Liz is sitting on the hard bed, hunched over, tired; she's waiting for a response but Jack can't think of anything to say. They're alone, but together. There’s no way back. He can't change, she won't budge.
'You want tea?', says Jack.
'No. I want answers,' she says, 'what am I doing here?'
'Come here to me'.
She bristles, her brow furrows, she relents, then recedes.
The window panes shake in the wind. Storm's floating in off the mountains. He wants that force to come hard and strong, collapse this mess. He can build a new one out of the old. Jack can build anything. But in him lies the desire to run into the warm night, scream, drink, bleed. Cut open a vein, and watch. This is no way to live. This is a promise without a premise. A shadow life.
Fire's going out, Jack thinks about putting twigs on it, but he'd have to move past her. He senses she doesn't want that. He senses an ending. Fireflies at the window, attempting entry, trying to escape the storm, rattling, flapping, beating.
The old eternal mystery of Man and Woman is weighing on him like a timeless see-saw. She's floating one side, his vacant self is on the other, struggling to maintain the balance. The point of the poisoning. He can't feel, the clock ticks louder than ever.
Jack wants a drink so god-damned bad. It’s getting close to closing time. He calculates the distances between the here's and there's. The watering holes, dark dingy rooms aching with loneliness. Places where he can vacate his body, find splendor in absence, sweetness in bitterness. He thinks about running away from the hard problems, just like Daddy, away from everything worth fighting for. He whispers through gritted teeth, 'No. I will not be that'.
She stirs, hearing murmurs, floating in his conflict zone. He's trying, silently, to communicate the message, “I'm devoted to you. All this running'll end”. Promises of peace, and stillness. But all she hears are the primitive cries of a wounded animal. He realizes then, it’s her holding all the weight. It's her who's the good, the light. He is a shadow.
Vacant and chained to disappearances. A Brutal Beast Of Burden. He knows he has no right to weep, but the tears come all the same.
Liz sighs, he looks over. Shadows split their distances. Between the light of the kitchenette, where he stands, brooding, and the black of the bedroom, where she sits, draped in her dark green dress. Her necklace, wrapped in the clenched fist of her right hand. She's shy about her make-up, he's ashamed he made it that way. He can feel them, standing at opposite ends of a bridge, tempting the other to walk first, meet like silent messengers in the middle. Come to me love. Come and tell me and how to be better.
He wants to get across vital points; he didn't see her for the first time, that summery day, years ago, and say, it’s my intention to hurt you. To one day create ugly chaos from gorgeous luck. “It wasn't my purpose to shift my pain onto you”.
He wants to get across the point in direct and eloquent ways. But words won't pass through him. He has been rendered mute by the night.
Liz is not standing. He's done. It's done. Neither one can break through the hard ice, only the rattling of thoughts vibrate now, a desire for escape and contrition... Get me a drink Jesus. Free me Christ. Grappling with elusive spirits he doesn't believe in. How am I this way? Hopelessly trapped in this biological prison. This poor excuse for a body? Why am I more aware of this fact more than The Others? When does it end? He realizes then he has the power to make an end. He's in control of his own destiny. The next moment Jack is aware of thought, it's too late. The car is backing out of the driveway, blowing up black plumes, the rain comes hard now. She hasn't moved an inch.
In the bar, he's met with the crooked necks of the stool pigeons, turning to see him enter. He can taste the sawdust. 'What are you having?'. He doesn't usually go to places like this. Old men. Flagrant despair. He usually goes to nice bars, with women. Opportunity. But he can't handle all that tonight. His lips are sore, parched. He looks at the barman, dead straight, 'a water with ice...and lemon'. The barman raised his eyebrows, 'and?'.
'And I haven't decided yet'.
'Alright, well this isn't a shelter from the storm. You have to have something'.
'I will. Let me get settled.'
He slides up onto a stool at the end of the bar, brushing the water from his brow, aware of the fragility of skeletons, gravity and elevation. For a moment, the blurriness of his own conscience makes him drunk. He laughs at that. 'What’s so funny?' The barman is amazed at Jack's sudden change. Jack didn't realize he'd laughed out loud (as if there was any other way to laugh). 'Nothing. I was just thinking about how sometimes, the only way you can feel sober, is by having a drink.'
The barman did well to hide the surprise. He knew what he had in front of him. He didn't want to validate the learning of a recent graduate. A graduate of The School Of Boozing. He wiped away a fake spillage. 'Well?' …Jack considered this briefly, 'Guinness and a Jamie. One ice cube.' The barman appreciated the succinctness of the order, it came late, but when it arrived, it arrived well. The barman wouldn't get offended either, when later, after having paid, and spoke a little more, Jack got up and left, his two drinks untouched, he just needed a moment or two. The barman knew the type.
He pulled up into the damp driveway. It was 2:00am, but still warm, he'd driven himself broke. No more petrol to burn, no more thoughts to salvage. He couldn't leave now. He wouldn't. Soon the house would have another resident, he wasn't willing to miss that. All the lights were darkened. She'd gone to sleep. This saddened him. He opened the door gently, removed his shoes. A light flicked on. He looked down the hallway. She was in her dressing gown. Clean, hair washed, looking at him. Intent, alive, waiting. They stood like this, a long moment. She was so beautiful he couldn't speak. More beautiful than he'd ever seen her. Her skin was pale and translucent, glowing, her hazelnut eyes, lit from within.
'I went for a drive. Stopped somewhere. But I didn't have any'. She nodded, almost imperceptibly. There was something in her eyes, something like before, pride, maybe even love.
He fell towards her, wrapping his arm around her knees, he began to sob. 'Oh Liz, Liz, please honey. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I love you. I love you so much. Please don't leave'. She ran her fingers through his hair, caressing him, whispered, 'I know baby.'
He stood up, slowly, to meet her eye-level, express the full extent of the feelings. But as he did, he felt his grip loosen, her touch dissolve. He was alone in the hallway. On one knee, as if to propose, but she wasn't there, her ghost had vanished. He wished he could have stayed there all night, waiting for her to come back. But the baby was crying. Going into the bedroom, aching, he picked her up, cradling her, he whispered, 'I know baby. I know'. Then he groaned, reacting to the first awful tremors of a seismic headache.