Author: sky.glow PM
A fragile dispersion of the soul.Rated: Fiction M - English - Words: 4,225 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 07-16-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2390970
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The choice was, in my opinion, one reflecting nothing but blinded arrogance and an unfulfilled lust for far-flung fame. But of course, it came to no one's surprise; Jesse had never been one to fit well into the stiff collar of rationality.
However, be that as it may, the blame cannot rest entirely with him. No - we were the ones stupid enough to allow him to commandeer us into the van and up onto a freeway congested with the metallic syrup of mid-afternoon traffic, holding our tongues while he ranted about the lack of decent weather, and down into the dodgy strips of the West Island.
He'd claimed it to be a diamond in the rough - a stairway to glory previously looked over with scorn. His ticket. To what, we never found out. Personally, I didn't see it - and, by the expressions on their faces, neither did the four others stashed uncomfortably in the back of the van.
So, as usual, our silent hostility went straight over the meticulously gelled curls of his head as he plowed us over to what can be described to be little more than a hollowed out, rotting hole of a club.
It was one of those 50's imitation bars, complete with antique, scab-rusted jukebox and droopingly depressing neon lights. A place where mediocre graffiti crawled up the brick walls, and overconfident teenagers flashed misleading ID cards at beefy bouncers with propensities for plasticized tits and low-cut skirts. The stage in the back was poorly lit, and centered on a lone, age-old stool coated with chipping paint. The counter supported rotting seats flecked with the pepper of old vomit, and residues of spittle marred reflections in the silverware. The entire interior screamed 'sell-out' - a shack designed solely as a congregation spot for cheap bands with over the top enthusiasm and greasy hair. But of course, to teenage suburbia, this meant nothing but hard liquor and a rosary or two wasted on petty desperation.
Jesse's gaze flickers briefly down to Michelle's wide, imploring eyes as he grins. "Oh, believe me," he mocks solemnly. "I am nothing but." Hearing this, she twists in agitation beneath the folds of her coat, pivoting desperately to face her brother.
"John -" she pleads, hooking her fingertips into the cotton of his sweater.
John peers down at her unsympathetically. "Sorry, kid," he grunts. "Open bar." And with that, he shakes her grasp away and weaves on determinedly through the crowd.
Michelle stares hopelessly at his retreating backside before turning to me. "Clare, I can't be here - I mean, look at this place..."
I furrow my brow, making a poor effort to mask my frown, and let my gaze slip to where Greg, Patrick, and Brian still stand, awkwardly juggling the equipment Jesse has left for them to haul in. We are already running late, and Michelle's histrionics have failed to amuse me.
"Michelle, no one is making you stay."
Her face elongates almost comically as her eyebrows rise and her jaw tips open in protest. "But John -"
"- Will be too wasted to know where he is within the hour," Greg cuts in, already sounding emotionally drained. "Just leave, Michelle - we're late, and I don't think we'll -"
"Fine," she snaps childishly, shoving past me. "I'll just - I don't know, I'll -"
"Great, Michelle, we'll see you later," I interject impatiently, nudging Greg to the left. I snatch the second guitar case from Brian's hand and begin to make my way to the stairwell once more, not bothering to take note of her most likely infuriated expression.
The four of us are struggling with the cymbals when Jesse reappears, looking mildly displeased at our pace. "Make sure to take your time," he quips, an edge hinging into his tone. "It's not like we're on a schedule or anything -"
Patrick gives him the finger.
Jesse waves the gesture off distractedly. "Yeah - okay. Look - can you guys just load the rest of the stuff into the back? I've kind of got company -"
As if on cue, a veritably dumpy twenty-something appears at his side, glowering down at us with self-satisfied triumph.
"You waste no time," Greg comments dryly. Jesse shrugs, allowing the girl to wind herself around him. Reveling in his encouragement, she smirks and runs the edge of her tongue not-so-subtly along his jaw line.
For what it's worth, she might as well be straddling him.
He snakes an arm around her waist, pressing his lips against her ear. She giggles, flattered and flushed beneath her cropped blonde bangs, and thrusts her cleavage up against his torso one last time before slinking away.
Greg mutters something crude under his breath before trotting forward tensely to help Patrick lug an amp up the stairs, making sure to elbow Jesse square in the ribcage as he goes. Only meters away, the anxious conversation of the audience feeds in through the open door.
I gaze wearily up at him. "Jesse, you really shouldn't be leaving them with all -"
"Clare, it's fine," he laughs, trying in vain to placate me. "They're my hoes."
He shakes his head and leans forward to brush a stray strand of hair away from my face - a trivial gesture of affection - and doesn't bother to repeat himself when it falls back into place. "Hey," he soothes. "Quit worrying. I'll catch up with you afterwards, alright?" His voice is now barely discernible over the noise from behind the curtain - hurried murmurs slurred by alcohol and muffled by unkempt cloth.
I give him a weak, indulgent smile and squeeze his hand lightly, allowing him to slip away with nothing but a thoughtless nod. The roars of the crowd intensify as he struts with the arrogant airs of royalty to the microphone, and the drapes swing wearily open.
Turning away from the beginning riffs of a set I can sing in my sleep, I situate myself on an uncomfortable wooden chair and half-heartedly search for a distraction.
As if anything could kill time.
I hold still, feigning sleep; but already, he knows me too well. He bends, folding like an accordion, until his shoulders are parallel to mine.
He is a connoisseur of the stealth of a cloaked psyche. A patron of the art in which lisped violence thrives.
He knows the places on my neck that ignite my breath; the whispered tidings sure to melt and extinguish me.
He is the knife of vice against my back.
With him, I am quick to fall - but there is no one to catch me when I do.
I feel his hand flitting its way onto the crest of my shoulder, where it settles like a warm puff of air.
And all of a sudden, that red flag goes up again, alerting turnpikes of inhibition; a beacon through the haze.
He leans down, so close that his breath ripples across my neck like unraveling thread.
And I'm gone.
Jesse's favorite Morrissey shirt hangs off her emaciated frame like a threadbare tapestry.
Wrinkling her nose in displeasure, she bends over to turn the tap, and the faucet sputters to life, wearily spewing a stream of questionable water into her glass. She takes a pondering sip before peering at me unenthusiastically, raising an eyebrow smeared with last night's eye makeup.
"You with one of the guys?" she queries after a moment, nonchalantly dumping the rest of her drink down the drain.
I stare uncomprehendingly at her misshapen figure, taken aback. "N-no," I manage. When I don't continue, she furrows her brow expectantly, and I stammer on. "I - I live here."
"Oh," she mutters in disappointment, quickly losing interest. "Well... that must be nice."
I part my lips, unsure of how to respond, and shift my weight. But, thankfully, before she has time to prompt me further, Brian pads in, still dressed in an oversized, moth-eaten sweater and boxers, and eyes the two of us blearily.
"Hello," my companion coos at him, attention now averted, stretching a wan sneer across her face. "Brandon, right?"
"No," he retorts shortly, glaring at her warily. She waits patiently for him to correct her, but of course, he makes no move to do so.
Her smile widens, baring even more of her crooked, paste-colored teeth. "You guys played well last night."
Brian emits a foreign, noncommittal noise before his eyes flit to mine, brimming with distaste. I drop my gaze, avoiding the dreary pull of her hollow grey stare.
"So," she continues dispassionately, pausing briefly onto to clear her throat. "Why do you live with the band again?"
It takes me a moment to understand that her question is directed at me. "I... don't," I hedge, wrapping my arms around my middle in discomfort.
Her eyes narrow uncomprehendingly. "But you just said -"
"Greg and Patrick have their own apartments," I cut her off irritably. "Just because the four of them play music together doesn't automatically imply that they're attached at the hip. 'Cause, you know, it actually is physically possible for, say, Jesse to shower without the others lined up behind him, scrubbing his backside -"
"I'm well aware of that," she snaps, tone suddenly condescending and clipped. "I just assumed -"
"Well, you shouldn't have."
"... Because it most certainly does make an ass out of you and me..." Brian sing-songs from beside me. I scowl reproachfully at him, and he smirks and turns away, yanking the fridge open.
She crosses her arms across her chest, mussing the shirt into uneven folds that now read 'Mrisey.' "Fine - why do you live with Jesse and - him?" she demands, jabbing a resentful finger at Brian, who artfully preoccupies himself with a humming pot of coffee.
"I'm -" I hesitate, noticeably intimidated by her now hostile vexation.
She drums bitten nails against the table, tucking a clump of unkempt, tar-colored hair behind an ear with her free hand.
"She's my sister," Brian fibs lamely.
Her eyes dart back and forth between us, skeptically calculating the few physical similarities Brian and I share. "How... cute," she murmurs indulgently as simpering smile returns.
Brian and I remain determinedly silent until she drops some line about waking Jesse and slips from the room.
"I hate them," Brian snarls venomously once she is out of earshot. "All of them."
I wince wordlessly.
"You know - Jesse's little... whores," he ploughs on. "I swear to God - you know he only fucks them because he knows he can, right? I mean... Jesus. It's like he's reaffirming his burgeoning stardom with every cherry he pops." He takes his time, reeling in his acerbity line by line. The bait floats unwittingly by, allowing each hook to snag dangerously deep into my flesh.
"I could just kill him," he adds as an almost insignificant afterthought.
Chewing my lip meditatively, I exhale and watch him slide a mug of untouched coffee across the table and trudge indignantly away.
Not long after, a soft knock on the plaster of the wall makes me start, and I swing around to see Jesse propped up against the frame of the doorway, looking significantly disheveled and very much awake.
In spite of myself, I find a frown creasing its way across my jaw. "So she woke you up, huh?"
He arcs an arm backwards to scratch idly at a spot on his neck. "Well, yeah." For a moment, his eyes flicker with concern, passing over me questioningly. "You alright, Clare?"
"I'm... I'm fine, Jess," I mutter wearily.
"You don't sound like it," he insists, coming over to stand beside me. "I mean, if there's something bothering you, you really shouldn't -"
"Well, Christ, what do you want me to say?" I lash out, flushing indignantly. His jaw sets stonily at my rancor, but my tongue takes no notice. "What so compels you to cajole me into not being fine that -"
"My God, what is wrong with you today?" he demands as his own fury catches. "I was just -"
"Then take the fucking hint, Tanen! I don't need your concern!"
To my left, the kitchen door swings open, revealing the girl from before, drying her newly washed hair with a dishcloth. Jesse and I snap around, both tinged an unattractive red. Her lips are parted, caught in mid-word.
"I'm sorry," she mediates sweetly. "Did I interrupt?"
"Get the fuck out," Jesse snarls jeeringly. "This doesn't involve you."
Her eyes narrow fiercely as she scrutinizes him, clearly affronted. "Fine," she retorts childishly. "I'll leave." The histrionics of her heels click across the tiles as she sweeps past, leaving the familiar, fading scent of cheap conditioner.
Somehow, her tone deflates Jesse slightly, and he blinks after her in confusion. The words gather too late, and by the time he has taken the first uncertain step, she has shut the door.
Shaken, he turns back to me warily. "I'm..." he begins, fighting for the excuse I know is coming.
I let my lids fall, heavy with loss. "Just go after her, Jesse. I won't have you missing out on another few night's worth of sex."
His eyebrows shoot upwards. "Excuse me?"
I laugh bitterly, veering away from his livid expression. "Really, Jesse. Let's just face it - even if you don't drag her back here, sobbing in your arms, you'll just pick up someone else on the way home -"
"What the fuck are you talking about?" he hisses, slamming a balled fist down on the counter.
"That girl, Jesse - did you even know her name?" He does not answer, but his silence is confirmation enough. I clench my hands together in a fruitless attempt to steady myself. "And it's not just her, either. All of them. Jesus Christ - can you think of nothing but your sex drive?" The argument descends, a vicious circle wound with rings of bright venom.
"Look," he seethes, failing to level with me. "You have no right to be attacking me here. And you know it's not like that -"
"No, Jesse, I don't," I contend vehemently. "With you, it's nothing but the music and the publicity and the nameless late night fucks -"
"Christ, Clare, I don't even see where this bullshit is coming -"
And suddenly, the spiral widens, and all I can see is the path on which I am to goad him further. "Just fucking admit it - believe me, it's no secret -"
"Fine. Christ, fine," he erupts. "You want me to say it? I'll fucking say it. You're right. I do want it. Everything you just said. I live for it. I love it. I fucking love the thought of teenage girls touching themselves to the sound of my voice screaming them to sleep at night. I love the thought of those same anxious girls waiting for me to go on tour, hanging off the edges of the bus, soundlessly begging for me to bring them back to my bunk and give them toe curling orgasms. I get hard just thinking of them biting their lips to suppress the screams at their climaxes -"
I find myself shaking. "Jesse -"
"And I leave 'em cold the next morning, but fuck, when they go home, they'll do the same thing over and over to themselves. Stick their forefingers down their undergarments and rub, moan my fucking name, begging for another taste, just one more fucking taste of Jesse Michael Tanen's cunt-fucking -"
A sob catches viscously in my throat as I take a clumsy step forward. My fingers close on thin air when he dances out of my reach. "Stop it, Jesse -"
"What's the matter, Clare?" he sneers, glowering with malice. "This is what you wanted to hear, isn't it? This is what you were so desperate to hear me say - the fact that I can think of nothing more than digging my cock into tight, wet, groupie pussy -"
"Fuck you." The words tear from my throat, taking what breath I have left with it.
It doesn't take long for the wrath in his eyes to compel me in the direction of the door. The brass knob is poorly contoured between my fingers, and I stumble carelessly over the wedge of the doormat.
His cue to stop me comes and goes, but I know not to wait.
The satiating slam of the door echoes down the street, drowning out the melancholy pull of the traffic. The sky above me shudders with the impact, uneven in a resounding lock of slate. By the time the city factions have fallen back into place, there is nothing left.
And, for perhaps the first time, the silence rings true.
"Clare. Clare, it's me.
"You haven't heard from me in a while. That's my fault, I know.
"I just... I wanted to see how you were. And this is a poor way to do it.
"... I knew you wouldn't be home.
"It was our birthday on Saturday. I turned 26, you turned 25. I missed you, just a little bit. I got out this old video of us, from maybe four years ago. The one of us at John's 22nd, out and out wasted and playing strip poker. You won, you know - Michelle forfeited after you asked for her shirt. I watched us, doing what we used to do, being what we used to be - though I'm not entirely sure what that really is. And I sat there for half an hour, masturbating to the smile on your face. The sound of your laugh.
"I'm not ashamed. It's the truth, and nothing more than what you deserve.
"And... I... I think I have something else to say. It's this little phrase that I've kicked around a lot, and I guess you could say it's long overdue. But - I... I love you, Clare. I think maybe I have for a long time. I just couldn't take my head out of my ass long enough to admit it to anyone. To myself.
"Clare. Clare, I miss saying your name. The other night, a fan asked me to sign a copy of Deja. Her name was yours... just with that extra 'i.' Six letters, not five. Three vowels, not two. You always hated the number six, you know.
"It's weird - how two names can sound so alike, and yet taste so different. And I think I missed you. But only a little.
"I still know you better than anyone, Clare. And I mean for you to take that both ways. I mean that I know you better than I know anyone else... and I mean that I know you better than you know yourself.
"I know the name of your first goldfish. I know you cried for two days when it bottomed up and your mom made you flush him down the toilet. I know you can't stand artificial sweetener in your coffee, but it's the only thing you'll take in your iced tea. I know the number of stoplights you hit on the way home from work, and the fact that you recount them sometimes just to make sure they're really there. I know you love it when you beat the mail home, and you like it even better when you can meet the mailman at the box. And I know you're holding your mail now.
"There's a letter from me in there, you know. I suggest you read it. You haven't yet - you always check your messages before paying the bills.
"My number's still the same, Clare. You know it by heart. I know you do, even after all this time. I - I don't know.
"... It took us so long to track you down.
"Just... call me. ... Please."
My fingers were numb. Blistered from the cold.
I could feel nothing as I wrapped them around the polished wood of the backrest of the chair before me. The only thing I could register properly was the dull, translucent sheen pulsating from my knuckles, where skin had dug recklessly into the bone.
Somehow, I managed to turn and paw through the clumsy bulk of my mail. Before I even hit the middle, I found it; an innocent white envelope situated between my water bill and some bank statement or another, blaring my name and address in his hasty, incriminating scrawl.
The unopened sheath was rough against my skin as I traced the letters etched into the parchment.
With an inexplicably fragile tenderness, I folded the letter into an unattractive Chinese restaurant menu, making sure to gently tuck the corners in. Then, after a frantic moment of hesitation, I strode determinedly over to the waste bin, discarding the package alongside the remnants of a half-eaten sandwich, and shut the lid as sharply as I could manage.
I shook as I backed away, extending a trembling hand behind me to grope for the keys I had dropped on the counter only minutes before.
It was then that I bolted, willing myself to hold steady and muster the urge to look back.
And I never did.
I think I'm falling in love with your memory. Everything you stood for, and everything I hope you still fight for. And I wasn't in love with you then, I know - but now it's something I find it impossible to deny.
Because now is what's important. It's in the now that I wish it was you waking up beside me every morning. It's in the now that I want your lips to be the ones I kiss, your breath to be the one I take away. And it's in the now that I'm begging you to somehow find it within yourself to forgive me.
And I know you won't. I know you've already erased that message that I spent months going over in my head. And I know this letter that I spent countless hours agonizing over and rewriting will soon be in the trash next to your Tuesday lunch of roast beef on rye, no mayo. I still remember..
I think I'm going to attempt to pretend that all of that isn't true. That it's possible to trick myself into believing you feel the same way. That you pine for the sound of my voice and miss the heat of my body against yours. That's there's no better drug than the spark in your veins and the mirror of your eyes when the pot is gone and the whiskey's dried up.
... But I don't think I'm strong enough for that.
Clare... You're what I need. You've always been what I needed. I can't say it enough, and I can't hate myself quite enough for saying it.
I've never asked a fight from you before. But now all I can do is beg... and lose myself in that last tendril of hope.
You know where to find me. I'll be waiting.
All my love,