Chapter 1: Inxs greatest hits
I don’t know what’s worse.
The feeling of time slipping away, of finding myself blinking and realizing with a sickening lurch that three hours have passed, that there simply isn’t any logical reason that I’d have been staring at my screen for so long that the sliver of sun that cuts through my apartment window has moved far enough to the west that it’s gone for the rest of the day…
Or the feeling of violation that always rushes in after.
He’s been walking me around like a flesh carved puppet, looking with my eyes, speaking with my mouth, these legs, MY legs, have carried him down the stairs and out onto the street, but he uses them differently.
We walk differently.
I can feel it in my muscles, his gait is wider, more confident, when he walks fast he does so with an ease of motion I simply can’t copy.
Darlene says I move furtively, like a rat. I stick to the edges of the sidewalk or close to the buildings, my head down, body small, hands in pockets.
He swings his arms and lets their motion carry him forwards.
I suppose if he used me more I’d have better posture.
“Honestly Elliot would it kill you to keep in more than dog food? I don’t expect you to cook but Jesus… Some chips maybe? Some crackers?”
How long has she been here?
Usually she can tell the difference between us, she doesn’t want to be near him, I know that.
He scares her.
He scares me too.
“There’s probably some leftover candy in the top cupboard… I bought some for Halloween but….”
But I wasn’t here to answer the door.
I don’t know where I was.
“... No one came…”
Darlene's looking at me in that way that makes my skin crawl. Like she can see right through the lie, no matter how small, how unimportant, it doesn’t matter, she can see through them as easily as an x-ray can count my bones.
Would an x-ray see him?
Would I have the ghost of his bones superimposed across mine?
“Ok… Fine… But we should eat. When you’re finished. We’ll go uptown and grab something… Thai maybe, or Mexican… Whatever.. ”
Her x-ray gaze is on the half-empty box of candy, and I’m off the hook for now at least.
“What are you doing anyway?”
… Perhaps not.
She’s leaning over my shoulder, her breath sweet and sticky as she slides a sucker back and forth across her tongue.
“Pet project…. My senior manager is slowly siphoning off money via his expenses and no one's noticing, or if they are they’re ignoring it… I could probably ignore it too but he’s upped his game and is skimming pension funds from the janitorial staff…. He’ll see minimum wage workers living off a pittance when they're old just so he can take that fourth vacation in the Hamptons this quarter… ”
“Why do you care?”
Darlene… Always straight to the point, like she was born with a rude comment on the tip of her tongue, itching to be bitten. Like all her words are made to cut even when she doesn’t know it.
“I just… Do… If you don’t care about the little things how can you care about the bigger ones?”
“What… Your therapist teach you that one?”
She snorts hard enough that I feel her breath against my ear, then she’s pulled away as though bored .
I don’t bother to answer her though, I have a man to destroy.
I’ve seen him around.
The kind of shiny faced overfed forty five year old guy that thinks he’s still eighteen and riding high on the teenage dream of football and dates with pretty girls.
He has a wife at home.
Pretty in a tired plain way most moms with more than two kids have.
He also has a mistress who lives on the east side.
He’s paying her rent, and some of her school fees.
To be honest I’d left him alone only because of that.
She’s playing him, and I admire her for it. She talks to her best friend on facebook via private message about him.
They laugh about how much he sweats when they fuck.
She’s dropping him as soon as he graduates.
I wish I could wait for that, but I keep thinking about the sad eyed old man who cleans the johns up on twelve and how he’s losing money to the fattest of fat cats.
A final tap and he’s history.
Monday morning his desk will be ready cleaned and boxed up for him, security will escort him from the building, he’ll lose his own company pension and health care.
I emailed his wife as well.
I hope she kicks him out.
“Are you done yet?”
A clean disk, placed reverently into the into the tray.
A click, and it’s all there.
The pen swipes across the front with my careless scrawl.
Inxs Greatest hits , then it’s pushed into the wallet and tossed under the desk.
I try not to think about how not all the disks are signed with my handwriting.
My body isn’t my own.
Is this my bed?
The sheets are gritty.
I need to wash them… I can’t remember the last time I did.
Why doesn’t he do shit like that for me?
Why doesn’t he do the domestic stuff instead of running around the city all night.
Use my body while I sleep and do my damn laundry.
I feel wrong.
Like I might pull the sheets back and find handprints all over my chest, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if I did.
I wouldn’t know if the prints came from outside though, or whether they were his hands, pressing up from inside me, like some kind of shitty stigmata.
Guess he didn’t feed her.
This isn’t my bed.
This…. Isn’t my bed…
The last thing I remember is walking Flipper.
There’s the taste of ash in my mouth.
When did I last have a cigarette?
These days I mostly I stick to weed, pills... cigarettes aren’t a vice I picked up, not like he did.
He uses my lips, my lungs, he sucks down the smoke carelessly because they're not HIS lungs, he doesn’t have to worry about cancer.
Think, think, think…
Someone’s lying next to me in this bed that isn’t mine.
Silken sheets slide against their body as they turn towards my own, but I can’t move.
I never realized the term frozen with fear was actually literal.
He uses my body.
Walks with my legs, talks with my mouth, see’s with my eyes, pollutes my lungs and now?
... I feel violated.
A hand reaches across my middle and there’s a heavy sigh of sleepy breath on my shoulder, which unfreezes me enough that I can turn my head to look, wide eyed... Bug-eyed Darlene says.
“I can’t believe you finally stayed the night.”
This has happened before?
Of course it has.
How many times has there been a scent lingering on my clothes, quietly familiar, expensive aftershave.
He told me he had it imported from home.
If I look afraid he doesn’t notice, or maybe my panic is simply kept locked up inside me.
How do I even know that my face is doing what I expect it to?
Maybe Mr robot is right now smiling for me.
My voice is a whispered croak that may be more a product of chain smoking last night than anything else, but Tyrell is smiling, fondly, and his hand presses to my face as he sighs…
Chapter 2: mixed metaphors
....... I’m freaking the fuck out.
It’s not even so much that I’m here, in Bed with Tyrell… it’s the violating feeling of losing all that time.
It’s morning, and the last memory I have is of walking Flipper, just after five.
I know that was the time because the news was on the TV’s as I walked past the store.
It wasn’t dark, not close.
I’ve lost fifteen, sixteen hours at least.
I didn’t lose them.
They were stolen.
“Are you here?”
Tyrell's smile shifts to something more confused.
He laughs but there’s a nervous edge to it, and I wonder if he’s seen me like this before, on the verge of freaking out, of flipping violently, certainly there’s a wariness in his eyes.
I’m out of bed and on my feet before he can say anything else, stumbling about, trying to find the bathroom.
I can’t just leave, I have to straighten this out in my head, I have to calm down.
Anyway, I’m naked.
Even now with my heart pounding so loud that I can hear it in my head, I know that running out into the street bareass is never the smart move to make.
He’s calling my name while I throw open doors, and at last, I find it. A bathroom as sleek and clean as an operating theater, windowless, brightly lit, and I thumb the lock and press my back to the cool lacquered wood of the door.
“Elliot…. Elliot… What are you doing? Come out…. Elliot was it something I did?”
His knocking on the door sends vibrations through the back of my skull, and I want to be sick, bile rising in theback of my throat, so I push away towards the sink, running the cold water hard and splashing my face, as stinging as a slap.
I’m freaking out, I’m freaking out, ohgod…. Ohgodohgodohgod….
He puts an arm around me, and it’s so real.
HIs jacket scratchy against my bare skin.
He smells like cheap body spray and cigarettes and in my mind I know he doesn’t, that he's not really here, but it’s hard to argue when the evidence is so compelling.
“What did you do?... What are you doing to me?”
My voice cracks and croaks because I'm afraid.
Why am I always afraid.
“I’ll fix this Elliot… Don’t I always fix things?”
He smiles at me, wide and pally, and although it should be paternal it doesn’t feel it. Of course not.
He’s not my father after all.
Just wears his face.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright?”
There’s that lurch again.
Like someone picked me up and threw me down hard, like the tipping point at the apex of a roller coaster, my stomachs left behind, like falling backwards out a window... and I’m standing on the sidewalk in front of my building, gawping at Tyrell as he smiles at me from the back of his car.
“Elliot? Did you hear me?”
He doesn’t seem alarmed anymore, just softly concerned, and I'm not sure which of these emotions should be more frightening to me right now.
I manage a smile, just with the side of my mouth, but it seems to be enough for him.
“I have to go.”
I don’t wait for him to answer, just turn and jog up the steps to the door.
I need to get inside.
I need to be safe.
Routine is comfort.
I’m trying to stop the morphine, but it’s a habit, a ritual, not even so much of an addiction as something firm and structured in my life.
Walk the dog.
Pick up her shit.
Fix something to eat.
Take a pill, or two, or three.
Watch something on my laptop that I don’t have to think about.
I’m just going to sit here and space out.
I need to float a while.
“That’s your whole problem kid. When are you going to face up to the fact that you’re simply not as productive as you should be? Why do you think I have to keep intervening?”
“You’re not even here.”
My voice is slow and syrupy, far away even to my own ears.
I don’t even look at him.
“Of course I’m here! How can I not be? I’m the only part of us keeping you alive right now… God Dammit Elliot!”
He’s angry, and somehow that makes me glad, like I can step back and really look at him as something separate.
“Why was I at Tyrells?”
That silences him, and for a moment I think he may have left, for now at least, and I close my eyes, watching the tiny starbursts behind my lids, a sitcom playing softly in the background, laugh track, fake jollity prompting the viewer to react to someone else's idea of humor.
The couch dips next to me as he sighs.
“I thought it would be good for us.”
I look across at him.
My father but not.
It’s hard for me to remember him sometimes, like I’ve twisted him into some kind of parody.
Darlene's version of him isn’t the same as mine.
I have to keep reminding myself that.
My father is dead.
My father was a mild man who smiled frequently and did his best.
So why do I always make him this selfish monster?
It sometimes feels like he’s my son, turning up at my apartment to tell me how badly he fucked up again, and as my son… it’s automatically my fault.
“Good for us how?”
“You know…. To get out there… To remember you’re a human being, not just part of a machine… It’s not healthy to isolate yourself.”
“But it’s healthy to sit on my couch and talk to my dead dad?”
“I didn’t say it was a perfect situation.”
His hands spread as wide as his smile as he chuckles, and I almost smile back.
“It’s you he’s spending time with though… Not me.... You can’t keep doing this. It’s not your body it’s mine.”
“Technically it’s ours … A body is but a vessel Elliot, remember… Just something for the old brain to travel around in… and we’re both up here…”
“I’m not consenting!”
“Yes, you are… WE are… frequently and happily.”
I feel sick, my morphine haze gone now as I stand up, pacing about the room as he watches me like I’m overreacting.
Stop doing that.
I can’t tell which is worse.
The idea that I’m being touched when I don’t know about it, or the very actual reality that Mr Robot is always, always here.
Perhaps before I had this illusion that he was only here when I could see him, but I don’t think that’s the case.
Maybe I can block him out, push him down. I didn’t use to feel like this, I used to feel in control.
Maybe he’s stronger now… Or I’m weaker. But something’s changed.
He’s looking at me now with eyes that look as dead as he should be.
“ He loves you.”
“I don’t even know him.”
“Yeah… You do. He loves you… Sometimes he cries when he says it… I mean, you think we’re crazy? He takes it to a whole new level!”
“How is this amusing to you?”
“Life’s amusing Elliot… Didn’t you get the email? Life’s a grand game of fuck or be fucked and you gotta laugh while you’re doing either or you’ll fall off the board.”
“You’re mixing your metaphors.”
“Eh… Try laughing son… Don’t worry…. I’ll ease you in.”
“Ease me into what?”
But he’s gone, like he was never there.
The couch cushions undisturbed, no scent of cheap aftershave, no lingering cigarette smell, his jacket still hung neatly in my closet.
“Ease me into what!!”
My voice cracks as I shout, but the only other living thing here is Flipper.
And she doesn’t know what Mr robot meant either.
Chapter 3: Baser instincts
I get a little satisfaction in knowing I'm the reason why...
They escorted him from his desk today.
Shiny face mottled, eyes red and swollen, and I wondered if he’d cried alone on the bathroom, or if he’d broken down in front of them all.
I hope it’s the latter.
I hope the staff he used to belittle saw it and rejoiced.
I hope the girl who had to endure his gross locker room bile and slaps to her ass, videoed his toddler like tears to share online and add to his humiliation.
Perhaps I sound bitter, but I’m not.
I just hate bullies.
I hate how the higher up the ladder we go the more we forget about being essentially good people.
Maybe I just hate people.
Or at least, what money and power have a tendency to do to us.
Maybe I just wish the disease of progress could regress to a point where everyone just treats others like they fucking matter.
There it is again.
Flashes of memory.
Not my memory, but his.
It’s fragmented, like memories of early childhood.
You know how you might smell a certain brand of paper and suddenly you’re three again and sitting at the dining room table with your legs swinging back and forth as you carefully cut out shapes with your tiny safety scissor?
Or how sometimes the light might move through the trees and the sun mottles down on your face and you remember that day in the park where you pet a dog and went on the slide and life was pretty amazing.
That’s how they come.
I’m stood at the coffee machine and the water’s running over fresh grinds and it's there.... The feeling of hands sliding around my waist from behind, of weight pressing against me, and it’s so vivid I turn quickly, staring at the guy behind me who looks up from his phone, startled by me.
I’m making my bed up (washed those sheets in the end) and I run my hand over the bottom one to smooth it, and the feeling is so good, so silky, that I lean down to press my face against it and there’s that weight again, hands and breath and this time I close my eyes and let it come… But of course, it doesn’t.
Like trying to chase a dream when you wake up, the more you try, the further away it seems.
“Admit it… You’re curious…”
He hasn’t been around for a few days.
I won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that I kind of missed him.
It’s a lie and we both know it.
“There’s no harm in being curious kid… Curiosity is the cornerstone of evolution… Curiosity gave us fire and electricity and Spanx…”
“I don’t want a relationship with him… I don’t want a relationship with anyone…”
“Perhaps… Perhaps… But that doesn’t mean you don’t NEED one…”
“This is emotional rape!... For all I know it’s physical too… ”
He’s not talking, but he doesn’t have to.
I know the answer.
“... Overreacting? I’m not overreacting! You’re spending more time as me than I am!”
But of course, he isn’t.
I’m there as well, and the doubt starts to creep in around the edges… Is this his body? Or mine?
And If it is, does this mean I’m the voice in his head? That the weird lose of time is his,not mine after all…
He’s right of course.
I know it… You know it...
The loneliness is always there, and I did my best to chase it away with pills and therapy, with work and hacks and ultimately all that happens is I find myself here, pressed into the smallest space in my apartment I can find, sobbing like my heart is breaking, like a small child who doesn’t even know why they're so upset, they only know that the gnawing ache in their chest demands an outlet.
The dog doesn’t even come over anymore.
She’s used to it and lays on her bed sleeping while I weep hard enough that I nearly vomit into my hands.
She’s not a great companion if I’m honest.
We’re like casual roommates.
I’m not in my bed, I’m in Tyrells.
Mr Robot has picked this moment to let me see, to let me rise up to the surface of consciousness, and I’m breathing hard, my whole body flooded with that peaceful, bone heavy feeling of satisfaction, tiny beads of perspiration cooling along my hairline, and he’s lying heavy and warm over me with his lips pressed to my neck, a mixture of kisses and panting and stinnging half bites.
He’s murmuring over and over…
“ Elliot… Elliot…”
And then I’m fully aware and panic’s rising in my chest at what's happening, what's happened!
I raise my hands from Tyrells back, fingers shaking... Then I see him just to the side, smiling as he pulls his cap low over his eyes.
“Go back to sleep kid…”
I’m wrenched from sleep and in my own bed, hands slapping at the covers to make sure I’m alone.
Perhaps it was a dream.
It could have been a dream.
Do I still have the capacity to dream? Or are my dreams simply glimpses into Mr Robots life.
The sheets are clammy when I lay back down, and my hands smell like salt when I bring them up to my face, rubbing them across my skin before letting them fall back with a sigh.
Everything’s confusing, even sleeping confuses me now.
However, I’ve woken up with a yearning to replicate that feeling of peace I dreamed of, so, you know what I’m going to do.
Everyone does… Perhaps I don't as much as some, but then, life seems to get in the way it seems, even of baser actions.
It’s probably a good thing that breathing is automatic, or I’d never get around to doing that either.
Cocks are tactile. You just want to touch them.
Did you ever notice that?
They start out soft and warm, and the more you touch, the harder and hotter they get, like smooth wood wrapped in silk.
Mines no different, a simple connection of thoughts and stimulation, and the body’s pushing as much blood as it can into one place until the ache is so much that it demands your attention.
Or mine in this case.
I press one hand to my face as my other strokes rhythmically.
I got this down to a pat.
Don’t we all have by fourteen or so?
There’s that thing again.
The closer I get, the more my mind seems to go back to my dream, tries to imagine the moments before, the moment before the end, the moment where the ache and swell was almost too much to bear and a hand worked along my cock and teeth nipped at my neck and hips pressed hard to the back of my thighs and...
I probably shouldn’t have changed the sheets.
It’s there though. That feeling I can only seem to replicate with morphine because jacking off for twenty hours a day probably isn’t a healthy way to live. I’m heavy and floating, my brain too busy dealing with the last bursts of pleasure from their respective receptors that it can’t think about anything else.
I needed that.
Annoying though, I also need to piss now.
Does your body betray you like that too?
Every damn time.
I don’t know how long I’ve been standing in front of the mirror.
I haven’t lost time, I’ve been here the whole time, I know I have.
I just can’t stop staring at my reflection…
… And the mouth sized bruises that run up along my throat.
Chapter 4: Dress code
It’s amazing how much the machine will let you deviate if you’re spectacularly good at your job.
If you’re the exception to the rule....
No one is indispensable, it’s ridiculous to think that you could be… I’m good, but there are people out there just as good, maybe even better at what I do than I am.
But they don’t work here, so, for now, I’m safe to be lax about the corporate dress code, to not show up for work two or three days a month.
They know that I more than make up for any lost work hours, it’s not mentioned anymore.
Sometimes my boss might take me to one side, give me that curiously nervous smile he does when he’s feeling awkward… Like the teacher who wants to be seen as cool by the kids, he pearches on the edge of his desk in a parody of laidback-ness… 'Hey.. I’m not like those other teachers, right? Call me Bob…'
It’s a pathetic display, an adult so desperate for validation, trying to make up for being the unpopular kid in school by being the cool teacher, by wanting the approval of fifteen-year-olds who think that at the age of twenty-eight, Bob is unfathomably ancient.
What was I talking about?
So he’ll take me to one side and smile like he’s afraid of me, trying to hold my gaze and talk in the firm but friendly way he was shown on that team building seminar he went to last year in Boston.
He’ll suggest that maybe I might wear a tie, or at least ditch the hoodie.
He’ll remind me that he’s mentioned it before, then he’ll laugh.
(I’m not like those other bosses… I’m the cool boss… Call me Gideon.. )
I’ll nod, and pull my hood down, showing willing, but not taking it off, and he’ll just smile and nod back, maybe touch my upper arm….And I’ll do my best not to pull away…. Then he’ll nod again.
‘Good job Elliot, great talk…’
Did I mention I like my job?
When I’m left alone I find a kind of peace in the mundane aspects of it.
I see the people around me, frowning and struggling with their own tasks, and I know I could take on every project in the room and be finished by five.
Work is almost like downtime, it’s minimal effort and it pays the bills.
“Did you hear me?”
How long has she been talking?
Angela touches my shoulder and I flinch hard.
It’s an automatic response, she knows it, but her eyes still take on that wide kicked puppy look, her mouth still turns down as though I hurt her feelings on purpose.
She shakes her head and half smiles to show me it doesn't matter, but of course, it does.
“The tech security team from E corp’s here… Gideon wants you in the room…”
She’s holding out a clip on tie and smiling indulgently.
“Just for an hour…”
And that’s how I meet Tyrell.
Usually when I’m made to sit in on a meeting, I tend to focus on the cup of coffee in front of me, that way I don’t space out too much and can answer whatever they ask, but this time I keep getting that prickly primal feeling across my skin, and every time I look up, he’s watching me.
He’s blatant in the strength of his gaze.
Normally if you look up and catch someone staring at you, they look away.
Everyone does, it’s like a built in response unless you know the person intimately.
Tyrell doesn’t look away, he smiles… And I wonder if that particular built in response is broken in him, like there are parts of my brain that are broken too.
I look away, but I know he doesn't.
Even when he’s speaking to the room, he’s looking at me.
“I’ve heard remarkable things about you Mr Alderson.”
He’s caught me by the coffee machine an hour later, surprising me because I thought they’d all gone straight after the meeting ended.
I just nod.
I’m sure he has, but I’m not sure what the correct response to such a statement would be.
“I’m Tyrell… Tyrell Wellick… I’m vice president of technology at E Corp…”
I know all this already, I’m not sure why he feels the need to reiterate.
He puts out his hand but I don’t shake it .
Tyrell does that laugh that people use when you don’t conduct yourself in the desired way, the one that makes you feel like what they really want to do is make you react properly.
He slowly lowers his hand.
What are my first impressions?
He’s worked hard to lose his accent, to the point that it’s hard to pinpoint.
I bet people wonder if he’s South African, or German, but his inflection is American, making it difficult to hear the Swedish roll under his vowels.
But it’s there.
I also think he models himself on Patrick Bateman.
He has a clean, well groomed look about his face, he looks like he works out most days. Probably running.
I don’t know.
I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally worked out since I was able to drop gym class in school.
“Do I know you? I mean… have we met before?”
There’s that lurch in my stomach.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“I’m sure we have… I never forget a face. Perhaps in a bar?”
He points at me when he says that, a little close, making me blink and turn my head just a fraction, hoping he didn’t notice.
“I don’t go out.” It's the truth, even if he doesn’t believe me. “Excuse me...”
Perhaps it was an error on my part to not read more into that.
I suppose I simply thought he'd mistaken me for someone else.
Why would I think otherwise?
I don’t forget a face either.
I would have remembered him.
He would have stood out.
I don’t want to tell you why he would have stood out to me.
Dreams that aren’t dreams.
I’m getting used to them now.
I’m lying on my stomach and the sheets smell like perfume.
Maybe his wife had slept there earlier, or maybe his housekeeper just uses an expensive brand of laundry soap.
My heads turned to the side and he’s laying heavy over me, pinning me down against the bed, his fingers sliding into my mouth like he’s fucking it, and my lips close around them like an automatic suckling response.
Humans are designed to be orally fixated.
His breath’s hot and ragged against the back of my head, his erection pressed firmly against the back of my thigh.
That shocks me a little because I can’t remember ever having a dream like this, where I can feel my own arousal so keenly, feel every throb and ache in my gut as Tyrell grinds slowly against my skin, pressing my cock under me so I’m dry humping his mattress, and all I can think is that he’s going to make me come like this, that I’m going to mess up his expensive smelling sheets.
I wake up with my cock in my hand and the ghost of a hard moan on my tongue as my semen starts to cool on my stomach… and maybe, this time, I’m almost disappointed that I woke up.
I have a problem here that our in house team are struggling with.
I need the best and I know that’s you.
Gideon already okayed it.
I expect you in my office ten AM tomorrow.
(VP Technology. E. Corp)
Technically, I haven’t actually seen Tyrell since the meeting, and that was four months ago, so I’m surprised to open my works email and find this.
“Look at him!… Making it sound all professional and shit.”
Mr Robot’s the only person who can put a hand on my shoulder without my skin wanting to crawl away, but I still shiver, staring at the screen as he laughs richly in my ear, like the world just played the greatest joke on me, even though he’s the only one who finds it funny.
" Are you ready to walk into the bowels of Evil Corp?"
He whispers against my ear as I stare at my screen.
Maybe I can finally find out if any of this is real...
The question is though… Do I want it to be?
Chapter 5: Pavlovian
I’m glad you decided to walk with me.
Only a short one, but still, it’s nice to have the company.
I wonder if there’s a module you take when working towards your architecture degree, maybe one called ‘how to make sure a building is as intimidating and phallic as possible’.
Whoever drew up the plans for Evil Corps head office won that particular prize.
It may not be the biggest building in the city, but it’s the most impressive.
As the saying goes, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it…
Or some shit.
The base of the structure is curved in places, no doubt to give the appearance of an organic space… A friendly face for the building, and maybe it makes some people feel better about walking through the doors, but it only reminds me of those weird fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, monsters that dangle pretty lures in front of their jaws to pull unsuspecting prey inside.
Every single one of the women behind the reception desk could be a model.
Perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect makeup, they all look the same height and build, like there's a lab in the back of the building quietly growing them to rotate some time during next quarter.
I didn’t catch what floor she said.
I’ll take my visitor's pass and try to smile anyway.
Come with me a little further. Ok?
There’s nothing so tacky as elevator music, and this one, as I imagine all the others do, has a built in flat screen instead, showing rolling financial news, some network, some in-house. Imagine being so arrogant as to produce your own show purely to tell your employees how much money you shit out this week.
Does anyone watch it?
Probably not outside the few minutes of time stolen from them as they ride to their desired floor.
….. I think we’re on the wrong floor.
There are no offices up here, only rows of treadmills and stationary bikes.
A company gym for those too busy to leave the office to work out.
It’s pretty empty right now, but I imagine it’ll be full at lunchtime, executives running miles instead of eating.
No weights here.
Maybe stamina is more important than brute strength in the financial world. The ability to last out, to keep going.
“Can I help you?”
The guy’s wearing a polo shirt and shorts, his shoes are as white as his smile, but his eyes are looking me over and deducing that I don’t belong here.
Not in this gym, maybe not even in this building.
“Sorry… I have an appointment with Mr Wellick, I think I’m on the wrong floor.”
“Oh, you sure are! I’ll help you get there sir...”
His smile’s more genuine now.
He knows he won’t have to deal with me.
I’m not his problem.
He’s walking me to the elevator rather than just telling me what floor.
I don’t belong here in this country club setting with its lean smiling staff wearing matching pastels.
More screens, more rolling news.
I feel almost sorry for them.
He leans in as he gets to the elevator, pressing the correct floor for me as if he doesn’t trust me to do it myself.
Maybe he’s right not to.
It’s already ten past ten and the urge to just press the lobby button is tempting.
“You came this far.”
Mr Robot’s hand is on my wrist as I reach forward to press the button.
“I didn’t raise you to run out on meetings and promises.”
“You didn’t raise me at all…”
Sometimes I want to punch that stupid smile off his face.
I wonder if I did, would I find myself bruised when I looked in the mirror?
“Who’s he seeing today?... You? Or me?... Am I going to walk in there and then blink and be back home?”
He’s not answering me, just gripping my wrist like I’m an errant toddler that might dash off and into the street if he doesn’t.
“You… For as long as you want.”
I frown at him, but before I can say anything, the doors are opening and he’s gone.
I’m fifteen minutes late but he still has me sit out in the waiting room.
I’m offered coffee, but my knees already bouncing and I decline.
They don’t offer me anything else.
The clock says ten thirty when his door opens, four grim-faced suits leaving, one looks like he might cry.
The idea both intrigues and repulses me.
Wellick follows them, stopping in the doorway with his hands in his pockets, smiling, and then he see’s me and his smile shifts to something closer to delight, I’m I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.
“Elliot! I’m so sorry to keep you waiting! Were you offered coffee? Monica, did you offer Mr Alderson coffee?”
I nod before she can say anything, she looks a little stunned at his demeanor.
“She did… Thank you…”
“Good!... Good!... Ok then!”
He looks like he might actually bounce on his toes a little, like a small boy who’s been waiting for what feels like forever to get his treat.
Am I a treat?
Perhaps I need to choose my metaphors more carefully.
Tyrells office is all glass and metal.
The only deviation from that is the desk. Large and hulking, dark hardwood, it seems out of place.
Just like it doesn’t belong here, like you feel as if you can’t quite work out how it got here at all.
He imported it from Denmark.
I was his father in laws.
How do I know that?
He walks over to the large floor to ceiling window and beckons me, waiting until I’m standing next to him before speaking.
“You know… Every year my views get a little higher, a little better.”
His smile is a mixture of self-importance and wonder, his gaze almost glazing as he looks out over the city.
He hasn’t spent long with views of some building across the street, he’s nearly at the top of the crows nest now, able to look straight across as far as the smog allows today.
“It’s a good view.”
I’m adding nothing to the conversation again.
It’s like my superpower.
The ability to simply echo whatever’s said to me.
When he turns to look at me I pretend not to notice.
He’s closer though. Close enough that I can smell his aftershave.
Like the desk.
Like he is.
I wonder what else he imports.
If his disdain for his adopted country is so much that he feels the need to surround himself with these foreign things.
“You said there was a problem?”
I try to sound level and calm, but my words feel like treacle on my tongue, they come out sticky and heavy to my ears at least.
“ Yes, I did.”
The silence sits between us for what seems like an hour but was probably only seconds.
You know how I am with time.
“I know you said I should always just wait for you to call but… I needed to see you.”
When I turn my head his smile is gone, and in its place is an almost beseeching gaze like he’s afraid I might get angry.
I wouldn’t, but, Mr Robot might.
It’s strange though to see this tiny flash of vulnerability in him.
“I don’t understand…”
He smiles like I said something profound, like I’m sending him hidden messages and making it alright for him, but that only makes me nervous.
He moves closer and my shoulders stiffen, not just because he’s too close, but because my brains doing that Pavlovian thing. His aftershave making my whole body pay attention, the dog cocking its head with a whine and drooling because something tasty is coming.
I really need to work on my metaphors.
Or maybe they’re apt given the circumstances.
He goes to touch me, but draws back his hand before I can flinch away.
“Sorry… I forget sometimes… The touching thing… But you know I’m always patient. I’m ok waiting.”
“Waiting for what?”
Why would he know that?
Why would he know that I have issues with space, with touch.
He hasn’t been with me, he’s been with Mr Robot, who doesn’t give a shit about personal space. So why is he acting like this is a well established thing between us?
He looks up eagerly as I say his name, and I think maybe I'm not the only dog in here trained to the bell.
“You don’t know me.”
His smile slips when I say that, slowly, like someone pulled a string and drew his eyes and mouth down while I watched.
“I don’t understand.”
It’s his turn to be confused now, but I plow on, needing to know.
“When was the last time you saw me?”
“Two days ago… Why are you asking?”
His eyes dart, left, right, across my face, as if he’s trying to work out if this is some kind of test.
He doesn’t realize that I’m more lost than he is.
“You don’t know me... You think you do… But you don’t…”
“You always say that.”
He’s smiling again, like he’s back on familiar territory, just another weird Elliot blip, and I wonder how many times I’ve been me without remembering…
“I have to go soon… I have to get back to work.”
There’s no security problem here. Of course, there isn’t.
Why did I even bother to pretend there was.
He just wanted me to come up to his office.
“You came all this way… Stay a little longer…”
There’s a pleading tone to his voice, something small and desperate that’s at odds with his outward persona, and I wonder how open he’s been with me.
With Mr Robot.
I don’t know him.
I. Don’t. Know. Him.
All I have is fragmented dreamlike memories.
Theoretically, this is the most I’ve ever spoken to him, but he’s talking to me like we’re old hands at private conversations.
“You don’t have to go yet.”
Mr Robot's at my ear.
“I don’t have to go yet.”
Tyrells practically beaming at me.
“You can stay a little longer.”
“I can stay a little longer.”
He comes closer, and I’m turning towards him, like hands are moving my shoulders firmly. Like I’m being arranged.
“He has your permission.”
“...... You have my permission.”
His eyes shimmer slightly as if he might actually cry, and I remember Mr Robot laughing about it, about how emotional Tyrell gets, but I don't find it funny.
I’m rooted to the spot and I'm not sure if it’s fear or if he’s making me stay still because when Tyrell places a hand against my cheek, I let him.
Only...I don’t know if it’s me letting him, or if I’m being made to stand here.
His other hand Moves to the back of my neck, and my skin prickles a moment before flushing warm under his palms, heat working its way along my cheeks.
I can’t remember the last time I was this close to anyone without wanting to lash out.
Even if I’m being made to stand still, I don’t feel that usual build of panic in my chest at his proximity.
He sighs my name like all he needed to say was right there in three syllables.
“You know how much this means to me… You know I’ll always wait when you ask me to… Although it’s hard not to touch you…”
His forehead drops to press against mine, and my tongue creeps to lick nervously at my lips because his breath is sighed close enough that I feel it on my skin, and then his head tilts just slightly, and his mouth is pressed to mine.
Kissing is a curious thing.
On the one hand, it’s the quickest way to get medley of minor ailments. Colds, viruses, that nasty part of the herpes family that breaks your skin out in canker sores around your mouth, and yet… We still want to do it.
We still want to press lips to lips, tongue to tongue, swap saliva.
It’s gross, but then, humans are gross.
We pretend we’re not, but we all are.
Tyrell kisses me like I might break, or maybe like I might pull away quickly. He approaches the whole thing like he’s trying to handle a skittish animal, soft and slow, and it works, it calms me, it makes the panicking squirm in my chest slow, slow, slower.
Yes, I’m kissing him back.
I’m pressing into each kiss as he grows bolder, makes it a little harder, and his hand on the back of my neck becomes firmer, and…
I’m glad you came.
The button for the lobby’s lit up, and my stomachs doing that sinking thing it does when you ride an elevator from the top of a high building straight down to the ground floor.
I’ll email Tyrell.
Tell him I couldn’t make the meeting.
To be honest, and I’m always honest with you, I was too afraid to go.
The last person to ride this elevator must have been heavy handed with their cologne because I can smell it every time I move.
It’s a nice smell though.
Makes me feel like smiling.
Strange, isn’t it?
Chapter 6: Breaking the routine
Nothing in my head makes sense anymore.
I feel like my memories were saved, but the files aren't named correctly anymore, like someone went back and pulled them all out of chronological order.
Where am I?
Is this now?
A month ago?
I honestly can’t keep up.
“Asshole… Come on… We’re going out…”
Darlene’s a force of nature.
You can’t argue with her any more than you can argue with a hurricane or tsunami.
It’s better to just steel yourself and go along with it.
Every few weeks she does this, like a chore she has pinned on her phone to remind her, take out your brother, make him walk in the world, face his fears, be around people.
I hate it, I can’t think that she gets any pleasure out of it either.
I go anyway.
We’ll eat somewhere, end up in a bar, then she’ll inevitably see someone she knows and we’ll both pretend we’re having fun, just the two of us, but gradually she’ll drift one way and I’ll drift another, and that will be another chore ticked off her list.
We get Thai, because it’s only a block away from the bar she wants to go to.
I don’t offer any alternative plans so we always go where she wants.
She’s talking to me about something.
I’m a bad brother, I’m not listening.
She knows it though, she’s only trying to fill the silence that stretches between us.
I wish it wasn’t like this.
Why do so many bars have to be a sensory nightmare?
It’s newly opened after a change of owner, but like everyone else, they’ve made it small and hard to move around, every corner seeming to take you back to the bar.
The music’s loud so it’s hard to talk…. And if you can’t talk, you drink…
Everyone’s talking over everybody else.
……. And then I told him he could take his crusty fucking shoe s and….
…..She wants to move ov er to the e ast side and I said… We don’t got that kind of money…
My boss basically makes my life a living hell….. Jesus will you look at the rack on that!.... Can I get another round here!.... Did anyone ever tell you what beautifuleyesyou…. fuckoffcreepandthenjimmyl ikethrew upEVERYWHEREandeveryonefreakedoutand… .
She’s staring at me, and I wonder how many times she’s said my name, only six inches away from my face...
He looks around her and raises his hand, smiling a little in greeting.
I don’t know if I smile back.
Is that weird?
“I think I’m gonna go…”
She doesn’t stop me, but leans over to hug me tight.
I don’t move away, not from Darlene, but I don’t hug her back either, and now h er face is hard, so I don’t know if I’ve upset her or not, and It makes me feel bad that I can’t tell.
I should know, right?
She’s already talking to Cisco as I move away from the bar, and I’d be lying if I said the crush of people wasn’t starting to make me panic a little.
You know how in dreams you’re trying to get somewhere? But the closer you get, the harder you battle, the further away that place is?
This is like that.
I can see the exit, but I keep finding myself moved away from it.
I make a lunge towards a space and go through a door, finding myself in the bathroom, my hands shaking hard, heart hammering.
I just need to take a moment, catch a breath, calm the fuck down.
Don’t think about fires, or earthquakes, or gunmen, or bombs in that overpacked bar on the other side of the door.
Don’t think about it.
Sometimes, when it gets bad like this, Mr Robot comes.
He takes a deep breath for me, he straightens my back, he’d walk me out of here like it was no big deal, push past people rudely blocking his way, give them that good old New Jersey shrug and smile if they scowled at him.
'... Coming through buddy, coming through….'
But tonight he’s abandoned me.
And I hate him a little bit.
My vision blurs behind panicky tears, like an old movie fade out, and I half expect a thrum of harps to follow it, to then blink my vision clear and find myself at home.
Wouldn’t that be perfect.
Instead, the door opens and I realize someone’s come in, so I hastily turn to run my hands over my eyes.
Whoever it is doesn’t immediately head to a stall or urinal, so I run my hands under the cold water and press them to my face a moment, pretending there’s no one else there.
“Are you alright?”
Don’t talk to me. Not now.
His shoes slap smartly against the tile floor, so I’m not surprised, when I glance up at the mirror quickly, to see he’s wearing a suit when he comes to stand next to me, one sink separating us.
“Some idiot knocked their drink over, and now my sleeve smells like a bar towel.”
He’s irritated. I can tell in the way he snaps his jacket off and snatches up some paper towels to dampen, wanting to get the worst off no doubt.
“You didn’t answer me.”
He’s not going to let this go.
And his silence after stretches long enough that it compels me to speak again.
“I just… I get anxiety... in crowded places… Sometimes… so…”
I’m still looking at my hands on the sink.
I don’t know why I told him that.
“That’s not nice… Not nice at all… I’m sorry.”
He has an accent I can’t place. An inflection and cadence that doesn’t sit quite right with his perfect English.
He sighs, shaking out his jacket and slipping it back on.
“The best of a bad job I think… I just hope the dry cleaner can get it all out for me.”
In the mirror I see him turn to face me, watching me.
“I’m leaving. Would you like me to help you through the bar? Trailblaze through the crowd for you so you can get outside?”
When I turn to look at him properly, without the veil of frustrated tears half blinding me, and I find myself looking up into bright blue eyes that crinkled at the edges as he smiles, and I smile back.
How could I not?
“Come on, lets free you from this rat hole.”
He goes to open the bathroom door, then turns back to smile again.
We had met before the meeting.
No wonder he stared at me all the way through it. The way he introduced himself after… Like we were sharing a joke… Only I wasn’t in on it.
I press my hands up over my face and breath deeply, trying to will the rest of the memory back, trying to piece together the lost hours, but of course, there’s nothing there.
I’m not going to work today.
The bed shifts under me as I roll onto my side.
I can’t go to work today.
Tyrell hasn’t answered my email.
Normally if I cancel a meeting and no one replies, I chalk it up to rudeness or laziness.
But Tyrell is neither.
I expected a curt response, perhaps a dressing down for wasting his time, but all I have is silence, and somehow that’s worse, and I don’t understand why I feel almost sick at the thought he might be angry with me.
“You know why…”
“I’m not talking to you.”
Mr Robot perches on the end of my couch as I go through my messages, and sighs dramatically at me.
“You hurt his feelings .”
“Evil Corp doesn’t have feelings.”
“Tyrell isn’t Evil Corp… Don’t be naive…”
I turn and face him again, his way of niggling away at me won’t let me settle to task anyway.
“You have to help me fill in the gaps… I can’t keep doing this… I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.”
“Elliot… I can’t do that… The memories are all there kid… every one of them, all knotted up like Christmas lights in a box. I’m not the one that needs to unpick them.”
I can’t stop crying.
Maybe I should tell Krista about all this.
Maybe I need to up my meds.
Maybe I should actually start taking them.
Walk the dog.
Pick up her shit.
Find something to watch on my laptop….
I stare at the pill bottle, and finally stand up, putting it back on the shelf.
Breaking the routine.
For a moment I stand in the middle of the room, my fingertips tingling, my whole body buzzing like there’s a build-up of energy inside me trying to find a way out.
I have to stop the routine.
Moving over to the computer, I pull up Tyrells private email.
Did you really think I wouldn’t have it?
We need to talk.
The calm high I felt before suddenly drops, and my heart skitters in my chest too fast to be comfortable.
“You can’t stop now.”
Mr Robot drops his hands to my shoulders and squeezes them hard enough to be painful.
“You wanted to know everything… Did you ever stop to think that maybe it was better if you didn’t?”
I don't answer him, and as he goes to speak again, Tyrell messages me back.
I'll come to you.
Be there in thirty minutes.
Chapter 7: Lost patterns
When I feel like this I don’t know why I ever flinch away from touch.
The human body is designed to want it, to crave physical contact.
Affection, and sometimes I feel like that damn monkey PETA found in the lab.
Isolated, eyes sewn shut, no noise, no softness in its world at all.
All I want to do now is touch and be touched.
He’s in my bed, the covers kicked back into a tangle on the floor, his suit is under them, and I wonder for a second how pissed he’ll be after when he realizes what he did.
He puts a lot of thought and effort into looking the way he does, and a wrinkled suit isn’t part of his image.
He didn’t care though.
He was too busy wanting to press his skin against mine to worry about stopping to hang his Jacket up.
That has to mean something, right?
He’s so warm.
His mouth's wet and hungry against mine, as though he might actually devour me, like some kind of insect that fucks and eats its partner, and the weird thing is… I’d be ok with that.
I’d do anything he wanted right now, just so long as we could be like this.
His mouth on my neck now, his hands sliding then grasping at my body, his cock pressed hard against me, pressing.
Krista’s looking at me expectantly and I wonder how patient she’s been, how long she’s waited for me to slide my gaze back to her.
“Where did you go?”
She’s giving me her patent shrink smile that's meant to soothe but only feels condescending, like she’s indulging a child.
The thing is, she’s more of a child herself.
She indulges in young adult literature and movies, like she can't cope with any problem bigger than a teenage love triangle.
Society has molded her like so many women, to be perpetually fourteen in her tastes, and to carry that naivety into adulthood without question
Closer to fifty than forty, and she still gets crushes on twenty-three year old actors on the big screen.
My smile’s as false as hers, and if it were Darlene sat in front of me now, I’d be certain her glare would have bored its way into my brain and seen every detail of what I’d been thinking.
(... His hands. His mouth. His weight. His cock… )
She’s waiting for me to speak, so I throw her a bone.
“I met someone.”
“Really? That’s great.”
She smiles at me like she might want to pat my head, but there’s also a flicker of confusion in her eyes that suggests she’s wondering what kind of desperate person would want to hook up with me.
“Yeah… I really like him.”
If she’s surprised I’m talking about a guy, she doesn’t show it.
I guess it’s the least of her concerns for me.
“Is this a serious someone?”
I think about that, then nod.
“Yes… Yes, I think he is..”
“And what about the rest Elliot… How are you doing? Are you taking your medication again?”
Mine at least, not yours.
“How about the sadness… the crying jags…”
Mostly. It’s been over twenty four hours…
“And Mr Robot?”
“Haven’t seen him for a while.”
The only outright lie I’ve told her.
He’s sitting right next to me.
Tyrell did as he promised, pushing a path through the crowded bar and leading me out onto the street.
It felt like bursting out of one movie an into another.
You remember the part in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and steps from black and white to color?
Just like that.
Everything is clear and bright, the air breathable again, and I take the first deep breath I’ve had in over an hour.
He’s smiling at me again, rubbing his hands together in the brisk night air, and I nod, giving him a half smile back.
“Yeah… thank you…”
I’m embarrassed. Being escorted out of the bathroom by a stranger who found me in the middle of a panic attack.
He waves a hand though, dismissively, as if I voice that out loud.
I didn’t, did I?
I hope not.
“Don’t even mention it. I have a cousin who gets anxious like that… I hope someone might rescue her from a bathroom one day if she needs it… I like to think the universe works that way.”
I nod, pushing my hands into my pockets, not so much because I’m cold, but because I keep wanting to pull my hood up, and I know it would come across as rude.
Angela told me that, how it looks like I’m deliberately shutting someone out, physically cutting them off.
I don’t want to come across as rude to this man.
He doesn’t say anything for a moment, and I start to wonder if I missed an important cue, then he raises his hand to a passing cab, looking at me as it draws up.
“I’m not quite ready to go home… There’s an all-night coffee shop I sometimes go to… Would you like to come?”
I hear the word that slip past my tongue but it doesn’t feel like I said it.
My default answer would have been, 'sorry, I have plans…' But my acceptance was quick and firm.
Don’t do that.
Don’t talk for me.
Especially when I’m still here.
I can’t see him, but I can feel him smile.
No. No, I’m smiling, not Mr Robot.
I nod at Tyrell and get into the cab.
Why do these memories surface like this?
There’s no logical time frame.
I feel like a ball of energy trapped behind glass, knocking off the walls and building momentum, getting faster and faster with each bounce.
Am I remembering things from yesterday? Or three Months ago?
I'm constantly trying to piece the whole thing together, like a jigsaw, only someone keeps moving all the edge pieces and I can’t find the pattern.
Twenty five minutes after his email, Tyrell is stood in my apartment.
He’s neatly dressed and looks as out of place here as his desk does in his office.
I watch him as he looks around, taking in the fact there's only one room and a bathroom, that I sleep five steps away from where I cook and two steps away from where I work from home, and maybe four steps away from where I shit.
If he’s trying not to look a little shocked he’s failing.
“Can I get you anything?”
Automatic host question.
I don’t have anything to offer him besides tap water, so I’m glad when he shakes his head.
“You said you had to talk to me.”
The tone of his voice makes me mentally sit up and pay attention.
He sounds hesitant, almost scared.
I expected him to walk in here and drag me for not attending the meeting, but...
No… Wait… I did.
So, that means…
“Why did you email me to apologize for not making our 10 o’clock on Tuesday?”
It’s a good question, but I’m not sure how to answer it.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
Ok… I’ll just jump straight in there.
Tyrells eyes are overly bright and searching, and I realize he’s emotional, that he’s not so different from me, and perhaps he spent the cab ride over here playing the worst scenarios possible over and over in his head.
My throat’s closing up, so that my next breath catches and makes a soft hitching sound.
“I’m sick… No… Not sick… I’m broken… Not just anxiety, I lose time… I forget things that happened, I get confused… I get scared because I don’t know what’s going on…. I forgot about going to your office… I forgot about nearly every time we got together over the last few weeks… I forgot how we met…”
He’s watching me with an unblinking gaze and I can’t tell if he's more surprised at what I’m saying, or how much I’ve said.
I can’t remember the last time so many words poured out of my mouth.
My voice is a whisper now, because I’m losing him behind frustrated and frightened tears, and anything louder might give them permission to roll down my cheeks.
“I’m scared that you’ll walk away from here and I’ll have forgotten you ever came…”
Why am I doing this?
This isn’t me. I don’t share like this not with anyone.
I tell you everything.
He must have stepped forward, because he’s putting his arms around me, wrapping them firmly around my shoulders and pulling me tight against him.
I don’t pull back, I breath deeply against the softness of his shirt, then it feels like something in my chest snaps, and I’m sobbing.
I only ever do this alone, but now he’s here, and he holds me tighter like he can stop whatever's hurting me through sheer force of will.
Something else blooms through my chest as well. A warm swell of emotion, affection… I don’t want to call it love. I’m too afraid to call it love.
I don’t know him.
But I do.
I know him, I just forgot.
He’s murmuring against the side of my head as I cry. Nonsensical soothings, half rocking me as we stand in the middle of the room.
“It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok… I’m here. I’m here…”
He’s here for me, and I'm terrified I’ll forget this moment, so I inhale hard, wanting to remember the scent of his aftershave, I put my arms around him as well and grip tight so I can recall how warm he feels under my hands, and w hen my sobs dry up to dry hitches, he pulls back a little to look down at me, moving his hands to my face, smiling sadly as he rubs his thumbs gently under my tear dampened eyes.
I stare back.
Funny how holding his gaze doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable.
I can’t even look Darlene or Angela in the eye like this. After a second it feels like ants are crawling around my eyelids, and I have to shift my gaze to the space between their eyes, or their nose, just so I don’t look rude.
But I don’t feel like that when I look at Tyrells eyes.
His gaze makes the world slow, almost to a stop. I can imagine the city noises winding down to a halt.
No sirens, no horns or car noises, no shouting. Even the hum of the electricity around us just…. Stops.
I lean up and press my mouth to his, and I know as he parts his lips to meet mine, that he can taste salt on my tongue, but his hands tighten a fraction on my cheeks as he keeps me there, his breath stuttering like he’s fighting his own emotions, then each sweep of his lips gets deeper and stronger against my own and I feel like we’ve always been together, just parted for too long, he’s like coming home when I never even had anywhere to call home in the first place.
Don’t forget this.
Please don't forget this.
Will you help me remember?
Chapter 8: Hygge
I’ve never been here before.
I doubt I could afford it.
Less Starbucks and more private club, it’s like an underground coffeehouse for those that don’t have a taste for hard drink or drugs, and don’t like loud music.
The hiss of coffee-scented steam chases away the chill of the air.
If I was the kind of person who cared about money, I might wish I had more, just so I could come here again.
It’s quiet, private.
And the coffee’s good.
Better than Rons.
A world away from the coffee they serve at work.
Tyrell’s sat us near the rear of the place, tucked away in a high backed booth, and for a moment it feels like anywhere else but NYC.
Somewhere Europian, Nordic maybe, with soft lighting and comforting smells. I can see why he likes it.
“My wife found this place.” He smiles, glancing up and nodding his thanks to the waitress as she brought our drinks.
“She said it reminded her of home… That it was hygge …”
He nodded as he took a sip of his coffee, his blue eyes darkening as he lowers his gaze to his cup a moment.
“It’s a Danish word… It means…. Ah… Cozy, comforting, warm… Something that’s generally lacking in America.”
He laughs as he says it, to show he’s joking, but I guess we both knew he wasn’t.
This is the part where I’m meant to talk, to make conversation.
“Is your wife Danish then?”
“Yes… She’s not a fan of New York, in fact, she’s heading back to Denmark.”
He must have seen the questioning surprise in my expression, because he laughs a little again, and I’m starting to see that this is how he acts when he’s nervous, he tries to pretend it’s so unimportant that it’s fsimply amusing instead.
Tyrells eyes are watery pools about to overflow, but his smile is wide.
I don’t know who he thinks he’s fooling.
“It’s ok… We simply reached an impasse. She’s not happy here, I’m not going to leave, so we’re separating… Maybe for good. My son will grow up in Denmark, and that’s ok… Better to have two happy parents to shuttle between than to live with two miserable ones.”
I wonder if he’s rehearsed this speech in front of a mirror somewhere. It seems like every word was chosen to lessen the impact on the listener… Or maybe himself.
Either way… I feel bad for him, for his son, maybe even his wife.
“I’m sorry… That sucks…”
He looks a little surprised, as if I didn’t quite answer with the script I was meant to, and then he laughed, properly this time, his eyes creasing in the corners.
“Yes… Yes it really does… But, for the best… hmm.”
He sits back a little, framed by the swollen burgundy leather that lines the booths to a good twelve inches or so above his head, and I look at him, like he’s a painting, like I never looked at anyone else before.
I don’t search for potential partners.
I understand most people do, if they’re single, they wander around bars and clubs, one eye on the watch for potential mates, or just a quick fuck, and I never understood it.
Darlene would nudge me with a sharp elbow and indicate with her head.
“She’s totally checking you out…” O r, “Dude… That guy was trying to buy you a drink! What are you doing!?”
It’s happened more often than it hasn’t.
My point was, I don’t look... People happen… hookups, happen… But I don’t look for them.
I was looking at Tyrell though.
For the first time, I was taking in every pointer that I could about him.
I wanted to remember how his hair was half falling waywardly away from the side of his head after a long day, how the colour of his eyes reminded me of lying on my back on the top of the tallest building I could find to look at the summer sky darkening at dusk, the quick easy way he smiled.
But I also wanted to remember the other things.
The quick emotion, the masking, the mental script he carried for each situation.
I do that too.
But he does it better.
“He works for Evil Corp…”
“Is that a problem?”
Krista's watching me as I look everywhere I can but at her steady gaze, and I shrug, pretending it’s not a big deal.
“I don’t know… It kind of feels like it should be.”
She’s doing the silent thing again, the one where she patiently waits for me to realize I’m meant to carry on.
“Evil Corp represents everything I hate about the world… It’s the epitome of capitalist greed and corruption, and he works for them, so….”
I keep it simple, simplistic… And I know I sound childish, but I’m only talking down to her without her realizing.
I also don’t tell her just how high up the corporate ladder he is… better to imply he’s just a tech like me.
“Perhaps you’re looking at it the wrong way Elliot, perhaps you need to think of it in terms of Montagues and Capulets…”
She smiles at me like an indulgent aunt and all I think is, there she goes again with her oversimplified romantic notions.
Those star-crossed lovers ended up killing themselves… I’m not sure that’s the angle I’m looking for…
“Are you fitting this together yet?”
“Yes… I think so.”
“See… I didn’t lie to you… I didn’t make you do anything….”
Mr Robot looks triumphant.
I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of being right.
“Everything’s going to plan.”
“What do you mean?”
He’s not there of course.
When is he ever really?
Tyrell is kissing his way across my cheeks, tasting where my tears had rolled earlier, almost paternally, like kissing away a bruise or knee scrape, trying to make it better, he does the same with my salty skin.
The careful way he kisses though is at odds with the way his hands move over me, pulling at my shirt, moving back a fraction to drag it over my head.
He likes to move me around, put me how he wants, but that’s ok… I like that. Knowing where I should be, what he wants, it’s freeing… It lets me settle right into the moment instead of worrying about what I should be doing in a few minutes.
I guess that might sound like I’m into some freakier shit, like in the next breath I’m gonna tell you how he likes leading me around in a collar or tying me up and beating me with electrical cable.
Sorry to disappoint.
I just like knowing where I stand.
I just like someone being honest and clear.
Don’t you think it’s kind of sad that your mind automatically decided we were up to some master/slave shit?
Shame on you friend.
I’m only kidding.
I’m working on my sense of humor, only….
I don’t want to be funny anymore, because his mouth is on my neck, my chest, moving down my body with hot firm kisses, skinking to his knees before me as he snaps his jacket off, pulls at his tie, his hair disheveled as he drags it over his head quickly before grabbing my hips and pressing his mouth to my stomach.
For a moment I don’t know what to do with my hands, they hover about waist height as I look down at him, my jaw slack, pushing forwards into his wet, breathless kisses across my stomach, mouthing over to my hip, making me shiver.
He’s at his best like this, a duality to him he only seems to let out when we’re alone, he’s on his knees before me, his pose revenant, almost submissive, but his fingers dig hard into my skin, his mouth alternates between kisses and bites.
He might worship me, but he’s in control.
To Tyrell I’m a modern God.
My divinity only exist when he wants to pray.
His fingers work at my fly, and I tip my head back, closing my eyes, swaying a little on my feet, glad his hands are on me, holding me steady.
I like the dark.
It feels like I’m floating, the only solid things around the void are Tyrells hands, then his mouth, and h is mouth coaxes a drawn-out moan from mine, his hands hold my hips firmly as I sway again.
Why can’t they bottle this feeling?
Condense it into powder and pills.
No one would ever feel sad or hopeless again.
My hands finally drop to push through his hair, curling my fingers as his mouth moves up and down my length, slowly, slowly, his hands moving up my back then down to grab my ass, making me thrust forwards.
My voice cracks and I swallow hard as he pulls off me, lips still working at my tip as I look down at him at last.
His mouth is too clever by far for me to last long.
Shit but I wish I could.
He’s still teasing at me, watching my face as I nearly cave, nearly press my hand to the back of his head and fuck his mouth… But I want more.
He always makes me want more.
Everyone has tiny absences of time.
It’s not unusual.
I can’t remember how we both got undressed, we just were.
I can’t remember how we got to the bed.
I can’t remember who put Flipper in the bathroom, her habit of jumping up on the bed at the worst time means the bathroom becomes doggy jail from time to time.
What I can remember was what Tyrells mouth tasted like as he kissed me harder, what his fingertips felt like as they ran across my skin, how he moved me over him, grabbing at my ass as he ground up against me and I pushed down along him.
And he kissed and kissed, and kissed.
The only time he stopped kissing me was the moment I sank down on him, eyes closed, mouth open as I sat over his hips, curling my fingers against his chest while his hands stroked long, slow paths up my thighs, past my hips, up along my sides and back again, but once I started to move, he was pulling me down, his kisses matching his thrusts.
Do you ever lose yourself?
Do you ever feel like you could step back and watch what you’re doing from another part of the room?
Everyone can do that, perhaps I can do it better than most.
That’s not what I’m talking about though.
What I mean is, do you ever find yourself turning inwards?
I can feel... Everything.
The tiny hairs on his body pressing up against mine, I can feel his pores opening to cool his rapidly warming body down, I can feel the vibration of his blood through his veins, and the quickening bass beat of his heart as it speeds up.
Maybe it’s mine.
He’s got one hand on my hips, the other pushed between us to grab my cock, and he doesn’t have to stroke me, I’m thrusting myself into his grasp with every movement of my hips over his.
I’m fucking myself.
I can’t talk, I can’t even kiss. His mouth is working at my slack lower lip and as I come, whimpering into a whined groan, he kisses me harder, digging his fingers into my hip as he thrusts up, chasing his own finish.
I can taste his arousal, like some hormonal surge in his body changes the quality of his breath, and as he vocalizes his own release I find myself again, grinding my hips firmly down, kissing him hard enough to muffle his groans, and then his hands are on my face, short breathless kisses to my skin as he still throbs inside me.
He whispered almost feverishly, and maybe he is, he feels hot enough against my skin, a nd then he’s telling me he loves me, and I can’t answer him.
... I can’t.
I want to, but there’s still that doubt, that feeling I don’t know everything, that I can’t use the data I have to make that kind of decision, so I kiss the words from his lips, keep kissing until he stops saying it .
When I wake up, Flippers barking, and it takes me a moment to realize she’s in the bathroom.
She must have shut herself in.
I bet she shit in there as well.
My sheets are pushed to a haphazard pile at the end of the bed. I haven’t done that for a while.
Maybe my dreams were hard enough last night for me to kick them off.
“Good morning, good morning… It’s another beautiful day…”
Mr Robot can suck a dick… It’s too early for this shit.
“I gotta walk the dog.”
I’m pulling on my shirt, then looking around for my jeans.
What the fuck was I doing when I got undressed last night?
My damn shoes are stuck inside my pants.
“So walk your dog… We got a busy day ahead of us kiddo….”
My stomach drops when he says that, and I wish I felt like I’d got enough sleep last night and hadn’t spent it all running in my damn sleep.
I wish I remembered my dreams.
Do you remember yours?.
Chapter 9: Fractured
The tiny speck of normality in my life.
I’ve known her nearly twenty years.
Brought together by tragedy, friendship cemented through heartache and a longing for a justice we always knew was just a pipe dream.
We have absolutely nothing in common but our desire for our innocence back.
She finds me flakey, annoying in my inability to do something as simple as keep a dinner date, I find her vapid and shallow.
Her heart is outwardly kind, but there’s an inner ring of steel to it, protecting it, and it makes her hard.
We’re going to lunch.
Or rather, She’s going to lunch and managed to arrange it so I was going the same way and now… I’m going to lunch as well.
I could have loved her.
I think she could have loved me.
Perhaps it’s only shared misery and the resulting crappy childhood that give us both this false sense of intimacy, this feeling that we could have been more, but I’m not sure healthy relationships can flourish in that kind of dank, temperamental atmosphere.
Angela’s pretty in the way that lilies are pretty.
Tall and slender, pale and delicate, but ultimately poisonous.
I love her, but she’s rotten on the inside, and I can’t save her any more than she can save me.
Do you smell that?
I’ve slowed my stride, my head turning automatically, and Angela's half a dozen stride ahead and still talking to me before she realizes I’ve stopped.
(... His hands. His mouth. His weight. His cock… )
I shake my head, not in answer to her questioning tone, but to clear it.
I’m standing in front of a coffee shop called ‘Kaffebar en’, and as the door opens to let out a beautifully manicured woman clutching a cup of coffee, the aroma of roasted beans and pastries slips onto the street, and I feel like my worlds closing in around the edges of my vision.
“Have we ever been in here?”
My voice is hardly a whisper, and if Angela wasn’t so close, she wouldn’t have heard me.
“No… I don’t think so?... Looks pricey for coffee.. Do you want to?”
(He’s framed by swollen burgundy leather)
I walk away, leaving her to catch up.
Don’t hate me for being afraid.
Moments like this are all too common now.
“Gideons mentioned how much time you’ve had off.”
Angels talking through half a mouthful of turkey on rye, she doesn’t put on false aires in my company.
“You know… you’re lucky he thinks you’re basically a genius, otherwise, he might fire you…”
She’s watching me now, waiting for me to show some kind of emotion, but I don’t have one.
Truth is, If Gideon fired me I wouldn’t care.
I’d find another job, and if I didn’t, I have savings.
Angela’s biggest fault, her bug, is that she assumes everyone thinks and reacts the same as she does.
In my shoes she’d be terrified of losing her job.
She has no savings, enough debt that her future children will probably be paying it off, she lives in a moderately nice apartment she can’t really afford, buys clothes she doesn’t need, spends a good amount of her salary on meals and drinks in nightspots she can’t afford.
She’s half a paycheck from sleeping on a park bench.
I, on the other hand, live in a studio in a cheap part of the city and buy as little as possible.
My vice is tech, but even what I buy doesn’t add up to a fraction of what she burns through in a month.
I’ll be just fine.
She looks exasperated.
I didn’t react how she expected.
“I’m worried about you.”
I hate it when she does this.
When Darlene stares at me it's a direct glare, like she’s turning her gaze into a drill and turning turning turning it to make a hole in my head so she can look at all my thoughts.
Angela though, furrows her brow in concern, her eyes become large and beseeching like a Disney animals, her hand would reach for mine, but she knows better.
“Nothing to worry about.”
“There is… You’re not answering my messages or picking up my calls, you’re hardly home… hardly at work… What’s going on with you?”
“Nothing really… I’m seeing my therapist…”
A small truth .
“Are you… sick again?”
She’s not sure what to call it.
Neither am I to be honest.
A big lie.
She stares at me, and I do my best to smile, but by the look on her face, I’m not sure if I made her feel better or worse.
Perhaps she has a point.
I wonder if Angela goes back to her nice apartment and closes the door with a sense of impending doom hanging over her.
I don’t think so.
My place is depressing.
It’s dark, and old, and I can’t do anything about either of those things.
I suppose I could decorate, but what would be the point?
Maybe this place is making me worse.
Maybe it’s made for dragging me down, for pulling me into corners to cry, for making me sit stonily on couches and wait for morning when I can’t sleep.
The walls are the colour of crushed morphine.
How did I never see that before.
Gideon won’t fire me.
Although I’m not in the office as much as he wants, I’m up to date with my workload, working remotely from home without consent, not seeking it, I can finish a days work in less than two hours this way.
Before I turn off for the night I check my email.
I don’t get much, you’d be surprised. I clear out my inbox daily. I don’t subscribe to anything I don’t have notifications from social media, or any social media at all for that matter, so anything I get is important.
“Go to bed.”
Mr Robots hands are on my shoulders, and as he speaks I find myself starting to stand.
“Elliot.. It isn’t important… Go to bed…”
God I want to.
My bed suddenly seems like the one place in the world I wanna be.
“Just go to sleep kiddo…...”
Dad’s tucking me in, setting my night light going and smiling down at me, his glasses reflecting the orange street lights outside our house.
‘Goodnight, sleep tight…. Don’t let the bedbugs bite…’
His fingers move up to tickle me, making me giggle and squirm under the covers, then my moms voice calls up the stairs,and he rolls his eyes .
‘Don’t anger the Gorgon young Perseus.; He winks. ‘G’night kiddo.’
I stand up quick enough to send my chair flying across the room and falling as it hits the side of the bed.
Flippers barking,but that’s ok… I’m awake.
… And he didn’t want me to be.
Fetching the chair, I quiet the dog, sitting down slowly, my skin prickling in anticipation of his hand on my shoulder again, but it doesn’t come, so I open the email, and after a pause, click the file within.
I’m staring at my own face. I’m sitting in this very chair, and the feeling’s so disarming, I turn around as if expecting to find someone behind me.
‘I’ve set this up for him to send the next time I drop off the radar… I know this must seem weird right now, but trust me, I know how you feel.’
Leaning closer I watch my face as I talk to myself, trying to step away from how it makes me feel fractured, like I put my fist through a mirror and all the separate pieces of me are coming to life, finding their own worlds to live in.
‘Mr Robot isn’t your friend… He isn’t OUR friend… He’s manipulating us, stealing time, and he’s making you believe he’s the one living this half life you’re missing… But he’s not… You are… We are…. It’s our life… Not his…’
On the screen I lean back, moving away from the webcam and moving the monitor a little so it’s pointing towards the bed a moment.
I hadn’t noticed before that I wasn’t alone, that someone was in my bed.
‘I’m making this video and sending it to Tyrell with instructions to send it back to me if I get lost again… If you’re watching this… We’re lost… We forgot…’
(... His hands. His mouth. His weight. His cock… )
Tyrell’s in my bed.
I feel like I should be alarmed or surprised, but when I glance behind me to look at my now empty bed, I only feel disappointed that there’s no one there.
‘He’s been notified as soon as you opened this email… he’ll come and pick you up, take you to Kristas, it’s all arranged…. ‘
As I watch, I lean closer to the screen, smiling, almost laughing in delight.
‘We’re going to get rid of him… We’re going to get rid of Mr Robot for good…’
Screen me turns to look as Tyrell pulls the sheet around his waist and gets off the bed, coming over to him… To me… and propping his chin on my shoulder.
‘Come back to bed.’
I smile, and I smile.
It’s me that turns now, and Tyrell’s standing in my doorway, dressed for the cool evening in his heavier overcoat, his face full of careful, wary concern.
“We have to go to doctor Gordons… She’s expecting you…”
I look back at the screen and I’m standing up, moving away with my hand in Tyrells before pulling back and laughing, leaning down to turn off the video.
I see myself reflected in the dark screen.
I see Tyrell behind me.
He speaks softly, and when I turn my head, he extends his hand.
Am I ready for this?
Am I ready to say goodbye to Mr Robot?
Am I ready to believe I might have the option of happiness, of belonging?
What would you do?
Tell me what you'd do...
Chapter 10: Floundering
Amber street lights flicker across his face as we head out of Chinatown and onto the near-deserted freeway, making him look like he’s in a flick book, his blinks slow and disjointed.
We’re going to Kristas home office, it’s all been arranged.
I arranged it.
Like I apparently also arranged to leave Flipper with my landlord.
I’ve done it before, but I don’t remember.
For so long I felt like Mr Robot was stealing my hours, my memories, but maybe it was me all along.
This is nuts.
Maybe I’m dreaming,
It feels dreamlike.
It feels like I might go through some random door and find myself in my childhood bedroom, or at the beach, or back in school… You know how dreams are.
I used to dream a lot about houses. Running through them, trying to find things, locked doors, scary rooms, being chased.
Darlene said dreaming about houses meant I was doing mental housekeeping, that each room represented a part of me that needed work or figuring out.
Judging by the way some of the things in those locked rooms slithered and bumped against the doors, I think some parts of my mind are best left alone.
“Are you cold?”
Tyrells looking at me.
He hasn’t said much since we left my apartment. Just waited while I got my jacket, led me down the stairs to the street and into his car, his driver looking straight ahead and knowing where to go without being told.
I’m not cold, but when he asks I realize I’m shivering and clench my teeth together hard to try and stop it.
He slides across the back seat towards me and gently puts his arms around me.
For a second I want to push him away, I freeze and stiffen and he must feel how wooden I am under his touch, but he waits, not forcing, not dropping me like I might bite, just waiting, and gradually my muscles loosen and I sag and suddenly the only thing I want in the world is to curl up with him.
“Well… That was fun!”
We’re standing outside ‘ Kaffebar en’ , Tyrell rubbing his hands together briskly as he smiles, and I smile back a little, nodding that yes, it was.
“I’d say that tonight was serendipitous… Wouldn’t you? Just think, if that drunk hadn’t spilled his drink we might never have met, so yes… the happiest of mishaps…”
He’s laughing, delighted with his evening, and it’s infectious enough that I chuckle softly to myself.
“Here’s my car…”
The black suv pulls up alongside us. The driver looks stoically ahead, and if he’s pissed at having to pick up his boss so late, he doesn’t show it.
“Can we drop you home?”
I shake my head.
I’ve done enough things out of my comfort zone for one night.
“Thanks...but I’m not far…”
He nods, perhaps understanding, then pulls out his wallet, slipping a business card from inside and handing it to me with a smile.
“We should do this again.”
I look down at the card, running my thumb along the embossed lettering before putting it in my pocket.
“I’d like that.”
… And I mean it.
I’m not sure who’s more surprised, me?… Or maybe you friend?
Tyrells smile is wide and open, almost childlike, as if I Just relayed some amazing tidbit of news to him.
“I look forward to hearing from you… Truly.”
Both of his hands drop to my shoulders before I can react, but I don’t step back, I don’t move away, or flinch, or even stiffen my posture at his sudden touch, and that was enough to make me really look at him, to wonder what it was that made him so special that I didn’t feel like insects were burrowing through my shoulders where his hands rested.
He squeezed gently, then let go, moving to open the car door and get in.
I feel like it doesn’t need a reply, I’m not sure I have the capacity to offer one right now, but as he shuts the door and disappears behind the tinted glass, I raise my hand goodbye, because even though I can’t see him, I know he’s looking at me as the car pulls away.
Krista’s not wearing makeup.
Naively, I’d never really noticed how much she wore, and now I’m in her home office, I’m struck by how much older she looks.
Some of it may just be that it’s two in the morning and she only woke up a hour ago, but it’s still jarring, like she’s not my shrink at all, but someone else.
A curiously slapdash doppelganger.
She’s also wearing jeans and a casual sweater.
I’m about ready to just shut down because of that alone.
“Elliot…. Elliot…. Please sit down…”
She’s talking softly, but there’s a school-marmish tone that makes me stop pacing.
“Does he have to be here?”
Krista frowns and looks across the room at where Tyrell is sitting, and I see a sharp flash of hurt cross his face.
“You want me to ask Mr Wellick to leave?”
“No!… No, not Tyrell… HIM…”
Mr Robots wandering around at the back of the office, nosing at Kristas books, pulling one out and flicking through the pages before putting it back.
“Is Mr Robot here Elliot?”
He looks across at me then, pulling his glasses down his nose and regarding us all with curiosity wrapped in contempt.
I can’t help but stare at him, wide eyed, and I nod for Krista.
He scares me.
He never used to.
I used to almost look forward to him being around, talking to me, but now he feels menacing, like he was never really looking out for me at all.
I do this time, but I don’t take my eyes off him.
He’s taking an interest and it almost feels like somethings sucking all the air from the room, leaving us in a vacuum, floundering to breath like beached fish.
“Elliot… Do you remember what we talked about last session… The one you brought Mr Wellick to?”
I’ve never brought anyone to meet with Krista.
At least I don’t think I have.
“We talked about letting go… About medication that could help… Your DID’s been getting steadily worse as your life improves, do you understand?”
Her voice is soft and soothing, and for once I don’t find her tone condescending, I feel like she might actually know what she’s talking about.
“You needed Mr Robot… He was an important part of your life, he helped you move about in the world when you felt you couldn’t, but you don’t need him anymore… And not all alters leave quietly.”
“This is bullshit!”
I flinch as he shouts, striding over to loom over Krista, and I’m afraid for her, even if she isn’t paying any attention to him.
“I’m not just leaving! You NEED me… What are you going to do when all this goes wrong? When you lose your job… When Darlene gives up on you… When Angela finally realizes that dead parents don’t obligate her to put up with your pathetic whining anymore…”
I whisper it, but Krista and Tyrell both hear me.
“... What are you going to do when he decides you’re not worth the damn trouble… Not worth getting up in the middle of the night for and driving across town to haul your ass to your legal drug dealer…”
“... Stop it, stop it, stop it…”
I shake my head from side to side like I’m staving off nausea.
I’d put my hands over my ears, but I know that wouldn’t work.
“What are you going to do when he realizes your ass ain’t that fucking special Elliot… And you’re alone…”
I’m sat in the tiny space between my dresser and the wall in my apartment, I’m squeezed into the corner of my closet at my moms house, I pick up my mind and fold it with origami precision until it’s so small I can slip it into my pocket.
“I don’t wanna be alone again…”
“You’re not alone Elliot.”
Kristas voice cuts through Mr Robots outburst and I look up, my cheeks hot where I’m holding back tears, brow tacky with sweat where my heart pounds faster than it should, my body wanting to jump up and leave all this behind.
“You’re not alone…”
“She’s lying! I’m all you’ll ever have!… You try and get rid of me and we’re through! You thought it was hell before? I’ll leave you floundering in your own pathetic self pitying thoughts twenty four hours a day and no one will be there for you!… You’ll have to deal with everything on your own!”
The thought is terrifying.
How many situations has he saved me from?
More than I can count.
He’s spoken up for me when my voice fails and my heart presses up against my throat so hard that I can’t breath.
He’s walked me away from situations that made me panic and freeze like a rabbit illuminated by headlights.
He’s been my protector, my mentor, my friend, and now they want me to do it all on my own.
I focus, and my gaze locks to Tyrells, and I realize Krista's right.
I’m not alone.
Tyrell who walked me through the bar when I was paralyzed with fear in the bathroom... Who helped me here, who wants me well… Who wants me ...
“I want him gone…”
My voice is soft but steady, and I nod to myself, sniffing hard before nodding again and turning my gaze towards Krista.
“I want your help.”
Her smile is radiant, and I know she finally feels like all the work was worth it, that I was worth it in the end, and I see now that she didn't ever need makeup to look younger, all she has to do was smile like that and I bet she looks the same as she did when she was nineteen.
I left Mr Robot standing in Kristas office.
He doesn’t look angry anymore, just tired, his outline flickering slightly like TV with bad reception, making him look less solid than I thought he was.
This time when we get back in the waiting car, I press up close to Tyrell, seeking out the solid, reassuring warmth of his body.
I feel like I’m Drowning, like I’ve been tossed overboard by Mr Robot…
...No… I jumped.
I left the safety of the ship and I jumped into the waves, and now all I can do is hold onto Tyrell and hope that he can keep me afloat until I can do it myself.
We stop at an all-night drug store, and his driver goes in to fill out my new prescription, and while he’s in there, Tyrell hugs me closer, stroking a slow hand through my hair and pressing soft kisses to my brow, whispering to me that he’s proud of me, he’s so proud and it’s all going to be ok.
He’s making promises I hope he can keep, but for now I’m happy to pretend it’ll be that simple.
We’re not going home.
Not to his nor mine, but instead to his summer house on Long Island.
It’s early still, and most of the Hamptons will be deserted, too cold for anyone to think of playing there for now, but that’s the point.
It’ll be peaceful, just the two of us, and maybe that’s what I need, to be away from the city while I get my head around everything. To spend time with Tyrell and finally catch up on what we have… What he has with me and what I can’t remember.
He whispers he loves me against my ear as we hit 495, and I just close my eyes and hold him tighter and hope that he can hang on for a little longer.
That he can be patient long enough for me to get there as well.
I don’t wanna be alone.
Chapter 11: Remember
Maybe this was what I needed.
A complete system failure… Then a reboot.
No, don’t worry, you’re safe.
I’m not ready to say goodbye to you as well.
You’re a passive observer after all, I trust you.
Tyrells summer house is a rental.
He takes great pains to make sure I know this because the decor isn't to his taste, and that vain part of him, even now, doesn’t want me to think he’s the kind of man who likes cute sailboat nick nacks and nautical themed bathrooms.
I kind of like it.
I’m really getting a kick from normal nowadays.
I don’t know how long I slept.
By the time we got to the house it was already past four in the morning, a sliver of daybreak slipping along the horizon so that when I peered into the blackness beyond the end of the yard, I could just make out the ocean.
Anyway, daylights pushing rudely past the thin curtains, in that insistent way that lets you know you missed breakfast, and probably lunch, and even though I know I don’t have to be awake, some panicking part of my brain tells me I’m gonna be in trouble, I’m gonna be late, but then I’m looking at Tyrell, and that knot in my chest loosens.
As if realizing I’m finally awake, he opens his eyes, smiling softly at me, reaching out press a light palm to my face.
He laughs a little, closing his eyes as he smiles.
“Perhaps not… Good afternoon might be more apt.”
He loses his laugh as he looks at me again, pressing his lips together a moment before sighing gently.
“What are we going to do with you?”
I shake my head against the pillow, watching his eyes as he slowly runs his gaze over my face.
I’ve got no answers for him.
“Have I hurt you?”
He frowns at my question, thinking on it a moment.
“I’m sorry… I wish I remembered… I wish I remembered so I could say sorry for real..”
“It’s not your fault…”
“It’s not yours either though.”
He’s looking at me like it might be the first time he’s considered this.
“Elliot… I want to help… Ok? What can I do?”
He’s already done so much. I don’t know what I can ask of him.
But then I do.
“Tell me about us… I have so many gaps… Everything comes back in pieces and sometimes… I’m not sure if a memory is real or I dreamed it.”
He’s running his thumb gently back and forth across my cheek as I talk, then he smiles gently, leaning forward to kiss my forehead before settling back again.
“Ok… Let me see… The first time I saw you…”
And then he’s talking.
He’s telling me about how he found me in the bathroom and was so initially preoccupied with his suit sleeve that he didn’t realize what I was doing, but that he looked up in the mirror and saw how scared I was and knew he had to help.
He admits that at that point, he was just being nice, something that surprised him because, well… usually, he wasn’t, but perhaps his looming divorce had made him more aware of others pain in a way he hadn’t been before.
I was interesting.
That’s why he took me to the coffee house.
He was bored with his evening and his companions and he wanted someone different to talk to.
Right time, right place.
“... But I fell in love with you. You were sat in the booth and it was like there was no one else in the cafe, in the world. Just you, sat opposite me, leaning back against red leather…”
A silence sits between us for a moment, the only sound is the soft hiss of waves down on the beach.
I’m used to constant noise and it’s almost overwhelming to be surrounded by this much absence of sound.
“Have I ever told you that I love you?”
“No… You haven’t.”
His smile is a tragic mask of acceptance, and I feel bad about that, but I’m also kind of relieved that I haven’t told him I love him. That even the parts I don’t remember about I’m still kind of in control of.
I don’t want to be laying here with someone I feel like I lied to.
I’m not ready to think about love.
I’m still trying to find a foothold on being with someone.
I close my eyes and let him tell me about how I sent him a text a couple of days later, how we talked back and forth, finding common interests and humor, and how he thought that even if this came to nothing, he’d still pursue me as a friend.
“When I saw you at Allsafe, I desperately wanted to say something, but you were avoiding me… Or, I thought you were avoiding me, so I didn't want to do anything in front of the people you work with… I wasn’t sure how you thought of me so…”
And there it is.
The first time I hurt him.
How he stared at me and smiled across the table and I only glanced over at him in anxious confusion.
How he approached me after, introducing himself, hoping to share an inside joke with me… But I only acted like we’d never met.
He even prompted me with a ‘have we met? Maybe at a bar…’ and I still didn’t bite.
For me, it was the first time I’d met him.
For Tyrell, we’d already had a two-week friendship.
“Were you upset?”
“I was angry.”
He admits this and I know it’s true.
In his eyes, I’d deliberately slighted him, made him feel foolish, and nothing could anger him more than being made to feel small.
“But I got in touch again…”
I frown and feel his hand smooth back my hair as I spoke.
I remember… Picking up our text conversation where we left off later on, and Tyrell going straight into a rant about how I’d ignored him, how humiliated he’d felt and I panicked because I knew…
That other part of me knew I’d somehow lost myself for a few hours, and wasn’t that scary, but so unremarkable now that I simply lied.
I told him how as Evil Corp was a new client of Allsafe, I had to pretend I didn’t know him, otherwise it might not look good, Gideon might have thought he was headhunting me, or worse, trading inside information.
I remember looking down at my phone and waiting, first as the read tick appeared next to my message, and then for him to start typing, and the relief when he bought it, or at least seemed to.
“I wanted to… So I did.”
He ignored the lie for his own gain.
I feel him press his mouth to mine, and I part my lips just a fraction, pushing into the kiss and opening my eyes as he pulled back.
“There’s so much I don’t remember… I don’t remember our first kiss, or how we ended up together, or our first time…”
His eyes mirror my own helpless misery at the situation, and I’m not sure if the tears welling up are mine or his.
“It doesn’t matter.”
He whispered this to me, shaking his head and pressing soft kisses to my face.
“It doesn’t matter… You’re here now…”
“But what if I get lost again? What if I forget all of this and you and us…”
He silences me with a hard kiss, perhaps because the idea is too much to contemplate.
He wants to fix it all for me, and he has to believe he has, that it won’t fail.
“You want to know what our first night together was like?”
“It was like this… We didn’t go all the way...Not the first time… You were… Shy.”
He‘s smiling against my mouth and I know it’s because he doesn’t consider me bashful anymore.
I can remember us having sex… Flashes at least, but I’m curious about that first contact, enough that my worries about later fade into the background a little more.
“... And we were kissing…”
He Puts his arms around me and pulls me close as he speaks between soft kisses to my lips, his voice low and murmuring, sending warm vibrations through my skin...
His hand goes to my ass, pulling me tight against him, and he starts to slowly grind himself against me through our shorts, making me groan softly against his mouth.
“... And you got so… Fucking…. Hard…”
His breath pants gently she speaks now, and it feels like he’s narrating this moment, recreating the first time so clearly that I can feel that anxious butterfly squirming in my stomach from the newness of it.
I am hard.
A combination of his words and his kisses, the agonizingly slow way he drags himself along me, his own erection sliding off mine so that his hips have to go side to side with every lazy thrust.
With a moan, I reach to drag at his shorts, and even though he chuckles softly against my mouth, he’s helping me, then working on mine so that we’re pressed hard together, arms tight around each other, legs in a tangle as we move together.
It’s not enough.
It’s just enough to keep me hard, to make me ache and thrust harder against him, looking for purchase, for more, and he finds it for me.
Tyrell pulls back just enough to push a hand between us, running his fingers along the the sensitive, dampened head of my cock before doing the same to himself, then he wraps his hand around me and presses his hips down, so I’m caught between his hand and his cock, stroking his hand along me and holding himself as well so slides against me with precision.
It’s still a slow build, but I’m climbing now, his palm stroking, his cock sliding, my whole body hot and desperate for release so that I’m moaning with every thrust of his hips, feeling his breath panting hard against my cheek between kisses.
I come with a cry, unusual for me at least, but he’s still moving, making me squirm and whine at the stimulation, and then he’s groaning hard, swelling against my still half hard cock, and I feel every twitch of it against mine as he lets go, coming hot and sticky across my stomach.
He chuckles against my neck, then pulls back with a smile, his cheeks like apples under his grin narrowed eyes, then he bites at his bottom lip as though contemplating me.
“In a while… We’ll go shower… And I’ll remind you of what we did the second time.”
I’m smiling back.
God help me I’m smiling and laughing along with him, like my body knows what’s going on, and it’s simply waiting for my mind to catch up.
I let him bundle me against his chest where he sighs deeply, and more than ever i want this to work.
I want to go to sleep without being afraid of waking up with gaps.
I want to wake up and remember that it’s Tyrell I’m in bed with.
I want to wake up every morning as me.
Chapter 12: Ocean song
If this is a dream, I don’t wanna wake up.
If this is the matrix, I’m gonna take that blue pill a hundred times over.
Water hits my back like hot needles, making my skin buzz, like a soft electrical current running through my body.
His hands are on my head, pushing into my wet hair, holding me still as he slowly thrusts against my mouth.
The tiles are cool against my palms, it’s a summer house after all, the heating isn’t that great, and I curl my fingers against the smoothness of them, rub the pads along the dampness, then move them to his skin, pushing up along the heat of his sides, dragging my fingers down to his hips as he groans my name above my head and comes with hot gasps.
I don’t wanna wake up.
I don’t wanna wake up...
Sometimes, when he’s sleeping, I sit outside on the rocks that separate the end of the yard from the beach.
I look out at the ocean and smoke slowly.
I picked up the habit.
Perhaps it's comforting in a way.
A way to stay close to him.
My Dad...Mr Robot… whoever… It’s not important.
The light's always changing.
Back in the city it’s nearly always the same.
Sometimes sunny, but mostly what I notice is the orange haze of streetlights, the glare of cars, and there’s none of that here.
The light reflects off the water and sand without the smoggy muteness of the sea in Brooklyn.
Here the ocean's alive with subtle movements of light and I could sit here for hours.
Sometimes I see him.
But he’s always far away.
Far down the beach, hands stuffed in his pockets, watching me.
I don’t acknowledge him, I pretend I don’t see him, and if I don’t see him, he’s not there...right?
My eyes are closed as Tyrell puts his arms around me from behind.
“What are you doing? It’s not even five… Come back to bed…”
The mornings are when I think best, most clearly.
It’s quieter here.
No one's awake. Hardly anyone’s here at all.
“Just watching the ocean.”
He props his chin on my shoulder as I open my eyes, looking out the same way I am, then chuckles softly, pressing a kiss to my ear.
“You… Are a queer bird Elliot.”
I can feel his smile, then he kisses me again.
“Come on… If you’re awake, I’ll put some coffee on.”
As always I let him move me, pull me to my feet, lead me back up the grass to the back of the house.
I’m a loose-limbed doll.
I can’t make my own mind up.
I know he’s still there though, Mr Robot.
I don’t have to look behind me to see that he’s still standing far up the beach, watching me go back inside.
My days have routine for now.
I wake up early, I go watch the sunrise if it’s not raining, Tyrell joins me, we go inside.
He hands me a glass of water and my meds, then coffee, then breakfast, which he makes.
I eat, we shower, usually fool around, then dress and drive into town to pick up groceries.
After lunch, usually in town, we come back, and Tyrell spends some time making calls and answering his email.
I’ve messaged Angela and Darlene, I’ve told them I’m taking a break, not to worry, and I’ve simply ignored their calls and messages after.
It’s hard enough working this out in my own head, I can’t explain it to them.
If the weather’s fine, we walk along the beach.
Tyrell has the clothes.
He wears comfortable trousers and sweaters and warm weatherbeaters.
I wear pretty much what I always wear, and I wonder how odd a couple we look from far away.
Tyrell always looks like he belongs, it doesn’t matter where he is.
I’m not so gifted.
I can’t be anyone but myself.
Yes… I understand the irony in that statement.
You of all people know what I mean though.
In the evening he cooks dinner, we eat, maybe watch a movie, and then bed.
In bed I can forget all the doubt and numbness.
He makes me feel like the most luminous being on the planet.
His hands, his mouth, his cock…
He makes me forget in a good way.
He makes me forget about the forgetting.
When I lay wakeful in the mornings again, my mind races hard enough that I have to get up, I have to move, so I get out of bed without waking him and dress before slipping out of the patio doors and down to the rocks to sit and smoke.
“You’ll forget all of this.”
He’s close enough that I can hear him breathing over the soft hum of the waves in the near dark of pre dawn.
“I won’t… Not this time.”
Mr Robot sighs, and I hear the rustle of his jacket as he pulls out his cigarettes, the click and hiss of his lighter, and the smell of second-hand smoke as he exhales with a long sigh.
“You... Will forget all of this... You think those pills are gonna help you? All they’re doing is dulling you, numbing you… Look at you Elliot… You follow Tyrell around like a lost puppy because you don’t have the wit to think for yourself anymore…”
“That’s not true.”
There’s that cold feeling in my stomach though. The one that wonders if it is.
“I want to be here… I’m happy here.. With him… I…”
“... Love him?”
He’s finishing off my sentences and I hate the way that feels comforting.
“You don’t love him. That’s bullshit. You NEED him, you need a damn nanny to feed you and dress you and make sure you stay safe from the dumb shit you do to yourself… Doesn’t mean you love him.”
“You know I’m right.”
“If you stopped taking the pills you’d see that… You’d come home and stop wasting time pretending you can settle down with some guy and do couple shit like taking mini-breaks to Vermont and browsing in nick nack stores… you’d get back to doing what you’re meant to be doing… making the world a better place….”
“... SHUT UP!....”
Somewhere up the beach a dog sets up barking, and I realize I’m on my feet and halfway down the beach and closer to the water.
I don’t remember doing that.
I don’t know who that is.
It’s not my voice, or his…
My feet move and in a few strides the sand goes from soft to hard packed
, a few more and waters lapping against my shoes.
“What are you doing?”
Mr Robot sounds panicky, and if only for that, I close my eyes and smile.
The water’s freezing as it comes up to my ankles, then my calves, and over my knees, and still I keep walking, into the ocean, following the voice that’s soft and calm and promises more than Mr Robot or Krista or Darlene or Angela or even Tyrell can.
It promises rest.
It promises me that I can finally rest.
As the water gets up to my waist I can feel the pull of the waves, each movement dragging me further out, like the ocean wants to claim me, like watery hands are grasping at my waist and lifting me off my feet.
I won’t be cold for long.
I’m not sure if I hear Tyrell shouting my name, or if it’s just the gulls hovering along the shore, but as my feet leave the sand and I’m ready to be pulled away from the last tie of the land, his arms go hard around me, lifting me off my feet and pulling me back, screaming my name like a scared, wounded animal.
For a moment I fight, trying to escape his grasp, trying to pull away and get back into the deeper water, but he’s too strong and drags me out of the water, dumping me on the sand and falling down to his knees next to me, his hands hard on my face as if he can look at me and get all the answers he wants that way.
I’m looking up at his eyes, wide and rapidly filling with frightened tears that reflect the now rising sun, making them look amber instead of blue.
“Elliot…. What were you doing ?”
He breathes his gasped, horrified words shakily, and I can’t stand it.
I’m lying on the sand soaked through and shivering, water still nipping at the souls of my shoes where the tides coming in, and all I can do is put my arms over my face and weep until my sobs are frighteningly hard keens that rip through my body hard enough that it feels like everything is cracking like badly made glass.
Chapter 13: Splinter
I still remember.
I woke up, but I still remember.
The air here burns the back of my throat, makes my eyes watery.
Or perhaps I'm just constantly o the verge of tears.
I don't know.
I don't know.
I haven't seen Tyrell since I got here.
I don't think he's coming back.
Angela's sitting across from me, her hand on a chess piece, about to move but noticing I wasn't... There.
I'm glad she's here.
I'm glad the world, or at least part of it, remembers me.
She's smiling softly, maternally.
She'd make an excellent mom, I'm sure she would.
There's a deep well of love buried inside her, like she stopped loving anyone the moment her mother was gone, but it had to go somewhere. So every shred of love she ever felt for me, or her dad, for Ollie, even Darlene... She's taken it and condensed it into something thick and cloying.
One day she'll have to let it out. She just hasn't found the person to give it to.
Only... I don't think she'll have children.
I think she's too afraid to.
As if her fierce love would be too damaging, too much, and if anything happened...
My game is terrible.
I'm not concentrating, and just move a piece without thinking.
... tap, tap.
"You're letting me win."
I look out the window again.
I wish I could talk to her.
I wish I could talk to any of them.
"You're under a thirty-day mandatory stay, I can't do anything about that Elliot."
Krista looks old again, even though she's made up and dressed professionally, she looks tired, and I wonder if I have a part in that.
"Your doctors have agreed that the most likely scenario was that you reacted badly to the antidepressants... It's not uncommon, some side effects can include suicidal thoughts..."
"I didn't try to kill myself."
She looks a little startled, and I wonder if she's surprised that I'm looking at her. Sometimes it's hard to. I feel like she's constantly disappointed in me.
I wanted her to understand that though.
I wasn't trying to kill myself.
I didn't want to die.
"... You didn't know what you were doing... They weren't your suicidal thoughts, do you understand?"
"Who's were they then? They weren't his."
"He's still here? Mr Robot?"
I don't answer her.
I don't want to tell her that he's still here, because if I do, it might make it real again.
He's always around the edge of my vision.
He's getting his food in the cafeteria, he's waiting in line for his meds, he's sat on the couch in the tv room, but only when I'm not looking at him.
Perhaps he doesn't want to admit I exist either.
I'm sorry I'm just a disappointing child.
What did you think you'd find inside me?
Was I meant to be the turning point in your career after two decades of semi-alcoholic, depressed urban moms, and weeping men who masturbate into their wives underwear when they're not home?
Was I interesting Krista?
Did I disappoint you that much?
"It's not your fault... Many people have suicidal thoughts, and sometimes, certain reactions to drugs can make you act on them."
I don't say anything for a moment.
Outside the window is a view down to the parking lot, the cars all waiting like patient horses outside a saloon, all well groomed and sleek.
This isn't a public hospital after all.
"Why hasn't he come to see me?"
I turn my gaze back to Krista, and I can feel the accusation in it.
I'm turning it on her because he's not here for me to turn it on him.
She hesitates long enough that I know she's been talking to him, then lays her hands on her knee that way she does before explaining something carefully.
"Mr Wellick is paying for you to stay here Elliot... He's not in the country right now though, he's in Denmark, visiting his son... But he's in touch. He calls often to find out how you are."
I turn away again.
I've got no interest in learning about his family vacation.
I wonder if his wife knows about me.
I wonder if he'll decide his beautiful wife and infant son are worth leaving Evil corp for after all, and he'll simply stay in Denmark and who would blame him.
Tears well up, veiling the view again, and I drop my head gently against the bars, my breath hitching as I drawback and hit it again, not so gently this time.
Maybe I could just knock him out of my head.
Maybe I could shatter his memory like all the other memories, make it so a spiders web of broken arteries splinter away and burrow deep into that part of my brain where he lives.
The part that remembers how he feels and smells, that remembers how he smiles and kisses and
Hands grab at my arms making me flail and cry out, and two men are pulling me to my feet, and I can't see Krista because the world's turning red and I can't see and there's gulls pecking at my brains and eyes, the ocean pulling at my arms, pulling me out and out into the cold and the dark, and I'm crying out because I've left him on the shore.
I'm watching him watch me, I'm watching him bow his head and turn away, and walk back up the beach until the water goes over my head at last, and everything... Stops.
He looks down at me with the most paternal of gazes, his eyes hidden a moment as the overhead lights catch his glasses, but then his eyes are there again, warm and concerned, and his hand moves to press softly to my aching brow, cool and solid.
I break quietly. Soft miserable tears that he wipes away.
"Shh... It's ok... It's ok kid... I'm here... I'm not going anywhere."
My arms go around him, and I bury my face against the familiar roughness of his jacket, inhale hard the scent of aftershave Darlene bought him one Christmas at Target, the underlying hint of cigarettes permeated into his very pores.
I want to be small again.
I want to be tucked into bed, and kissed on the head before I sleep. I want to be looked after by the one man I never thought could betray me, my one protector, and even though I'd betrayed HIM.
He'd come back.
"Elliot... I'll always come back.... I'll never leave you."
Hey guys (anyone out there? :P )
I know I've been pretty prolific with updates, but I'm working away atm and may not get chapters up so quick for a while.
I'll still be writing but my internet is super limited so... You may end up with three chapters in one day or some shit.
- kelly ♥
Chapter 14: Home (1)
Routine is the cornerstone of all healthy existence.
We're basically programmed to seek out the same tasks and stimuli over and over.
There's little deviation here.
Wake up and shower time are seven, breakfast at eight, meds straight after, groups, freetime, lunch, more groups, meet with Krista, Dinner, meds, visitors, if you have any.
It's a comforting little wheel that turns and turns and I'm just going along for the ride.
I have six stitches in my head, just above my right eyebrow, covered with a dressing that's changed daily.
I'll be honest with you..
I'm not entirely sure how I got it...And at this point I'm too afraid to ask.
Darlene came to see me.
I'm used to seeing hurt, and upset concern in Angela's expression, but when I see it etched on Darlene's face, I get a sick knot in my stomach.
She instantly looks about four years old again, all scared eyes and quivering mouth she tried hard to hide, because we hide shit like that.
It's safer to hide how we feel.
She didn't stay long.
She brought me some candy, told me she'd taken Flipper to stay with her at Cisco's.
I'd almost forgotten about the dog if I'm honest.
Does that make me a shitty person?
She hugged me before leaving, hard enough to hurt, but I hugged her back.
I wanted to tell her I was ok, that he was here, that he looked after me... But I knew she wouldn't find the same comfort in that that I do.
Sometimes at night he sits on the edge of my bed and talks to me, like he used to do when I was a kid.
He tells me old family stories and jokes, retells favourite books from memory.
He presses a finger against my nose and makes a soft 'beep' sound, then pulls the covers up under my chin before kissing the top of my head with a soft 'g'night kiddo.'
"Good night Dad..."
“Do you want to see him?”
I don’t want the responsibility of decision right now, but Krista has that look about her, the one all middle aged women have regardless of whether they’re moms or not… It’s the look that suggests you’d better make the correct choice, the one that she wants.
“Am I obligated to?”
Even I can hear the slightly petulant tone in my question, but Krista just shakes her head.
“If you mean will he stop paying for your treatment here if you say no…. Then no, you’re not obligated to… He paid for the 30 days, once you’re finished you’re free to leave…”
I say no, and Mr Robot shakes my head for me.
“Look… Your rich as ball's boyfriend keeps calling me so… Can you just see him? Between my phone ringing and your dog pissing on everything, I’m kind of over this whole break down thing. Also… County psych is like six blocks from my place… What the fuck was he doing putting you all the way out here? I have to take like three trains…”
As usual Darlene covers her upset in a thick layer of anger and insults.
Lucky for her I’m immune to it.
“I don’t wanna see him.”
Mr Robot shrugs.
“Fine… Whatever… I literally don’t give a fuck who you bang, but call the guy at least and break up or something. I’m so done with this passing verbal notes shit Elliot…”
I count my days like my pills.
I have no urge to walk into the sea.
I have no desire to find some shoelaces to hang myself with.
I’m not in the market for something sharp enough to open up my wrists.
The doctors proclaim that my new meds are a success, and Mr Robot heartily agrees.
Krista stops asking me about Tyrell.
When she does I refuse to talk for the remainder of our session, so she doesn't even acknowledge his existence.
This suits us both.
I miss him.
(all the time)
I miss him but he made me choose.
He left me here and Mr Robot simply slipped into his place.
He whispered in my ear.
‘I’ll never leave you kid...I’m always gonna be with you.’
And the thought makes both my heart swell and my stomach turn to ice.
Thirty days mandatory stay.
That's what a suicide attempt gets you when you sign yourself into a private hospital.
County would have processed me back out onto the streets in three days or so, but I guess their priority is a quick turn over, not a profit margin.
Angela offered to pick me up, but I told her wanted to be alone, I wanted to use the ride back to my place to decompress from being in an institution, even if it was little more than a glorified hotel with a pharmacy.
I had no bags to carry.
All my shit’s still in my apartment.
I had nothing but a few clothes on Long Island.
Mr Robot rides with me, sitting close, talking about the guy who works as Angelas head, how my hack uncovered a few things, how good it would be to slowly pick his life apart like he deserves, and send him back out into the cold, no job, no friends, no wife….
It’s a tempting thought, I might just look into it.
I’m being watched.
I’m not sure Mr Robot notices, he’s too interested in getting our life back on the old familiar track, but I’m definitely being watched.
Why am I not surprised?
I think about running, about shouting, but let’s be honest, this big guy in the suit standing next to the suv outside my building could stab me to death and the people in this neighbourhood would walk over my bleeding out body without batting an eyelid, so I simply sag and get in the car.
The hotel room isn’t exactly five star, but it’s in a nicer part of the city, with a clientele that leans towards discreet.
The kind of hotel well off guys bring their mistresses.
Not so classy that they’ll meet someone they know, not so shitty that she won’t be impressed.
Tyrell is standing by the window looking out at the street below, ignoring me for a moment, although he’s not, we all know he’s not.
His shoulders are half hunched like he’s holding something huge inside his chest, and when the driver leaves us alone, I’m almost afraid.
Where are you Mr Robot?
Why do you always leave me to deal with shit alone?
Why do you always break your promise?
When he turns he’s smiling.
It’s wide, predatory in its falseness, and wonder if I really know him at all.
Only that's a stupid notion.
I don’t know him, not really, that’s the whole point.
“I’m sorry for all the theatrics… But I didn’t know how else to get you to see me.”
His chuckled tone makes him sound amused, like this is just one big game, that we’re all in on the great joke.
I don’t smile back.
“You’ve kidnapped me.”
“No… No, I simply had my car pick you up... You got in willingly, that’s hardly a kidnap Elliot.”
He walks towards me at last and goes to put his hands on my shoulders, but I flinch and half turn away.
I don’t think his expression could have changed so dramatically if I’d hit him instead, and although he’s still putting up the pretense of a smile, his mouth tries to turn down, his teeth clench, his eyes widen a little to accommodate the tears that creep around the edge, moistening the creased crows feet that are only JUST there.
His hands drop to his sides.
“Why are you punishing me?”
I don’t answer him, and I don’t need to look at him to see I’m walking a fine line.
“I saved your life… I paid for you to stay at one of the best hospitals in the state… I’m STILL paying for your medication.”
“So you own me now?”
I finally turn my gaze on his and I can tell he sees the pent up fury in my expression.
I turn to my father but in many ways I’m my mother's son when backed into a corner.
“No… that’s not it at all…”
“But it is…”
I’m looking straight at him, my fists clenched at my sides.
“You bought me, you’re still buying me… you base everything on its monetary value… you said you loved me… But none of this feels like love...it feels like you wanna keep me in a neat box and you wanna fix your broken toy so I can carry on being what you want.”
A little colour drains from his face, and it confirms what I already knew.
That I wasn’t meant to know.
“While I was locked up in Psych… You were playing happy families in Denmark… When I needed you, you weren’t even in the country…”
My earlier burst of anger’s receding, and now my voice is quieter, resigned to what it is.
“I’m going… Don’t try to see me again… I can pay for my own prescriptions...”
I didn’t anticipate this.
Before I manage to turn he’s upon me, his hands grabbing at my arms, pinning them to my sides before pushing me back against the wall hard enough that my teeth click together.
Should I be afraid?
I don’t feel afraid.
Maybe a little afraid.
Tyrells face is twisted with impotent rage, like he’s tried his best to hold everything together and it has to come out somewhere.
If he were a steam pipe he’d be popping rivets right now.
“You have NO idea.”
He hisses at me like he’s still trying to keep a modicum of self control, still trying to keep his voice down.
“You have no idea what you’ve put me through from the first fucking time we met…”
I meet his gaze and nearly laugh, exhausted from all this.
Not just this moment, but the last twenty years.
I’m so tired of all this.
“Yes… I do… Don’t you think I know what it’s like? That I don’t put myself through it every day…”
For a second his hands raise up and close around my neck, and I just let him, holding his stare as he works through his fury and upset in his head, his hopelessness flickering across his face a he tightens his grip.
I just stand there.
I let him, and finally, he moves his hands to my face, stroking his palms across my cheeks before pulling me into a hug, almost weeping against my shoulder.
I don’t hug him back.
Chapter 15: Home (2)
It’s like someone rewrote the code while I was sleeping.
This isn’t my bed.
It isn’t the bed at the clinic, it isn’t Tyrell’s bed, or the one on long island.
The sheets smell like other people.
That dusty smell that permeates hotel sheets, the one that’s never quite erased through washing, like it sits under the fabric and all that washing strips away everything until all you’re left with is a blanket made up of the underlying scent of strangers.
I feel dirty, pushing the sheet off me with a grimace.
And that’s when I see him.
Tyrell’s standing at the foot of the bed.
He’s naked, staring at me, and slowly stroking his cock.
What am I meant to do in this situation?
What would you do?
Last thing I remember before sleeping was him leaving.
He told me I was cold, I was self-absorbed and selfish, and while I can’t honestly argue against those points, he didn’t seem to grasp the fact he was describing himself as well.
But he left.
And now he’s back.
Tyrells face is expressionless, but his eyes are swollen, and he has high spots of colour on his cheeks that I don’t think you could mistake for arousal.
I don’t think there’s anything about what he’s doing that he’s finding pleasurable.
Someone looking through the window at us would see me frozen in place, half pushed up on my hands, and Tyrell motionless, watching me, only his hand moving, stroking faster, harder as he stared at me.
One part of me wanted to yell at him, to tell him to get the fuck out of here, what he’s doing is beyond creepy, pushing into rapey territory, but the other part of me is still and silent, and a little in awe, because there’s something so deeply fucking primal about it, like he’s putting on this huge display for me, holding my gaze like he’s daring me to look away.
And I don’t.
When he comes he hardly makes a sound, his stomach muscles tense, colour creeps up his neck, and he simply exhales hard.
It’s joyless, and straight after it’s like a little humanity comes back into his eyes, his features soften, his mouth grows slack before he presses his lips together hard into a bloodless slit, wanting to stop the tremble I just caught
Silently he reaches for his clothes, dresses, then leaves.
“Did he literally just jizz on the floor?”
Mr Robot moves to the end of the bed and crouches down before making a delighted 'ah!' noise, holding up my hoody.
“My mistake… He sprayed your hoody… The man’s a walking Freud cliche… Dear god.”
He chuckles hard, dropping it again and wiping his fingers absently down his thigh.
Why does everything seem to hostile…
The rain never washes the streets clean here, it only seems to highlight how grimy everything is.
The light only reflects back on the filth..
My feet are wet, I should have called a cab, at least to the subway, but I just wanted to get out, to move.
I needed to move.
Like all my nervous energy had transferred to my legs, leaving my mind numb, my face blank.
I’d wiped my hoody off in the bathroom before leaving, and now it was soaked through anyway, but the gesture if not the evidence, was still there.
He marked me.
He put a damn mark on me like he owned me.
So why wasn’t I furious?
You’d be furious, right?
Walk the dog.
Pick up her shit.
Fix myself something to eat.
Take my meds… My real meds this time.
Find something mindless to watch on my laptop.
It turns and it turns and it turns and I don’t think about Tyrell.
Or perhaps, I don’t not think about Tyrell.
I don’t think about that ache in my stomach at the way things stopped.
I don’t think about the way I sometimes go to the stupidly expensive Cafe I can’t afford at two in the morning because I might see him, even though I’m not sure I want to.
I don’t think about the way I miss the fragmented memories that used to slip into my consciousness.
Is it strange that I miss that?
I don’t think about all the times he told me he loved me and I never said it back.
I don’t know what to do.
“You do what you always do… You carry on! You work, you live… or your version of it…”
“I don’t want to talk to you.”
Mr Robot ignores me and sits on my couch, lighting up a cigarette and blowing smoke towards the ceiling.
“And yet… Here I am… I only come when you call Elliot.”
“It’s true… Perhaps you’ve felt that I haven’t always been there when you wanted it, but believe me… when you’ve really needed me, or wanted me... There I am.”
I don’t want to talk to him.
But like he said, here he is.
“If the meds are working why are you crying again?”
“Will you listen to yourself? Why do you even pretend with this shit? You ARE aware that I know everything, right?”
Mr Robots eyes are narrowed slits as he grins wolfishly.
“I know more about you that you do Elliot.”
There’s a package in front of my door when I get back from work.
It’s alien enough to make me stop in my tracks, looking down at it with suspicion because I haven’t ordered anything, I rarely do.
If I need parts I do it old school and take the train out to one of the few remaining physical non-chain computer stores.
Besides… It doesn’t have my address on it, only my name.
Better take her out.
The package is right where I left it on my desk when I come back in, and while I move around the kitchen area feeding the dog, my gaze keeps being drawn back to it.
Funny how such an unassuming box can make me sweat.
“Why aren’t you opening it?”
He picks it up and I resist the urge to snatch it from his hands.
He knows why I haven’t.
I’m afraid it’s from Tyrell.
I’m afraid it isn’t.
“Won’t know till you look.”
Thank you Mr Obvious.
Fix myself something to eat.
Take my meds.
Find something mindless to watch on my laptop.
“It’s not going anywhere.”
I wait until he gives up and goes.
I wait until I'm truly alone.
And then I stand up and go to open it.
I don’t know what I expected.
Inside is a sweater.
It’s one of those heavy Scandinavian designed ones, the one he wore when we walked on the beach, the one I stole when it got chilly in the evenings and the heating didn’t make enough of a difference.
On top of it is a postcard.
The picture is of a row of brightly painted houses, the name of the city, Copenhagen, embossed on the bottom right corner, and I flip it over to see the address of the clinic written on one half, a Danish stamp in the right-hand corner, and Tyrell's scrawl on the left.
'Although Seeing my Son fills my heart with joy, I wish with every fiber of my being that you were here to see this beautiful city.
You are always in my thoughts, You are my reason for being strong.
I will always be strong for you.
Love, T x'
He never posted it.
It’s not dated, but I wonder if he came back early, before he had a chance to.
I wonder if he came back because of me.
Because of something Krista said.
She told me he called the hospital daily.
“But you refused to talk to him.”
I can smell cigarettes on his breath.
“You refused to see him.”
“I was so mad at him.”
“Why were you mad at him? Didn’t he take you to Krista? Didn’t he practically spoon feed you? Didn’t he literally save your life then paid for you to get the best care while you floundered around inside that mess you call a brain?”
“He left me there…”
“He had no choice.”
“He left me there and flew back to his wife.”
“His Son… He flew back to see his son, because who knows the next time he might get a chance if he has to babysit your wacko ass again…”
I don’t wanna hear any of this.
I don’t want the truth laid out before me like a rotten buffet I have to eat even though the thought makes me sick to my stomach.
I lift the sweater from the box and hold it up.
It’s a garish pattern, peaks, and leaves, and antlers.
But it’s his.
And I hold it to my face with both hands and inhale deeply.
Chapter 16: Erased
“When I open my eyes
I want you to be the first thing I see”
Tyrells watching me as we lay, almost nose to nose in the bed that’s just a little too narrow in the beach house that’s just a little too cold, a little too damp.
It’s the kind of set up neither of us would put up with in the long term, but for now, all the material things fade into the background because
I’m running my fingertips along his face, brushing the pads lightly along his cheekbones, tracing the line of his jaw, up along the light stubble on his chin that sprouted overnight in defiance of his grooming habits.
I bump them up along his nose, across his eyelids as he closes them, across his lips so I can feel the way he smiles before parting them just a fraction, letting me slide them along that moistened fraction, before pursing them gently and kissing my fingers.
He whispers to me, opening his eyes to stare into mine.
Long Island’s Mount Olympus.
He is Hephaestus.
I am Hermes.
He’ll carry the fire and I’ll herald him as he comes, with his hands moving along my body to pull me up over him, he’ll drag the words from my lips in panted snatches and whines, and the sun will finally rise on us as Apollo charges across the sea and everyone will see, that…
I don’t think the sun rises here anymore.
The city’s shrouded in the kind of greasy grey smog that simply won’t lift and every hour of daylight is so filtered that it looks like it’s perpetually an hour before sunset on a drizzly day.
The light has left the whole world.
The fire’s gone.
I ride the subway.
I go to work.
I keep my appointments with Krista.
I walk the dog.
I don’t sleep.
Oh god I don’t sleep.
Five hours staring up at the grey ceiling lit a muddy orange from the streetlights below.
You know I’ve tried to talk to him, right?
You were there.
My emails bounce back, My texts go unread.
I called his phone about forty times in the last few weeks, just to hear his voicemail message.
“You’ve reached Tyrell Wellick, I’m away from my phone right now, so leave a message and I’ll get back to you…”
His words are polished and precise, no hint of an accent, and I wonder how many times he re-recorded it until he was happy…
A lot I guess.
The thing is, I don’t know what I’d say to him if he picked up.
I’d probably hang straight up.
“You’re an idiot.”
Tell me something I don’t know.
“What did you think was going to happen? That he’d pick you up like he was Rhett and you were Scarlet, and carry your ass off up the staircase and off to bliss.”
“Didn’t end so well for them…”
“Don’t be pedantic.”
Pedantry’s all I got.
“You can’t spend your life chasing this stupid dream, you’re like a school girl mooning over a boy band and it ain’t gonna happen kid… Get your head out your ass and get back work…”
I haven’t heard him this scared since the morning I walked into the sea.
The thing is, I don’t want to work, not the way he wants to.
There’s just no joy in it anymore.
I used to get a kick out of finding my way into places I shouldn’t be, got a junkies rush every time I cracked a password and found myself in someone's private world.
I felt powerful.
“Like a god…”
Mr Robots smiling at me.
I finally look at him.
“I’m not a god.”
“Yes you are…. Yes you are Elliot.”
His voice has an almost paternal softness to it.
“What is a god but someone who has the power of life and death? Who can wield a sword and cut down mortals with a few strokes of a keyboard, a click of a mouse?... You carve your testament on disks instead of stone, and the people listen to you…. They fear you…. All gods need a little fear…”
He’s trying to rally me, to build me up again, to be the sharp tool he wants.
He’s the god, I’m just the weapon.
Like all gods though, he’s impotent without a following, even if it’s only a following of one.
“I don’t believe in you.”
He laughs, and when I close my eyes I can’t tell where the laugh comes from, only that it’s mean and sharp and drives splinters of glass behind my eyes.
Then he’s pressing his mouth against my ear to hiss softly.
“You don’t have to believe in me... I got enough belief for both of us…”
I see him.
I’m standing outside the coffee house, close to the door but able to step away any time someone wants to open it.
He’s sitting alone, stirring a spoon through his coffee, and I can't quite pluck up the courage to step over the threshold and go up to him.
I’m building it up too much in my head, I have a hundred different reactions from him and counter-reactions from me, I can’t tell which one is the one I want.
Do I want redemption?
Do I want him to see that I tried, that I want to keep trying?
All I have to do is step through the door.
I can smell the coffee, feel the humidity that the steamer throws out, the soft well-heeled chatter of the sleepy upper middle classes of Manhattan.
All I have to do is step through the door.
I’d walk up to him and he’d look up at me, maybe expectantly, maybe with hostility, but I’d sit across from him and push back my hood.
I can feel the way my fingers slide through my hair.
He’d wait for me to find my voice and I’d tell him…
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m…
Tyrell looks up and smiles.
Joanna’s rejoined him.
His smile is warm and open, as is hers.
I watch her gently flick her hair to one side, almost like the slow-motion movements of a shampoo commercial actress, she’s almost too perfect, like a doll, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing until someone came to move past me and the act of stepping back made me gasp, light headed at the sudden rush of oxygen.
His wife was home.
His beautiful, brilliant, sane wife… The mother of his child, was home, and on a coffee date with her husband.
“That’s why he hasn’t returned your calls.”
Mr Robots hands on my shoulders, squeezing gently.
“That’s why he changed his email, ignored your messages… He’s erased you… He hasn’t even backed you up on a disk to slip away and look at one day far in the future.”
My eyes are hot and itchy, my chest heavy so that every breath is dragged up past an invisible weight crushing down on my solar plexus.
“You thought he was upgrading… He was simply taking the new tech for a spin Elliot… You were an interesting loaner he used while he waited for her to come home…”
A noise that could have been a sob escapes my throat.
“I’m sorry kid…. Truly I am.”
Tyrell laughs at something, and his cheeks puff up to make twin arches of his eyes... and then he sees me.
His whole expression freezes, slips, like street chalk in the rain, his face rearranges itself with the new environment.
Joanna Must have noticed because she leans forward as though talking to him, then turns her head with a frown to follow his gaze…
And I’m gone.
I’m walking fast down the street and angrily dragging my sleeve across my face as I reach the subway steps and jog down them, the smell of oil and piss rising up to meet me, terrifying in its comfort.
It’s ok friend.
You don’t have to stay with me.
I’m gonna ride the train all night.
I can’t go home yet.
I can’t go where he’s been.
FYI, I listened to Mac Quayles "2.0_6-madame3xecutioner.oga" on repeat on youtube the whole time I was writing this.
I may have teared up a little.
Chapter 17: Engaging
Molly is my new best friend.
“... You’re still taking your medication?”
I wanna tell her that when she does it genuinely she can light up the room.
I’m taking my meds.
I crush them up with Molly and Adderall.
I’m much more sociable now.
Krista thinks it’s the Xanax.
She might be right, but it’s only a third of the solution.
I take two lines every morning and chase them with a coffee.
Caffeine speeds up absorption so that by the time I’m showered and dressed, I’m ready for the day.
Gideon's mentioned how I finally seem to have settled in at last.
He’s very happy.
I no longer flinch when he touches my shoulder, I hold his gaze and smile, I engage with my co-workers and clients.
I sometimes feel like telling him he’s the only true pure being on the planet, and I love him for that, but I can imagine the kind of surprised, confused look he’d give me, and I’m trying very hard not to let my good employee mask slip.
I’m the normal guy.
The good guy.
Not the weird guy.
Not the weird guy.
I take another line in the bathroom around eleven thirty and that see’s me through lunch.
Angela’s thrilled that I’m joining her to eat, even with other people, that I’m talking, engaging.
So why does everything feel so hollow?
I try not to take more.
I don’t always succeed.
Coming down is hard though.
If I don’t take anything, I don’t sleep… At all.
So I double my Xanax and add a little morphine.
Sometimes this works, knocks me right out… Other times?
Not so well.
When the come down's hard I find myself scrunched into the corner, my body rocking, like a primeval self-soothing, the back of my head knocking hard against the wall like I might drive the itching in my brain away, and I weep.
I weep so hard that even hours later my chest still aches like someone swung a baseball bat at me.
Everyone’s so… happy with who I am.
“Oh my God you came!”
Angela can’t hide the stark surprise on her face, but she follows it with genuine delight, and I allow her to bring me into a one-armed hug, her drink held tight in her other hand.
It’s her birthday, and this year… I came.
I even brought a gift which I hand to her almost casually, like it’s the most natural thing in the world for me.
It’s dumb… A back to the future box set… It’s a joke, but she laughs in delight and hugs me again.
Everything still bothers me.
It would be easy to pretend it didn’t, that my new regime had banished all those demons, but the lights and the noise and the close proximity of all these people, breathing and spitting and farting and all their body smells mingling, still make me want to vomit, still makes my skin crawl… but I don’t feel the overwhelming panic to get away, to get out and breath relatively clean air again in great gasping lungfuls.
It’s like putting a panicking animal in a cage.
The animal’s still panicking, still scared.
You just contained it so it doesn’t shit everywhere.
You accept that at some stage you'll have to deal with all the shit in the cage though.
Angela’s really gone all out this year.
We started at a bar, classy ,loud… People from work were there, even Gideon turned up to peck her cheek in an awkwardly fatherly fashion and hand her a small gift, although he only stayed for one drink, this was strictly business… Good employee relations, and he was smart enough to know that’s why she invited him.
After that she moved us along, and while some fell by the wayside, others were jettisoned, and perhaps this is the first time I’ve ever really noticed how ruthlessly efficient Angela can be about the people she wants around her.
By the time we reach the club, two-thirds of the bar crowd are gone, and a handful of newcomers have joined us.
She’s orchestrating her night with precision, even though she’s had a few drinks.
I’m both impressed and little alarmed if I’m being honest.
Darlene joins us, Cisco’s absent, but he comes and goes out of her life, I’m not sure if they’re even really dating.
Maybe they don’t know either.
She shoots me a quizzical look, as if she can’t quite marry the idea that I’m here, then simply rolls her eyes and heads for the bar.
I take a fourth line off the top of a card I had balanced on my thigh in the bathroom, then lean back against the wall waiting for the drowning sensation in my nose to fade before standing up, hand slapped to the cubicle wall, making it rattle a little.
I don’t see him.
I don’t see him but… I feel him.
He’s there… No.
I don’t think we’re separate anymore.
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Angela looks beautiful.
She’s always been beautiful, but somehow she looks… luminescent.
I’m not exaggerating.
She dancing in front of me and her skins so perfect it’s glowing… A literal halo around her body, her hair moving around her head like white fire.
Why is she moving so slowly?
It’s disorientating, like she’s in slow motion… No…
Everyone’s in slow motion.
It’s me that's too fast, I’m seeing everything slower because my brains working in overdrive.
It doesn’t matter.
Nothing matters but the way her arms are gently swaying up, and my eyes widen, because it's like watching the long graceful limbs of a pale ash tree pushing up towards the sun, and suddenly all I want to do is be a part of that, be a part of the world, and so I kiss her.
Slow my lips press against her, and they part like the softest of flowers against my mouth, and her hands move to my chest… And then she’s pushing me back, her expression one of deep confusion, so I try again, but as I move in she keeps me at arms length.
“What are you doing?”
This time I pull her towards me hard enough that it knocks her off guard and I kiss her.
I kiss her even though she’s trying to move away from me.
I kiss her even though I’m having to hold her arms so tightly I can feel her bones grind under my fingers, and when she pulls away, at last, I see her look into my eyes, and her confused fear turns into anger and distaste.
She says it too quiet to hear over the music, but I see her mouth it, I see the curl of her lip, and I realize she’s not talking to me.
She knows she’s not talking to me.
He uses my hands to hold her arms and I know she’ll be bruised in the morning, he smiles with my mouth and licks my tongue across my lips before trying to kiss her again, but she’s pulled one arm away and draws it back, slapping me hard. He’s laughing at her but suddenly Ollies there, dragging me back, and he hits me, once, twice, and I hear Angela scream at him,
“No! No! It’s not him! Ollie stop! Don’t hurt him!”
But he gets one more punch in.
Not my bed.
I’m tired of this too friend.
Of waking up like this.
To think there are people in this world who wake up every morning and know exactly where they are.
There’s no lurch in their stomach, no moment where it feels like their heart’s not beating.
They open their eyes and there they are, in their bed, their phone on the bedside table, their coffee in the cupboard, their toothbrush in the holder.
I keep my eyes closed, because that way I don’t have to face any of it, I don’t have to do anything but lie here, but the door opens and as it closes I hear a heavy sigh.
“You really fucked up this time you know.”
Darlene's voice cuts through the darkness behind my eyelids and penetrates my brain as effectively as a surgeon using a laser.
“Does she hate me?”
I hear the click and hiss of a lighter and smell the first exhale of her cigarette.
“She said it wasn’t you anyway.... Ollie sure thought it was… but she said it was Him.”
I don’t answer her, just roll over so my back’s to her as she sits on the side of the bed.
“You said he was gone.”
There's the slightest waiver to her voice.
He scares her.
If I’m sorry for anything, it’s hearing that note of genuine fear in her tone.
“Anyway… wasn’t going to leave you at home. So, I got him to bring you here.”
You know who...
You know where.
I open my eyes and sit up in time to see him walk in, glancing at Darlene before shooting me an almost bashful smile, like he’s not sure how to act in his own house.
Darlene looks between the two of us, then tips her head back in a silent groan before standing up.
“Yeah well…. I gotta go… Call Angela in the morning.”
She shoots a look at me like it hammers home what she’s told me to do, then walks past Tyrell.
For a second he just looks at me, then he lifts his hands and lets them fall to his sides again, defeated.
Chapter 18: scars
At this point, I’m kind of just going with it.
Despite the fact I’m quiet now, I’m still pretty high.
I didn’t sleep anything off.
I didn’t sleep at all.
Being knocked unconscious by your best friends boyfriend isn’t as restful as you’d imagine.
I should be glad of his well-moisturized hands and lack of any gym activity that isn’t light cardio... he didn’t do any real damage.
I’m sitting on the side of the tub, squinting a little at the glare from the harsh overhead lights, while Tyrell sits on the closed lid of the toilet and puts a little antiseptic on a cotton ball.
I’m six years old again.
The nose burning scent of iodine already telling my brain somethings doing to hurt, and twenty-eight year old me flinches as hard as six year old me ever did when Tyrell gently dabs at the cut just under my eye.
“You really must stop this…All these scars you're collecting...”
His tone is light, but as I catch his eye I see a wariness, something closed off, so I Look away, letting him work the cotton along my skin.
When he’s done he sits back, his hands on his thighs as he looks at me, and I notice for the first time that he’s dressed for bed, which means he was sleeping when…
“Who called you?”
“Your sister… She was worried. She didn’t know who else to call.”
I don’t ask how she got his number.
Darlene is more than capable of finding simple things like unlisted numbers without my help.
Darlene needed a babysitter and Tyrell drew the short straw.
“Well.. thanks for getting me, and..”
I wave my hand in front of my face, then move to stand up.
“I can go home now…”
Dizziness doesn’t so much come over me as pick me up and throw me sideways, the floor lurching hard under my feet, and it’s only the fact that Tyrell is up fast enough to put his hands on my arms and steady me that stops me falling backwards into the tub.
“Hey… Easy… Easy Elliot…”
He soothes me like the hero in a horse movie and I resist the urge to carry on my own metaphor and kick him.
But if I did that, he’d let go, and then I’d fall.
Self preservation stops me from being rash.
He waits for me to steady myself, then slowly leads me out of the bathroom and to the bed, maneuvering me so I’m sitting on the edge, he crouches down to take my hands in his, looking up at me with a mix of concern and… Something else.
Sorry I’m so vague friend.
My heads not quite here.
Don’t do drugs kids.
He knows I’m not here, I keep slipping away, and I feel his sigh on my hands as he drops his head a moment before looking up again,
“Sleep it off here, ok? I’ll be right down the hall. Just… Call if you need anything.”
I let him get me on the bed, moving my legs as he pulls the covers down then over me, and for a moment, I think he might bend down and kiss my forehead, but he doesn’t.
I wish he had.
The first time we kissed was in the back of his car.
We’d gone out to eat, and although at this point, neither of us had really admitted to the other that this was more than just being friends, the evening had felt charged enough that I wondered if tonight could be the moment something shifted between us.
Up until now we’d grown closer over coding, and shared childhood experiences. I’d recognized the quiet, nervous little kid Tyrell must have been, the skinny boy who wore glasses and stayed home to program his clunky grey homemade PC, who liked to try to find his way into sites he had no business being in, re-editing his schools website for kicks.
Of course, he grew up, and decided to wear his confidence, or at least, the pretense of it.
Fake it till you make it.
Tyrell made it.
He makes me laugh.
Am I that simple really that this is all it takes for me to fall for him?
Darlene's humor is barbed, it makes you wary and watchful because next time the joke might be you.
Angela keeps her humor PG13 and only, ONLY if someone makes the joke first.
She’s too afraid of how she looks in others eyes to be funny.
Tyrell is the first person for a long time who seems to click with me in that way.
Everything else is a bonus.
When the car pulls up outside my building I’m laughing at something he’s said, not quite belly laughing, but more than the half assed chuckle I usually only seem able to muster, and when I let it taper off I realize he’s looking at me.
“Elliot… I would like, very much, to kiss you now…”
I’m struck dumb, and before I can say anything, I glance quickly to the front of the car, where the drivers sat.
Tyrell follows my gaze and leans forwards.
He doesn’t need to say any more, the driver presses a button on the dash and the blacked out glass partition is raised between the front and rear of the car, cocooning us.
He smiles at me again and something that could be a laugh burbles in my throat, but gets cut off whenI swallow hard.
No one's ever actually asked to kiss me before.
There’s this Hollywood peddled idea that kisses just magically happen, that both parties are so in tune that the first kiss is always some gloriously spontaneous affirmation of two people being right for each other.
In my experience, most of the time at least one party isn’t ready, sometimes wasn’t even aware that the other person feels that things have moved along significantly that saliva wapping is now part of the agenda.
Naturally this leads to rebuffle, or the kind of awkward railroaded into it kiss where one person is clearly more into it than the other, but is too polite to say anything, and even if both parties are ready, it usually starts with a degree of awkwardness, a stop start of 'should I? shouldn’t I?' that ends in a clumsy kiss.
But no one had ever asked me before.
I nod, and he moves closer, raising his hands to place them gently on my cheeks, his gaze moving lazily across my face as though he’s not decided where to start, and his scrutiny makes me lick my lips nervously.
Because he’s holding my head still, there’s no chance of the clumsy kiss, he’s keeping me exactly where he wants me, and when he leans in, I’m surprised that he chooses to press his lips softly to the corner of my mouth.
I’m holding my breath as I feel his slow exhale against the spot he kissed, making it cold, making me shiver just slightly, then he tilts his head and does the same to the other side, lingering just a little longer, his fingers light but firm against my cheeks.
He’s tasting me with feather-light pecks along my lower lip, and I find myself parting them, pressing forwards a bit, trying to push into each one, but he holds me firm.
This is his show and he’s running it.
I like that.
Finally, he presses his mouth to mine and kisses me properly.
His game was shrewd,, because he’s left me in a state of need that makes me kiss him back deeply, and he lets me, like he’s giving me a little rein to see how fast I might go before steadying me up again by pulling back, then smiling before gifting me with one last soft kiss.
“We must let Mr Sutherland take me home so he can finish for the night.”
For just a moment I wonder if he’s hinting that I should invite him up, but then I realize he isn’t.
He wants to leave it like this.
He wants to leave me with this memory for now, and when I lie in bed later that night, I run my fingers slowly back and forth across my lips, and when I close my eyes, I can almost imagine he’s kissing me.
It’s still early when I wake up.
I roll to the side with a groan and bury my face against the sheets.
They smell like him.
Even that thought isn’t enough to keep me here though.
The amount of shit in my system last night means I need to take the worlds longest piss… Everything else can wait.
The smell of coffee lures me down the hall and stairs into the basement kitchen.
I have no idea what I’m going to say to him.
Thank you, probably, just to be polite.
I want to say sorry, but I almost feel like some of the shit he did negates the shit I did, so we’re at a stalemate, a place where sorry probably won’t cut it for anyone.
“Good morning Elliot.”
Joanna’s sat at the breakfast bar sipping coffee, watching me with an inscrutable gaze.
I suppose most people see her looks before they see anything else.
They see her perfect hair and make up, her full lips and doe like eyes, her figure slender but full where it matters.
They don’t look where they should.
They don’t watch her eyes.
Her eyes are watchful, unblinking, like a bird of prey.
She’s beautiful, but she’d have no qualms about picking you to pieces and leaving you for dead.
“Come… Sit. Would you like some coffee?”
I try to arrange my features into a socially acceptable combination of regret and yearning, which honestly isn’t hard the way my brains trying to leak out of my skull with every ponderous heartbeat.
“I should go… I’ve taken up enough of your time.”
“Nonsense… Sit down…”
She’s not taking no for an answer.
I doubt she hears the word much, and if she does, she simply ignores it until it becomes a yes.
I nod my thanks and pull up a stool opposite her, waiting while she pours coffee from a french press, indicating for me to help myself to cream and sugar if I want.
I pass on the cream but add sugar.
I need to wake up.
“I hope you’re feeling better.”
Her smile is technically correct, but her eyes are too steely to project the warmth needed to make it genuine.
I tell her I am.
“Tyrell will be home soon. My husband has a love of early morning running that has always baffled me.”
Her laugh is light, almost melodic, but she made sure I didn’t miss the remainder of Tyrells status.
All I can do is nod, turning my attention to my coffee and sipping it even though its hot enough to burn on the way down.
“Now… Elliot… I’ve heard so much about you.”
I look up to see her resting her elbow on the bar, her chin propped in her palm as she smiles at me again.
“You must tell me all about yourself.”
Chapter 19: Rage
Joanna doesn’t exist.
I can’t find anything but the most basic records from before she married Tyrell.
No facebook, no email, no school or hospital records.
Her maiden name was Olafson, which is a pretty common last name in Denmark, put Joanna Olafson into a search engine, and it’s basically the same as trying to look for John Smith.
It’s like she simply appeared one day.
You think I wouldn’t have tried to find her?
You know me better than that.
I tried to hack her weeks ago and all I found was a basic facebook account she updates about once a month, usually with a baby picture, an instagram she posts generic pictures of yoga and coffee on, an email account that’s dull enough to be considered suspicious.
I’m missing something.
You see that too right?
No one’s this boring.
Tyrell saves me by walking into the kitchen.
He’s panting gently, pulling his ear buds out and letting the wire fall down his chest carelessly,and he’s all the way to the fridge and opening the door before he realizes we’re both sat there, and I watch his expression as it slips from neutral to something like confused horror.
He looks like one of those people that slows down on the freeway to look at the crash, then scares themselves with the blood and scattered body parts.
Joanna and I are not meant to be here, not together.
It’s like opening your big mac and finding a whopper.
Popping the tab on a coke and drinking sprite.
We’re an abomination in his kitchen. But I’m not entirely sure which of us shouldn’t be here.
“Good morning Tyrell.”
Joanna breaks the silence and this seems to snap something in him because now he’s talking to her in Danish, clipped and terse.
Obviously, I have no idea what he’s saying, so all I can do is look back and forth between them as their conversation grows in speed and volume.
Maybe I should have considered learning another language.
That’s lazy of me.
Like every other English speaking person, I presume that I’ll just get by.
She’s talking back, calmer, more focused, but Tyrell looks like he’s about to start yelling, so I stand up, waiting for a lull in the conversation before speaking.
“I’m gonna…. Just go…”
They both turn to look at me, and my mouth snaps shut.
Tyrell’s red in the face, mouth set, eyes wide and he points at me and barks.
It’s an automatic response.
He can thank my mother for that.
“It’s alright Elliot… I’m leaving now…”
Joanna nods, soft and slow, like she has everything under control, takes her time finishing her coffee, then slides gracefully off the stool, picking up her purse, every movement carefully orchestrated and unhurried.
“It was a pleasure to meet you… I hope we can talk again soon.”
She smiles gently, her expression hardening just a fraction as she looks at Tyrell.
“I’ll call on you another time.. Farvel for nu .”
Tyrell watches her leave, and the way his shoulders hunch up, the way his head drops between them, I wonder if he might bellow and take after her, bringing her down like a deer and tearing out her throat with his teeth.
It’s such a vivid notion that when he turns I almost expect to see his mouth caked in gore.
Of course… It’s not.
I watch as he goes back to the fridge, snatching out a carton of juice and tipping it to his lips, taking half a dozen long pulls from it before putting it back and running his hand across his mouth as the door closes softly on its seal.
I kind of feel like he wouldn’t have done that if she was still here, like he’s clawing a little control behind her back.
“Have you had breakfast?”
I shake my head no, and without asking, he grabs a pan and puts it on the stovetop with more force than necessary, setting too to cook up a mess of eggs.
I don’t have the courage to tell him I’m not hungry.
I bet you have a lot of questions friend.
It’s not the right time to ask though.
Is there any worse feeling than sitting at a table pretending everything is ok when it’s far from it?
Tyrell’s shovelling eggs into his mouth like they personally insulted him. I can hear him breathing heavily through his nose as he chews.
It’s like having breakfast with a bull.
Eventually he cracks, slamming his fist down on the table so suddenly that I jump and drop my fork onto the dish with a metallic clatter, then he’s sweeping everything off it with one arm, sending dishes and silverware scattering to the floor.
My coffee cup and dish break on the tiles, so does the glass of juice he poured himself.
I am the quiet, frozen stillness of the world.
I couldn’t leave my chair if I tried.
For a second, he turns his rageful face on me and it’s hers.
It’s her I’m looking at, and every scar on my body hurts, like muscle memory, it flinches, waiting for the blow or pinch or burn.
Perhaps he sees that in my eyes, because his own soften, and with a blink it's’ like he’s mentally shaken himself and realized what he’s done.
Without a word he goes to pick up the mess he’s made, his hands slow and careful, like after snapping, he’s understood how much damage he can do.
Perhaps I should have got up and left then. I don’t think he would have come after me, but instead, I find myself getting off the chair and moving to crouch down before him, hesitating a moment before starting to pick up the bits of a broken dish.
When I look up to put the pieces on he table, I see him staring at me, and as I watch, his eyes get wider and wetter, his mouth turns down and his lower lip trembles as he tries his hardest not to lose it, and I realize he’s crying.
He just shakes his head, then lifts both arms to press them across his face like a child, as he starts to weep.
I’m not good at comforting people.
I don’t have the inbuilt base code for huge amounts of empathy, but I can see he’s hurting, that he needs something, so I move closer, reaching out to put my hand on his shoulder lightly, ready to snatch it back if he lashes out... but he doesn’t.
His shoulder shudders under my fingers, and the heat that rises up between us where I’m touching him makes me remember how his skin felt against mine, and I press my palm harder against his shoulder, moving it up and down his arm slowly.
His next sob wrenches something from me though, something deep and sorrowful, and I get it.
I get that he’s hurting, I get that something is so deeply ingrained in him that he can’t deal with it and blows up over something small and stupid.
I get that because it’s me.
I do that.
We’re the children that learned control and the adults who can’t say no.
My arms are wrapped around him hard before I even realize what I’ve done, and as I hold him tight, his own arms slap around my back and hold onto my shirt with desperate clawing fingers like I’m the flotsam he’s trying to crawl onto to save himself, even though I’m only wreckage.
I find myself murmuring, using his own words because I know they soothed me.
“It’s ok… It’s ok Tyrell… I’m here… I’ve got you…”
Chapter 20: Beguiled
Sometimes it’s good to look at things from another perspective.
Sometimes, I’m the witness, not the narrator.
But this time… I’ll walk you through it
I'm just gonna suggest setting up "Touch (feat. Paul Williams)- DAFT PUNK" and hitting play when you get to the end of this chapter, especially the first minute.
Tyrell Wellick is nothing special.
He stressed that to me, many times.
Imagine sitting in a library and casting a look along the stacks and desks.
You wouldn’t notice him.
Your eyes slid straight over him.
He’s the almost skinny young man in no brand jeans and a sweater, working at his laptop.
His hair is a little grown out, he wears glasses.
Sometimes, while he’s working, he chews on his lower lip and sniffs every few minutes out of habit.
He doesn’t realize he does this by the way.
Not until she points it out.
Tyrell Wellick graduated top of his class, then did his post grad in Denmark.
He has family there.
An aunt, some cousins, he had fond memories of visiting when he was a child.
Tyrell Wellick left education and started working as tech for TDC.
He liked it well enough, even if he was overqualified.
They kept bumping his responsibilities up without him realizing until he was assistant head of cybersecurity.
Joanna was the fiancee of the head of cybersecurity.
She watched him, and she watched how he didn’t even look her way, because why would he?
Guys like him didn’t get girls like her, and Tyrell had the kind of way about him that suggested he’d realized that a long time ago and accepted it.
She watched and she listened to others talk about him, about how he was talented, ridiculously talented… but would never make management material, would never do more than he did because… well… He didn’t have the aptitude… and she looked at her fiance, with his boorish manner and set in stone ways, and realized… She could do better.
She could make better.
Joanna at the staff Christmas party, walking up to Tyrell and slipping the glasses off of his face to look at him closely while he blinked at her in stunned, confused silence.
She’d smiled, and handed them back to him.
She tells him that on Saturday, he’s going to take her out to dinner.
It didn’t even occur to him to say no.
He was 25, had slept with two women, dated one of them for a year in college, and while they had been pretty, they hadn’t been Joanna.
I can’t blame him.
For someone like him, it must have felt like he was being graced by a Goddess, she had given him a knowing, promising smile, and it was the least he could do to take her to dinner, if only to bask in her presence a little longer.
When, after dinner and while they were having drinks, she’d led him into the bathroom, he’d naively, but maybe understandably, thought he was going to get lucky, but instead she had taken off his tie and folded it neatly, slipping it into her purse, then reached up and run her hands through his hair, re parting it, her fingers teasing the ends a little. She popped the top button on his shirt and then carefully rolled up his sleeves so that he looked effortlessly careless, but still smart.
It was a look that could be pulled off with cheap clothes, not that she thought it would matter.
He followed her dumbly back to the table, not sure what had happened, but when they sat down, Joanna had sipped her drink, then nodded for him to look behind him.
The redhead at the bar was also beautiful…. Not Joanna, but still beautiful, and, until now, he’d thought out of his league.
As he turned Joanna leaned forwards to talk softly.
She told him how much she admired her earrings, and didn’t he think they’d look pretty on her?
… And then she explained what she wanted him to do to get them.
Tyrell had frowned in confusion, but she simply smiled and told him that a second date was promised… So long as she could wear those earrings.
'Will you do something for me?'
She was his morphine.
She made him feel like a god, and in a way, I feel more connected to him now than before.
Joanna is Tyrells Mr Robot.
She’s the devil and the angel on his shoulder.
He had the earrings gift wrapped and sent to her, and when she let him take her to bed, she kept them on.
The rest is history.
Tyrell tells me all this with his head bowed low, sat across the table from me, a cup of coffee gone cold near his elbow, broken dishes still on the floor.
I feel bad for him, but I’m also a little in awe of both of them.
Joanna for her brazen desire to create the perfect power husband, to make him herself from the ground up, and of Tyrell for allowing it. Letting her eradicate him so completely, and I wonder, do I know him at all?
How much of his personality isn’t his.
How much of it is hers?
When he looks up I’m still staring at him, and maybe he mistakes my gaze for scorn because he freezes and I know that look, I can feel that look, it’s the one that wonders if he’s said too much.
I’m trying to fit him back in my head though.
Trying to find the place where he slots in again.
He’s like a reflection of myself, a twin, and as he puts his hand on the table, I do the same, pressing my fingertips against his own.
We lick our lips.
Our mouths are dry.
“Who are you?”
My own voice sounds weird in my head, amplified, and for a moment I wonder if he might start crying again.
His lower lip seems to take on a life of its own sometimes, it quivers until he pulls it back under his front teeth to quell its motion, then shakes his head.
“I don’t know...”
To change yourself so completely you need outside help.
The smoker rarely just tosses the empty packet away and never buys another, the alcoholic doesn’t sit down at the bar and decide he’d rather have a diet coke one evening.
To change yourself, you need a mentor.
It starts outwardly.
A new haircut, contacts so the glasses can be put into a drawer and shut away, spending some money on suits that fit, not just ones off the rack, being taught to pair the right tie with the right shirt, the right shoes with the right pants.
Then on mannerisms.
It’s harder to learn how to sit in a confident and casual manner when it hasn’t come naturally to you. To be able to look both calm and commanding AND relaxed… That takes talent, especially when your default is to slump, to become small, unnoticed.
It takes training.
A lot of training.
“Do you love her?”
Tyrell shakes his head, then laughs softly.
“I don’t think I ever loved her... I was… Beguiled by her… In awe of her… Even scared of her, but none of that really added up to love… I know that now.”
I don’t ask him how.
I don’t have to.
“She left you… didn’t she…”
“It was a mess… I just… I didn’t realize how reliant I was on her for… Everything.”
I admire his honesty, his vulnerability.
Here is a man who’s spent the last decade becoming not so much a spoke in the corporate wheel, but a corporate machine himself. Buffed and polished to a high shine, smoothed into the perfect vessel for Joanna’s upwardly mobile vision.
“But I met you …. That wasn’t her plan... She always has a plan… And you ruined it, because… I met you, and I didn’t need her anymore… I didn’t want to need her…”
Don’t you find it kind of ironic that Tyrell was willing to lurch from one dysfunctional relationship to another?
Was she really so bad that I was the better option?
Or was it that he simply relished in the role of carer for once, that he wanted to feel like he was truly needed for once.
I move away from the table and crouch to finish picking up the broken dish.
I’m not sure how I feel about that if I’m honest.
Maybe that’s a worry for another time.
I didn’t expect his apology, not even sure it’s warranted.
“You’re right… I should have been there, you were right to be angry… You needed me and I wasn’t there... I wasn’t honest about what was going on… I thought… I thought maybe you weren’t ready to hear about any of it.”
He’s stood now, joining me on the floor and picking up chunks of glass between his thumb and finger, placing them carefully in the dustpan.
Broken china cupped in my hand.
I turn it over, the heavy grain inside a stark contrast to the smoothness of its finish.
He reaches out to take it from me and finishes sweeping with the small brush, collecting the last of the mess and standing to dump it in the trash.
My knees pop when I stand, like my dad’s used to, and I wonder how many years I have left before I start to complain about imminent rain.
“I’m sorry too…”
He turns his head as if not quite believing those words came out of my mouth.
I’m a little sad about that reaction.
Makes me feel like a shitty person.
I wonder how many other people I should say sorry to.
Darlene… Everyone at some stage or another.
I’m kind of a dick.
Let's be realistic here.
I just hide it under awkwardness so people shrug and say, ‘it’s just Elliot… You know…’
“I was angry and scared and… I took it out on you…”
He nods, perhaps he doesn’t want to admit that I needed to apologize as well.
I’ve knocked myself off the plinth he’d built for me, that he builds for everyone he loves or fears, and he’s not sure how to take it from here.
“I should have been honest with you.”
He looks down as he says it, nodding his head a little, then glances up to catch my gaze, wall-eyed like a dog afraid of being hit.
“I was so afraid you wouldn’t like who I really am… That you only like her version of me…”
His fists are clenching and relaxing, like he’s trying to regulate something inside him, trying to keep all that anxiety from bursting out again.
“I want to know you.”
I watch his fingers splay and still when I speak, and when he looks at me properly again I offer him a small smile.
“I want to know who you really are.”
His eyes are limpid wells of sorrow, but deeper down, behind the smile he's giving me, he’s terrified.
She’s programmed him in such a way that he’s only ever crashed without her before, and he wants out.
He wants to be free.
He wants to turn the clock all the way back, but he wants me there too.
I press my hands to his hot damp cheeks and he closes his eyes, swallowing hard, and I get it now, what he meant in the postcard about me giving him strength, making him strong, because I can feel it too.
I can feel how caring fiercely for someone can make you stronger, can make you find reservoirs of untapped strength because all you want to do is protect them, to wrap your arms around them and shield them from every shitty thing that ever hurt them.
I kiss him.
One long firm press of my lips against his, holding his face between my palms so that he has to bow his head a little, then I pull back, just a fraction, just long enough to tell him that I love him.
One thing I know, he’s a country boy at heart.
He can wear a slick suit and command a board meeting, can travel in Chauffeur driven style and charm his way through drinks and corporate dinners, but when you take all that away, he doesn’t belong there.
He never did.
The temperature here’s still freezing.
The front of the cabin we’re staying in has icicles hanging from the guttering, like someone forgot to take down the Christmas decorations, and although no fresh snow has fallen for a couple of weeks, piles of it still sit around patiently waiting for their imminent demise once the sun reaches just a little higher, a little closer.
We’re waiting for spring in one of the last places on earth it visits.
I’m standing next to a basket outside a shed, the heavy down coat I’m wearing smells like mothballs, but I’m not cold, it’s like wearing a comforter, although it kind of swamps me, but there’s only Tyrell to see that, and I don’t mind him laughing at me
I’m watching him chop wood for the stove.
He’s stripped down to a shirt and I’m fascinated by the way he swings the axe, hitting his mark with accuracy each time, watching the wood split into logs, it’s like watching a dancer on a stark white stage, his face a mask of concentration, arms and shoulders taut, the outline of his oblique muscles pressed against the cotton of his shirt as he lifts, swings, braces with a grunt as he hits another.
He used to chop wood for his father.
He hated it.
Of the two of us though, he’s by far the quickest at the job, so it nearly always falls to him.
He smiles and moves back when he’s done a few so I can step forwards and gather them up to fill the basket before he starts again.
He’s steaming like a racehorse on a cold morning.
It’s more than a little pornographic.
I’m not sure where we are.
That is, I can’t remember the name of the nearest town, but I know we’re in Sweden, in the country, somewhere near the border of Norway.
It's cold, the air’s crisp enough to make it feel like I’m snorting dry ice half the time.
My Jersey lungs aren’t used to it and, for the first few days I coughed every time I took a deep breath, but after that, it was like I couldn’t get enough, I’d stand outside and take in gulping lungfuls like I was drinking cool clear water.
Back home, the cold just made me long for warmth. I seemed to spend all my time looking for the vent or the radiator to lean against, the coffee shop to hide in out the gripping, damp cold of the city, but here?
We carry in the baskets of logs together, and while I stack them by the blackened stove in the living area, Tyrell makes hot frothy coffees he flavours with whatever takes his fancy that day.
For a few days it was vanilla, for another cinnamon, today it’s caramel.
I don’t mind either way, but I like the way he gets excited when he finds another one to try in the store.
Unlike the house on long island, this place feels like Tyrell belongs here.
He fits as neatly as the sweater he pulls on over his fresh shirt.
He hasn’t apologized once for any of the decore.
The cabin is a beautiful lament to the forests that surround us, the floors aged from decades of stockinged feet walking across them, the handrail on the stairs that leads to the only bedroom, nestled in the apex of the A-frame, is smooth and worn to a shine.
The couches are covered in throws and pillows bearing traditional Scandinavian designs.
When I first saw them, wandering around the place as he made the first of many coffees, I told him it was Hygge ... And he laughed in delight that I’d remembered the word, came right over to hug me, kissing the side of my head with a grin, and told me I was right.
Perhaps we need that.
A softness to our world, to ourselves.
There’s no internet, no tv, not even a landline.
I’ve never been so disconnected.
I’ve never been so happy.
It all happened fast.
The house was hers.
He paid for it, but it was in her name, she could come and go as she pleased, and besides, it had never been his.
He hadn’t even picked out the clothes in his closet, let alone the furniture in these rooms.
While I went home to pack, he called into work, pulled up the vacation time and paternity leave he was owed, and took it all.
He wanted to talk about taking a sabbatical, but he’d get in touch near the end of his allotted time off.
I called Gideon and quit, but I’m not sure he took me seriously.
He told me to take some time, to get in touch.
I’m not sure I will.
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
Tyrells hands pressed hot to my face as he looked down at me, his gaze hungry for my answer, but scared it might be the wrong one, that I might betray my true feelings in my own eyes, but I only nodded.
“Yes… Of course…”
I’ve flown before, but only internally… This is my first time leaving the country.
I’m glad you’re here.
This is a step into the unknown.
I don’t speak a word of Swedish, and when Tyrell pointed out I could get by on a little Danish or Norwegian, I pointed out I didn’t know them either, and he laughed, leaning in a little, pressing his nose against my ear, a tiny, discreet, but intimate gesture.
“I will teach you…”
His accent’s become more pronounced since we’ve been here, it’s only now that I realize how hard he worked to hide it.
He talks with a cadence and tone I've never heard from him before, and I understand now that it’s because he’s being himself, he’s being natural, there’s no one he has to pretend for anymore.
Sometimes, he starts to talk to me and forgets I can’t speak Swedish, stopping a few words in and shaking his head with a smile before starting again.
I want to learn though.
I want to be able to talk with him in his own tongue, I want to be privy to the way his words make him feel now.
He’s teaching me a little, but I’m a slow learner.
Once a week he makes the six-hour drive to Copenhagen to see his son.
The first time, he invited me, but I said no, and he hasn’t asked me again.
We both know if I want to go, I’ll ask.
I don’t want to see Joanna, but more importantly, I’m not ready to see him with his son.
He misses him.
He buys him gifts the day before, and at least once a week he writes him a letter that he files away with all the other ones he’s written over the last few months.
The first time he left I was scared.
I wondered if he might not come back, if he might leave me alone in this country where I can’t speak the language, where I have no friends, no family to fall back on.
What if he saw his son and decided he couldn’t live away from him.
What if Joanna turned every ounce of her charm on him and convinced him to stay, to be a family again.
He left at five in the morning, and I spent all day pacing the small cabin, I forgot to eat, I COULDN’T eat, my stomach churned like a washing machine drum, making it hard to stand straight, doubling me over when another roll of acid lurched up angrily.
But at one in the morning, he was home, surprised to see me awake, but smiling wide, gathering me up in his arms and burying his cold nose against the warm crook of my neck, exhaling with a contented sigh.
“I missed you… I’m so tired… Lets sleep… ok?”
And I couldn’t do anything but nod and hold him tight before leading him up the wooden stairs to bed.
Each time he goes it gets a little easier.
The second time, I got up with him and had coffee made while he showered, then after he left, I sat on the couch watching the light change through the trees, soft salmon pink as the sun rose and caught the snow.
I ate lunch, but not dinner.
I fretted after six, when a few flakes fell in the dark sky and I imagined a mangled car on deserted snowy roads, but he came bowling through the door just after one in the morning and hugged me like he’d been gone a week or more.
“You shouldn’t wait up! You’re meant to be resting!”
I told him I wasn’t going to sleep until he was safe home, and he smiled wide, kissing me happily.
The morning after his trips to Copenhagen we stay in bed, soft and sleepy as the sun slip through the shutters, I’ll wake and watch him slowly rise out of sleep, might run a finger along his nose and smile when he twitches it, might bow my head to press my lips softly against his.
Mornings after are full of slow movements and lazy kisses, gentle finger touches and feather light strokes of palms.
We explore like it’s all new again like a few hours away is too much, we run through our rituals like pair bonded seabirds that sing and dance elaborately only for their mate.
Like this I wanna be under him, every part of me pressed to some part of him, my mouth on his, kissing him until it’s impossible, until his need for me has matched my need for him and the climax of this is something beautiful, something affirming of ourselves, and now…. It’s me who whispers that I love him.
I love him.
I love him.
In the store, while he wanders around the wine section, I notice a picture book, the kind made out of stiff card, a chewy toy attached to it by a short rubber cord.
I can’t read the title, but there’s a picture on the front of a chick following a rooster, and I show Tyrell.
“Perhaps he’d like it?”
Tyrells smile is wide with gratitude, my small step towards his son.
On the fifth week and on his day away, I went for a walk.
I headed on the well-trod trail path that starts at the end of the cabin's driveway, and took myself into the trees.
I’m not a natural when it comes to being in the countryside.
I don’t even really feel comfortable in parks, something about the ever-changing light and scenery… But I like these woods.
The trees are nearly all evergreen, they keep their livery of dark, sap heavy green all year, they don’t feel the need to wax and wane with the seasons.
An hour later I turned to go back and saw him watching me.
It’s been weeks since I saw him… Since I even thought about him, and for a moment I’m afraid because I think he’s a real person, then I see that he’s wearing his light jacket, sneakers in the snow, and the plume of smoke from his nostrils is from his cigarette, not the cold.
“Are you going home?”
“Good… We’ve got things to do Elliot… Unfinished projects… Giedion will take you back in a heartbeat, you know that, then we can set up operations again and….”
His eyes narrow, his mouth sets, and for a second, he’s not my father, he’s her… My mother's eyes behind his glasses, her lips pursing as he takes a drag on the cigarette.
“What do you mean no …?”
I shrug my shoulders, smiling a little.
“I’m done with this… I’m just… Not doing it anymore… I’ve changed.”.
He laughs, a harsh braying bark he cuts off sharply.
“Bullshit… You need me.”
“No. I don’t.”
“He won’t come back… One day… He’ll just stay there, and you’ll be all on your own again only this time it’ll be worse… cus I won’t be there to help you… To take care of you…”
His voice switches between condescending and cajoling... He’s the good cop and the bad cop.
My angel, my devil.
“It doesn’t matter… You’re right. Maybe one day he won’t come back, but at least I will have had this. At least I would have known what it’s like to feel like this instead of hiding away from everyone who ever tried to know me… I don’t need you.”
His face is a mask of unadulterated fury.
“YOU NEED ME! YOU’VE ALWAYS NEEDED ME!! IF IT WASN’T FOR ME YOU’D BE DEAD!!”
I turn my back on him and in my head I hear a strangled moan.
A single, desperate note of fear.
I don’t believe in him.
He’s not there.
Gods only have power over those who truly believe, and I don’t.
When I turn again, he’s gone, and for just a moment, I’m not sure how I feel about it.
I’m lightheaded with freedom, but I’m also wracked with guilt, like the kidnapp victim who wants to protect their captor, like the abused child who still clings to their parent.
I owe him.
But he doesn’t own me.
As dusk starts to fall I sit out on the porch, my gaze fixed on the sky as tiny stars begin to pepper the blackness creeping in from the east.
It’s not until I look down again that I realize there are deer only feet away from the porch, digging at the last of the snow to search for any spring shoots trying to push their way through the lawn.
I hold my breath as I watch them, and when one of them raises its head, it seems to lock its stare to mine, like we’re both trying to decide which of us belongs and which of us is the trespasser in this place.
Finally, it snorts softly, moving away from the cabin, it’s companions following it, and I suddenly think about the poem, the one Tyrell said his father loved so much.
‘so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
He’d thought his father foolish, and had’t understood the meaning of the poem, but I do.
I understand now.
It’s all just a fleeting moment, good or bad, we can concentrate on the barrow, on it’s colour, on the chickens beside it, but the rain made the glaze hard only for a little while, and soon, it’ll be like it never happened at all.
If you weren’t there, the storm never happened.
I can lose my mind on the details, or I can accept there was a storm, and maybe it’s over.
The rains over for now.
I sit on the porch and watch the darkening road.
I sit on the porch and think of red wheelbarrows.
I sit on the porch and I wait for him to come home.
Thanks for reading guys.
This is the end of part one.
I have ideas for a part two, so if you want one, don't be shy! Let me know...
I have another project to work on for a while, but I won't be forgetting these guys in a hurry, and can't wait to see if part two is wanted ♥