Say Goodbye Good
Subject: [glass_onion] NEW (WW): Say Goodbye Good by EPurSeMouve (1/1) Date: Wednesday, July 10, 2002 9:15 PM
TITLE: Say Goodbye Good
AUTHOR: EPurSeMouve (email@example.com)
SPOILERS: "Posse Comitatus"
DISCLAIMER: They are not mine. Which makes me sad. DISTRIBUTION: I'll say yes, but please ask first.
SUMMARY: "It'll pass. The wound will heal. I'll wake up one morning, and smile with the sun, and put real cream in my coffee. Everything will go back to normal." So says CJ.
NOTES: Title courtesy of "The Promise Ring." Thanks to Nicole, who liked it, and big thanks to Melymbrosia, who made it better.
Dedicated to CazQ, who told me to do it, and is always with me in spirit.
Say Goodbye Good
I come into the office this morning, and Carol's wearing a new outfit. Burgundy Donna Karen. Tapered slacks with a boot cut flare, duster-length jacket, and a white shell with three-quarter-length sleeves. I'd guess a 50/50 acrylic-wool blend. Silk blouse.
"You went shopping this weekend?" I ask her when she hands me the morning's latest faxes.
"Yeah," she says. "Thanks for the time off. I really needed it."
I haven't been shopping in over thirty-eight news cycles. At least three weeks. But I just got the black Vera Wang. And I haven't needed a new dress since.
I ask Carol about her new suit. I was 100% right.
I bought my first pair of silk pajamas in college, after Dick - god, his name says it all - told me I looked like a scarecrow. He then proceeded to get herpes from Margie down the hall. I could barely crack a smile when I heard.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was my anger, but Berkeley in early fall was hot, and sleeping nude with two roommates wasn't exactly an option. So one afternoon I took the bus over the bridge and into San Francisco, where I spent way too much money on a camisole and pajama bottoms. Pajamas that draped. And for the first time since Dirk had dumped me, I wasn't too tall or frumpy or awkward - I was really me.
I still have them somewhere, in a box of old clothing that hides in the hall closet. I lived off rice for two weeks because of those pajamas, but I never slept better in my life.
I suppose the most frustrating thing about this job is that there's such a fine line between the things I can say and the things I know. Sometimes I've been in on the meetings, been told which dirty little details I have to keep under wraps - and then sometimes they hand me a scrap of paper right before I step to the podium. It's not always easy to keep straight what gets said and what doesn't, and standing in front of a nation of people, who expect you to have all the answers, doesn't make it any easier. Even if you do do it five times a day, and long ago figured out how to pretend you know what you're doing.
It's so easy to embarrass yourself up there. I say one wrong thing and it's on TV, it's in the papers, it's thrown at me all week by a grinning Josh who thinks it's quite the joke. But what's not so easy is shrugging off those mistakes and moving on. I mean, Josh makes a hundred mistakes a week, but it doesn't bother him because of that dammed arrogance. It would bother him more if he was six foot two in heels, though.
I'm not saying that I don't enjoy the attention. I wouldn't be up there five times a day if I wasn't good at it and if I didn't enjoy it. But when you know just a little too much - just a little more than you ever should say - and they ask you about the president's health or our new landlords in Qumar or women dying in Saudi Arabia... Every word spoken matters. Everything has consequence. And one slip-up...
Details. It's the details that'll get you, every time.
I started paying more attention to what I wore, after Dirk and the pajamas and the hot nights that felt cooler. Instead of picking up a dozen skirts and blouses at the thrift store, I'd go to department stores and find something that would last. By the time I got my masters, I had a real wardrobe going, and my friends were borrowing my clothes for their job interviews.
I look back and we all seem so young, kids playing dress-up in grown-up clothes. I'll never forget Janey, a drink in hand, grinning as she clomped around in my high heels.
Janey was five foot four and could wear a twelve-year-old's sneakers. The sisterhood holds strong, but only against the enemy.
I don't go to the gym any more, because I've lost interest in weight training and aerobics recently, and it's just much easier to go home at the end of a long day and drip sweat onto the seat of my LifeCycle. I blast the Rolling Stones as loud as I dare. I try not to think. But it's hard not to, though. Especially when I know perfectly well what I'm doing - isolating myself, avoiding places that'll end up reminding me of him, trying to deal with the pain by not dealing with it at all.
I've been reminding myself that this is why I stopped having relationships with a capital R and started keeping things casual. Because... Casual works for me. Danny was casual. Danny was three dates and four separate one-night-stands. And then Danny went away and I barely even missed him.
I don't get many chances to meet people outside of work, and this pressure we're under always makes relationships seem more intense. And then, when they end - because that's what relationships do - the time after is always that much worse. But if I keep things casual, I don't have to worry about that. I keep things casual, and I stay so busy telling myself I don't care that I really don't.
What kills me about this grief of mine, what makes me start laughing in the middle of the night, is that he and I weren't even in a relationship. We hadn't gotten anywhere yet. Hadn't done anything.
We were just beginning.
And I yet still get to feel like... Well, this. I get to feel like this, like I'm dying inside, like the reason to keep going just evaporated into a ghostly mist.
It'll pass. The wound will heal. I'll wake up one morning, and smile with the sun, and put real cream in my coffee. Everything will go back to normal.
Toby and I are so casual that we've never done anything except support each other and get drunk together and try to forget the one time we cheated Andi for all the wrong reasons. We're casual, which is why he doesn't bother to knock before sticking his head into the office.
"Lunch." He's not scowling, and his eyes have a bit of a spark in them. A happy Toby.
I gesture to my yogurt and banana. "That's what this is."
"No. Out. At a restaurant, say."
"Not today. Today, I have food."
"You're calling that food?"
"I'm calling you judgmental. You eat recycled tripe stuffed into pig intestines."
"The hot dog is a very American delicacy."
"No wonder we're the fattest country on Earth."
He comes into my office, plops onto my couch, that twinkle fading from his eyes as he stares at me, and I take an aggressive bite out of my banana. He doesn't stop staring, though, and I'm down to the peel before he speaks again.
"You're doing better," he says, and it's enough to make my lips quiver, just a bit. It's ridiculous and silly. It's me a day post-Dirk, a raw wound all over again.
But today it's something I can control. Because he's right.
"It's been three weeks, Toby. I'm fine." I say it like I believe it, hoping he will too. But his head cocks to the side, and that overworked hamster in his brain picks up the pace, spinning its little wheel just a little faster.
It's a moment that lasts forever, and then he speaks and it feels like a heartbeat. "Lunch tomorrow..."
"...will not be hot dogs eaten on a park bench. And it'll be your treat."
His lips twist, that almost-smirk that's practically a smile. "Indeed."
When Simon was nervous, there'd be a little bit of sweat on his upper lip. I only saw it a couple of times, when I got too close to him, stood in his space or said something that made him blush. It wasn't that he was afraid. He just took his job so seriously. The only thing that made him nervous was the possibility of making a mistake.
He thought that we were a mistake. I figured that out after I nearly kissed him on the street. But he was only worried because of that Secret Service/damsel in distress thing. Not because of me, not because of him - but because of our jobs. The reason that brought us together was the only reason he had for staying away.
So that couldn't keep him from kissing me the second his job was done. But his lips tasted salty. Like sweat. At the time, I figured that he had been nervous before, about the threat that never was. But I've had time to think about this, and you know what? He might just have been nervous about the thing between us. About all the possibilities, good and bad. About waking up beside a smart-ass workaholic forty-something. About a relationship with a capital R.
Or maybe I'm just projecting. That's all I've had time to do, these days. Work fourteen-hour days and sweat out my pain on the LifeCycle and think too much. I'm more than twice the age of the girl in silk pajamas, and while I'm still doing my best, working as hard as I can, I can't help but wish that I'd gotten this thing figured out a long time ago.
A long time ago, I used to let things get complicated. I used to let myself get entangled, used to let things get emotional and messy. But now I keep things casual, and I've perfected looking good and sounding better. My armor's gotten pretty thick. Only a few chinks to be found.
I'm nearly done repairing the damage to me. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. But I think a part of me will always be sobbing on a bench in Times Square. The same way a part of me will always be kneeling over Toby's toilet the morning after, and scouring San Francisco for sleepwear free of Dirk's touch.
However, those are all the mes I used to be. And I have a job to do. I have details to mind and jokes to crack and secrets to protect. I have a life, and it's time to live it.
Carol's at her desk when I come in, and she smiles as she sees my new suit. Hunter green skirt and blazer, sea foam scoop-neck shell with a bit of gold woven in.
"You went shopping?" she says as I extend my coffee-free hand for phone messages.
"My credit cards were getting cabin fever," I say. "We deserved a good time out on the town."
She gives me one of those looks that shows just how much she knows. "You did." I smile at her, appreciating her intentions, and I take my messages into my office to prepare for the day ahead.
The mall has been conquered. The gym and New York City are not far behind. Maybe I'll even try and learn how to shoot a gun. Just to know I can.
Today, I'll know every word I'm going to say before I say it, and I won't say anything that'll make someone want to kill me. I'll look good and sound great and be as confident and cool as ever.
And tonight I'll give the LifeCycle a rest, and I'll dig my old silk pajamas out of that box in the closet. And I'll put them on, open a bottle of wine and a book, and I'll keep on healing the old and new wounds.
Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And thanks for reading.
"Isn't life hard enough without us making it harder?" -Ed, "Ed"
green fire burns at http://grapefruithead.com/epur/
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