The Morning After

By Demeter

EMAIL: Demeter

 

I've always hated hospitals and I am truly grateful that I could leave again, but somehow, coming home - if I still have the right to call the loft my home - somehow makes it even worse. I've made promises and signed a contract not to try again. That doesn't mean my life, or what there is still of it, isn't in shambles.

I approach my room, and through the open doors, I can see the box I had packed only a few days ago, the one which contains all the necessary information for the new Guide. The Guide that Jim deserves. Jim had never touched it.

"Are you hungry?"

Jim's voice behind me startles me. "Not really," I say truthfully. I'm not. What remains is a deep sadness that is so visceral it leaves me shaking with cold. I haven't got it right yet. Whatever I told the psychiatrists in the hospital, it wasn't even a lie, but I can't value the gift of life as it is, because all of my fears are going to come true.

Well, maybe not.

There's one way to spare us the embarrassment and unwanted attention that is certainly going to follow. Jim doesn't know it yet, but as I think about it, this seems to be the only solution. I'll have to go away, not just look for another apartment and job, but real far away. Maybe Naomi can help--

-- and then I realize she doesn't even know the whole truth.

They couldn't get hold of her, and I all but begged Jim to stop trying; I don't know if he has catered to that wish.

I sink into the next chair, disbelieving. "I've lost everything."

I haven't even realized I've spoken this out loud.

Immediately, Jim appears beside me, seeming unsure. Then he reaches out a hand, resting it on my shoulder. "That's not true."

"What an embarrassment," I say bitterly. "I've proven them right, all of them. A goddamn fraud."

"I don't want to hear that, okay?" Jim's voice rises with each word, more desperate than angry. Well, that's appropriate. "You -- we know the truth!"

I laugh, which is a totally stupid thing to do right now, but I just can't help it. "Man, I'm so grateful for that. If it wasn't for you, I could actually make myself believe I made it all up."

"But I am real, and I still need you," he says behind me, quietly now. "I need you. How could you? How the hell could you do this to me!"

There's this quiver in his voice, and I'm ashamed, knowing I'm the one who put it there. I stand up and turn to him, flinching at the naked anguish in his eyes. It's so unlike Jim to put it all in the open. "Jim, don't you know what that means? I failed the evaluation. There's nothing good I can do for you now."

He shakes his head; as though if he said anything right now, he'd cry, and Jim won't allow himself to do that.

Unlike me.

I step forward and wrap my arms around him. "I'm sorry," I whisper. "So very sorry."

His first impulse is to pull away, but he finally relents, clutching me close.

If I could stay here forever, I would, gladly. This is more than I deserve, after the intentional attempt to leave him behind, abandon the only person who'd never get over losing me. I realize that now. Maybe people would stop talking if I was gone for good, but it's not what Jim wants, and if I'm honest, I don't want to go either.

Which means we can't keep on ignoring whatever it was that led us here, Alex, the dissertation, my diagnosis.

At the end of the day, will our friendship be strong enough?

The End

November 11, 2004

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