Disclaimer: I own nothing! Not even my own life.
Note: Italics are Mark's thoughts
Wednesday, October 31, 1990
Damn it, another headache. My head hates me. Every day this week… why won't they go away?
Maybe it was because he hadn't eaten yet today. Come to think of it, he couldn't remember when the last time was he had actually had anything of substance. So, that was a definite possibility. That could also explain why he felt as though his legs would give way at any moment, and why he kept seeing black spots float in front of his vision. I really need to eat more, this is getting a little old.
Maybe it was from drinking day old coffee this morning on a very empty stomach. Which would also explain the nausea that continued to threaten to send him rushing to the toilet, or in this case behind the nearest bush or gravestone. He found that if he breathed a certain way he could very successfully ward off the nausea, at least for now.
Maybe it was from fatigue. Sleep had been very elusive for several weeks now. Ever since Angel started getting sick. The nightmares had started again, and it was just easier to avoid those altogether. Mark had never been a big sleeper anyway and spent most nights and early morning either perched in the window of the loft looking out over the city or editing footage he had shot that week. He was quite good at going through the motions when his limbs felt like rocks and his eyelids drooped like wet leaves. His roommate and best friend Roger was a heavy sleeper and was never up early enough to know. It's not like he didn't already have enough on his plate without worrying about his roommate's odd sleeping patterns.
Maybe it was from the yelling going on around him at the moment. Yes, that was probably it. Here, in the cemetery after Angel's funeral of all inappropriate places. Two pairs of former lovers; Mimi and Roger, Maureen and Joanne had seen fit to start fighting and yelling at each other. I guess I can't blame them. Tensions have been high for so long now. Everyone is tired, and everyone is hurting. They were probably so close to breaking, and going to a funeral of a close friend could be just the thing to push you over the edge. Still a part of him was angry that they couldn't hold it together for Collins sake, who had just lost the love of his life. Mark knew he had to do something, to try to make peace before Collins made his way to where they were all gathered and had to witness this.
"Come on guys chill." Oh yes, Cohen, way to be assertive.
His plaintive pleas weren't working. No one was paying attention to him. It's like I'm not even here. Maybe I should just leave, It's not like I'm doing anyone any good right now. Maybe I should just go back to the loft and go to bed. God, my head is killing me. It hasn't been this bad in a long time. Maybe I've really overdone it this time.
Mark started to slowly ease himself away from the group. The sound of Collins deep voice finally cut through the raised voices of Roger and Mimi. Oh no. They're fighting, and Collins heard, and now he has to be the one to get them to stop. Why am I such a failure? Mark rubbed his temples as his headache continued to throb away. He vaguely wondered if his forehead was visibly pulsing with every throb of pain. Since no one seemed to be looking at him like he was an alien, he guessed that probably wasn't the case. Of course no one's looking at me like some creature has crawled into my brain and made a nice comfy home for itself. No one's looking at me at all.Later that evening...
Mark paused outside the loft door. Roger had made a hasty exit from the cemetery after the fight. Maureen and Joanne left shortly after, leaving Benny, Mimi, Collins, and Mark behind in the cemetery. Mark's headache was getting worse and he knew that he needed to at the very least find someplace where he could close his eyes briefly or he wouldn't be able to take the pain much longer. However, Collins had insisted that he go with them to "get drunk", and Mark couldn't bring himself to turn him down. Not now. Not after Angel….
Oh God. Angel…. Why? Mark closed his eyes to try to block out the thoughts that threatened to suffocate him. He could feel the tears forming behind his eyes, and the lump forming in his throat. He hadn't been able to cry yet. He couldn't remember the last time he actually cried. Not yet. Roger's in there, you can't cry yet. So he swallowed the lump and blinked back the tears. With a deep breath he pushed open the loft door and forced a slight smile on his face that he hoped masked the pain he was feeling.
Roger barely looked up from his task of packing for his departure for Santa Fe when Mark entered the room. Mark felt small and awkward standing there, fiddling with some fibers on the worn couch and trying to think of something to say to his roommate and best friend. He wanted to tell him not to leave. He wanted to tell him that he needed him right now, that he felt fragile and on edge. He wanted to tell him that Mimi needed him, too, even if she's trying her hardest to look like she's moving on and fine without him. Mark could see past that though. He had noticed that desperate look in her eyes and the shadows under them. He had seen how her skin had begun to stretch too tightly over her bones that were growing more and more visible by the day. He had noticed how her normally dark and glowing skin was looking pale and gray. And it scared him. His mind told him that it was a definite possibility that she could be fading just like Angel had, but his heart couldn't look that reality full on. Not yet. It was too close, and he needed time to heal before he could be broken again. But how can I heal if I'm left alone? How can I heal if the only things keeping me company are my own thoughts and my camera? Why does he have to leave?
"I hear there are great restaurants out west." Maybe he could do this, keep the conversation light, avoid confrontation.
"Some of the best." Roger didn't even look at Mark as he spoke. "How could she".
And before Mark knew what he was doing, he blurted out something that sounded far too much like an accusation, "How could you let her go". What? No no no, Mark, shut up. Don't do this. He's in a bad mood, this will not end good. Just keep your mouth shut.
"You just don't know".
No, you're wrong I do know!
"How could we loose Angel?" Roger was back to talking to himself again, avoiding Mark, avoiding what was happening with Mimi.
"Maybe you'll see why when you stop escaping your pain! At least now if you try, Angel's death won't be in vain." Mark couldn't help it. He wasn't normally one for confrontation, but this was too much. He needed to say it. He needed to try to get Roger to stay there, to keep the family together.
"His death is in vain!" Roger kept moving, kept packing, pausing only briefly to respond to Mark's words.
Mark's headache was still throbbing away, worse than ever. He could feel the few beers he had just had with Collins, Benny, and Mimi waging war withhis empty stomach, which was trying to revolt and send Mark running to the bathroom. He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying desperately to alleviate the pain, and failing. He could feel the bile rising in his throat, and he swallowed thickly before he spoke, "Are you insane? There's so much to care about. There's me – there's Mimi."
"Mimi's got her baggage too." Roger shot back.
"So you do!"
Roger finally paused in his packing and swung around to glare at Mark. Mark could feel himself shrinking under his friend's gaze. Why did I say that? Why can't I just keep my mouth shut?
Roger stalked slowly toward Mark with a menacing expression, fists clenched at his sides.
"Who are you to tell me what I know, what to do?"
"But who Mark are you?" I…I don't know. God, I don't know. "Mark has got his work, they say. Mark lives for his work, and Mark's in love with his work." Roger's tone was mocking, causing Mark to visibly flinch. "Mark hides in his work."
Roger regarded Mark for a brief moment as if to assess whether Mark really didn't know the answer to that question or not before answering, "From facing your failure, facing your loneliness, facing the fact you live a lie." With each word spoken Mark felt himself weaken. He knew Roger was right, he knew it was true, but it still hurt. He could feel his pulse in his temples, his chest felt constricted and it was hard to breath. He backed up slightly searching with his hands for something to grab onto in case his legs decided not to continue to hold him up. Why was this happening now? Why did they have to fight too, right before Roger left? Is it supposed to make his leaving easier to cope with because he would be leaving in anger?
While Mark faded a bit with every accusation from Roger, Roger seemed to gain momentum, taking a short pause to collect himself before landing the final blow. "Yes you live a lie! Tell you why – you're always preaching not to be numb, when that's how you thrive! You pretend to create and observe when you really detach from feeling alive."
Mark absorbed Roger's words, and felt them cut and slash to his very soul. He silently found it ironic that even as Roger accused him of being numb, and not feeling, he was experiencing some of the worst pain of his life. The pain seemed to be coming from everywhere. Angel's death had left him reeling and broken. He hadn't cried, but it wasn't possible to hurt this much and feel numb at the same time. He was so afraid that when Roger leaves, he would truly be alone the way he has always feared he would be. He loved Mimi, but their only common connection was Roger. He hadn't seen much of the sweet and feisty Latina girl since the break-up, and since she seemed to be with Benny now and Benny was sort of estranged from the group, he guessed he would still barely see her. He was just beginning to get to know her, and form his own bond of friendship before it all turned sour. He missed her, and in his heart there was already a strong sense of loss over her. Collins would be leaving soon for New England again, to start another teaching gig. He didn't know about Maureen and Joanne. They said some pretty harsh things to each other today, but then they left the cemetery together and he won't be surprised if they were working things out at that very moment. I hope they can just admit that they love each other and need each other right now. But what do I need? Don't I need someone, too? And who will help me pick up the pieces of my life now? When Roger leaves, I'll be left alone. Again. Always. And isn't that how it was always meant to be? After all – "Perhaps it's because I'm the one of us to survive!" Did I just say that out loud?
"Poor Baby." Roger glared at Mark for a moment, with a look of pure disdain and disgust. He quickly finished shoving some more things into his bag before throwing it over his shoulder and heading towards the door.
No no no, don't leave! Say something, anything, make him stay, "Mimi still loves you. Are you really jealous, or afraid that Mimi's weak?"
Roger looked deflated and worried. "Mimi did look pale."
"Mimi's gotten thin, Mimi's running out of time, and you're running out the door!"
"No more!" Roger cried, waving Mark away as though it could erase the fact that his ex-girlfriend, his love, might be slipping away.
Mark suddenly felt his panic give way to anger as he yelled after the retreating form of his roommate, "HEY! For someone who's always been let down, who's heading out of town?" He was surprised at the cocky, self-assured tone his voice took on. Just for a split second, the tone matched what he was feeling. But just as quickly as it came, it left, leaving that nagging feeling of guilt in its wake. He really didn't want to throw anything in Roger's face. He didn't want him to be angry, or worried. If he could, Mark would take away everything in Roger's life that caused him pain, and he had tried so hard to do just that.
Roger stopped and sighed. He slowly turned and looked at Mark, "For someone who longs for a community of his own – who's with his camera, alone?"
I wouldn't be alone if you stayed, Mark thought sadly. He gripped the back on the couch for dear life as the reality of what was happening began to sink in. For the first time during their argument, Roger's eyes softened as he looked at Mark. "I'll call. I hate the fall." He said, giving Mark one last look, a silent apology, as he opened the door to walk out of Mark's life.
Mark's breath hitched in his throat, he felt like he was suffocating. But still, the tears did not come. He heard rushing wind in his ears, and the black spots that kept dancing across his vision all day came back. His stomach burned and his blood pulsed in his temples. As Roger slowly pushed the door closed, without another look at his best friend, Mark could feel his legs buckling and the world went black. Mark didn't notice that Benny and Mimi were standing out in the hallway when Roger opened the door to leave. He didn't notice Benny watching him with concern in his eyes as the door was pulled shut. He didn't hear the conversation out in the hallway, or Mimi's heart breaking cries of "goodbye love". His grip on the couch weakened, and the floor rushed up to meet him as the black enveloped him completely.