Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All My Road Pt 4 REVISED

There is no good writing, there is only rewriting. Compare, if you wish, to the earlier version. Will I make more changes? Absolutely. Am I ever satisfied? Nope. Do I stay true to the story, to my characters? I try. I try very hard.

Driving past that interchange of vomit where once upon a time I'd been airborne, that interchange I'd never been able to find a short or long cut around, where I had for the first time realized what a turd he was, a selfish, immature turd, I find it hard to breath. And yet...
Here I am. Again. Questioning, talking, pleading: why don't you love me anymore, what did I do, what makes her better than me? I take a deep breath and walk to the door, prepared to rap on the glass. He's there, waiting for me. He opens the door a crack and lets me in.
"What did you want to see me for? You told me it's over. You said it, not me." He locks the entry door and moves past me. "C'mon, I'm working in the back."
I follow him down the tight hallway, avoiding the transfile towers and stacked up computer parts that make the journey to his realm even more of an obstacle course. "You lied to me. You lied over and over. I just told you what I saw, what we both know. When the words and actions disagree..." The back of his head is just as responsive as the front.
The words and actions. The way he'd abruptly changed, all business-like about things that weren't business at all. From long hours of playful to "Are you finished yet? I have to walk the dogs." As fast as I tried to close the gaps, he hammered wedges into the fissures. He knew I'd discover the truth, sooner or later, see through the glamour, be unable to ignore the spotted elephant in the corner. A truth so awful to him had to be repellant to me. He was a hollow statue on a pedestal, at least in his head, and that wasn't good enough. My acceptance of his flaws was as unacceptable to him as it was unfathomable.
"Words and actions? What does that mean?" he says over his shoulder. He points to a chair but I remain standing. Seated in his oversized execuchair, he stares at the computer screen. Was he working or playing ScrabbleBlast again? I shiver, icy memory tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention. I lean against the desk opposite his. I don't want to see the screen, don't want to know what words are there. The actions have slapped me around too much the last few days. "Whatever. I'd like us to still be friends. We used to talk about everything. I miss talking to you, you're so smart. And now... There's too much distance between us."
"Oh, that's an interesting metaphor, there's too much distance between us. Certainly, there is now even if there wasn't before." Neither of us had moved in the past year, but the miles had doubled, tripled. The not unreasonable commute had become a burden, heavy, torturous when it meant clocking miles on his vehicle. Mine was expendable. Anything of mine was expendable, unimportant. "Why am I here anyway? What do I want from you?" I pick up a stapler, check to see if it needs refilling.
"You said you wanted to talk. I guess this is our breakup rehash?" He fiddles with the mouse, glances down at the papers littering his desktop, back at the screen. He shifts in his chair, turning it from side to side as he shakes his head . "I think... I dunno. I love so many things about you. I love fucking you, the sex is like, amazing-"
I'll never say that to anyone. I'll never tell someone I love things about him because I can't say I love him. I won't say anything. I won't spin.
"Well, was amazing, except for the last few weeks, and I love the things you do for me, the way you treat me, think about me, try to make my life easier, advise me on things-"
But you don't love me, the real me. You can't love me. I see through you, right to your core. I won't lie and say you're wonderful or perfect. I see your flaws and love you anyway, but that's exactly what's wrong.
"-but when you told me you'd lied me and you didn't want to see me any more.. I dunno, it changed how I feel, colored all my memories and perceptions, perverted them." He leans back and gives a small nod of satisfaction. He's justified his actions.
"Oh, please. You are so full of it. You knew, don't tell me you didn't know. You're not stupid. My lies were nothing compared to yours. It's like we had a constant, set total of lies. So when mine shrank, yours blossomed; you had to fill the empty space with bigger, better lies. And I bought into it. I swallowed them, my pride and my common sense, anything to be with you.
"You looove fucking me. You love the way I treat you, care for you, help you, but it all comes down to one thing: you don't love me. Everything about me is replaceable, expendable. Everything. You know, you call me all hours of the day and night, drunk, sober, angry, outraged, 3 p.m. or 3 a.m., ask me this, ask me that. You ever ask me how I am? What I'm doing, if I have time to talk? No, that's not important. Too much trouble for Mr. Narcissistic. Your needs are important, not mine. You confess to me, repent to me, depend on me. You know I'll help you in any way I can, do anything in my powers to help you. And you? I can't depend on you for shit. You can't even be bothered going ten minutes out of your way when for all you know I could be dying upside down in a ditch, forget about really inconveniencing yourself and helping me when I need something."
"Hey, c'mon. I think you're being a little harsh." He folds his arms, then tosses his head to get the hair out of his eyes. Like a runway model, sullen-faced, skulking, so their feathers don't shift. He was vain enough, so solipsistic he'd plagiarized my work, used my letters, the only thing I could truly call mine, to get into other women's pants and been insulted when I'd called him on.
"I'm not nearly harsh enough. I know you. I know everything about you, how you think, how you work, how low you'll go to get what you want. Your ends justify any means. That hurt? Yeah, ends justifies the means, and albeit macht frei. Fuckhead. You can't stand it that I see through your games, that I see what a clayfoot you are. I hold up a mirror and you see the cracks. You despise yourself for being scum and you despise me for loving you anyway." I eject the last staple and put the stapler down exactly parallel to the edge of the desk.
"You love me anyway? Even now?" Is he batting his eyelashes at me? Is he flirting with me? Is this what I want? Is this why I'm here?
"So? I can love you and not like you. I can love you and hate what you do, how you treat me. Believe me, I've been abused by experts. You're amateur hour on that point, sweetcheeks. I've learned from my past. I can do all sorts of things. But you know what I can't do any longer?"
"I'm afraid to ask." He smiles a small smile, refills his coffee cup from the pump dispenser his staff keeps full and on his desk. "You want?"
"We've known each other how long and you still can't remember that I drink tea?" The first time he invited me to his apartment, he hadn't thought to buy tea. Not the second or third time, either. But I'd seen the expensive, waxed box of chai tea in his cabinet, the one sold only at the import store in the mall, the same kind the hostess at his favorite restaurant drank, on top of the box of Lipton I'd finally broken down and brought over. I wondered if he'd bought the chai or if Sushi had.
"Just asking. I can boil water for tea."
"Don't trouble yourself. I wouldn't want to impose." All the paperclips are lined up on the blotter like an English garden, neat rows and spirals. When did I do that? I sweep them into a cup and set it on the northwest corner of the desk.
"You never let me do things for you."
"That's right. Because what I want you to do for me, you won't do or can't do. I want you to be you. I don't want a god, I want a person, a flawed, striving to be better person. I want a man, human, effable, fallible." If I stay angry I won't kiss him. If I stay angry, I'll stay on my side of the room.
"Oh god, sweetie, you know me like no one knows me, better than I know me-"
"Damned straight I know you better than you know you. And just think how I'd know you if you weren't such a compulsive liar. Of course, your lies tell me even more than your truths, such as they are." I pick up the "Welcome to Indiana" snow globe as if it was a "Magic 8" ball with all the answers and shake it, knowing that only works if I ask the right questions, the ones I already know the answers to anyway. "You're so smooth, so charming with your quick wit and fancy car, expensive clothes, country club membership." I shake the globe. Only snow, still no answers. "And the games... Was I just more repartee, a whetstone for your vocabulary? Was I? So deluded by your smooth." I shake the globe harder.
"I thought just once in my life I could be Cinderella, that just once someone would save me. But no. I'm always going to be the bootstrap bitch, the life preserver of DUIs and Joan of Arc for morally and financially bankrupt hobos. Yay me! Just once, I wanted to be taken care of, just once. I am so tired of taking care of myself and the rest of the world. I'm tired."
"I'm sorry I'm not Prince Charming, really sorry. I wish I was, but I can't be what I'm not, no matter how much you want it, or I might want to make it so. I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." He quirks his lips into that little half-smile he thought was so killer. I fight the urge to lick the side of his mouth.
I replace the snow globe and put the scattered pens and pencils into the square, faux leather pen holder. The push pins are in disarray, too, not grouped by color or shape. "Yes, you are what you are. And the sad thing, that was enough for me. I was okay with you being a flawed Charming as long as you were my Charming, but you needed me to see you as perfect. Maybe we both needed to believe in the fantasy more or lie more or lie better. It's just so tiring being ‘on' all the time. I want to be okay being flawed. I want to be with someone who's okay being flawed. I want to be with someone who really, really wants to be with me. Not some pin-up, two dimensional image of me, but me. Would you stop staring at my chest?"
He reaches over and places his hand on my lower back, thumb stroking that indent in my spine just above my coccyx, fingers gently squeezing the curve of my hip. I lean into the caress for a moment, then pull away. His hand drops to his knee. "Sorry. That dress is just amazing on you. How come we never got all dressed up and went out nice?"
"Um, maybe cause you never asked? Maybe cause you could never pick me up on time? Maybe cause you save the nice going out for your ‘I'd like to have a real relationship with her' skank and not for the woman you DO have a relationship with? Please, in the year we were seeing each other, you never even made time for us to go to the movies, let alone out nice. Want me to go on? The list of broken promises is longer than I am tall."
"I'm sorry for that, for all the ways I disappointed you but things happen. You know that. Things come up."
"Like my lunch is right now? You want me to tell you that you weren't so bad, that all things considered you were pretty good. You want your ego-stroking, well, fuck you, get it from Sushi." I lean forward, arms crossed, cold. Did it get cold in here? His eyes flick to my cleavage again. "Yeah, take a good long look. Where is she anyway? Still at work, little miss ‘oh, it's complicated'?
"Bah. Enough on her." I snap my fingers. "I didn't need or want an illusion. I wanted you. I know you. Do you know you? Do you know what you want? Not what you think you want, not what everyone tells you you should want, Mr. Silver-spoon-in-his-mouth-and-polysyllabic-words-on-his-tongue, but what you want? I'm discovering what I want and it is so different from before. My priorities have been messed up my whole life, and now I'm growing up and taking charge."
Silent, he stares at his fingers for a few minutes, examining the nails and then the tips, as if he'd never realized just how many ridges his fingertips had before. He looks up at me. "Don't cry." Was I crying? Huh. My cheeks were wet. "I'm going to miss you, I already miss you."
"No, you don't. I'm history, forgotten, out of the agenda. If not this one, then the next. Or the one after that. Or however many it takes. I'm long gone."
"I want a relationship and I can't get past what you did. I want simple and honest."
I snort. "Oh, please. Simple and honest? You wouldn't know simple and honest if it bit you on the nose. I have to go. I don't know why I'm here, anyway." I take my keys out of my purse.
"What are you going to do?"
"Do? What do you mean, what am I going to do? Go home, what else am I going to do?"
He glances at the clock on the wall. "It's late. You've been up since what, six? And it's four now and you've been drinking."
"And your point is? I can tell time and no matter how much I drank tonight, it's not as much as you drink."
"You're almost a teetotaler. You had a few tonight."
"I'm sober enough, but thank you for your concern. I'll put a tick mark in your good deeds and kind words column."
He stands up. He puts an arm around my shoulder and pulls me to him. "I'd let you sleep in the apartment, but..."
My body starts to fit itself to him. I can feel the warmth of him through our clothes. "What, you can't trust me to sleep in the guest bedroom? You think I'll crawl into your bed? I have some pride, not much, but some."
"I don't trust me." He strokes my hair, my neck.
"That is so typical of you, playing the gentleman to weasel your way out of doing something. ‘I can't trust me. I'm afraid I might lose control. It's for your own good.' Four a.m. and you won't let me crash in your guest room. You can't put yourself out one iota for me, can you? You're still working, you could drop me off and come right back here. I'm leaving." But I can't move. I want to stay right there, feeling him, breathing him.
"You're too tired to drive."
"Tell me something I don't know." I rub my eyes, smearing mascara and eyeshadow on my hands. I must look like a racoon. Tell me an alternative."
"You could stay at a motel." What did he say? I push myself away from him.
"I could what? You going to pick up the tab? You make at least ten times as much as I do. You ask women all the time to go on trips with you, all expenses paid, but the one trip we went on, we split. Where's my trip to Vegas or the Bahamas? You know what? I bet if you put me up in a motel you'd write it off as a consulting fee. You've done it every time we've gone anywhere. You know what else you are? Besides a jerk? You're cheap. Cheap with your wallet and cheap with yourself. It's all about your bottom line."
"Do you feel better? You called me a few names, you feel better now? Because I really have to get back to work. I've got time critical projects I have to finish." He walks down the hall and I follow him. The boxes remind me of hungry dragons. I'm starting to hallucinate I'm so tired. He stands by the door, tapping his foot, impatient for me to leave.
"Time critical projects, my ass. I'll feel better. I'll feel better when I stop acting like a fool over you, stop caring about what happens to you. I'll feel better when I stop loving you. But I won't." I bite a jagged bit off my thumbnail. "Nope. I won't. Stop loving you, that is."
"But it's over. You've said it, I've said it. I'm seeing someone else. You'll get over me. I'm a compulsive liar and scum and a jerk and a fuckhead and an asshole and whatever else you called me."
"Well, it's a reflection on me, not on you, how I feel. I have to own my emotions and responses, be responsible for my feelings." It was really over. He wasn't going to ask me to stay, hold me, kiss me, let me cling to the illusion that he maybe somewhere deep inside loved me after all. The first time he was honest with me was to tell me it was over. "I have to go now."
"Are you going to be okay? I worry about you." He unlocked the door.
"Huh. If you meant that, you'd give me an option. You don't. You care about you and you care about the newest bang you're sticking your dick in. At least, you care while it's a novelty. It'll wear off. It's already wearing off. With you, it's all about the conquest. You still think like you're seventeen."
 He glances outside. Someone waves to him. He waves back, holds up five fingers. He's going to join them in five minutes. Nice. He has lots of work to do tonight.
"I have to go. I don't want to argue anymore. I'm too tired." I'm so tired. Give me comfort. Please ask me to stay. Please. I know he won't, but I wish he would.
"Can I call you?" He fumbles with the keys. His barbuddies are waiting. His dealer is waiting. First, I competed with them, then I competed with his internet porn addiction and now with Sushi and whoever else. Why did I bother? What's wrong with me? I take a deep breath, shake my head.
"What, when she dumps you in a month or so? I'm growing a spine. I hope." I get in the car and pull out of the spot. When I come up to the bar, I open the passenger window. "Go to hell, asshole. Go to hell."
A few miles down, I pull into a strip mall, cry for a bit. The flashing lights cast odd shadows on the dashboard, reminding me of the psychedelic Japanese cartoons that cause epileptic fits. Does Sushi watch cartoons, read anime?  Does she play Scrabble, do the crossword puzzles with him? Does she? Why do I care? Admit to myself that I'm too bleary-eyed to drive safely, might end up in a ditch again and I'm done crawling through alligator infested ditches for him. I wonder what the Florida Highway Patrol officer would say if he saw me sitting here now. "About time, ma'am. Surely is about time." I fall asleep with my head on the steering wheel.

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