Rose Water

Chapter 28

Blood, latex and the distilled. Talk to me and tell me everything you never said. Purge.

Lies. Empty your cache. Restart. "Are you cold?" He shakes his head no and he's trembling. I make no motion to argue. My heart is made of ice. No.

Because if I don't challenge you it is the end of the end of the beginning, and I don't know how long I can last.


I'm tired.

I am the valid excuse of anger and the rival of time and patience. I am the exaggeration of the melancholy, the drowning of perfection. A path to be determined before you can move forward, a bend, a fork in the road. A sacrifice of the easy way.

An acid trip.

The expanding of an idea and an expectation that is nothing short of what you never wanted. I am the moment, I am all these things. It is the only thing sustaining me and his patience is less than zero. So I swallow.

He leans forward and lights a cigarette.

And I think and I die and die again. I am willing to give him his greatest fear, the illusion of my tempered stability. I let my eyes rest on the items on the table in front of me and the atmosphere is choked and pulsing, a quiet suffocation, choking on air.

I wanted this moment. I auditioned and fought for the part. I have the scars to prove it. This moment, when you know that neither life nor death is your own worst enemy or your greatest friend. My hands are shaking and I bite my bottom lip. "Cold," I say and he doesn't move.

He breathes and my vision shifts in and out of focus. There is a broken moment in his armor of ice and he stands. My eyes don't follow him. Don't have to, as he walks into the bedroom and back. He tosses the white thermal blanket in my direction and it rests partially on my leg. I pick it up and slowly unfold it. "Thanks."

"Can't have you catching your death," he says and the words are sharp. I clench my jaw and refuse to let myself cry.

The meaning of exhaustion was never clear to me until this moment. I'm still not sure I can fully grasp it but I am as close to understanding as I can be. I know the meaning of pain, of error, of want and smoke and mirrors revealed and painted over.

I know the meaning of resistance and its futility. I can feel the air leave my body as I sink into my skin. I sink into it and for the first time in a long time I feel me. I see me. And I understand.


This is love, this endlessly loud silence? "Do you want to die?" He looks up and I press the cigarette to my lips, waiting. He looks at me and at the things on the table. I let the smoke burn my eyes and dance around the edges of my fingers.

"Yes," he says and it's the first time I do not doubt his conviction. I take another pull and another breath.

"What are you waiting for? I don't think death is going to send you an invitation, postage paid," I say and I lean back, exhaling slowly. He smiles and crosses his arms under the blanket. "Why?"

He sighs and leans his head to the side, deciding for himself whether or not I really want to know. I don't. "It feels better than doing nothing," he says and he uncrosses his arms and leans forward. He picks up the razor blade with caution and holds it out in front of him, trapped between his thumb and index finger. "Imagine," he says, "it is back at the beginning."

And I see my discovered sexuality. They call this puppy love.

"Imagine you were unsteady and fresh," he says and he twists the blade between his fingers. I stretch forward and put out the cigarette. The air is thick enough. "Imagine it was just all brand new."

And I feel his lips on mine. The first time, kiss and tell no one.

He looks over at me and drops his hand down to his leg. "Imagine it takes your breath away just thinking of how right it is. Can you see it?"

His skin. His hands. His lips. His house. His room. His clothes and mine. "Yeah," I say and my eyes never leave his, never wander to the blade trapped between his fingers.

He smirks and brings the blade to his mouth, resting it lightly against his bottom lip. "Imagine one day you realize that maybe it's not so right. Maybe it's not so wrong, but it sure as hell isn't the way you want it to be."

And I see him smiling a little less. I see me not caring. "Nothing ever is," I offer. "Join the club. It happens to everyone, we all find it out." I reach for the Beam and twist the cap. Justin lets the blanket drop from his shoulders and he sits forward.

He nods. "You're right. We do. We find it out. And then we cope." He stands and moves around the table and his steps are steady and careful. He sits on the edge of the table, in front of me, and I lean forward.

I'm not going to notice that his skin looks ice cold. I'm not going to notice that he is shivering or that every cut seems to show.

I'm not.

"So one day you get your first big realization. You realize that you control it all, everything." And he twirls the razor blade. "Nothing is out of your hands."

I see my first bar tab. I see me meeting Mr. Johnny Walker. Black if you please, Blue if you got it.   "Where'd you get the black eye?" the bartender asks as he pours. I drop ten bucks on the bar and wrap my fingers around the glass.

He grimaces and presses the blade a little deeper into his skin. It bends and doesn't break. I bring the bottle to my lips and the taste is wet and hot. "It all falls apart. Your small little insignificant piece of a perfect world," he tells me. I settle the bottle between my legs and bite my bottom lip.

"I'm sorry," he says and I spit the blood into the sink. He steps up behind me and I turn to face him. "I'm sorry."

"Bullshit," I say and it's bitter. I wipe at my lip with the back of my hand. I don't even bother touching my eye. He backs up and leans against the counter, his arms crossed over his chest.

Never underestimate my ability to drop bullshit.

Justin leans back and presses his palms together, the blade trapped in between. "And that's when you learn your second lesson," he says. "Doing nothing is dangerous. You turn to anything, fuck danger and fuck caution."

I see my second love affair. Alcohol and Drugs are a lethal combination.

"You discover your addiction, your new best friend, and you want to learn everything. You want to have this endless amount of knowledge." Justin reaches forward and wraps his fingers around the neck of the bottle. He pulls it towards him and takes a long drink.

I see bars and dim lights, music and shot glasses. First one night and then every minute of every conscious thought. I lean back and let him talk, fighting my urge to make a comment. He takes another drink and his eyes focus on the blade in his hand. "The more you learn," I say.

"… the more you realize you don't know a fucking thing. You're not one step closer to being enlightened so you try harder."

One trick, two, ten and eight. The number is growing and the feeling isn't mutual.

He taps the blade against the side of the bottle, takes a drink and sits the bottle on the table next to him. I take one deep breath and he stands up, hands trembling, lips icy blue and blood faint and stained into his pants. He walks forward and straddles my legs, settling down into my lap.

"And you take one more drink and you press a little harder and when it all crashes down around you, you realize how good it feels to break yourself." He leans forward and wraps his arm around my neck, his other unbuttoning my jeans.

I ignore the blood and the sweat. "But it can't go on forever," I breathe into his neck as my hands travel up his torso. "At some point it all has to stop." I'm one to talk.

"Really?" He turns and picks up the bottle from the table, pressing it to my lips. One more piece of truth to darken the path.

But it can go on.

He moves forward and I bite my lip. "Get the fuck out."

"I said I was sorry."

I smirk and my eyebrow starts to rise, "Like I give a shit." I press off the counter and push past him. They called it puppy love.

"I realized it was me," he says. "I control my forever and I am responsible for everything." His gaze shifts and I can see the sheet of tears that are playing tricks in the darkened loft. I run my hands through his hair and let them rest on the sides of his face. The first tear falls and he tries to smile.


"I want to die and I can't even do that right." He looks up at me and he doesn't try to wipe the tears away. The blade is still clutched in his hand and he laughs. "And I don't even know why," he says and I pull him closer to me. He wraps his arms around me and I hold him tight.

By the time I realize that he's sleeping my legs are going numb. I pry the blade from his hand and let it drop to the hardwood. I take the bottle and take another drink.

It's only right that someone should get drunk. I'll gladly volunteer. I look at the condom on the table and let my hands travel down his back. I drop the bottle from my mouth and sigh as I lean my head back and look up at the ceiling.

He called the bluff.

Everyone wants to play games with the devil, no one wants to get caught cheating.


And it's you and it's me and I'm here all alone.

I sit up and blink against the sun. Brian isn't next to me and I push the covers back. My legs are purple and blue and the palest white. I touch the skin around the cuts and wince. "Brian," I say and I glance around the loft.

No answer.

I get up, slowly, and walk into the bathroom and then down the stairs. I open the refrigerator and pull out a bottle of water as I start the coffee pot. There is no note, no message. I glance at the living room and he cleaned up.

Wipe away my sins.


I pace the office and wipe my hand across my face. "I assume you wanted something more than just to see how much pacing my floor could take," Marc says and I look over at him. He leans back in his seat and waits.

"You're not fucking helping him. Which is a hell of a fucking statement, considering how much I'm paying you," I say. Marc doesn't move and I sit down.

I stare at him and he never blinks. "What exactly were you expecting?" he asks as he leans forward and rests his arms on his desk.

"Results," I say and I sit forward. "He's been seeing you for almost a year, a year. And I picked him up off his best friend's bathroom floor covered in blood."

"Why didn't you call me?" he asks and I feel guilty. I wanted the time. I wanted him to myself. Marc seems to understand and he doesn't press the why. "You expected him to come back from the rehab center and be 'okay'?"

"Okay? I… we, didn't know where he was for two weeks," I remind him.

"All the more reason why I should have been contacted immediately when he was found," Marc tells me.

I blink and watch him as he stands up and moves to the drawers that hold his files. "When you called me the first time I told you that it wasn't going to be easy." And I nod. "I told you that I offered no easy outs and that this was not a curable thing."

That's what he said.

"I never promised you anything," he tells me as he pulls some files from the drawer and closes it again. He drops the files on his desk and comes to lean against the front. I look at him and he seems to understand.

"I don't know if I can do this," I say. Marc sits down on his desk and clasps his hands together.

"So don't," he says and blinks for what seems like the first time. I consider it for less than a second. He talks to me and I listen. Then he returns the favor.

"I have scheduled patients," he reminds me as his sister announces his first arrival. I stand and nod, grabbing my jacket. "I want to see him, soon. Today, if you can get him in here, no matter the time."

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.


There's no bread and I scoop peanut butter on a spoon and lick the side. My cell phone rings and I answer it slowly. "Yes?" I say and lick the other side.

A nervous breath and she starts, "Justin." I suddenly can't swallow and my throat feels tight. "Justin," she says, "it's mom." Cause one more ounce of pressure is exactly what I need.

"I recognized the voice," I say and I am guarded. I love you. Thank you for calling. It's been way too long. "Did you want something?"

"I haven't heard from you in a while, wanted to see how you were doing," she tells me and I've lost my appetite.

I can't stay warm and last night I almost bled to death on a bathroom floor. It's your turn to share. "I'm fine. Mom, I can't talk right now." I slowly close the phone and sit it down on the counter.


"You weren't here when I woke up," Justin says as I slide the door closed. He's balled up on the sofa frantically sketching.

"How very perceptive of you," I say as I walk into the bedroom and toss my jacket on the bed.

"I try. Where'd you go?" I sigh and bite my bottom lip as I walk down the stairs and come to a stop behind him.

"I went to see Marc."

His hand slows but he doesn't stop sketching. "And what did the great doctor say?"

"He wants to see you. Today," I tell him.

"And whose idea was that, his… or yours?" Justin asks as his hand stops and he sits up. He never bothered to get dressed. He's still wearing the same tee shirt I slipped on him, same underwear.

"Does it matter?"

"I don't particularly think so."


I am my mother's daughter.

"Is he coming home?" My mother asks as she takes a drink of her orange juice. Molly comes in the kitchen and picks up an apple. "You should eat a proper breakfast."

"And you should mind your own fucking business," Molly says and I turn. My mouth is hanging open and I want to say something. Apologizing seems too much like I don't agree. I chose to say nothing.

"Jennifer, do you see how she talks to me? No respect. Both of your children are running around wild and undisciplined."

I wipe my hands on the towel in my hands and drop it to the counter. "Mom, I will take care of it," I tell her. She growls and turns her attention back to her breakfast.

I see Molly and her exchanging glances. "Mom, I'm going," she says as she stands up, drinking the rest of her juice. She kisses me on the cheek and turns to leave.

"You can't say goodbye to your grandmother." Molly stops in her tracks and smiles brightly.

"You have a fucking mouth. Use it."


The doctor is in.

I can remember the first time and when it changed, the beginning. I can remember when I tried to fight and lost and won and lost again. I can remember it all. The best truth is in the details.

Brian and me. His story and my story, they're anything but the same. And we couldn't be more linked.

"Justin," Marc says as he holds his door open for me. I walk past him and flop down in one of his leather chairs. "Seems we have a lot to talk about," he says to me as the heavy doors close.

"Hmm. I have no idea what we could possibly have to talk about." He smirks and tells his sister to cancel the rest of his appointments. He tells her to reschedule everything.

Marc lets go of the intercom and sits back in his chair. "That's interesting. I think we do. Where've you been the last two weeks?" I bring my thumb to my mouth, bite, and let go.

"Vacation," I tell him and I smile. He's not amused. I stop smiling. Marc blinks once and leans forward, hands clasped above his desk.

"When you first came to my office what did I tell you?" Marc taps his pen against the desk and waits. And it's starting, the pressing anxiety.

"It was up to me," I say and I look at him.

Marc nods and leans back in his chair, his posture friendly and waiting, his attitude heavy and pissed. "It was up to you," and the words are spiked. He stands and moves from around the desk. "When you first came to me I told you that you controlled the outcome, you. I can't help you if you don't let me help you. So, I'll ask you again, where have you been the last two weeks?"

I feel like I'm five years old again. Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?

"Do you want my help?" My eyes want to linger anywhere but on his. "Don't stop to think, just answer," Marc presses. "Do you want my help?"

"Yes," I say and my tone is resentful and angry and hesitant and scared. I tell him that I want his help. I let him know I mean it. There is no way I'll ask.

"Then no more bullshit." I clasp my hands together and stare into Marc's chest. It's safer than his eyes. "Where were you the last few weeks?"

"Daphne's," I tell him. "Any more questions ,counselor?" Marc moves, turning the chair next to mine around to face me and we're sitting almost knee to knee.


I shrug.

"Not an answer," Marc says. "Why were you at Daphne's?" I press my palm into my forehead and close my eyes.

"This is supposed to be easy."

"If it was easy everyone would do it." I look up and I smirk.

"Nice. Did you see that on a pillow somewhere?"

"Heard it in a movie, don't ask me which one." Marc leans into me. "You can do better than avoidance. Why were you there?"

"I just needed a little break." I hold my eyes closed and shift my feet. Marc shifts and stands and I open my eyes.

"Talk to me."

"I am talking to you," I tell him. Marc paces the floor.

"Why go there?"

"I told you."


"I told you why. What the fuck do you want me to say?" And he snaps. I don't have a chance to move before he is standing in front of me, his hands on either side of my chair and his face too close to mine. His breath is sugar and mint.

"How about the fucking truth? You asked and I'm telling you. That's what I want, the truth," he yells at me. My heart is in my throat and for a mere second I brace myself for the hit that I know should be coming. Nothing comes.

"I DIDN'T WANT HIM TO SEE ME," I scream back. My hands are shaking and I wipe at my mouth with the back of my hand. "ARE YOU HAPPY?"

Marc steps back and he nods. "Yes. What didn't you want him to see?" I jump up and I gesture to myself.

"Me. All of me," I tell him. "I'm falling apart. I hate that I can't be better. I hate that he loves me so much. I hate it. I don't want him to see me, broken and exposed and cut open. I don't want him to see me. Really see me," I say.

"Why would it be so bad if he saw the real you?"

"He'd hate the real me. I hate the real me. The one who is too afraid and too trusting and not trusting enough," I scream and my throat is raw. "The me that I look at and want to destroy."


"If he sees me, he'll leave. He hasn't realized it yet, but he will."

"Have you talked to him about it? I think he'd know if he didn't want to see you anymore. He's seen all of those things, Justin. And he's still with you." I turn on Marc, shrugging off the arm that was so nicely offered as comfort.

"NO!" Marc takes a step back at my anger and I push some of the things off his desk, glass and papers smashing to the ground. "He CAN'T see me. I don't even see me."

The best thing about an illusion is you see what you want to see.

"This is bullshit," I say and I turn to face Marc fully and I stop moving. "Bullshit. Therapy and talking and feelings, it's all bullshit." Marc takes a few steps towards me, slowly, as he sees the blade. Cautiously.

You can buy a knife anywhere. You choose the make, you choose the model.

"Justin, give me the knife, okay?" He holds out his hand and never takes his eyes off mine and I can feel the tears as they start to flow. "It's not all bullshit. We can fix it."

"You want to fix me, make me better? You want to wake me up?" Marc flexes his hand and takes another step forward. I take one step back.

It's the merry-go-round that kills us. It's the roller coaster that makes it worth it.

"I want you to give me the knife," he says and the room is hot and mute. His heartbeat set to my rhythm.

I smile and it's almost real. I smile and I wipe my hand across my mouth and through my hair. "Well now," I tell him, "we can't always get what we want." And I drag the blade across my neck.

The effect is instant and the feeling is warm. It's almost funny but not quite. I had no intention of coming here today. I had no intention of being dramatic and drastic today. I didn't plan ahead. I could lie and say that I wish I could take it back. I won't.

For the first time in forever I don't feel anything. I am weightless and everything is shallow and open. I pulse back into being when Marc wraps his fingers around my neck. I wonder how much good it is doing.

Instinct kicks in and I start to fight against his hands, his choking hands. I blink and try to swallow and I see his office door swing open, his sister step in, stumble backwards and disappear.

Marc is pressing and the yelling around me is soft. The pool of blood around me is growing and Marc has never had this happen. I'm happy to acquaint him.

"What's his name?" I hear and the voices simply start to fade away. Marc moves from behind me and something heavy is pressing on my throat.

My name is nothing, I tell them. My name is not important. Marc tells them my name. Marc tells them he'll notify someone. Marc tells them he's coming with me. Marc tells them, hurry. Whatever Marc says after that is only a guess to me.

I can only tell you what I know. I can only tell you as much of the truth as you're willing to take.

It's too easy, too simple to just die. The key is the suffering.

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