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The Way We Live Now

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Thrift, Horatio. That’s what I think when I see Drusilla in her odd socks.

I asked her once, “Baby, you realize you’re wearing a blue sock and black sock?”

She put on that sweet, excited voice like a kid explaining the rules of the game: “But the washing demon ate the blue one’s mate, and then she ate the black one’s mate, and these poor two were left all alone.”

“Why don’t you retire them to the dumpster, love?”

“Why because they’re still good, silly,” she said.

Dru collects lint too. First noticed that when I was poking around the clothes dryer (damned if I know what for) and saw this plastic bag filled with blue-grey fluff. You know that lint filter doodad a dryer has with those dire warnings about how your laundry room will explode into a fiery hell if you don’t clean it after every load? Well, Dru doesn’t clean it after every load; she’s not that crazy. But she does clean it, and she saves the lint, “for big, fluffy pillow stuffing.”

Doesn’t bug me, her doing that stuff. I mean, I’ve coped with her wackiness for more than a century. And for that matter, she’s a hell of a lot more coherent now than she’s ever been--well, most times, she is. It’s like getting her soul back gave her the insight to work through some of her issues (not to get psycho-babbly or anything).

No, what bugs me is what it says about her, who she was, what she came from. It makes me think of a bit from Les Misérables. No, not the flipping play: the book. Yeah, Victor Hugo and all that. (I guess it says something about that book that I remember this when I haven’t cracked the cover in a hundred and thirty years.) When he’s talking about the descent of Fantine into poverty and consumption, there’s a bit about how she learned to make her shift into a petticoat and her petticoat into a shift and she learned to make one candle last a whole month.

Thrift.

Dru’s family was never that poor. Never starving, yeah? But there were times when, I gather, it came too close: when her dad had to quit mining on account of his lungs and the family spent too much moving back to London for a job Uncle’d lined up for Mum. And then it fell through, and they were all stuck living in Uncle’s little flat.

Sometimes, I think about her back then. Her and me. How she was working sixteen hours a day as a seamstress when I was just a little ponce dressed up like a girl, being bounced about on my mother’s knee. I think about what Angel--Angelus--did to her, when he was killing her people, when he was killing her mind and taking her soul, and I was what?--seven?--doing Latin with my tutor maybe.

“Odi et amo,” said Catullus of his girl. I hate and I love. I remember running to me mum like a right pedantic little twit, telling her, “Now, you may think that ‘odi’ should end with an ‘O’, but it don’t because it’s a defective verb, you see.” Hate is defective. That was my point. And maybe that very day he was tearing her and raping her and making her love him for it, in that convent, maybe not five or ten miles away. Think about that. Just bloody think about it!


What really bugs me is that she’s been sleepwalking all her unlife, like she doesn’t have a handle on the world she’s been living in. The other day, I found her sewing a patch onto one of my old pairs of jeans. Just sitting there, needle and thread, in one of those long dresses she still wears--never the kind with bare arms anymore. I miss seeing those pretty arms. She was sitting up so bloody straight, and you could chuck her into a time warp and plop her down on the streets of London, 1860, and she wouldn’t look all that out of place. Underdressed, yeah, but no more so than many a beggar woman huddled in a doorway. (Did I just say, “many a”?)

Anyway, I riffed on this Blackadder line: “Dru, to you the twentieth century was just something that happened to other people, eh?”

She started to cry. She let her sewing drop in her lap, and her big opal eyes got bigger and stared at me. “I’m trying but... I’m a fishie,” she said. “Lips all torn, and swimming away, but it keeps getting reeled back.” And then she said, “What else is there?”

I felt rotten and took her in my arms, just like I used to. “I’m sorry, prin- baby,” I said. She doesn’t like to be called “princess” anymore. She says she’s not a princess but a bad, common girl. But she still lets me hold her, and she stopped crying pretty quick. But the thing is, I don’t think it was on account of me. She got very quiet like, resting her head against my shoulder--so quiet and contained and far away. No, she doesn’t need me to pull her together. Not anymore.

But she must get something out of being with me, ‘cause she stays, and it isn’t easy on her, staying. Isn’t exactly frolicking through tulips for me either. Sometimes after we make love, we lie in bed for hours (well, it feels like hours), discussing whether or not fornication is a sin. (Welcome to my life with an ex-nun.) I never even met anyone in Sunnydale (let’s not even mention L.A.) who’d give a second thought to that one. I mean, take Dawn: she was created as this pure, innocent incarnation of the Key, right? But even she never thought of fornication as a sin. I made that point to Dru once. She just looked at me at long time and finally said, “No serpent ever there.”

But actually, that’s one conversation she usually keeps pretty literal for. Good thing too. I don’t much fancy the idea of fornication-as-a-sin in endless metaphors. It’s real to her though. That’s the thing. And she bloody well knows she sounds silly, but it’s still real. Real as the specter of God and damnation and all that wondering about whether or not His mercy is really that infinite, and when does the justice part kick in?

I asked her to marry me once.

Okay, more than once. I thought it might make things easier for her. She turned me down every time. (Story of my life.) She started out with some argument about how we couldn’t find a priest who’d be willing to marry a couple of vamps, and maybe sacraments don’t work on vamps anyway, and finally she wound around to not wanting to tie me down.

“You’re not on a lead now, and you mustn’t be,” she said. “You may be called away again.”

She thinks I’m going to leave her for Buffy. She thinks I love Buffy more. I want to tell her it’s not that simple, that I love them both. Always have. Always will. But Buffy doesn’t need me; there’s no place for me by her side anymore. She may say she loves me--yeah, she may even mean it--but it’s not that two-against-the-world sort of love. And Dru does need me. At least, I think so.

She tells me she loves me over and over. She didn’t used to. Afraid she’s gonna lose me. And I feel so sorry for her--it makes my heart expand--but the truth is it makes me feel good to hear her say it, to be here for her. It’s a place to be, a place to matter. Helps her; helps me. Whacking two birds with one stone.

And things are getting better. No denying that. She cuts herself less often now. Part of that is ‘cause she doesn’t want to lose the blood. It means she has to drink more blood, and even pig’s blood reminds her that there’s still a demon hanging about inside her. We pretend to have a real supper along with the blood sometimes, to be more human, you know? She makes the onion. I used to do it. Course, I used to be the only one who ate it too. Now, she likes to do it. (I’m better at it.) And then we sit at table like civilised people. Sounds like a Modern painting, doesn’t it?: Supper in Pig’s Blood and Flowering Onion.

She even works with us now. Angel’s unofficially put her in charge of dealing with the little kids. Abducted babies and little half-demon-spawn tykes and that. Well, she always was fond of kids. It hurts her that she could never have any of her own.

Mostly, when she cries now, it’s late, when she’s tired. It’s late; we hit the sack and fornicate and discuss fornication. She feels all sinful and sobs sometimes because one sin leads into another and it all comes down on her at once. (And I ask myself, why the fuck don’t I feel worse? I’ve been as evil as she has. And it’s not like I’m a stranger to the world of self-flagellation. There have been moments: sometimes, that first year, when Buffy would look at me.... But it just doesn’t hit me as hard as it hits her, or Angel. Does that make me a bad person? A bad, souled person? A bad man?)

We snuggle up close; we might be one body so familiar’s every contour of each other. And it’s cold sometimes. It does make me miss Buffy: her heat, her life. And Dru, she’s got that second sight thing; she sees it. No wonder she gets scared when she hears me think how coldly the funeral meats furnish forth the marriage table.


What bugs me most is that I can’t get bloody Hamlet out of my head. I mean, Hamlet, for fuck’s sake! Not only prissy and pretentious, but was there ever a single bigger, sodding cliché?

Yeah, in fact.

I’ve come across bigger clichés. . . in verse; I’ve got bigger clichés running around in my head all the time. All this verse I can’t get out of my head. And it’s not like Shakespeare or Blake or Wordsworth--not to be named with the likes of them. There are times I’d drive a spike through my own head to get it to go away. So I crank up my Dead Horse CD till it beats the words right out of me, and I flop on the couch and watch Drusilla stuff a pillow with lint.