Jack doesn’t really like men, but it isn’t like he’s crazy about women either.
“Well,” his therapist says in the summer of 1992, “That certainly doesn’t leave you with a lot of options.”
Jack also doesn’t like his therapist. She never tells him anything that he didn’t already know.
“Do you prefer one gender over the other?” She asks.
“You mean sexually?” but she’s a therapist. Of course she means sexually. “I’ve had girlfriends.”
“Have you had boyfriends?” She leans forward like a hungry animal or a pervert.
“Nah.” It isn’t cool to be gay yet, not even in college. Anyway, Jack is sure that she’s sending tapes of these sessions to his father. And he’s sure you don’t call someone a boyfriend when all you’d done was get each other off and then pretend you were too drunk to remember.
“And how would you characterize your relationships with those women?” She leans back, bored again. So is Jack.
“Short. Intellectual. Needy.” That’s the quick version. The list rattles on in Jack’s head. Long. Boring. Trashy.
“Who was needy, Jack? You? Or them?” Jack doesn’t bother to answer, just shrugs. “Hmm,” she says, and writes something down. “And what kind of women were they?”
“I like blondes,” but Jack is lying. His therapist’s eyes widen. If she were funny, it would be comical.
“Jack,” she puts her notepad down and folds her bony hands, “Are you attracted to me?”
Jack pauses for long enough to cultivate an expression that communicates were I blindfolded and you blowing me like a porn star, I would still be throwing up.
“No,” says Jack. The session goes badly after that.
Jack doesn’t want to leave the island.
“You might not want to spread that around,” says Kate, looking up from her seat at the edge of the water. The beach looks like a long strip of torn paper and her feet poke off the fraying end of it. “They’re counting on you, you know.” Jack’s not quite sure why he told her anyway.
“They shouldn’t,” he says, and he means it.
It’s four weeks in and hope is curdling. Twice already Jack has heard that the signal fire went out in the night and was found black in the morning.
“People need someone to look up to; the kids need someone to look up to.” Kate refers to everyone Boone’s age and younger as ‘the kids.’ Jack doesn’t know how old Kate is.
“It’s not as if they all rushed to move to the caves with me.” Jack sounds like a whiny bitch even to himself. Kate doesn’t notice because she’s staring out over the ocean again like maybe it’s just Lake Michigan and if she looked hard enough she could see Green Bay on the other side. Jack thought he’d done that once— seen Wisconsin from the Michigan shore when he was 10 years old and on vacation at the family cabin. His mother explained that he was wrong, and that it was only a storm over the water. He saw a Wisconsin made of rain.
“They’ll go,” says Kate because, apparently, she’s some sort of psychic. “They will.” Jack doesn’t ask if she’ll be moving to the caves. He isn’t stupid.
Jack doesn’t like being a doctor.
“You aren’t expected to like it,” says Jack’s mother after a loaded pause in autumn 2002. “The hours are interminable, the stress is excessive, and you don’t have time to enjoy the money.” Yes Mom, thinks Jack, but you sure as hell do. “You don’t like something like that.” She’s looking out the window. “You have to love it.”
Jack gave up arguing with his mother a very long time ago. Instead he’s taken to making passive-aggressive idle statements such as ‘I don’t like being a doctor’.
“I don’t love it either,” says Jack, but obviously he wasn’t really listening to her. She looks at him as if he’s a complete moron.
“You have to love it.”
Jack doesn’t believe in fate and never has.
Jack’s best childhood friend was a boy named Evan whose mother left during the middle of second grade. Evan’s dad was a very nice man probably hanging on by a very loose thread, and that summer he built his son a tree house in the backyard. The next winter Evan was killed by a speeding car. Jack watched it happen from his driveway and screamed and screamed and screamed and was never so scared in all his life. There was a lot of blood in the street.
“That’s a harrowing story,” says Locke, “And very personal. May I ask why you chose to share it with me?” Locke is always talking like a PBS British import show. He’s whittling the end of a giant stick into a point for a spear or maybe a fence.
“Sometimes horrible things just happen,” Jack tells him. “There doesn’t have to be a reason for it, and there doesn’t have to be a reason we’re here.” Locke doesn’t like that answer, but that’s to be expected. He’s a self-important, pontificating sonofabitch and won’t shut up until he thinks you think he’s right.
“Hundreds of people died around us, Jack. Are you willing to live out your life believing that happened for no reason at all?” He says this as if Jack doesn’t have enough to feel crappy about for the rest of his life.
“That’s more respectful than granting their deaths some kind of abstract meaning that has nothing to do with their lives.” Jack is pretty into arguing with Locke. It’s like his father without the consequences. “You want to tell me that all their dreams, their ambitions, their potentialities didn’t weigh up against some capricious whim of a higher power? That the billions of things those hundreds of people wanted to do with their lives didn’t mean shit to fate, to God?” Jack might be raising his voice now. “No, I don’t think I could live out my life believing that.”
Locke answers in the same calm, moderated voice: “If there’s comfort there, it’s certainly cold.” Fuck Locke.
“There is nothing comforting about fate. It’s defeatist and it’s selfish.”
“Why do you think a belief in fate is selfish, Jack?” Locke whittles like, if he tries hard enough, he could actually whittle Jack a new one.
“Fate’s like the government: plausible deniability. Even if you screw up so bad that no one should ever in good faith forgive you, fate will still pat you on the back like a kindergarten teacher and say ‘it’s all right. It isn’t your fault.’” Jack is very aware of his mixed metaphor. “Should you be forgiven for everything, Locke? Are you a saint?” He’s stopped whittling. “I shouldn’t,” says Jack, “I’m not.”
“I’m sorry,” says Jack to the heap of dirt and sand, but Jack doesn’t feel sorry. Digging a grave is really goddamned hard. “I’m sorry I didn’t get you home. I’m sorry Mom has to worry about us. I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner, Dad. I’m sorry I did this.”
Jack knows that he could look over his shoulder and maybe see his father standing in the shade of the tall trees, and Jack wants to look, he does, but he doesn’t.