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by Miriam

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Disclaimer: No profit but pleasure.

Notes: Many thanks to Francesca for providing refreshments at these late-night indie-film showings (and for betaing, of course). And thanks to Minotaur for sitting through an early showing of the rough cut.

Summary: To quote Thomas Hardy, this is "a series of seemings, or personal impressions, the question of their consistency or their discordance, of their permanence or transitoriness, being regarded as not of the first moment."

Part I: Category Crisis

There are times when it's just great to know that someone's either figured out a name for your particular problem or that someone (a team, probably, from some major research university) is currently putting their heads together working on a name for it. Right now, I'm not sure that having a name helps.

Category crisis. That's what it's called. And if I could've slept last night instead of staying up thinking about it, I might not know what it's called. But I'd still be wading hip-deep in it.

No--bad imagery, there. Mixed-metaphor. See, that's the thing about named conditions. If you have a name, you've got a whole load of metaphors to deal with. Massive implications. Repercussions. Shit, in fact.

Okay, so maybe hip-deep is the phrase I'm looking for after all.

"Shaman" was like that. I mean, damned if I know what it's supposed to mean in Cascade, but having a name on it--on me, actually--does some weird things to your life. Suddenly, I'm supposed to know things. I don't know things. Really. I look like I know things, but teaching is like anthro; it's about learning what questions to ask and how to tell when someone's lying to you (most of the time--and the rest of the time, they're lying to themselves).

I know that some people think I'm some sort of down and dirty anthropologist but I'm really not into going native. I don't cut the hair. I'm looking for that middle ground between watching through my binoculars and being watched by the next guy and yeah, I do realize that I left that middle ground about two years back when I lost perspective on my research project.

Yeah, yeah. Lost perspective. So you'd say "fell in love." Is there really much difference? One sandwich short or two. Either way--no picnic.

Feast or famine.

Category crisis.

Jim Ellison with his shirt off, leaning over my car trying to fix the damn thing because I refuse to take it in and get ripped off. Again. For like the fifth time. Jim Ellison leaning over my car stripped to the waist.

These are the things which provoke a crisis. Is the man half-naked or half-dressed?

Am I straight with a freaking anomalous crush on my research subject or am I gay and deeply in denial or am I bisexual and just not dealing very well with my options?

Like I said, a category crisis. But it's not as simple as you think. Because a category crisis is really an intersection. It's not just one problem. It's lots of them. A huge overdetermined mess. A fucking enormous intersection--the kind where cars are always wrecking, but nobody has the balls to demand action. I need a stoplight at the intersection of Sentinel and Guide please? Oh, you might consider a flashing yellow light? Yeah, we'll take it.

You take what you can get. I mean, why push when they can just decide you're a demanding prick and isn't it enough to get your life back (thanks) and your job back (thanks, but for how long?) and your room back (so I had to unpack everything and move in again. Am I complaining?) and your best friend back (a little tension is a good thing in a relationship, right?) and your research project back (and man could I write a chapter on why two Sentinels are not better than one). Why push?

Because Jim Ellison is one of those guys who you can count on to push back.

Part II: Elision

This morning, I got another bill. Not that unusual. Well, the fact that Sandburg hadn't gotten to the mail yet and shredded all the envelopes open was unusual, but I'm not talking about that. I've got to pick my fights and if I gave him another letter opener he'd only lose it again. Or it'd turn up as the murder weapon at a crime scene. Sandburg is like that. Like what? I'm not sure. I wonder if he was voted "most likely to be trouble" in his yearbook. Somebody should have stamped a warning on his head.

This bill is from the auto shop. Again, not unusual. If Sandburg ever buys a new car, I'll probably get a funeral wreath from these idiots, mourning the death of another classic. What's bugging me is the label. James Elision.

Now, I have no idea where they got James. It's not on my credit card, that's for damned sure. But I can live with James. It's the Elision thing that kills me.

I'm tempted to show it to Sandburg, but we have this understanding in place. I've got the frigging diploma. Magna cum and all that. I'm just not ready to deal with helping him through the paradigm shift right now. Ever. This year. I don't know. I have enough trouble keeping up with the wet towels on the floor and the shower curtain on the outside of the tub problem. I don't need this.

But it's funny. I do have a sense of humor. And this is funny.

Sandburg was up all night last night thinking. When he thinks, he thinks he's keeping really still but he's not. He has this thing where he picks at the edges of that Indian blanket, pulling out the fringes into these tufts that leave wool hair all over the floor. A man can only tune out so much before it all starts being static.

I pick and choose because Sandburg gave me that. Which is ironic, but not funny. He gave me the ability to turn down my senses, one at a time, but at the same time, he's always pushing me to keep everything up. Right at the surface. Where he thinks he can see everything and know everything. Everything I choose to tell him. The talking cure according to a guy who made it through one semester of psych. If it were up to him, I'd have no subconscious at all. Jim Ellison, all present and accounted for, Sir. All my fucking neurosis listed in the table of contents. He publishes that thing, and that's what I'll be.

He once told me that nowadays nobody publishes their dissertation without editing it again. Making it something the average Joe might pick up at the Barnes and Noble. By average Joe, he means me.

So, he submits it and publishes it and the public can read the "Reader's Digest" condensed Jim Ellison.

Everything that's fit to print. Everything he knows about me.

I don't lie. I elide. I'm subtle that way. Dostoevsky once wrote that there are three kinds of things we carry with us: the things we tell to other people, the things we tell ourselves, and then the things we don't even tell ourselves. He also said that we are in love with our own suffering.

Notes from Cascade. We are in love with our own suffering. Hell. Suffering, thy name is Sandburg.

We are in deep shit. And the gears are stripped and hell if I can figure out how Sandburg managed that one.

Part III: Subtext

"Do you mind?"




"Get me a beer or something."




"Oatmeal stout?"


"I said get me a beer. Not gourmet fucking three dollars a bottle--"

"Six dollars a six-pack. That's a dolla--"

"I can do the math, Sandburg. Grab that wrench if you're gonna stand there."

"I don't have to stand here. I've got work to do."

"So work."

"Need help?"

"Do I look like I--? No. The other wrench. The--Nevermind. Move over."

"What the hell did I do?"

"Hmph. Ow-fuck."

"Hey, you okay?"

"Fine. Just a scratch."

"Sure? Maybe I should--"

"I said it's fine. Get outta my way."

"Man, you are in a mood."

"I am in the middle of fixing your junk heap. Your second junk heap. Do you have any idea how much money we'd save if you bought a new car?"



"You don't junk a car just because it has a few problems, man."

"That's it."

"What? You're giving up?"

"You want to try magically undo fifteen years of badly timed shifting, be my guest."

"So move over and I'll--"

"Not that--yeah. Over there. See?"

"Yeah, I see it. So it's just--"


"You give up too easily, man. Just get in there and--okay. Now give it a good--Yeah. Right--now ease up, man."

"Sandburg, something's gonna blow."

"s'fine, Jim."

"Sandburg, I'm serious. Move--"


"You okay?"

"Yeah. Never seen that before."

Part IV: It's Academic

"Five hundred dollars, Sandburg."

"Shit. I don't have--"

"I've got it."

"You can't. I still owe you--what--three years of rent?"

"Your credit is good, right?"

"I've got student loans, man. My credit is excellent until I graduate and default in a very spectacular way."

"So you're good for, what, another semester?"

"Um... I don't know. I'm thinking I just won't graduate."


"Won't have to the pay the loans off if I don't have a job, right?"

"Riiight. So I'll just put this on your tab."

Part V: Dialogic Discourse

"Let me start from the beginning." Blair waved his hands when he spoke, but the gestures were less than enlightening--They were vague and shapeless and Naomi couldn't see them anyway. It was on his face that the words took shape, in the intensity of his gaze and in the sometimes too-pretty mouth.

Let him start from the beginning and it'll take years. Blair Sandburg has problems letting go of his projects.

Jim's hands rested lax at his sides, except when they clenched into fists. His thoughts were not on his face, which was still and calm, except when it was tense, lips pulling taut around unspoken words. He was steadfastedly not listening to Naomi's side of the conversation.

"Jim was wearing this t-shirt."


"This grey t-shirt. The tight one."

Wasn't tight. Tight is relative. Okay, so maybe it was tight.

"And I think we were talking about the Jags. Or something. I can't remember what it was."

Clint Eastwood movies. Whether the westerns were better.

"Something totally neutral."

He was wrong. Still hasn't admitted it, but a horse is no orangutan.

"I'm not even sure why we were talking about it."

We were trying to decide whether to watch the movie he rented or the good one I rented.

"So I made dinner, but he was starting to get territorial about the kitchen."

He means I was asking him to close the containers after he opened them. It's like he's leaving breadcrumbs behind him so he can find his way back.

"You know how he is. Very... well, let's just say he was not going to win the argument."

We watched "Pale Rider" and it wasn't rewound.

"He probably can tell you if it was rewound or not."

It wasn't.

"He's got this thing where he remembers every little thing you've ever done wrong, and he doesn't seem to be able to track the big things."

I remember his birthday. And the day he moved in. And the day I put the doors up on his room.

"He didn't see me coming. I guess I was being subtle. I didn't really see it until it was almost too late."

He'd been bumping into me all night. Just getting in the way. I remember most of that night. The important parts. How he tasted when he came in my mouth.

"And then it was like, Wham. Screeching tires, buckling metal, breaking glass. Yellow means go really fast, right?"

Part VI: Word Pictures

Blair Sandburg doesn't just take his clothes off. He sheds them like several layers of skin. Now that was not a sexy image. Undresses like a... Damn. Sandburg's not a flower. Okay, so I'm not so good with metaphors.

But I'm moving too fast, right? You want to know what happened before he got undressed. That's two of us. I'm still not sure what happened.

It was a dark and stormy night. In the beginning, there was the Word. And the Word was...

I'm no good at beginnings.

Part VII: Ekphrasis

"Pale Rider" is a really good movie. It ends with this girl staring out at the western sky, at Eastwood's back as he rides into the horizon. Classic image. And she yells out to him. Something moving. I forget what, exactly. That she loves him. Very romantic, except he doesn't stop the horse and she's about twenty years too young for him.

I like bittersweet endings. But Jim just dove in and started to complain about it. His taste is less than inspiring. Give him an monkey and a social misfit and he's happy.

And no, that's not what I meant. What I meant was...

Okay, so maybe it makes sense. He likes slapstick, and I'm always falling on my face in public. He thinks I'm funny when I just stand there reacting to humidity.

The things we do for love, right? Maybe I will cut the hair.

Part VIII: Intercourse

Jim Ellison reached over and moved to grab a handful of popcorn. Seconds earlier, Blair Sandburg had eaten the last of the popcorn and had moved the bowl to the floor at his feet.

It was fate. And Blair Sandburg reacted accordingly.

"Jim, I didn't know you cared." Blair said it breathlessly.

"Funny, Sandburg. Where's the popcorn?"

"History. Want to make some more?"

Jim tipped his head ot the side, considering it.

"We've still got 'Any Which Way'...." Blair offered.

"It's getting late."

"Tomorrow's Saturday. The weekend. Sabbath and day of rest, man."

"Right. Didn't you have a date?"

Sandburg looked at his watch and said, "Tonight? Yeah."

Jim blinked and Sandburg corrected, quickly, "Tomorrow night. Jane cancelled on me tonight, remember? You?"

"Going to the game with Simon."

"Oh. So, popcorn?"

Jim nodded and got up to change tapes.

Blair brought back the bowl of popcorn and sat down again, waiting for Jim to move away from the TV before cranking up the volume. Sentinel hearing or not, this movie begged to be loud.

"See, I told you. The comedies are better."

"Is that why you got divorced?"

"What?" Jim blinked and drew his hand back from the popcorn bowl.

"She finally figured out that you have no taste?"

"Nah. That wasn't it. She loved this movie. She just didn't love me."

"Well, I love you. But not the movie."

"Yeah, well, you have better taste than Carolyn."

"I'm messier, though, right?"

"No contest. But you make better popcorn."

"I didn't make it. I nuked it... is it really better?"

"Yeah. She always let it go on for too long."

"Gotta know when, I guess."

"Hmmm. Wonder how they taught the little guy to drive the car?"

Blair didn't answer and he was no longer looking at the movie. He was looking at Jim and thinking about knowing when and yellow lights and why Jim never let him drive the truck.

He was thinking about intersections and jaywalking and burning popcorn.

He was thinking about putting a name to it.

Part IX: Denouement

Blair was leaning over Jim, so close that Jim finally noticed and turned away from the TV, feeling Blair's warm breath on his neck. Jim's right hand reached for the popcorn again, pulling back just as he remembered that the sound of the glass bowl hitting the table meant that Blair had already set it aside. Blair was looking at Jim with a strange expression on his face, like he was thinking about something and hadn't made up his mind. And then he said, "Category Crisis" and Jim said, "What?" and Blair repeated it and kissed him.

Blair tasted like butter. Blair put his buttery salty hands to work taking off Jim's clothes, not breaking the kiss, opening his mouth and moaning into Jim's as his fingers slipped over buttons, slid against Jim's fingers as he reached up to help.

They were making out. And it was fabulous.

Part X: Analysis

I should just write this up. Probably could find a market for it, and hell, it's probably publishable, which the Sentinel diss, for reasons which are now obvious (why couldn't they have been obvious three years ago?) is not.

But I need a catchy title. Jim doesn't pick up a book unless it has a catchy title. I once saw him reading a book about World War I and I was like, you never read war books and he said, "But this is the Great War." The book, he later told me, was only passable, but you get the idea. Thinking back on it, I'm guessing he was kidding. He has a sense of humor, but sometimes it's easy to miss.

"The Previously Heterosexual's Guide to Same-Sex Sex"

Too many sexes. Homosex? Homosexual sex? Well, I don't know what to call it. Gay sex?

But I did it.

And I found out that if you're five eightish (I said ish, okay?) and your lover is six something, there are some positions in which I challenge you to find a way to both kiss and fuck.

Not that I'm complaining or anything.

When Jim Ellison sleeps, it's easy to love him. It's not so easy when he pushes that sleep mask up on his forehead and gives me that look like "What the hell are you?" But when he's asleep, he's like this big sign that reads, "All is right with the world."

He's in the post-coital zone right now. And I'm trying to figure out if it's better to lie on my side or my back or my front, and none of them is particularly comfortable. And I got the wet spot. Hell, right now, I am the wet spot.

If I write this scene up it'd have a lot of ellipses. Kissing without the biting of the lips. Undressing without the part where Jim looked down at his shirt and saw the butter stains all over it. Fucking without that moment where I freaked out and decided that maybe I wasn't gay and Jim kind of talked me through the whole thing. He's a good guy to have around in a crisis.

The thing about first times, and I've been thinking a lot about this, is that they're forgettable. They shouldn't be. You'd think it was the opposite. But the first time I've done anything, it's always been a blur. I can't even remember the first time I held a gun. Or shot it. Or my first, first-time. Just some enthusiastic groping and me coming in about five seconds. Okay, so I remember that a little too well. But I can't remember whether it was any good, for either of us.

Naomi says it's because I move too fast. She suggested I keep a diary, but that's too much like work. I'm always scribbling in a notebook, and some thoughts just aren't worth writing down. I think it's better to forget that Jim pulled my hair like about five times and I accidentally stuck an elbow in his nuts which utterly killed his erection for a few minutes there.

First times are like that first chapter of your dissertation that you write just to get started and then have to write again, because it's embarrassing to realize that you didn't have a clue what you were doing.

Freud called it "Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through." The "Repetition Compulsion."

I call it a morning hard-on, personally. But then, I'm not the analytical type.

End Intervention.