Chapter Eight: A Girlfriend's House
Notes and Disclaimer: And so it goes, and so it goes, and so I think I'm finished here. I might follow this chapter with an epilogue from multiple points of view, just to tie up a few loose ends, but I sort of think that I've done what I wanted to do with this story. My favorite chapter, by far, was chapter six, which featured Roger being a bastard, but a happy bastard. Going on that, I feel another story coming on, one of a considerably darker and slashier nature. I don't know if I can do that, but I guess it's worth a shot, and it's a way to pass a few good hours.
I don't own any characters, of course. They belong to the late, great Jonathan Larson.
Warning: Nastiness ahead. Not so nice as before.
"So. You're cheating on him."
I don't even give her the chance to close the door behind her before the accusation's out there, visible in front of me as frozen breath in the thin November air. I can see her breath, too, billowing around her in strong blasts; her breathing's heavy, and her face is flushed, be it from the cold or otherwise. Probably otherwise.
I swear, she's always got to be a drama queen. Her hands fly to her hips, and she shoots me this look like she's daring me to continue. Fine. I really don't have anything to lose here; she's the one who's going to get found out. Sure, I may come off a bastard, and I maydeserve half the shit I get, yeah,but she's really in for it this time, and I'm in a foul mood, so I'm more than willing to tell her off.
"You heard me: you're cheating on him. How long now?"
"Who the Hell do you think you-"
"Mark. Who the Hell do you think? You're cheating on Mark."
Maureen's mouth drops open in a shocked sort of scowl as she glares daggers at me, pissed off and surprised and trying to throw together a raging lie or some fake tears before we get too far into this. Either way, I'm going to win this one. The screaming and yelling won't work with me; it's a proven fact that I can scream louder and just generally be meaner son of a bitch than anyone I know, Maureen included, and the crocodile tears, while they'll get Mark to give in and bend to her every want almost immediately, have absolutely no effect whatsoever on me.
"Remember him? Really short, skinny little blonde kid with blue eyes? Glasses?"
"Go to Hell, Roger," she spits, almost literally, trying to toss her hair back as a nonchalant gesture. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"Always has a camera with him? Lives on tea? Wool sweaters? Steno pads and photo albums? Mark. Your boyf-"
"I know who Mark is, Roger. Where is he?"
"You mean you even care? You didn't care last night. Or the night before that. Did you ever care, Maureen, after the thrill of fucking a boy in handcuffs wore off?"
She hits me then, right across the jaw, hard. Harder than I've been hit since April, but that's not saying much, seeing as I've been living with Mark all this time. I swallow a curse and lean back into the couch, casually nursing my face though my uneven beard and flicking her off. For someone who's probably just gotten laid, she sure gets pissed easily.
"You're being ridiculous! You know what?" She throws her arms up into the air, shaking her head of dark curls in disbelief as she crosses between my couch and the TV that's casting over the otherwise dark room an eerie blue glow. "I'm not talking to you." She jabs a finger at me and gesticulates wildly, pacing and throwing her hands around. "I'm not even going to bother talking to you when you're like this. Where the Hell is Mark?"
"Oh, so you do remember him." I crack my knuckles and sit up some from how I've been slouched against the arm of the couch. "He's in bed. Asleep. Alone. Would you believe that after two days and two nights of waiting around for you, he finally got tired and passed out about an hour ago?"
"Two days? I told him that I had a reading to do in-"
"Philly, yeah. He told me; I know. A reading in Philly on Thursday. It's Saturday, Maureen. Sunday morning."
"Well, I never said that it was going to be a day trip. I wouldn't expect you to know, but these things take time."
"Where's your stuff?"
I can't help but smirk from behind my overgrown goatee. "Where's your stuff? Didn't you bring anything for this trip?" She's got absolutely nothing on her, with the exception of a leopard-print purse and the clothes she's wearing, and it's definitely not like Maureen, Queen of Clothes to travel light, especially with winter coming on. "Clothes, shoes, condoms, cuffs?"
"I stayed at a girlfriend's house. So, now is there something wrong with-"
"Oh, come on, Maureen. It's so fucking obvious." I've been a miserable, drug-starved, sexually repressed bastard for the past five months, and even I've been able to bring myself out of myself and notice the trouble in the paradise. "Out 'till three, coming home blitzed, all these 'auditions' all of a sudden, and -and this is so unlike you!- too tired for sex. Who's your new man?"
"Shut the fuck up, Roger!"
"Is he hot? Is hejust really big, or are you looking for a job and find it easier to fuck with a director than to acutally au-?"
"It's none of your business what I do with my time, Roger! Just because you've spent half a year sitting around all day and all night feeling sorry for yourself doesn't mean that I'm going to hang around and wait on you like Mark does."
"Don't you dare blame this on me," I growl, digging my fingers into the worn-out couch and clenching my teeth to keep from going off on her. "I didn't fucking ask him to stay. He does, because you've got better people and things to do, anyway." What a cold, hardbitch. I warned Mark about her months ago. Before everything went to Hell and I became permanently depressed and constantly pissed off, I warned Mark that this chick was a grade-A bitch who was going to chew him up and spit him out when she got tired of him. "You've got no right to fuck other guys and then come home and let Mark tell you that he 'loves' y-."
"It's none of your goddamn business, Roger!"
"Yeah? Well, I think he should know that when he's with you, he's with the bouncer and the DJ and the bartender and the drummer in some band-"
"Stay the fuck out of it!" Maureen screams, throwing her purse in my direction and missing my a mile, furiously running her hands back through her hair and over her eyes before crossing her arms against her chest. "Why the Hell do you even care so much if I'm with someone else? It's not like I'm going to come to you like you are, all emotional and needy and shit. All you fucking men, I swear, you all need so much attention!"
Wait. Maureen just accused me of being an attention whore. Maureen just accused me of being an attention whore. This is how I know that the world's going to Hell. "I might be a dickhead, Maureen, but if you were ever around to pay attention, you'd see what I see happening."
"Oh, yeah? What is it that you see happening, Roger, since you're so fucking smart all of a sudden? Since when do you give a damn about anything outside of your own little unhappy world?"
"Ever seen Mark cry?"
For once in her life, Maureen Johnson has nothing smart to say. She stares at me, wanting desperately to be angry, to blame me for whatever problem she's having, but knowing that she's seriously gone in over her head with this whole thing.
"Not since... only when you and April... Just then, I think. Why? Why are you even asking me that?"
Mark is a very private person. He'll make a study out of everyone else's life, sure, but when it comes to his own thoughts and feelings, he shuts himself up and writes or films or hides in bed. He rarely complains or vents or whines without me prompting it, and he's usually very collected. Even when he's drunk, he doesn't run off personal secrets. Mark never cries. Not when there's anyone there to see him, at least, with the one exception being the night April died and I got my death sentence handed to me in three words. I know that he cries on his own, but never when someone might be there to care that he's upset.
"Right. How about this, then? Tonight, right before he finally went to sleep, Mark just put his head down on the kitchen table and cried. Cried, okay? Congratulations, Maureen: you made Mark cry himself to sleep at the fucking kitchen table, because you left him alone for a few one-night stands."
She's biting her lip and shaking her head, her arms still crossed over her chest, hair in her eyes, fingers tapping against her sides. "Why did he-"
"Christ, Maureen." I haul myself off the couch and, staring hard at her, completely stubborn and unwilling to forgive, make my way across the room. "I hope you're happy."
Resisting the urge to curse and rave and tell Maureen to get out, to keep away from Mark, I shut my mouth and leave her standing there, heading for the ladder to our bedroom so that I can get another pillow and go to bed. I've accomplished what I needed to do tonight. When I get a few rungs up the ladder, though, I freeze and mutter a low, "Fuck," under my breath, turning my head away.
Right at the top of the ladder, hunched there with his head on his knees, sits Mark, fully dressed and dully illuminated by the glow of our Christmas lights and the ever-present cityscape through the high windows. Maureen obviously hasn't noticed him yet, but when I hop down off the ladder and it still creaks in his descent, she looks over at him, then immediately away again. Good. She shouldn't even look at him.
It's disgusting, the way he can just cross between us like that, slowly and silently, not even looking up from his shoes, which scuff against the floor as he makes his way across the long room, towards the door. He should be fuming. He should be storming outside, kicking and screaming and crying. He should be demanding to know what exactly went through Maureen's mind, why she didn't call him, why he wasn't good enough. He should be pissed at me for getting involved. He should be a fucking tornado roaring through the loft, but he's not. That's not him. Where he should be pissed, he's quiet and calm and sad.
Finding himself at the door, Mark takes his oversized coat from the back of a chair and slips it on over a thick sweater and his usual scarf. He takes his time buttoning it, from bottom to top, then opens the door and turns to where Maureen and I have both taken to staring.
"I think I'm going to take a walk."
What kills me is that he says it with a smile. Bitter and sad and only to hide tears, sure, but he offers a small, defeated smile anyway, and tucks his camera under his arm before leaving the loft, quietly pulling the door closed behind him.
See, there's this thing about Mark that you've got to notice when you're living with him: he'll never tell you exactly what's going on, but you can always catch the general gist of it from his body language. If he's really excited about something, you'll see it right away; he'll have this queer sort of half-sideways grin on his face and won't seem to be able to sit down to save his life. If there's something bothering him, chances are, Mark will sit up in our room, right on the edge of his mattress, and scribble down plot points or character backgrounds for some script he'll never look at again. That, or he'll take his camera and go on long walks, come in and out at strange times, and then actually sleep eight hours and wake up perfectly content in the morning.
This is one of his long walks. Long, silent walks through the village at three in the morning. I don't know what he thinks, walking through the park and seeing the junkies, the hookers, and the homeless people on the benches, or watching fires burn in tin trash cans, but that's always what he notices on these walks. Maybe he's a sad sort of masochist, feeling better about himself in knowing that with these people, he's got the right to be miserable, or maybe he's secretly hoping that one of them will mug him and really give him a reason to value his life when it seems so generally shitty. Maybe he just likes to walk.
In any case, I know as soon as he's out the door that he's not going to be back until it's light out, and that when he collapses in his bed, alone again, he's going to wake up in the morning trying to convince himself that he's happy, since that's what he always does. But he's not going to be happy. There's no way he's going to be happy, but he's going to smile and make breakfast and write some and film some and try to make it seem like everything's okay so that nobody will suspect that he's hurting.
Now I know that Mark's a better actor than Maureen's ever going to be; I've been looking right through her ever since she got here, but I've never really seen Mark until now.
End Notes: Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading, and my sincere gratitude to everyone who reviewed or will review this story and my other shorter pieces. I might just add an epilogue, as I've said, but I might not. In any case, expect something from me in the next week or so.
Auf wiedersehen. A bientot.