live in. When they found out we were neighbors, their encounters with me became less icy. We became acquaintances and then friends.
Randy’s a tall young man with short black hair, a lot of muscles on his body and a bunch of tattoos. He’s got a few teeth missing in front. Joy’s much shorter with long, brown hair, brown eyes and appears to have all her teeth. It seems like ever since I’ve known her, Joy’s been pregnant.
To me, Joy and Randy seemed like a perfect couple, usually holding hands or in deep conversation with one another whenever I would see them. I would usually run into the two of them when returning from Walgreens up on Madison Avenue or when they were also heading back home. We had this running gag between us. Either I’d say or Joy would say “What you get me?” Randy would just smile.
I remember one early summer evening returning from Madison Avenue with my Walgreens bag full of grocery items. When Joy saw me, she asks that gag question. This time, I had a surprise for her and Randy. From the bag, I pulled out two frozen burritos. I gave one to Joy and gave one to Randy. Yeah, cheap food to say the least, but they got a kick out of it.
Sometimes I’d see Randy without Joy and vice versa. Randy’s not much of a talker but his heart was usually in the right place. On trash day, getting my garbage bags to the curb can be a bit of a struggle for me, because I walk with a cane, but Randy was usually right there to do it. He didn’t want me to run the risk of falling down.
On some of those hot summer evenings this past July, Joy and I would sit on the stoop in front of my apartment building and talk about her and Randy’s baby that was on the way. She knew the gender of the child — a girl — and already had a name picked out. She was buying toys and clothes for the baby. Joy was looking forward to Christmas, that first Christmas with the baby where those purchases she made would all be from Santa Claus.
In late July, Joy finally had that baby. I didn’t see her all that much after that as she had to stay home more, but Randy would often show me pictures of their little girl that he had taken with his cell phone. He was always grinning from ear to ear. He was a proud father.
But things changed towards the end of July. I didn’t see Joy or Randy at all. I started to wonder if they had moved but surely they would have told me.
Around the middle of August, I finally saw Randy up on Madison Avenue. I asked how he was, asked about Joy and the baby. A blank stare came to his face. He told me their infant was dead. Their baby girl died of SIDS — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Shocked, all I knew to do was to give Randy a hug right there in the middle of the sidewalk on Madison. After the embrace, I could see tears in his eyes. I told him if there was anything I could do, to please let me know.
Only a few days later, when sitting on that stoop in front of my apartment building, I saw Randy again. He was in a happy mood this time. With a smile on his face, he told me he and Joy were separating.
Randy told me Joy had been cheating on him with another man — had been doing this for over a year. He told me he had been finished with her months before anyway. He seemed pleased and almost excited when he told me he was now a “Free man.”
As he talked, I couldn’t believe what he was telling me — this man in tears only a few days earlier and who I would always see holding hands with his wife. How could something that seemed so right between them go so wrong so quickly?
I wondered if Randy was thinking clearly. Questions filled my head.
Did his love for this wife change after the baby died? Had Joy really been carrying on an affair with someone else for months? Didn’t he think with the loss of their child that Joy was going to need strong emotional support? Didn’t he need it too?
I didn’t ask any of these questions as Randy was telling me his news. In disbelief, I simply kept my mouth shut.
Whether Joy is still living on my street, I don’t know. I haven’t seen her or Randy in weeks. I don’t know if she’s glad Randy’s gone, if she was actually cheating on him or what her state of mind is. Really, what’s on my mind the most are those clothes and toys she bought for her baby girl for Christmas. That day is going to be much different than what Joy was expecting.
Thinking back as to how Joy and Randy didn’t know what to make of me when I first moved to Covington, now, I’m not sure what to make of them. I’m confused.
Maybe the death of their child changed everything or maybe it didn’t change anything at all. Maybe going their separate ways was their fate all along. Maybe they weren’t as happy as I thought they were.
I’ve heard things happen for a reason. I’m not sure I buy that. All I know for sure, in the case of Joy and Randy, is I wish things could have worked out very, very differently.