Rose Water

Chapter 14

Author's Note: This chapter is written a little differently. At least, it seems that way to me. The only explanation I have is two cups of coffee and three cans of Pepsi. I was wired out of my fucking mind. LMAO. Enjoy. Thank you to my lovely beta Carly.


Everything happens for a reason. Does it, is that really true? Does it apply to all situations? I wonder. I am spinning through my life… and I wonder. Things happen for a reason, hmmm. I went to see Daphne at her house. She wouldn't see me. She wouldn't see anyone. Try, try… try again.

Can I die without dying?

Can I live and not breathe the air?

Can I exist without… sex, food, water, clothes, family… friends?

Can I close my eyes… and… see… it… all? Expansion of time and space.

Can I step outside myself and see? Can I live inside myself and not… suffocate? Subtle… acute… oxygen deprivation… Asphyxiate. Not yet.

Free… Falling…

I let go of Brian's hand as the diner comes back into focus. When did we put our hands together? We sit here, comfortable in the company of one another. Brian doesn't mind silence. He dwells in it. He can appreciate the need to… not… say… anything. Have I told you that before? I love that. Debbie brings our food over and sits it in front of us. I am not hungry anymore. "I know what you're thinking, eat it," Brian says. I look up at him and he is looking at me.

"You aren't eating," I point out. He gives a silent laugh and nods. I want him to make a long impressive speech about how I need to eat to keep my strength up. I want him to come over to my side of the table and feed me just to make sure I eat all the food. He stays where he is.

I want him to do all the things that my mother would do. I hate her and love her so much at the same time but Brian is not my mother. I miss my mother but she doesn't need to know that. Hell, no one needs to know that. Do I really miss her or do I just miss the idea of her? I don't know.

"Yeah," he says. Is that all he is going to say? I look down at my plate. I sigh as I reach for the ketchup. I may as well eat. I squeeze the ketchup onto my plate and it looks like something died. Something did die. I eat everything. Brian drinks his coffee and watches as the people move around the diner. When we leave he slings his arm around me, pulling me into him. He smells like… life. I love it. I brace myself for change… it's in the wind.

We walk into the loft and he closes the door and sets the alarm. I don't feel trapped here. Do I feel freedom? He walks right over to the computer, tossing his jacket onto the sofa as he goes. He sits down at the computer and turns it on. The screen seems to light him up completely, inside and out. "What are you doing?" I ask. He crosses his legs at the ankles and starts to search.

"I am looking for someone," he says. I shrug out of my shirt and walk up to the desk. Facing him… wanting him… needing him… not feeling him. Is this sexual rejection?

"You don't have to look now," I say. I don't want to deal with this right now. I don't want to look on the internet for counselors. I don't want to look for therapists. I don't want to look for psychologists and psychiatrists. Psychiatrists, do I need medication? It is late. Too much has happened. My brain can't function. I settle on the couch and mindlessly go through the motions of agreeing and disagreeing with him about different people. "It can wait," I say.

"No, it can't," he tells me. So we go through the many lists… pages and pages of names. We settle on ten. Team Work.

Transition… or life moves on without you. Keep up… or fade away.

I can breathe.

I can breathe.

I can breathe.

I die.

I live.

I can breathe and the air is… sweet. Resurrection.

I almost feel like I am suffocating. There is no air in this room and it feels like the walls are closing in on me. I am sitting in the office of Dr. Walter Ettenger. It sounds like the last name of someone who owns a paint company. I don't want to talk to him. Now I smell paint. It's all psychological. His desk is the kind you would find in your school guidance counselors office. I want to kick the desk just to hear the noise it will make.

I am sitting across from this man and I want to punch him. I wonder what he'd look like with a broken nose. He is an asshole. I look at the wall behind him. There is a cobweb on the wall. It is moving and it takes up all my attention. This is the third counselor I have seen and I have hated them all. "What are you thinking right now?" He asks me. I could choke.

"Why do you want to know?" I ask. I don't like him. I am being difficult. I wonder for a moment if he even knows what he is talking about. I don't think he does. I think he likes the idea of himself speaking and it makes me hate him more. Sometimes silence is enough. He wants me to start talking about my mother and father and that's all I can take. I get up out the chair and walk out of his office.

We make the rules.

We make the rules, but when I am alone, when it is just me… the rules are mine to break.

I have that weightless feeling in the pit of my stomach. The feeling you get when a roller coaster climbs the first incline, dropping suddenly back down to earth.

Do you know that feeling?

You can hear your heartbeat and taste your sweat. You feel like you can die at any moment. You feel out of control, helpless… scared.

You feel suspended… empty. But you get back in line and ride again. I feel that way.

I walk out of the building and as the warm sun washes over me I take a deep breath. The world is spinning and all of a sudden, I feel… completely. I feel too much. I get on the bus, heading I-don't-know where. When it stops I see the confines of my neighborhood. When did I stop coming home? I can't remember. It doesn't matter. I haven't been home in what feels like years. It has only been a couple weeks. I feel like an eternity has gone and come again. I step away from the bus stop and start to walk. The houses all look innocent, warm and inviting.

Is that just a mask?

Do the true colors of the houses and their occupants lie just under the top coat of paint? Skeletons in the closet… Prescription pills, Xanax… Lithium. Feel better. Ritalin. Affairs… STD's… Pregnancies… Abortions… Suicides. Drugs, Marijuana, Heroin, Speed, Glue. Aerosols… huffing, huffing, huffing.

The best of everything, Close the closet door. Upper… Middle… Class. Conspiracy.

The illusion of pure happiness.

I find myself standing at the bottom of my driveway. The view is different. I can feel the anxiety flush through my system and I bite my bottom lip. I am scared. I don't know why. I pace and the pressure inside of me is starting to build and build and build. It needs to explode. It needs to release. I look down at the gravel, disturbed by feet and tires. I grab a rock and before I can tell myself to stop I drag the jagged piece of hardened mineral along my arm. I am looking up at the house as I press and I don't feel anything. I should feel something. Anesthetized.





More than I can take? No. More than I want to deal with? Yes. I let my tongue twist the lyrics of the song that Devlen Henderson wants to hear. "The campaign will be perfect, exactly what you want; increased sales and more exposure," I tell him. I am weaving a carefully constructed web of bullshit. I love my job. My mask is in place and all my thoughts are on Justin. He is seeing the new counselor today. This is the third one. He is frustrated. I am frustrated.

Michael wants what I used to be… what he thinks I am.

Lindsay wants my time.

Tricks want my body.

Clients want my business sense.

Justin needs me.

I finish up my meeting and escort them out of the building before going back to my office. I look at all the papers on my desk. I grimace as I realize that I have to sign all of them. "Cynthia, can you bring me the layouts for the Henderson campaign. Now," I say as I look over some more boards. Cynthia knocks on the door and sets the new boards on the stand in the office.

Cynthia comes over to my desk and stands in front of me. "Leo Brown called. He wants to meet with you to go over the details for the latest campaign. Michael called three times while you were in your meeting. Lindsay called, she wants to know if you and Justin want to come over for dinner," Cynthia tells me. I am almost surprised to hear that Justin hasn't called. Not that I want him to call. I do.

"Is that all?" I ask her. She nods and puts the list of calls on my desk. I pick it up and debate calling them back. They can wait, they can all wait. Why isn't Justin calling?


I drop the rock and look down at my arm. It is red and starting to swell. I press my hand down over it like that will stop it from swelling more than it already is. The blood is reaching for a breath of air and I want to suppress it. Make everything all better. I start to walk up the driveway and when I reach the front door… I hesitate.

I reach into my pocket and pull out my keys. I let the tip of the copper key rest just inside the lock before breathing deep and pushing it all the way in. The smell inside is the same. The feeling is slightly different. You can tell that something is missing, something isn't right. I walk up the stairs and turn the knob on my door. Nostalgia.

It's all clean. Everything is picked up and put away. My mom must have done it. I pause for a minute as I try to think of anything that I might have left out that may have been incriminating. "I cleaned it up. I hope you don't mind." I hear my mother speak behind me and I stiffen a little. I thought the house was empty.

"No, its ok I don't mind," I say as I walk further into the room. "I'm sorry," I tell her. I don't know why I feel compelled to say I am sorry but I say it and I mean it.

"Why didn't you tell me?" She asks me. I know what she is talking about. I knew when she asked me at the hospital about him. She tried to act like it was no big deal. It was.

"Tell you what?" I say. I can hear the sharp intact of air into her lungs from her position behind me. I look down at my arm. It is starting to bruise. It is a mangled mass of black, blue, polished white… and red. Brian is going to ask about it.

"Justin, I saw the pictures. I saw them," she tells me. I swallow and turn to face her. "I just need to hear you say the actual words. I… I need you to say it," she tells me. I cross my arms over my chest and look into her eyes. I shrug my shoulders a little and cock my head a little to the side.

"I'm gay." Is that what you want to hear? I wait for her to make a statement or show some kind of surprise, but I guess she has had time to process it.

"I know. I told you I saw some pictures of you and other boys. Don't worry, I didn't tell your father," she tells me. She is standing in the doorway, waiting for something. Before I can open my mouth again she speaks. "Why didn't you tell me about what you are doing to yourself? I am your mother. You should have told me something was bothering you. I would have helped," she says. Okay, so maybe I didn't know what she was asking about before, not all of it. She wants more than just a sexual declaration.

"You are dealing with your own bullshit and I don't give a shit what you told him," I tell her. I am suddenly wondering why I came here. It's almost like I was pulled back. I may as well get some clothes while I am here. I turn away from her and pull open my closet door. There is nothing in here that I really want. "You didn't need me telling you all my problems," I say. I am standing in the closet with my hand on a shirt. It's a decoy. I have no intention of taking the shirt off the hanger. I don't want to look at her right now.

"Justin, I am never to busy for…." I cut her off.

"Do you know where my sketchbooks are?" Rescue question. I could have at least asked a clothing question. I am standing in the closet.

"I put them on your desk," she says. I nod my head and move out of the closet. I go over to the desk and grab all the sketchbooks. "He asks about you," she says. I snort. I snorted? That is so unattractive. I have to remind myself not to do that anymore.

"I have a cell phone. He can call it. I may not answer, but he can call," I tell her. "Have you seen Daphne?" Change the subject. Please, change the subject.

"I went over to her house. Her mother said that she doesn't want to see anyone," she tells me. "She still isn't talking and the cops think that some boys from the school may be involved, but Daphne won't talk to anyone," she says.

"Yeah," I say as I get ready to leave the room. She doesn't want me to go. I can tell. I am leaving anyway. "I am going to go and see her," I tell her.

"Good," she says and lets me out of the room. I walk down the stairs and am almost to freedom when she stops me. "Justin, are you still going to school. You only have about two months left." Has that much time passed?

"I'm going," I tell her. I haven't gone lately. I missed a few days. I'll go tomorrow. She nods her head. I can sense her sadness. I walk over and hug her. It feels a little weird. Why?

I open the door and step out onto the porch, into the night, darkness swallow me. When did it get so late? "Justin, why don't you come home for dinner this week, we can talk," she offers. I don't trust my heart so I just nod my head. I walk away from her and I can feel her as she watches me.


I was waiting for you.

I was worried about you.

Where were you?

Are you okay?

I called the doctor's office. He said you left the session. Did you like him?

What in the FUCK is that on your arm?

"Hey, long day?" It's all I say. Masquerade.

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