Martinez / Masquerade
And I could be your happy ending,
But if it's all the same to you;
I'd rather not.
The clock was all I could hear in the stillness of yet another empty room whose pastel walls failed at any and all evocations of emotion. It must have been a Tuesday afternoon.
I sighed and slumped in my chair. I fucking hated Tuesdays.
The man's voice was filled with shock and it was all I could do not to get up and walk out the door. This had been a mistake. Then again, it was so in character of me.
"Scary how close it is, isn't it?" I asked and pushed myself up. I walked the few steps to stand in front of him and was surprised to realize I was taller.
"Oh, god, Jeremy, I'm so sorry."
"I just, god, I had hoped it was all just a bad dream."
"Funny, that's what she said too."
"Your mother? How is she?"
"Considering? She's fine."
I looked up into his face and tried to find answers. It'd aged since I last saw it. Lines had woven their ways into crevices and gray had slowly started taking over his hair. His eyes were the same. They mirrored ours or maybe the other way around. Either way, it was one of the things that had always unnerved my mother.
My dad winced. I guess I'd never really had the best sense of humor.
"When Adrienne said I had a visitor, I would have never guessed, what are you doing here? Not that I'm not glad to see you but—"
"I heard you got married."
"Why didn't you come to the funeral?"
My father glanced away from me and at the room. I followed his gaze. The reception area was a nice space, he'd done well for himself. Cherry wood paneling and marble countertops, actual bookshelves in place of a magazine rack. After all, part of a psychiatrist's game was rhetoric. He couldn't have an office that reflected himself. Negativity wasn't part of his game.
He opened his mouth and shut it again, taking yet another moment. He sighed and pulled himself together, beckoning me with a hand to follow him to his office.
I went along with it. I was already there. And it wasn't like it'd kill me to go further.
"I don't know what you want me to say, Jeremy."
"He was your son."
"He was your brother and you didn't go."
I sat there, in the big plush chair in his office, and stared. He either didn't give a damn or was just plain stupid.
The whir of the air conditioner was loud in the room as I watched my father fail yet again.
"Do you want an answer, Jeremy, or are you looking for an excuse?"
He grabbed one of the pens off of his desk and clicked the top down, waiting for me to say something, anything.
A bad liar has a tell, so does a fool.
I watched him play with the pen, the dull click loud against my ears. One more time, just one more. I imagined leaping up from the chair, leaning over the desk, grabbing the damn pen and shoving it through his eye. I thought of the sick but satisfying squelch and pop of the tissue and the veins and was almost tempted. Maybe Jude and I weren't so different. Everyone always seemed to confuse us for being the same. Maybe they'd had reason.
I was only able to fulfill part of my fantasy. I got up and took the pen from him, and threw it back onto his desk. It bounced and I watched him wince at the impact. It fell off of the desk and landed on the floor.
"It doesn't matter."
"What doesn't matter?" He folded his hands and touched them to his chin, ever the psychologist.
"You or why. Take your pick."
I looked at the pen on the floor and laughed.
I'd come here for answers. The thing was, I'd had them before I'd left home.
I needed to see Jude.
The cemetery wasn't empty. She was there. She always was and he always would be.
"I hate you." She said, and the words weren't mine anymore. I didn't really expect her to say them, sitting back on her knees, hands covering her eyes in vain. But then again I didn't always expect much.
"Maybe he wasn't that bad." Or maybe it just didn't matter.
She jumped at the sound of my voice and glanced around quickly, wiping her eyes.
I watched her gather her skirt and stand up. Dirt smudged her knee socks and her shoes were scuffed. She was wearing one of my white shirts and a black bra. It was so Ally.
"So it's Jeremy now?"
"It's your name, isn't it?"
"Not usually the one that falls from your lips, but hey, I'm not complaining." I didn't mind. I wasn't her Jeremiah or Jude's Jerry. I'd be a better them and only me.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Coming to pay my respects. And you?"
"Coming to say goodbye."
I nodded and glanced around at that. The trees seemed to lean in the wind, trying to catch snippets of our conversation. The clouds were obscuring most of the sunlight and we were cast in a dull gray light that was somehow appropriate.
"To him or to me?" It might have been cruel to ask, but this was the last line, the last answer and the one I needed the most.
"Him," she said, "it's always been him."
"Oh yeah? What changed?"
"Now it's you."
"Second place again."
She glanced down and I felt bad.
I watched a tear roll down the side of her face. She tried to catch it before I could see it. I used to think that she wore a mask, hiding who she really was, hiding this side of her. Now I was learning that it wasn't a mask at all; it was probably the only real thing about her.
I was also learning that this was what drew me to her in the first place.
What drew me to both of them.
We were all the same.
"I don't want to believe in love," she said.
I looked away from her face and instead down at Jude's headstone. It's over, Jude. I'm done hating you and blaming her. I'm done wearing your mask. I've got my own.
"But I do."
In the distance I could hear the church bells ring in the mourner's cry. Another life gone, over.
"I don't want to believe in you." I said.
I watched her face falter and waited while her eyes filled again. They overflowed and for a moment, I was mesmerized as the tears patterned her face. Her fingers didn't lift to stop them this time.
"But I do."
My voice sounded strange to me. I wasn't used to hearing my own words, just other's that I'd learned to repeat. I thought of where we'd go from here and what the future held. I thought of university in the fall and Jude. He'd always loved plays and stories, we all had.
I thought of something I'd learned a long time ago. It seemed to have slipped my mind.
In most stories, there's a hero or heroes and there are villains. And the whole of the story is these heroes trying to overcome a great adversity to get to a mediocre and expected end. I'd been comparing my life to a story that conformed to these guidelines. We all did. But that wasn't right because ours was a story that didn't have a hero. We were all the villains. Ours was a story that actually had a chance.
It was also in this moment that I realized Ally and I would never have a happily ever after. We didn't need one. But, god, I hoped we had a "to be continued..."
Just Jeremiah—and he'd do anything to lose himself in your eyes.