[disclaimers in part 1]
"On my hospital bed, the odor of incense comes back to me so strong..."
~~Rimbaud -- A Season in Hell~~
MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2000
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER
This afternoon it's been my turn to play baby sitter. I made Fro stop at El Torito to grab dinner, seeing as I'm missing out on Frohike's killer roast chicken. Plus, we're still trying to get Byers to eat. Hospital slop might be a food group -- on Mars -- but not one that's gonna get any meat on poor Johnny's bones. So I grabbed two Macho Grande Platters to go. I probably way overdid it for Byers on that one. "You gonna eat that other burrito, Byers?" Sorry, all I had was a BLT for lunch. Not enough to sustain a growing boy.
"No." He sounds like he's too weak and exhausted to even pick up his fork. "I'm done. Help yourself."
"Gracias." I dive into the chicken burrito, the corn cake, and the rest
of the rice he left behind. Good thing one of us was hungry; I hate to
see all that good stuff go to waste. Poor guy. He's better than he was
this morning, but that's not saying much. He looks real wiped out and banged
up. And they took away his Demerol before I got here. Fuckers. He's on
Vicodin and Motrin now. Vicodins are nice, but there's nothing like a nice
big hit of Demerol when you're miserable. Except maybe a nice big hit of
morphine. And a really nice doctor...I boot up and plug into Byers' phone
line. I don't like working on an
unsecured line, but I've got onboard security. Deb's on shift tonight and I'm gonna stay in touch any way I can. I been thinking about what to send back to her all afternoon. I finally decide on 'fantasy' and hit the send button. Byers sighs. "Need more drugs, dude?"
"No. I'm just worried about Sari." Ooh, I was right, and so was Frohike. She may not be hot for him, but I still say Byers has it bad for his latest damsel in distress. "I wish she was here." Byers looks real sad, as well as looking like he kissed the pavement big time.
"Well, like, I'm sorry I'm not as cute or interesting as your last baby sitter!" That makes him turn red. Gotcha dude! I'd keep picking at him but I've got a return email, and it's the Deb song playing! Her word is actually two words. 'Kama Sutra.' Oh baby! All of a sudden it's very warm in here.
"Well, look who's blushing now." Byers might be banged up and tired as hell, but he's still Byers and he doesn't miss a trick. Bastard. Somebody get that boy some drugs, stat! He dozes off for a while, and I do some work on Sari's stuff. After a couple hours he wakes up. "What're you doing?"
"Just working on some of Sari's salvaged files."
"I should be doing that."
"The hell you should. You're supposed to be resting, dude."
"Who's coming later?" He sounds like a little kid waiting for his favorite gramma to show up.
"Dunno. Probably Frohike again."
"Oh." He sounds kinda disappointed. No doubt about it, he's hot for her.
"You really like her, doncha?" I'm not trying to be a pest, really. I'm just, you know, curious. Inquiring minds want to know.
"She's a very nice person, why shouldn't I?" Uh-huh. And I'm a tall blonde. Let's not overstate the obvious here. "You're making it out to be something it's not." But he's blushing again. It's too funny.
My word d'heurre is going to be 'close.' That's what I wanna be with Deb. So bad. I keep dreaming about what it's like under her clothes... clothes, close. Sort of a play on words. I mean, I'm not gonna push. It's gonna be her call. But if she calls skin games, baby, I am so there. "Sure, dude. Whatever you say."
He sinks back into the pillows, or at least as much as you can sink into hospital pillows. Ever notice hospital bedding's not about comfort? It's about easy clean up. That means plastic and icky. Of course, seeing as I had such a great doc at Penn (and lots of lovely morphine), I really didn't notice that much. "You and Frohike are reading too much into this, " he insists.
"Uh-huh." I'm on a tricky line of code here. I need to pay attention -- E-mail from the Debster again! Maybe it's a slow night. She could use one. Me too.
She writes back, 'warm.' Oh yeah. Once again, temperature in the room goes up a few hundred degrees. I'm trying to be creative here, but only thing that comes to mind is, 'you.' So that's what I type.
"Langly, you're a fine one to talk about adolescent hormone rushes." He's kind of laughing at me, but it's hard for him with his face all messed up.
"Yeah, but I'm not denying mine. You are."
"You really don't understand. Can we drop this? I'm tired." Okay, he's tired, I know he is, so I shut up before I get him all bent out of shape. By the time I look up again, he's on his way to dreamland. He sleeps sound for a while, and this gives me a chance to get some work done.
Deb must've gotten busy. It's about three hours before I get another post from her. This time it comes back, 'you too.' Oh man. This is such a rush. This is even better than hacking and cracking. I'm loving it. I write 'us' -- it's a natural progression, after all. Right after I send the post off, I hear Byers rustling around a bit. Shit, I hope he's not having a nightmare. I set down the laptop and go over to him.
"Hey, bud, it's cool, everything's down," I put my hand on his arm. He's like not really hearing me, and doesn't open his eye. I try to get him calm, keep telling him everything's fine, he's safe.
He's trying to talk. Only thing that comes out of his mouth, though, is one word. "Sari." Oh, but it's not like that. Right. Personally, I'd like it if she was hot for him, too. I mean, she seems pretty righteous. She's sure not way out there like Mata Hari was. Somehow I don't see her hanging us out to swing in the breeze. Doesn't seem her style. I think she'd be there in the trenches with us. Yeah, I think they'd be good together. Almost as good as Deb and me... and I just might need to borrow one of Fro's videos when I get home.
I've been exhausted all day, and my head aches so badly I can barely focus when I open my eye. The doctor told me it would be like this for a while, a week at least, maybe two. I'm really not looking forward to the whole thing. He also said that when they release me, probably tomorrow morning, that I'll be on bed rest for at least two weeks. As in, stay in bed and don't do anything. While my own bed is far more comfortable than this torture rack they have me in, I'm not sure I can handle that. I've spent most of the last two months almost motionless, lifeless and paralyzed by other kinds of pain. Just when I thought I might be able to start finding a life again, or at least something that vaguely resembled one, I get the crap beaten out of me and end up like this. I've had nightmares for years, but a new one has joined the litany: Barry towering over me like a redwood, and the sound of Sari's arm snapping.
Having Sari here this morning was comforting. She doesn't hassle me like Ringo and Mel do. I know it's just how they show they care, but I'm too damn tired to cope with it right now, and I wish they'd see that. Sari has a very peaceful presence, and at least while she's near by, I know that she's safe. I don't think that even her ex is stupid enough to try to come here and assault her, with all these people around.
The guys seem so certain that I've fallen for her. It isn't like that,
though. Yes, she's attractive. She's also intelligent,
talented, compassionate, resourceful and brave. But she's on my mind because I'm still afraid for her, not because I want to take her home with me -- at least, not in that way. I've spent a lot of my time lying here thinking, even though my mind hasn't been all that clear, because there isn't anything else to do when I'm too exhausted to talk.
When I talked to Sari today, after we'd discussed her project and the
article I wrote last month, and I'd had some sleep, I told her a little
about Susanne. Not a lot, but the start of an explanation. And she said
some things that made me look at my situation again, with a somewhat different
perspective. I told her that I didn't think I'd really loved Susanne. She
said she believes I did, and that I still do. Her impression is that I'm
denying what I feel because Susanne's leaving had hurt so much, and perhaps
I didn't want to think of the last eleven years I spent loving her from
a distance as a waste. That I was trying to talk myself out of loving her
so that I could let her go, and that ultimately, letting go of her doesn't
mean I have to deny my love for her. She says that once I can let go, both
the love and the pain will fade with time. I don't know if Sari's right,
it makes a certain amount of sense. If I were looking at someone else in the same situation, I might come to that conclusion too. I know she's right about one thing though -- I'm still not over Susanne. I don't know how long that will take, but no matter what Fro and Langly think, I'll never be able to love anyone else until I can honestly let her go. Even then, I think that finding someone else, someone I can truly trust and let into my heart, will be a very hard thing.
Sari said that when she left Barry, she still loved him, even though he'd beaten her and put her in the hospital. She'd asked for a separation in 1996 and tried for nearly two years to work things out with him before she finally got divorced. Apparently, she's still not seeing anyone, largely out of fear. And who could blame her? "It wasn't worth it in the long run," she told me. "It would have been better to just let him go and move on. I don't know that it would have changed my situation, but at least it would have changed me. I almost died for love, John. Don't be a martyr to your vision of how things could have been with her. Don't let your love kill you. Find a reason to live, and hold onto it with everything you've got. Because if you don't, you're going to kill yourself, whether or not that's what you intend."
They were painful words, agonizing even, but words I needed to hear.
And only Sari could have said them to me. Thinking about them has started
some strange alchemical transformation in me; hard and terrifying, but
necessary. I wish that Mel and Ringo could understand this, could know
that what I need from Sari isn't a repeat of my obsession with Susanne,
but a friend that I can talk to who won't judge me by a painful mistake
I made when I was 25. I need someone who can tell me the truth, and help
me understand it. When I met Sari Saturday, I felt the spark of something
wonderful being born, but that something is a friendship, the recognition
of a kindred spirit, not some wild hormonal attraction. What embarrasses
me is not what I
feel for her, but how badly my closest friends misunderstand those feelings.
And so I worry about Sari being hurt again, or even killed, before we
can find a way to deal with her ex and ensure her safety. I worry that
the guys' rude innuendo will drive her away before she gets to know what
they're really like. I worry that when this is over, she'll move on with
a new life, and that I won't be a part of it. But I also hope. I hope that
she'll want me for a friend, and that we'll have the time to get to know
each other. I hope that she'll help me find a piece of my life that was
stolen eleven years ago; a world outside the shadows I've inhabited for
so long. And I hope that my friends will see the truth about what's really
going on between the two of us, instead of letting their imaginations run
away with them. I don't know, maybe that's too much to ask. I'm not feeling
very optimistic right now. But I think maybe, just maybe the sky might
still be up
there, and I simply stopped being able to see it when Susanne left. If that's true, then Sari is the first star I've found shining in
that dark, hidden vault. And I think she may know how to help me find the the key that opens the door to the rest of its wide expanse. It would be good to see the sun again.
LATE THAT EVENING
Mulder and I arrive to relieve Langly and take over watching Byers. John's barely awake when we arrive, but Langly seems eager to get home and get some rest. Byers looks over at us. "Hello, Agent Scully, Mulder. It's good to see you," he says softly. He sounds completely drained.
"You guys come to spring me?" Langly asks.
"Yeah," Mulder says. "I'm gonna haul your skinny ass home, then I'll be back here with Scully so we can take turns keeping Byers company for the night."
I greet Byers, read his chart, then examine him. "How are you feeling?" I ask.
"I've had hangovers that felt like a warm spring day in comparison," he confesses.
Mulder and Langly make their noisy way out of the room, and I pull the chair up next to his bed. "You're looking a little better."
"Death warmed over?" he asks. I nod and laugh. I'm glad he still has his sense of humor. "Is Sari all right?"
"She's fine. I made her go to bed about an hour ago. She's very worried about you."
"I wish I could see her," he says. "I'm worried about her ex finding her and trying to finish the job."
"She's safe with the guys. And I don't think you'll have to worry about Barry Guertzen for much longer," I tell him. He perks up a little.
"Did you find something?"
"Seems our boy was involved in some racketeering and money laundering. We need to dig up some more information, but I think we may be able to get him put away for a very long time. Combined with his assault on you and Ms. Thomas, his history of violence, and the fact that he issued a death threat against both of you in front of witnesses, I think we'll have a strong set of charges, both local and federal. I think we could even make a good case for attempted murder."
Byers smiles that tiny almost smile of his, and gives a satisfied sigh. "Now that's the kind of news I like to hear."
"Yes, but is it the kind that will give you a good night's sleep?" I ask him.
"Oh, I think so," he mumbles, pulling the covers around him. "Might be the first time in years."
end part 13