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Mind Meld

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I.

When it happens, he can't even blame it on the LSD. Because it's the second trip, because he has been careful enough to try it with Tara Browne first, and he certainly hadn't read anyone's mind then, or felt another consciousness enveloping his own. It must be a John thing, except John, who has been doing trips for near on two years by now and is an old hand at it, is all amazement and delighted surprise. So it hasn't happened for John before, either. Or maybe it has. It feels a bit like composing, that half formed rush answered by another making sense of it; he remembers sitting at the piano in the Asher's basement, finding that transition for I Want To Hold Your Hand, John looking at him, almost not needing to say it out loud: That. Do that again! That sense of reading each other precisely. Only now it's magnified tenfold and it's everything, there's nothing else, and he hears John in his head as John hears himself, which isn't how Paul hears him out loud at all. It's sound and colour and smell in a combination both alien and familiar; both the best and worst experience of his life until now. The need to have more and the need to stop pull him apart, until John gets confused about the need to stop, and his confusion pushes Paul over the edge: the need to get out is stronger. He looks at his hands and they're not his, they're John's, he knows the difference, or he used to, and this is too much, there has to be something in him which isn't John, only John is everywhere, his entire house is nothing but John, never was, never will be: John is the Emperor of Eternity.

Paul stumbles out into the garden, but the contact is still there. Continues, doesn't end when they're not in the same room anymore.

It's forever, he feels John think, thought glowing hot red like D on a guitar, and that happiness is pervading, engulfing. He can't help but share it.

He also can't help wondering whether the emotion is in any way his own. There is no way to be sure, is there.

Treacherous thought, unable to stay hidden now: that's why I was so afraid to take acid. Not when nobody could tell me what exactly it does to your brain.

John hears; of course John does. There's a slight thorn of anger, but it's overpowered by the smell of the sea, salty, on a windy day: happiness.

II.

Paul's long refusal to take acid had caused some enstragement betweeen them, and if nothing else, sharing minds literally puts an end to that. Which is great and also useful, because if the sessions for the new album went well before, they now take off into the stratosphere. Not so much for George and Ringo, admittedly; Ringo is busy learning chess and George sometimes looks bewildered, or even bored, and a tiny part of Paul notices, but the other part is busy bursting with ideas and trying to cope with all the new possibilities. Not to mention the fact that after all the "we're in the LSD club and you're not" John and George subjected him to for eons, a bit of confusion on George's part now because that taunting has ended and Paul and John are back to their short hand communication, with some improvements, is pretty much deserved. As for George Martin and the engineers, they couldn't be happier.

"Give me the feel of James Dean gunning his motorcycle down a highway," John demands, and before Geoff and George M can look confused, Paul translates: "Brass and timpani."

John's satisfaction feels like the taste of ice cream before their mothers died, something cool and unspoiled. Except Paul sometimes remembers red hair now when he thinks "mother" instead of Mary McCartney's brown strands, always carefully combed back because as a nurse and midwife, she couldn't afford any hair style that might encumber her sight. This scares him. His memories of his mother have started to fade anyway, slowly and almost imperceptively but still, and having them mixed up with images of Julia Lennon feels like a horrible betrayal.

Not to John, apparantly. John says he finally gets why Paul didn't just tell his father to fuck off when Jim wanted him to take his A-Levels, wanted him to get a steady job. John takes those memories of running on the beach with Mike, running towards Dad and getting swung around and tickled with a longing and hunger that makes Paul feel almost guilty for having them.

Except. Except. There's another side. Sometimes it creeps up at him, emotion and thought feeling like white noise and misery, like trying to catch Radio Luxembourg on his earphones as a teenager which had all the rock and roll and getting only static from the BBC, and he knows John is sitting in front of the tv at Kenwood again, tripping and doing his best to ignore Julian and Cynthia.

Then Jane comes back from her American tour. Paul gives her a censored version of the LSD trip, because they don't talk to anyone else about this telepathy business, but he has to explain why he's now dropping acid. He also suggests, somewhat half heartedly, that she does it. Not surprisingly, she refuses; Jane doesn't even like pot, so he could see that coming, and bearing in mind how he felt when the other three kept hamming at him about acid, he doesn't insist. Thinks: At least she won't lock herself up in the bathroom again, and only belatedly realises Jane had never done that. Jane wouldn't. Cyn had. There is no reason to confuse the two, except one.

This is getting out of hand.

Paul and Jane have made it a rule not to talk about each other to the press, but the journalist Hunter Davies has been hired by Brian to do the band's authorized biography, and so he's around them quite a lot and interviews their wives, friends and family, and Jane. Whom Paul hears telling Davies, one day when he comes back, that she doesn't like socializing with the other Beatles too much because Paul is different when he's with the others; behaves differently towards her. And then she adds that since he started to take acid, he sometimes even is a different person when none of the others are around; "sometimes it's like having John here instead of Paul", she says, and while he later corners Davies and persuades him to shorten that quote to "he's different when he's with them", he can't forget what Jane said. It leads to an argument once they're alone, which leads to him raising a hand, catching himself just in time. But the violence, that wish to strike, see her perfect porcelain skin redden: at that moment, it's there.

"This isn't me," Paul says angrily to John next time they meet, because it has to be said out loud, "it's you. Maybe we should keep out of each other's heads for a while."

"No, it's all you, Macca," John retorts, "it's just now you have the perfect excuse to blame someone else for it. Perfect Paul doesn't want to hit a woman, so it must be big bad John. Cut the crap. You're starting to get tired of her, just like me and Cyn, but it's all you."

Against his will, Paul remembers volunteering to sing the part of the lyrics John had written for Getting Better, and he hears he melody of it coming from John as they keep staring at each other. I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her away from the things that she loved...

John had written that. But Paul had sung it. Had wanted to sing it.

Jane has never had the slightest intention of giving up acting, the way Cyn has given up art after John got her pregnant. But Paul has asked her to; repeatedly.

"You think you're different," John says, "you believe that so much that you had me convinced for a while. But you're not. Now I know you're not."

It's impossible to tell anymore whether this is true or false, or which of them believes what part of it.

"I don't," says Paul. Words out loud feeling clumsy while the melody of Getting Better keeps thrown back and to between them. John gives it a new edge. Maybe they should have recorded it like that.

"Don't what?"

"See you as big bad John. You're smaller than me. Several inches, mate. Let's face it, we'll never be perfect mirrors."

Half a joke, half a dig; John appreciates the humor with a sting because he's taught it to Paul to begin with, and also because he can still feast on the uncertainty Paul is covering up with it.

Somehow, this has to stop.

 

III.

George has been obsessed with all things Indian for a while now, but while he's found an Indian musician to admire more than any others rather quickly, Ravi Shankar, a definite philosophical teacher has not yet presented himself. Not until Pattie, making an effort to keep up with her husband, discovers the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and before anyone can blink, the lot of them are off to Wales to spend some days in Bangor at the Master's feet.

Mick and Marianne are coming with them, Mick because he's still not over John's little dig that the Stones can do anything the Beatles can do, half a year later, and wants to stay ahead of the scene this time.

"Didn't think you'd come along," Paul says to Marianne when they trade pot she has rolled up for him in Mick's and Marianne's compartment on the train, as what almost happened with Jane has left him shaken enough to go out of his way to oblige her, which means no drugs in her immediate company for a while, even the most harmless one. Of course she'll smell it on him once he goes back, but he can always blame it on Mick and Marianne, neglecting to mention Mick is hanging out with John and George right now. "Not quite your scene."

"Not really yours, either," Marianne retorts in her sweet voice that makes one almost overhear the sarcasm. "We're the pretty ones, remember. Far too pretty for meditation." She's far from the 17 years old ingenue he met some years ago; there's a sharpness in her coming out more and more. "Shallow shallow shallow", she half sings, half murmurs, "arm candy coming along so our guy can feel philosophical and get his rocks off anyway. Well, I am. You?"

She must be on something stronger than pot. And probably is less than blissfully happy with Mick; Paul knows what a strained relationship looks like. The value of personal experience.
"Miss Faithfull," he says in a snooty, mock reporter voice, because he has to ask someone, and Marianne isn't close enough for her answer, either way, to hurt, but close enough to actually have an opinion on this subject. "I'm in need of your expertise."

"I'm all yours, darling," she says, eyes gleaming, and passes the cigarette he's returned to her back to him. Marianne has the same upper class accent Jane has; the same Robert Fraser has; effortless trademark of a different world, and yet not, not anymore.

"Lennon and McCartney," Paul says. "Complete opposites, or growing more like each other every day?"

"Off the record?" she says, continuing the interview pretense.

"Always."

"Mick or Keith would simply ask whose is bigger," she says, sounding like lazily amused cat. "That's why you're the class act. Well, don't worry. You're still distinguishable. As much as Siamese twins can be. Are there fraternal Siamese twins? Because identical twins, you're not."

"But Siamese?" he can't help himself asking, and hearing the disturbance in his own voice, covers it by humming a Disney ditty that comes back to him. "We're Siamese if you please... my brother and I used to sing that. For the rellys. Relations", he self consciously adds, at the same time embarassed for doing so, because she probably guessed the meaning of the Liverpool working class slang from context. John would never have done that. But then, John's not working class.

"God knows," Marianne replies vaguely, perhaps losing interest in the subject or just not knowing what to say. Then her voice sharpens again. "Or maybe that guru does. His Holiness. Isn't it his job to know everything?"

Paul inhales deeply and wonders. Because maybe the Maharishi does know. Not just what they are. But how to stop it.

The thought comes and goes in the sweetness of weed, covered up again by so many other things, and when they get the news about Brian's death later, it disappears into the back of Paul's subconscious so entirely that John never finds it. But once thought, it can always come back.

 

IV.

Proposing to Jane at Christmas papers over the fissures that have started to show up in their relationship and makes both their families ecstatically happy, so much so that Paul and Jane both are convinced marrying is the right decision after all.

Then he has a dream about being in Hamburg, or maybe on tour in some anonymous high class hotel, those sheets are far too clean for Hamburg, but he's with a bird, and so is John, and the sex starts to get synchronized. Like walking does, when you walk next to each other. Or playing the guitar, mirror fashion. They had sex so often in each other's company, both in Hamburg and on tour, all cramped spaces and available flesh, that nothing is unusual enough about this to push Paul out of dreaming. At first. Then he simultanously becomes aware of several things: the sense of John is far more than awareness of some background noise, it's more like playing on stage, their voices together, singing harmony, or writing, except it's not, because the woman he has sex with isn't some anonymous groupie or a Hamburg prostitute. It's Jane, it's Jane he's caressing, Jane sitting right on top of him, and John is there as well, right here.

He doesn't open his eyes. Because they are already open. You weren't sleeping, Jane says later, when they've both calmed down enough to talk about the fact he freaked out mid-sex and ran into the bathroom to vomit. I'd have known if you were sleeping.

You know I sometimes sleep with open eyes, he says. Just had a nightmare, is all.

He doesn't known whether she believes him. After all, he can't read her mind. Not hers.

They're in Scotland, he and Jane, where he's been very reluctant to have a telephone installed: his farm is supposed to be a retreat, after all. But Alistair, undoubtedly prompted by Brian and common sense, talked him into it. So there is a phone, and when Jane is out, taking Martha for a walk, Paul dials up John.

"So she's a natural redhead", John says, not even bothering to pretend he doesn't know why Paul is calling. "I always wondered."

"We don't do that," Paul says. "Not with - she'll be my wife, damn it! If it were you and Cyn, you'd want my balls cut off!"

Which is true. John might have lost almost all of the love he had for Cynthia once by now, but the idea of her and another man would still send him insanely jealous. What's John's is John's and will always be John's; that sense of possessiveness is so familiar to Paul like the back of his hand, and was before bloody acid screwed up their minds even more than they were already.

So he is surprised about John's unhesitating denial. "I don't think so," John says serenely.

"Bullshit. You..."

"I don't think you'll marry her. "

There is a short silence.

"Of course I will. I fucking proposed a week ago."

Another silence. Apparently this is news to John after all. Then John says, and every word comes with the added sincerity of thought and emotion across hundreds of miles: "But you don't want to. You really don't want to. Cut the crap, Paul: I know."

Paul can't say anything.

"It's true what you said about Cyn, though," John adds unexpectedly, but before Paul can cling to this lifeline to sanity, John continues: "Couldn't bear it. Not you with her. Or her with you. So I'm sorry about that part of it, but it's not about them, is it?"

He wants to slam down the telephone, but that's pointless. Not after this revelation that geographical distance doesn't matter.

"It's not," John says decisively, and doesn't say anything anymore, but he's there, overwhelmingly familiar, inescapable mind. John goes to sleep eventually, all those miles away. Paul can't sleep. But the memory of a conversation with Marianne in a train compartment on the way to Wales returns to him, and with it a renewed determination.

When Jane comes back, he tells her he decided to back George's proposal of the lot of them going to India.

"I'm not sure about the Maharishi," Jane says sceptically.

"I am," Paul says. "It'll be good for us. You'll see."

V.

For the rest of his life, Paul, while never having the veneration for the Maharishi George and for a brief while John had, will always defend him. He has no idea whether or not the man had sex with some of his students, and he doesn't care. What he does know is that the Maharishi saved him from going insane. Paul doesn't need a guru like George does, or a father who has all the answers the way John does. He just needs someone to teach him how to establish the privacy of his own mind again. How to guard that mind and seal it off if he wants to do that. This the Maharishi does. Once Paul has mastered the technique, there is no reason to stay any longer, and a very good reason to leave. Because John is bound to notice sooner rather than later, and once he does, he'll explode. Paul tells himself that it's not cowardice, it's good strategy, wanting to be far away from said explosion and not to see John again until John has had a chance to cool off. And realise that this is actually for the best. It's not like they weren't close before all this happened. They were. But there is close and there is too close, and this is so far beyond the line that it's the equivalent of dancing tango at the edge of a very high cliff.

At first, it all goes swimmingly. He's back in the plane to Britain before he senses John in his mind again, and practicing what the Maharishi taught him, Paul pushes him out. He visualizes a door, like the Maharishi said, not any door but the door of the one home John never entered, has never seen, the Scottish farm, in its stark, efficient simplicity. Visualizes it closed, and himself safe and apart behind it. Paul, not JohnandPaul, and most certainly not John.

A last sense of outrage and desolate rejection gets through, the image of the beach where Paul and Michael played as children with their parents, only now John is standing there alone, and it's despairing enough to make Paul almost reconsider. But he knows John, inside out, and John has never been afraid to use the truth to manipulate people. It's now or never. If he doesn't manage to do it now, Paul never will, he tells himself, and so he shuts the door to John's need and anger, and keeps it shut.

He gets a postcard from India saying "You coward", and nothing else. But when John and George come back, John does not speak of what has happened. At all. He vents all his anger at the Maharishi and vows to never forgive him, and George looks increasingly unconvinced of the whole tale about why but doesn't dare to say anything. Paul would like to believe that will be that, John decided to blame the Maharishi and soldier on, but even his eternal optimism knows better. Sooner or later, something will happen. Somehow, John will punish him for this.

In the meantime, he has to deal with the uncomfortable realisation that being unquestionably alone in his own mind again doesn't help him in his relationship with Jane in the slightest. They don't get closer again, they grow apart, the suspicion that he really doesn't want to spend the rest of his life with her and John was right about that grows and grows, but he can't break it off, because if he does, if he admits it was really him, then he won't have the strength to keep that door shut. What he does do instead is what he was careful not to do in all his years with Jane: he completely abandons discretion and sleeps with every girl who offers without bothering with hiding the tell tale signs anymore. In his mind ,his very guarded mind, he justifies this with the knowledge that once they're married, he'll be faithful to Jane, so he's just throwing one last long bachelor party. He's not trying to get caught. He's not.
There is no one calling him a liar now.

Work helps. There's a big firm to establish, after all, artists who help artists, the most splendid idea ever, ideal and commercial success becoming one: Apple. And John is on board with this. Says it's a really good idea. Stick it to the Man by allowing artists to make it big without having to kowtow and compromise by the machine. "Western communism," Paul says, and John nods eagerly. George, who couldn't help but consider the rejection of the Maharishi as a rejection of himself and is still prickly about it, comes across as intrigued by the concept as well, and Ringo asks whether there will be films, too. Yes, everything is going well, and that ominous feeling in Paul's stomach is starting to come across as the byproduct of a hyperactive imagination.

Then the sessions with all the new material they've written in India start in earnest, and she's there: small, every time you don't see her you forget how petite she really is in person, but with a mass of black hair that denies any sense of fragility and eyes keen and penetrating.

"You remember Yoko," John says, looking at Paul, who does: Yoko Ono had an exhibition at the Indica Gallery, which is run by his friends, John Dunbar, Barry Miles and Peter Asher. Paul met her a few times on other occasions, not many, but he remembers. John has his arms around her.

"I'm with Yoko now," he says, gaze unwavering. John has had extramarital affairs before, not just one night stands and groupies but longer affairs, with their mutual friend Alma Cogan for example, or Robert Freeman's wife Sonny. But this is not how he has introduced any of them.

"It's been coming for a while now," John continues jovially, and Paul knows this is it. The payback. Finally. It's almost a relief, knowing he won't have to wait any longer. "Started in India, really. Yoko wrote me those postcards and I her, and that was pretty much the only thing which kept me going there. Bet you didn't know that, did you?"

There is a moment where Paul isn't sure whether or not he's misreading John. Maybe this isn't revenge after all, but a complicated way of John telling him how desperate he was, newly alone in his mind again. How brutal this had been for him. John never could stand being alone, and even less being left in any fashion. Maybe this is John's way of asking for an apology.
Paul could do that. Could apologize. Could open his mind again. Could say, yes, you were right, and I know I'm a bastard, and plead for understanding. I love you, but I need some separation now and then, I need to be me and not you sometimes..

John would say his words were lacking again. Because I am you and you are me and you are he and we are all together is such a better idea. And then what?

They'd be right where they were before India, and the truth is that Paul doesn't trust John, having once tasted symbiosis, will be content with less instead of more. No, going back makes no sense. They'll have to go forward. Find a new way. Besides, look at the way John stands. That's how he used to stand on stage, when they were still playing the way a group should, the way Paul is increasingly missing ever since they stopped touring. John stands aggressively, challengingly, thighs spread, hips cocked. No, John doesn't want an apology, John wants to deal out punishment, Paul is sure of this now. Fine. If that's what makes John happy. But Paul isn't going to take it lying down. That was never their style. When they hit each other, then always in the knowledge the other will hit back.

"No, I didn't know," he says in reply to John's question which was ostensibly about John's correspondence with Yoko Ono while the Beatles were in India. "Can't read your mind, can I?"
John's eyes narrow. The air between them suddenly feels electric; Paul is reminded of one particularly bad concert during their last tour in the States, when the rain and the lousy cables in combination with an open air stage ensured he almost electrocuted himself with a microphone.

"Yoko," John says to the calm, self possessed woman next to him, who hasn't said a word this entire time, "I think we need something new for the background vocals of the song I'm working on. Paul was doing them, but I want you to take his place."

VI.

There is a question Paul wants to ask Yoko but never will: did they manage telepathy, she and John, and if so, how did she endure it after a while?

He has stopped taking LSD without any great sense of loss during the Maharishi days and never took it up again later, unlike John, but even John stopped by the time he and Yoko became an item. But maybe heroin has had the same effect on them. Or maybe no drug was necessary and their minds communicate anyway because they are that close. He's not sure what would be worse: that Yoko and John are communicating the same way he and John did, and that Yoko can bear it, or that John doesn't get that from Yoko but is prepared to accept that when he wasn't with Paul.

Paul is never even tempted to try to reach Linda's mind. Learning about each other the normal way may be slower, but it makes him feel safer at a time when he's feeling more insecure by the second in pretty much every other area of his life. He's also increasingly glad he never was able to read anyone else's mind but John's, because that way, he can tell himself for a while longer what he sees isn't really what he sees: George and Ringo aren't really fed up with him, the group isn't really coming to an end, the only life he's ever known since he was fifteen isn't really destroyed right in front of him. This may be what it looks like right now, but it doesn't necessarily have to be true. Looks can be deceiving. They allow for hope of another reality.

Telepathy never does.

Which is why, even as he's drinking far more than he used to because alcohol may not be a fancy chemical, but it's a tried and true way to get numb, why instead of being the fastidious guy who bathes and showers several times a day if he can get away with it he stops washing for days in a row, stops cutting his hair or shaving and starts to resemble a homeless guy on the street, he nonetheless still manages to keep his mind shut. Just in case.

Guessing at John's hate the normal way is bad enough. The idea of sensing it they way the did everything about each other without any protection - no, he won't do it.

"I dreamt of you last night," John says at some point during the sessions that were supposed to be the group's rebirth as a performing band and instead turn into their death throes. "You must have dreamt of me. You were there."

Is this supposed to be a taunt or the simple truth? Which it could be, because John is using so much heroin by now that he's capable of coming out with something like that in front of the film crew and everyone else. Or maybe it's supposed to be a joke. Paul can't tell anymore. That's the worst of it. Never mind bloody telepathy, he could tell such things about John and John could about him before either of them ever knew acid existed, and it's not fair, it's not right that this should be taken away as well.

He pretends he doesn't hear and goes on talking about the daily schedule. Because they have an obligation, damn it, they're not some boys' club dissolving because the members get married, they're a group under contract. They've been given talent and opportunity, and with the sense drummed into him from early childhood onwards, the sense that owes nothing to chemicals and everything to parents who worked their way up, Paul knows this means they need to use both as long as they can. Maybe time is running out of them, maybe John is lost to him as a friend, and George, and Ringo, maybe he isn't capable of being someone they can care for anymore, but he can make them make music. This is it, he knows that as surely as he ever knew anything in his life. They've never been better. Maybe they never ever will be. This time will never come again. They need to create now, or it will never happen. Not ever again.

A new record, he says to George Martin, another album, and George M stares at him in disbelief, knowing all too well how the sessions for what used to be called Get Back and is now referred to as Let It Be ended.

"You can't be serious."

But he is. "We'll be what we used to be," he swears to their producer, and George M makes him promise and finally caves despite his own weariness and growing disillusion with all of them, Paul included, feeling the same thing Paul does: if doesn't happen now, it never will, and their magic, that combination of four talents who have reached their peak, will be gone for good.

He shaves again, he gets back to being Beatle Paul, he argues and he pleads and he promises, and it happens, it does: an album.

"Bullshit," John says when Paul and George Martin bring up the idea of a symphony-like long medley for the second half of the album, but there is no venom in it anymore; he's out of punishment mode and into disinterested mode, which is worse, except that he does contribute a few of his own fragments after all, and so they become a whole again, one last time: Lennon and McCartney.

"That's what you wanted, " John states when they hear the final mix, hear their voices united in harmony in Because on the first side, hear the four solos for each of them Paul came up with and his own voice singing as the medley comes to a close on the second, "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make". It's impossible to tell whether John means the album and is paying a tribute or means the group falling apart and is making an accusation, or means just the two of them and is pointing the blame there as well. Maybe all of it at the same time. It's possible.

Paul just can't tell anymore.

VII.

Paul nearly dies in Africa. Not due to the stupid mugging they were wandering into early in their stay in Nigeria, as blind a pair of tourists as ever there was, but mid session in what suspiciously resembles a heart attack. He really has to cut back on those ciggies, the doctor later tells him, not expecting a Western superstar to listen to him, but Paul does.
Not just because of inborn survival instinct. His life is actually pretty good right now and getting better. Sure, he's just had two musicians walk out on him, again, and the reviewers hated the first Wings albums only slightly more than they did his solo albums before that. But these new sessions, just Danny, Linda and himself, and good old Geoff engineering once more, they're going really well, ridiculously underequipped Nigerian studio or not. He's got it at his fingertips, that sense of certainty, of being in the process of making something great. He also has a new family, three daughters now with little Stella, and it doesn't matter what you do to yourself, you're not allowed to fuck up your child, Linda and he agree on that.

When he collapses and has a few moments where he doesn't know whether or not he'll live, he thinks about the girls first, and Linda, who miraculously has stuck by him when he was at his worst, and is stronger than anyone he knows. She'll manage. She'll hate it, but she'll manage, she'll raise the girls and will probably patch up relations with his former bandmates as well, because George and Ringo have no grudges against Linda, and John...

He later blames it on being on the brink of death, or at least believing himself to be. Does hell to one's self control, such a thing. But he opens that door, that carefully closed, completely shut and guarded door, and seeks, and calls. Just to say goodbye. Just to make fair weather for Linda and the girls, surely, nothing more than that.

Except that John is in no mode to say goodbye or be given final messages or anything like that, as it turns out. John is busy drinking himself into a rage, oh the familiarity, railing against Yoko, wanting her back - back? what the hell happened? - wanting her gone, lashing out in all directions and being a despondent child all at once, hating on anyone who ever left him.
Fucking hell, Paul thinks, not capable of any restraint or diplomacy or tactful approach at this point, you left as well! Pull yourself together, we're really getting too old for this!

He can sense John's disbelief and recognition, all at the same time. Sounds like those jarring overnoisy Revolution chords, John's disbelief does, and yes, John, you bet that was only a B-side, if you wanted to trump Hey Jude, you bloody well should have done better. You still can, so stop it. Stop it. Stop falling apart.

You bastard, John thinks, you bastard, and he's focused and there, and John, so very present thousands of miles away, sound like John's voice at the end of a Hamburg night and seven hours non stop, what do you know of falling apart?

I know how to come back from it, Paul thinks, and the Nigerian doctor brings him back to full consciousness.

Later, when he's patched up, sternly admonished and released, he casually says to Linda that maybe, when they're done here in Nigeria and done with the post production in London, they could visit the States again. Visit her family. In New York. Other people, too. Maybe.

Linda may not be able to read his mind, but she sees utterly through him.

"John told me some New York stories," she says, referring to her brother, John Eastman, "before we came here. Just rumours, and you know what they're like. But he's not doing well, they say. Him and Yoko."

"Hm," Paul says, and starts making travelling plans.

 

VIII.

John later refers to those 18 months when he's swinging wildly between patching up relations with Paul, Cyn, Julian and any number of people, working on several albums and drinking far too much while partying as if he was still in Hamburg, and lamenting his life as a lost weekend. Which was a John euphemism if Paul ever heard one. Paul comes close to asking Yoko his question when she surprises him with the one request he never thought he'd hear her make, but ultimately, he doesn't. In a way because he has his answer already. Yoko wouldn't have sent John away, or let him go, or however they split up, if she could bear it. She wouldn't want him back if she hadn't figured out a way to live with him regardless, though.

"One of us has to take him back," Yoko says, sitting in her kitchen, still sounding like a foreigner in her precision even though she must have lived in New York nearly as long as Linda had done, "and you won't."

The awful thing is, she's right. Taking John back, as opposed to patching things up and working on being his friend again, would be a full time job. It would not allow for his family. Being a father several times over only has made him more clear eyed in this regard. Heather, Mary and Stella are growing up with siblings and the awareness that their parents can love the other children without loving them less. But John? A part of John will always be that left child on the beach, longing for someone else's memories and demanding more, more, more as compensation for the parents he didn't have. A part of John will always believe you can't really love him if you love other people as much. And Paul can hear the smug rock critics already, writing about how McCartney, realising what a hack he was without Lennon, begged to be taken back. And then John could decide he wanted Yoko back anyway, because you never know with John. Not anymore.

Still, you can't leave John to his own. May Pang seems to be a lovely girl and sincerely dedicated to John. Paul likes her more than he ever liked Yoko, but then, he liked Cyn more, too, and Cyn certainly loved John as devotedly as anyone ever could wish, completely and without restraint, and it hadn't helped her a bit. Loving John isn't enough.

"Am I wrong?" Yoko asks. There is something indestructible in her. Paul suddenly recalls something John mentioned once, of Yoko surviving the firebombing of Tokyo of a child, the attack said to have been more devastating than the nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima put together in terms of body count.

"No," he says, and agrees to give John her message. He's carefully guarding his mind again when he does so, but John makes no attempt to read it anyway. Perhaps John, too, has finally learned caution, and when to retreat.

"That's what you want, isn't it?" he asks impulsively, and only then becomes aware he has repeated almost exactly what John said to him when they had finished Abbey Road.
John looks at him, and he's not a brash teenage boy anymore, the coolest kid in Liverpool, or a man in his twenties, Paul's fellow king and prisoner in the golden cage on top of the world. He's in his thirties and looking older, cheekbones hollow, auburn hair getting thinner, and fine lines on his forehead, with old sweat and the smell of yesterday's bacchanal clinging to his clothes.

"I just want a future, Paul," John says tiredly. "Instead of the past."

"You'll get it," Paul says, and he has never sound more convincingly, not even when swearing to George Martin the Beatles could be who they had been one more time while inwardly falling apart. That has been when he found out he could will a truth into being even if it wasn't there yet. He could. He can. "You will."

 

IX.

He has always thought they'd sense if something final happened to one of them, he and John, but there is nothing. Absolutely nothing. He wakes up on the morning of December 9th with no bad feelings whatsoever. They have the phone unhooked during the night, he and Linda, something regrettably necessary because while the Apple Scruffs were no more, there were still more than enough fans and newspaper reporters able to track down his private phone number, no matter how often he changed it. And if you have four children, including a toddler, you really need your night's sleep. So no phone during the night for the McCartneys.

So he gets the phone call when Linda has just left with the girls, bringing them to school, and he still feels nothing. Absolutely nothing. Can't be true, Paul thinks, can't be, some grotesque stupid joke, because that happens to Beatles and ex Beatles, doesn't it? He still gets mail from people claiming they know all about his death and that he's really an actor named after a soup, or something like that. How John will laugh.

Except there is no more John when he searches, walks through that door again after having yanked it wide open. Nothing. Not anywhere. No sense, no sound, no touch, no colour: silence.

Bloody Paul Simon was right about silence being the most devastating sound of all. Space must be like this, only hearing your own breath, sensing your own pulse. Your own voice in your mind.

Your mind.

Alone in your mind.

Which is what he has wanted, hasn't it? What he has asked for, explicitly asked for, one day in India, begged for in fact when the Maharishi had said that maybe what had happened to him and John, that strange ability to communicate with each other with their minds, should be regard as a gift.

It's not one I can cope with. It's ruining my life. It's driving me insane. Please. Teach me how to end it. How to be myself again.

"That's what you wanted," John's voice says to him, but in his memory, only in his memory, and it will fade, because memories do, they do, lose colour and vivacity and face to being mere sketches where once they were reality but not ever again.

Not ever again.

X.

His collapse in Nigeria isn't the last time he has sensed John in his head, though. No, the last time happens quite accidentally a few years later, some time in 1979 or early 1980. Neither of them is actually trying to reach out or to listen and break through. Neither of them is in distress. Paul is playing with James, listening to his youngest making toddler sounds and repeating all those oohs and ahs and gurgling noises back at James with as perfect a parroting his musician's ear and voice can manage. James look at him wide eyed and delighted, as if thinking, you speak my language, you speak my language, too, then busily proceeds to coo at Paul. The wonder in his eyes, that smile of a child: this is happiness, Paul thinks, and that's when it happens.

For a moment, he looks at James and doesn't see an eighteen months old boy with blond hair, he sees a boy who must be nearly four years with dark hair and almond shaped eyes, but their expression is the same, looking up to him in wonder, delight and utter trust. The joy in his heart suddenly has a bit of disbelief in it - has he really managed this? This child, looking up? - and Paul knows these aren't his feelings. Or not his feelings alone. Somewhere, half a world away, John is looking at his son Sean and feeling this, just this.

They both do: happiness.