Out of Touch.
(“I can still hear you saying you must never break the chain…” –Fleetwood Mac)
He never says a word when he unlocks the door. The heavy deadbolt clicks open and a gasp of oppressively humid air will rush in behind him. Against my cool skin it feels like a clammy hand, but I am always quick to quell the shudders that threaten to race through me. He’ll say not a word, but lift his eyes from their spot on the floor before choosing to focus on something else. Sometimes his full lower lip will quiver slightly just before I see the faintest glimpse of white teeth pulling at the tender skin.
He might strip quickly and head for the shower, tossing the expensive bottles of toiletries into the marble wastebasket, in favor of using his old standbys. Again, the thin fingers of heat will slither under the door, curling and nipping at my ankles, leaving thin trickles of dew in their wake. The water will pound relentlessly for what seems like hours, before I finally hear the groan of the faucet shutting off and the smooth swish of the shower curtain as it is thrown aside.
It is in those final moments that I grow lightheaded and sick with anticipation. It is impossible to read the man; he plays his deck with his hand clutched tightly to his chest, his eyes stony and unreadable.
When that door finally opens his skin will be raw and red, angry and glistening and flushed, crying out for a tender touch. Tender is no longer in his vocabulary. It has been replaced with harsh words like vacant, distant, detached. He champions his own drama. Some nights, when the day has been long and drawn out and his body aches, he’ll collapse on the bed and throw his body haphazardly against the thick down comforter, pulling the plush blue fabric up to his chin. I’ll sit, in the cool blue silence, waiting for hours, watching his gaunt chest rise and fall in the rhythm of sleep. Half the time I hardly notice the tears as they begin to streak down my cheeks, until I draw in a heaving gasp and taste their salt on my tongue.
Maybe later he’ll open his eyes, when the red lights of the clock blink , and his stomach, angered with misuse and neglect, will announce yet again that it’s tired of this shit. He will usually notice me sitting in the corner, but not always. Sometimes, on blessed lucky nights, I too will have surrendered to sleep’s magnetic pull, and I will not see the spidery red lines that cloud his once-crystal gaze.
And some times I can feel him watching me, hear his jilted breath as he crouches meekly on the floor, his long limbs contorted like a spider’s, his honeyed hair falling into his eyes.
It is with everything in me that I try to block the sound of his voice. On nights like those I want, more than anything, to be back in our stupid little neighborhood, playing childish games like spin-the-bottle and freeze tag, and God, ANYTHING but this wicked game I’m caught up in now.
The hardest nights of all are when he knows I’m here, without question. Those nights, he’ll sob into the fluffy white pillows, muffling the sound of his cries, but sitting right next to him I can hear clearly what he’s saying.
“Why…come back…miss you…love you…need you…”
I never believed in ghosts before. I thought it was a silly little whim of some overly lonely fifty-year-old man who decided that his new companions would be spirits of old. So many stupid movies and plays and songs and books have been written on the subject, and not once did I believe that the tales were true.
So it shocks me most of all to be sitting not three inches from the love of my life, and know that my physical being is rotting in a box six feet under the earth’s surface.
I ache for him. My heart breaks with every whispered entreaty, every hushed cry, every longing glance at the picture of us he still keeps tacked up in every hotel room he visits. It is all I can do not to run my fingers through that wild hair and brush my lips against his brow, the way I did not so long ago.
“Baby, you’re home…”
Marissa Williams clapped her hands and cried out in delight as her boyfriend hurled himself into her arms.
“Reese,” He breathed. “I missed you…” His hold tightened around her waist, his nose gravitating to it’s favorite hiding spot just above her collarbone.
Reese could feel the tension, the utter exhaustion in his body, and she gently tilted his face up to hers.
Her blue eyes filled with sympathy at the need she saw reflected in the depth of his gaze.
“Josh,” She whispered. “You’re exhausted…”
He nodded, running his fingers along the coarse fabric of her skirt, content his satisfy his need for contact slowly. Closing his eyes, he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers, relearning the taste and texture of her skin, snaking his tongue out to lick gingerly at her mouth, moaning softly as she gently returned the contact.
“I love you baby,” He said quietly. “I need…”
“Shhhhh...” She admonished him gently, dotting kisses across his closed eyelids, teasing her fingers through his hair, “I’m right here…”
There are times when I miss him so much I can actually taste it…sharp and bitter, like lime but less sweet, like onion but less firm, like…him. He rolls over in his sleep and moans softly, drawing in a shaky gasp of air, and cuddles closer to the lumpy pillow.
God. Josh. I miss you.
It’s always the same. I wake up alone, with her scent searing my nostrils and my tongue salivating for her touch. She feels so damn close I can taste it, but so far away that my body practically shivers with cold. I can’t believe it’s been seven months now. I can’t believe she’s never coming back. I can’t believe she’s dead.
The guys have just about given up on me. They’ve gone past the point of friendship to where they can no longer sympathize with me. I haven’t made it easy on them, I know, but I expected a stronger support network when push came to shove. Perhaps, then, things that do not affect *NSYNC do not concern them.
I always found it funny that Chris was the one to watch me the closest, when I was going crazy and staying up all night and begging God to end it all so I wouldn’t have to hurt another day. Out of all of the guys I suppose I’m closest to Justin, but when Marissa died he was the first one to step away. I think his sense of detachment is so finely calibrated that any sort of real emotion strikes him as completely foreign.
Chris, on the other hand, hovered around me like a shadow, showing up when I was a hair’s width away from falling apart, or when I held the bottle of pills in my hand, contemplating my own mortality.
“JC…” He said gently, and for the first time in a long time his voice was serious, “Put those away. That’s not gonna help matters any.”
I argued with him, spouting off about rejoining my love in the stars or some other idealistic bullshit, when he grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me, hard.
“What the hell are you talking about, man? She’s gone. Now you can either deal with it or you can make a mockery of her life by ending your own. It’s your choice, dude. Don’t fuck it up.”
I’m still wondering if I made the right decision.
It had taken me two years to admit that I loved Marissa, and two seconds for some drunk bastard to take it all away. There are nights when the pain is so real and so intense it knocks me backward onto my bed, and I lay there, trembling, until my exhausted body collapses into sleep. There are nights when the memories are so vivid I can feel her beside me, holding my body close to hers, indulging in her heat, feeling her smooth curves and gentle slopes. And then there are nights, like tonight, when I fool myself into thinking she’s sitting right here with me…and my eyes play vicious, foolish games and I can see her, sitting, crying in the corner, reaching out to me with milky white arms.
God. Reese. I miss you.
© 2001 ~A.