Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Chapter 1 - Jeremy

This is not a fairy tale. Well, all right, technically it is a fairy tale, I suppose, but it isn't one of those stories that you tell the kiddies just before you tuck them beddy-bye about a beautiful princess locked in a tower and the handsome prince who comes to rescue her.

For one thing, nobody would have mistaken Jeremy Morrison for a handsome prince. Not that he was ugly, mind you. It's true that his chin was perhaps a little too pointed, and his nose was perhaps a bit too sharp, and certainly his unruly mop of dark blonde hair cried out for professional assistance, but on the whole he was not unattractive, especially for that certain kind of woman likely to be intrigued by the intelligence in his eyes, which were green with brown flecks. Not even such a woman, however, would have thought of him as a prince. More like a lost puppy dog she felt compelled to take in and care for.

Not that many women ever got the chance to get close enough to Jeremy to look into those eyes and feel the stirring of those maternal instincts. Jeremy was as shy and awkwad as a gawky adolescent, interacting with the women that he met as if he was about 13 years old. Which was why he found himself at (what he thought of as) the ripe old age of 27, still unbelievably a virgin -- a condition he was as determined to change as he was clueless about how to go about it.

Also, it must be assumed that a prince would be, if not fabulously wealthy, at least reasonably well-to-do. Jeremy was usually a couple of paychecks away from homelessness, whatever little money he managed to squirrel away always eaten up by seemingly endless emergencies of one sort or another. His car would certainly not impress a princess -- indeed, he was mortified to think of trying to convey some girl he'd picked up in a bar to his apartment (assuming, as he did in his fondest fantasties, that he might ever get to that stage in a relationship) on the torn seats of his dilapidated vehicle. Just thinking of it drove him to despair, which would usually mean that instead of even trying to go out and meet someone he would stay home and watch Adult Swim.

Jeremy ached to be someone different, someone richer and more confidant and better looking.

He hated his job, which was working as a library assistant in the reference department of the downtown library. He hated it primarily because library assistants made considerably less than librarians, or even assistant librarians, for which one needed a Masters of Library Science degree. Jeremy liked to say that he did 90% of the work of a librarian for half the pay. It was really more like 75% of the work, and probably very nearly the same in pay, but perhaps instinctively knowing that the result would rob him of the satisfaction of his long-nursed grudge, Jeremy had never actually worked out the math.

He hated his apartment, which was actually a very nice apartment, affordable to someone of his income only because it was what was euphemistically known in the real estate trade as a "transitional neighborhood." It wasn't dangerous enough to be a really bad neighborhood, but it wasn't safe enough to be a good one. If it got any better, Jeremy knew the landlord would raise the rent enough that he'd have to move out. If it got any worse, he wasn't at all sure he'd want to stay. He kept praying for it to just stay exactly as it was, with the occasional gunfire waking him up late at night but so far not scaring off the rehabbers altogether. But he knew that it was a doomed hope. Transitional neighborhoods by their nature cannot remain static. They must transition, one way or the other.

He hated his car, his clothes, his prospects for the future, even his own personality. He hated everything about his life. He hated himself.
One night, drinking beer and watching the television, he decided that he had had enough.

"You need to stop this, man. Just, just stop."

"Stop what?"

(I'm taking liberties here. Jeremy did not, in fact, argue with himself out loud like this. These voices were inside his head, and they were both the same voice. It isn't like he was crazy or something.)

"Stop wasting your life like this! Look at you! Why are watching this stupid show?"

"I like this show!"

"It's stupid! Even if it's good, it's stupid! It's a waste of time! You should be doing something!"

"Like what?"

Well, that was the question. There wasn't anything that Jeremy had any aching desire to do. And that, finally, is the most unprincely thing about him. Jeremy Morrison had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, no ambitions whatsoever, nowhere he wanted to go and nothing he wanted to do, and his dissatisfaction with his life and his world was nothing but a seething resentment against the world for not handing him an exciting and fulfilling life without him having to lift a finger.
But all that was about to change.

Jeremy had had this argument with himself before, but this time, he finally took action. He picked up the remote and turned off the TV.

"Now what?"

"I don't know."

He sat there a moment, the remote in his hand and, if he had only known, the remainder of his entire life balanced on the cusp of his thumb on the POWER button, trying to decide whether to turn the TV back on.

"I need to get out of here."

He tossed the remote on the couch, stood up, drained the last of his beer, and headed for the door. At the last minute, he remembered to grab his jacket, or it would have been a short walk. He might have gone a block or so and decided to come right home again. If he had, it's likely that he would never have met Liliana, and none of it would ever have happened.