AN: Ok, this is just an update to fix all the grammar and tense problems, my little sis beta'ed it for me! Thanks!
Also thanks to all who have reviewied, made me week that this got such warm reception.
Don't own it, and I could wish I did. But I wouldn't have done them justice if I did. Thank you Jonathan.
It just came to me when I doing research for a paper today. I would love a bit of feed back, first rent fic and all. Thanks
I don't think any of us really understood him. We didn't get why he ran away from home. Why the world through his camera was safer. We didn't even really understand why he fought so hard to keep us all together.
We kind of just took it all for granted, that he was there watching us, holding us up and keeping us all sane in the midst of a crazy world.
None of us really understood, at least until Cindy came by.
It was weird. He had been in New York for ten years before his sister came to see him, before she took the time to look in on her baby brother.
Ten years of me waking up to his nightmares when he was crying, five years of Collins slipping medication into his tea to keep him from hurting himself when we left him alone for the day.
And even then, I don't think any of us really thought there was something wrong with Mark.
Little Marky, the filmmaker, the one who will, even in the end, be alone, with his camera and his work.
I always assumed Collins did it to get Mark to loosen up, to get him to calm down, and stop being the mother hen to all of us. To get him to live a little. I didn't notice the pills until after Angel had been gone for almost half a year, when our family was settled, when Mimi was back, and life seemed good.
I asked him about it. His eyes at that moment, the guarded lost look he had when he looked at me, it almost broke something in me.
"You never noticed did you?" He asked me. I shook my head, what was he talking about?
"The scars on his arms? The bruises?" he tried to get me to answer.
"What are you talking about?"
"Every time we leave him alone, every time he isn't the one to walk out, but the one left alone, he can't take the silence." Collins didn't know how to put it. He didn't know how to come out and say that Mark was slowly killing himself.
"What the fuck are you on about this time, Thomas?" I growled, this wasn't making any sense. Mark doesn't hurt himself.
"Mark cuts. He beats himself up when we leave him alone. I don't— I don't even think he knows he does it. I don't think he understands it." Collins didn't have words, and I think that scared me more than anything else.
"It's a mild anti depressant. I leave it in his tea, whatever it is, it helps him." He shrugged, tired and afraid and unable to say what was on his mind. "Angel left them with me, said to use them to help Mark. I didn't understand at first, but when you came back and he didn't let up, I started to notice."
It wasn't that he hurt himself. Not like we thought he was. It wasn't as though he took out a razor and cut himself hoping to fix the pain. It was the damn voices in his head, from the past, that drove him to pain, that effort to get rid of them. If he hurt enough he came back out of the nightmare, and they went away. It took us another three months to find that out. Joanne this time.
She walked in on him with the kitchen knife to his thigh. Screaming to himself, to them. Them… the indefinable ones in his head. The ones he won't talk about, the ones he tries to forget.
She talked to him, spoke in a calm, soft voice, and then she pried his fingers off the handle and led him to the bathroom to clean him up. She bandaged him up and helped him to bed. She made him tea. And then she called Collins.
Collins who always knew what to do. Collins who helped hold us together. And Collins cried. He told Joanne where the pills were and how much to give Mark. And Mark just went back to sleep, softly singing until the pills took hold and he was ok again.
No one mentioned sending him to a clinic, no one voiced putting him in a institution. We all knew that it was not an option. He simply couldn't be alone with out the pills in his tea. So we all knew where it was, how to make it. And he was happy, he had a filming job with a local network to do hard hitting segments on the topic of the week with their new College journalist segment. He loved it, he was happy. He was fine.
He held Maureen when she fought with Joanne. He held Mimi when she went through withdrawal, just like he held me. He laughed with Collins and held him up as they stumbled back to the loft drunk. And he held me when I got the call that my old band mate had died in a car crash after driving drunk. He held us all.
And still we didn't understand. We didn't realize: he needed to be held.
When his mom would call, he would joke about running from home, then leave with his camera. And we didn't make the connection. I should have noticed his eyes, I always noticed eyes. But those baby blues hidden by the black frames, they seemed to hide from me, elude my keen sight. Me, who had seen so many junkies and drunks, and broken down people in bars, and I missed his eyes. I missed when would come home high after a call from his mother. I missed when he didn't come home at all after one mentioning his father. I was too busy with Mimi, with my new band, too busy with myself to think about Mark having problems.
Mark who always made us take our medications. Mark who made sure there was food, heat, paper, music. Mark simply was, and we took it for granted. Mark lost weight, Mark stopped sleeping, stopping coming home for days at a time. Mark came home drunk when he came home at all, and Mark avoided the phone and messages like they were the plague. And still we didn't notice.
Oh we joked about his weight, and his need to get warmer clothes as winter came to the city. We laughed at his films, and his clumsy steps when we took him out. We just didn't really notice Mark.
She came to the door Christmas morning 1995. She knocked on the door, startling us from our small family brunch. Noon is a good time for brunch. Mimi answered the door.
"Are you Maureen?" Mark froze at the voice, he seemed to sink into himself. We didn't notice, just turned to the door as Maureen bounded to see who was there.
"Nope that's me." She smiled at the petite blond woman on the other side.
"Oh." Blue eyes took in the two women and what little of the loft she could see.
"Is Mark here?" Her voice was almost hopeful I think.
"Yeah. Marky, door." Maureen's voice was sing-songy. "She's kinda cute, is that where you've been at night?" She pated his head as she walked back to the table, like she would a cute dog. His face blanched at the prospect.
"Cindy." He greeted her, and I think we all caught the change in his voice. The way it caught on the one word. His sister, we finally get to see the face to go with his mom's messages. Perfect Cindy with the safe Jewish family and two small kids.
"Mark, you have to come home," She started when she saw him standing in front of her in his shabby pj bottoms and an old sweatshirt of mine. "What happened to you out here? You look so small." She let her gaze linger up his body as he lead her to the couch, letting the door slide shut behind him. It leaves a hollow ringing in the apartment. We watch with interest at the siblings greet each other.
"He doesn't eat enough, that's what." Mimi spoke up. "We try to tell him, but he just works so hard." She shruged and turned back to her plate.
"I eat." Mark protested. Collins laughed. Maureen pouted while Joanne snorted. I ate. I didn't know what else to do. Mark looked at us for help. As though we knew what the problem was. We had no idea.
"Why don't you ever pick up the phone, why don't you ever return Mom's calls?" She sounded a bit demanding. I saw Mimi flinch at the tone. That should have been another clue, the one of us used to being beaten flinched. I should have asked why.
"Why should I do that?" He asked. That's a tone I seldom heard from Mark: Unemotional. I know I joke about him not feeling, but it was a truly scary lack of anything resembling the Mark we all know.
"Dad's dieing Mark, don't you think its time to let go of this stupid grudge against him?" Cindy sounded like she was scolding a child.
"What grudge?" Mark's tone was kind of angry. Bitter.
"You know, this run away and live in the city to show us all you don't need us. Look at yourself Mark. When was the last time you had a real bath? A real meal? A real job? When was the last time you spoke to mom?"
"I had a bath last night. I was eating when you barged in. I work for the news channel. And, when I left for New York." He answed in a dull, monotonous voice, repeating the answers one by one. Trying to mask the anger we could tell was mounting behind his eyes. It was then that I noticed his eyes.
"Come home Mark," She tried again.
"No." there was an air of finality in his tone, he really meant not to see his dad before he died. That is something that caught me. He knows what I went through when I lost my father. He is the one who helped me get clean enough to see him in the hospital before he died. He forced me to give him a second chance. Yet Mark won't give his own father that same chance.
"You want to stay here with these freaks?" Her hands pointed to us at the table. Maureen kissing Joanne, Collins with is customary holiday joint, Mimi in fishnets, me well, being me.
"Family," was Mark's only answer.
"Your family is back home, and dad is dieing." She scolded him.
"Good," that caused Mimi to gasp. His eyes were blazing, and I couldn't seem to stop watching this train wreck of a family reunion.
"What?" His sister hissed out, unable to believe that her brother was being so cold.
"You heard me." He was cold, cold and cruel, and angry.
"You are going to let him die with out apologizing? You are going to sit here in this god forsaken place with these people celebrating this holiday while your father dies thinking you hate him?"
"He knows what he did. He knows why I am here. That's enough." Mark was unmoving. I know that tone, the tone he used to tell me I couldn't leave to get more drugs. The tone he used to tell me that I couldn't kill myself to get to see April again. The tone he used to keep fan girls out of the loft when I was sleeping.
"God Mark, I can't believe this. You, you, you." She stood up and hit Mark. "Do you know what your leaving like that did to mom, to the family? What the community thinks of us now?"
He rubbed is jaw where she hit him. Unmoved. "I don't care. It was true, and I won't take it back."
"It wasn't true Mark, you were just mad he wouldn't pay for the damn camera and film degree you wanted. You were rebelling and we both know it. You couldn't just go to med school like he asked." She was still standing, towering over him and yelling. If there had been any other tenants in the building I think they would have come running to see what the fuss was about.
"It was never about school, med or otherwise." Mark was quite then. As though there was something he was trying to hide. His eyes flew back to us, almost begging us to save him, to leave him alone or to throw her out.
"Don't bull shit me Marcus. It was about school, and you wanting to get him back."
"Don't say it Cindy don't you dare fucking say it." He told her.
"You were a child Mark, you were throwing a tantrum for not getting your way and it ruined him." She screamed.
"Then he shouldn't have done it." Mark yelled back, and he was on his feet, in his sister's face. "If he didn't mean it he wouldn't have done it, he wouldn't have touched me Cindy. Don't you fucking tell me it was a tantrum about school. I said what I meant, you of all people should know how well I fucking lie." That stopped the retort on her lips; her eyes seemed to haze for a moment.
"You fucking believe it's true. Lied to yourself long enough that you believe it actually happened." She looked at him, pity in her eyes.
He trembled a moment before he shoved her onto the couch and marched into his room, digging for something. He stormed out and threw a box into her hands. She looked from it to him.
"Open it," he whispered. Words I could tell were hard to get out now. She pulled out a stack of photos. And then she began to flip through them, too fast for her to really see everything on them. Her face kept getting paler and paler. Her hands started to shake and her eyes began to tear up.
"How, how did you make these?" she asked.
"He took them, took them too, God, I don't know why. But I took them when I left. I took them to prove that he did it. I took them to show him I wouldn't let him get away with it. And still, you won't believe me." He drew a ragged breath. "He fucking raped me Cindy, fucking raped me for years and took pictures and you let them throw me out on the street like a whore." He was crying now. Crying and screaming. Not one of us at the table could move.
We didn't understand why he needed us. Why he liked to be hugged, and pet, and loved. Why he needed us to accept him and stay together so badly. We didn't understand that when he was alone that man's voice would slip into the loft and taunt him. We didn't understand that those phone calls reminded him of the family that broke him.
We didn't understand, until Cindy.