Between Us.



I don’t call him Joshua.  It’s strange because so many people expect it, like I’ve entered some sort of inner sanctum where code names and secret passwords and hidden handshakes all have some sort of mystique to add to their already fucked-up lives.  They want me to call him by his “real” name.  But I don’t.  I don’t call him Joshua.  He wasn’t introduced to me as such.  He introduced himself as JC and it is JC that I call him, even though sometimes it pisses him off.  He says it sounds formal, which cracks me up because there is absolutely no formality in two letters slapped hastily together.  I call him JC because it’s easy.  He tolerates it but prefers other terms of endearment.


Some people wanna know if he has some sort of “other” nickname; a secret moniker that only a select few know.  That’s crap too.  Justin might call him “C,” and Chris will call him “dickhead” when he’s in one of his moods, and Lance is just too busy to call anyone by their actual names.  He tends to acknowledge friends with a half-assed grunt or a professional, detached nod.


I guess, in some ways, JC’s the pariah of the group.  He’s the one who longs most fiercely for critical acclaim, but yet longs for security even more.  It’s a difficult tradeoff because of the demeaning nature of some of the stupid stunts they’ve done.  He will pout like a child and get angry and throw his hands around when things aren’t done exactly his way, but yet he’ll be sweet as pie to the slick-ass promoters and ad execs and other low-class slimeballs that come to court their famous faces.  He won’t ever, ever, ever let them know how scathingly hot his anger burns.  He saves that for the delicate walls of his own self-image.


Again, it’s sort of funny.  He’s got an ego the size of New Hampshire and yet his insecurity has plagued him to the point of paralysis.  He always insists that I stay somewhere within easy reach, whether by phone or by car, or, God forbid, by plane.  I got so frustrated one afternoon when he was in one of his moods and ranting about God knows what that I snapped at him.  I think I said something like “what the hell do you want me to do about it, Captain Freak-Out?”  Yeah.  I know.  Real mature.  But the bastard wouldn’t speak to me for four days and when he finally did it was after I had begged him to forgive me and softened him up with a thick chocolate brownie and a cold glass of milk.  He was sweet and soft and pliant as putty after that…all into cuddling and kissing and touching, like I was some kind of precious doll.


“Love you, Squirrel,” He whispered, his mouth just below my ear, and then he sighed that contented sigh and I almost forgot about our little spat.


Squirrel.  What kind of a name is that?  I still don’t understand it.


I first heard it one afternoon while we were out on his deck, just kind of hanging around, with the sun at our backs and the sky a crystal, deep blue. 


“It’s beautiful, isn’t it Squirrel?” He asked me, and I blinked in confusion but muttered a reply.  Squirrel?  The name stuck.  To this day he hasn’t explained it to me, but if I’m walking in a park and some wobbly three-year old screams “Squirrel!” I will turn around and look for him.  Sometimes he’s with me when it happens and a small smile of satisfaction creeps onto his lips.  He’ll take my hand in his and squeeze lightly before pressing my fingers to his mouth.


“Love you, Squirrel,” He’ll whisper again, and it’s then that I believe all is right with the world.


Sometimes, though…it isn’t.  Like when he’s having a bad week, or when he feels like he has to prove something to me, like he’s still free to do whatever and whomever he wants, even though I’ve never said otherwise.  He tests me constantly, and sings the praises of young actresses and singers and other up-and-comers, just to see what I’ll do.  Sometimes I let it slide.  Sometimes I don’t.  And sometimes he makes me cry.


I almost think he likes it when he does.  It’s some sort of sick fodder for his songs.  It’s that insecurity thing again…he feels worthless to begin with but helpless without a reason for doing so, so when he snaps at me or throws another girl in my face…he validates his own feelings.


I know.  It doesn’t make sense.  But it’s the only semblance of logic I’ve been able to glean out of his actions.  He won’t let me in, and I’m terrified to offer him the same courtesy…and I guess that’s the harsh truth that’s becoming increasingly harder to face.


On the bad days…when I’m alone…I often think of leaving him.  I think about just taking these broken wings that have been tied with satin rope and letting them heal on their own.  I think about breaking everything apart, and starting over.  And then I think about what it would do to him…how he would relish equally the anger and hurt, and harden even more the tough shell he’s erected to deal with the rough stigma of his own warped reality.  And then he knocks on the door.


He never says anything when he comes in.  He looks at me with blue liquid eyes and full lips trembling and waits for me to make the first move.  His eyes will close as I gently touch his face, those thick lashes fluttering nervously and a shaky sigh escaping his lips.  He might step forward, pulling my body to his, seeking warmth.  He might just stand there until I apologize…though time and again I’m never sure what I’ve done wrong.  And on the absolute worst nights…he’ll walk right past me, shedding tears as he goes, and sit on the edge of the bed.  Slowly, methodically, he’ll remove his shirt, as the moonlight casts a pitying glow over his naked torso…and I’ll see those shoulders shake.  He’ll sit there, alone, for hours…waiting for me to come to him, saying nothing when I finally do, and trembling when my fingers skate across the smooth planes of his back.


He’ll pull me down on the bed, curling his body so close to mine, whispering to me to hold him tighter, to shut out the world, to hide him in my very heart…and then I hear it, again.


“Love you, Squirrel,” Meant as a promise to the past, not a nod to the future.  And my  own tears begin.  Then, and only then, do I call him Joshua.



© 2002 ~A.