(“Realize what you are…what you’ve become, just as I have.
Are you and I so unalike?” --DMB)
JC stopped writing on a Tuesday.
It had come down to meaning, to telling a story, to convincing his audience that his ideas were vital.
When Chris came over on a Tuesday afternoon and asked him what the hell he was trying to prove, and waved his beloved notebook like a kamikaze flag, JC simply shrugged and walked away with sad, sad eyes.
Chris, he decided, was right.
Wednesday was the hardest, because when he awoke the sunrise spoke to him in hushed voices; random lines about love. Love is bright. Love is constant. Your love warms me like sunshine.
JC drew the shades and picked up a book.
Who believed in love, anyway?
Thursday wasn’t so bad, because Lance promised to come over and together they went to see the latest summer blockbuster, some Matt Damon spy-thriller that had the younger man sitting on the edge of his seat with an interest not purely plot-driven. JC sighed and chewed contentedly on fluffy kernels of popcorn that melted down to nothing in his mouth.
Meltdown. Love left town. Crushed beneath your weight.
JC scowled and regretted the theatre.
Justin came over on Friday to find JC hunched over the toilet, the strong odor of too-expensive liquor nearly knocking him over.
“What the hell did you do, C?” He asked. With bleary eyes JC turned to look at Justin, and with a cackle so sad it brought tears to his eyes he whispered, “wastin’ away again in Margaritaville…”
Chris got the phone call on Saturday as he sweated on the stairmaster, half-watching FoxNews and half drooling at the young woman jogging past his window in tight-tight shorts.
“What the fuck did you tell him, Chris?” The voice screeched, and Chris wasn’t sure which was louder, the fitness machine or pissed-off Justin Timberlake.
“I didn’t say anything, infant. You’ve seen his fucking lyrics. All self-important. You think that working ‘ethereal’ into a song is gonna give him street cred? Fuck no! He isn’t goddamn Bono, so he should stop acting like he’s all important!”
Dead silence greeted him followed by the low buzz of a dial tone. Chris smiled and continued to sweat.
JC allowed Justin to take care of him on Sunday, but only because the younger man had given him no choice. Justin’s face was grim determination as he presented JC with a basket of warm cinnamon rolls. He managed not to roll his eyes as JC cautiously swiped a finger through the oozing white icing and brought it to his lips. JC looked at him suspiciously for a moment longer before Justin finally exploded with, “Jesus, JC! They’re not drugged, for fuck’s sake. Just eat, damn you!”
JC managed to pout and smile at the same time as he sank his teeth into the warm confection.
“Hallelujah,” Justin muttered. He was stunned a moment later as JC put the unfinished roll on the plate and walked quickly out of the room, tears dripping down his face.
JC didn’t come out of his room until Monday, when he was certain that Justin had left and his house was once again his own. His hopes were crushed when he walked into the dining room and found Justin at the table, digging into a grapefruit and cursing as a stream of juice hit him in the eye.
”Mornin’, C!” He chirped. His voice was just a little too chipper, and both men knew it.
“Justin…” JC began, but Justin began to speak quickly and quietly, forcing the older man into silence.
“I don’t know what kind of bullshit Chris fed you about your songs, C, but that’s exactly what it was: bullshit…”
“Fitting,” JC said softly. “That’s exactly what he told me they were—bullshit. And he’s right, y’know? I mean what the hell do I talk about anyway?”
“No, Justin. Think about it. I mean, what meaning do any of my songs have?...”
It killed Justin when JC’s eyes dimmed just a little more. He meant to answer right away…he just…couldn’t. And the extra seconds cost him, because the defeated older man sadly walked out onto the patio, shuffling steps swishing against pristine white tile.
Chris awoke Tuesday morning to ice water swishing dangerously in a pale yellow bucket, Justin’s glittering eyes threatening to scorch a hole in his head.
“You will call him, Chris,” Justin said sharply through tightly-gritted teeth. “Today. And you will apologize for being a colossal asshole. Then you will take him out to dinner and compliment his clothes and…”
“Treat him like a fucking girl, J?” Chris drawled smoothly, eyes dancing with mirth.
A moment later he was gasping for air and yowling in protest as two and a half gallons of barely-thawed water were dumped over his head.
“Don’t fuck with him, Chris,” Justin said angrily before stalking out of the older man’s house. “I mean it.”
JC left town on a Wednesday without telling anyone. He packed up his brand-new black suitcase and tossed a few CDs in his car before backing out of the driveway, designer sunglasses pulled low over his eyes. His voice was choked with tears, his face pulled taut with worry, and softly he sang to mournful country ballads that seemed to speak his heart.
He wept for the songs he lost, for the music he made, for
the years of blissful ignorance spent writing lilting melodies and brazen
harmonies. The funeral was conducted for
a symphony with one, and in the cool night air of sleeping
*NSYNC broke up on a Thursday night with the same registered letter delivered to four separate houses and one management complex. It alarmed Lance most of all to see no return address, but none of them, not one of the four other members of *NSYNC, were surprised…
Except for Chris.
He found JC on a Tuesday, lounging on his back as the salty
The younger man grunted and didn’t say a thing, idly tracing his fingers against soft white sand. The tears that once spilled from his eyes had all but dried up, his throat parched and dry from lack of use.
“We deserved more than that, C,” Chris said finally. “I mean, for fuck’s sake. We expected this shit from Justin, but not from you. Never from you.”
“Why not? Because it’s not LIKE me? Because I’m supposed to sit back and take it while you rape everything that’s worth anything to me?” He spat.
Chris blinked, stunned. This was JC? “That’s…harsh…dude. Really harsh.”
JC barked a humorless laugh. “Ah yes. Mr. Poetic, champion of all things creative and pure, offers his sentiment with characteristic eloquence. ‘Harsh, dude.’ How profound.”
Chris nearly choked on his tongue. Since when did JC learn sarcasm? Hell, when did JC become so fucking caustic?
“Have I always been like this?” JC mused airily, responding to the unspoken questions. “Well, gee…I don’t know. I’ve been so very busy writing trite self-important love songs that I couldn’t possibly have had time to experience any honest emotion. Isn’t that right, Chris?”
The older man wanted to sink into the thick sand, to be swept away with the rising tide. Confrontation had always been one of his stronger suits, especially with JC, who would usually storm off in a huff or slink away in defeat. This new brand of Joshua Chasez was altogether alarming.
“Are you finished? Have you played the martyr card enough? Because quite frankly I’m ready to go back to sleep and you’re soaking up my sun…”
JC’s voice was bored, devoid of emotion. Hard as he searched Chris couldn’t find the slightest inkling of any underlying desire for him to stay. And so sadly he stood, dusting off his shorts before whispering quietly, “I am sorry, C. For everything.”
JC said nothing, just continued to lie in the sun, barely acknowledging his presence. It was only when the older man’s shadow disappeared and he was once again alone did he let the tears come, mingling into the ocean and drying up like words, like music, like song.
“Apology accepted,” He whispered softly. He removed a ratty white notebook from under his towel and slowly, methodically, carefully tore the heavily-scrawled pages into tiny, tiny pieces. He watched resolutely as they fluttered away, landing in the ocean and drifting away with the tide. Ashes scattered from a love long lost.
He closed his eyes and never wrote again.
© 2002 ~A.