Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chapter 21 - The Day After

Jeremy had $2,000 in the bank. That was enough for four months' rent -- assuming he had other money coming in for food and gas and utilities. He hadn't cashed the second story check yet, but it was only $200. He had two more paychecks coming from the library, but one of them would be for only two days.

He had to find another job. Quickly.

Or did he? Maybe he should just trust that his writing would bring in enough money. Maybe he wouldn't be able to live as well as he had been -- no more mocha latte's from Starbucks, eat out less and cook more. But he could do it. One story had gotten him a whole month's rent. He had several more out there he was waiting to hear about.

"And what if you get sick?" he asked himself. Losing his job at the library meant losing his health insurance. He couldn't even go to the doctor now -- he didn't even know what doctors charge people without insurance. $50 for an office visit? $100? Whatever it was, it would probably wipe him out.

"Well, I just won't get sick," he told himself.

It probably would be a good idea to try to get a job of some kind, somewhere. Even part time. Something he could rely on if things got rough.

He put together a resume. He really hadn't done much since college except work in the library, and it wasn't a very good preparation for doing anything else but work in libraries. He also dreaded answering the question that he knew would come if he got interviewed, "and why did you leave the library?"

"Well, gee, I got sacked."


He sat and stared at his resume, trying to will it into something formidable that would cause employers to jump up and say, "Why, I must give that young man a call right now!"

But of course he didn't have a resume like that because he didn't have a life like that, he wasn't the kind of person that employers would fall all over themselves to hire. And in the short term -- trying to find a job in a month or two -- he'd be lucky to get work at a fast food restaurant.

Actually, he remembered the last time he was jobless, and getting a job at a fast food restaurant was probably next to impossible. They assumed people like him were just looking for a stopgap to tide them over until they found a better job, and they generally didn't want that. They wanted young kids who would work weird hours and be happy with working only ten or twenty hours a week because they were living at home and it was extra money or older folks with no education or job skills and no chance of doing anything else with their lives who'd give them forty hours a week for the next ten years. There really wasn't any room for anybody else in the fast food world, it seemed.

Bartender? He'd been a bartender once before. He had left it off of his resume, but maybe he shouldn't have. Not that bartending jobs were usually hired by way of a resume anyway. Could he ever remember how to make all those drinks? Did he still have his bartending book? He could look it over and brush up.

Mostly, he sat around feeling sorry for himself and making vague plans to do something but never actually accomplishing much. He did get his resume updated -- and he made the library job sound pretty good, and made it appear that he'd done better there than he really had, without actually lying. It really was true that he'd had increased responsibility -- but so did everyone who worked there, pretty much. It was just part of the job. It took a long time to really learn how to handle the public, for instance, how to read people and understand what they wanted even when they weren't good at asking for it.

He had been getting really good at that.

And now it was gone.

Jeremy burst into tears again, feeling angry with himself for being such a baby, such a wimp. He was glad Liliana wasn't here to see him like this. But if Liliana was here, if he could just hold her, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
He grew angry with her for not being there. She should be here to commiserate with him! He picked up his laptop and was about to hurl it across the room when he suddenly came to his senses. There was probably nothing that he owned in the entire world right now that was as precious to him as that laptop. He couldn't afford to break it.

He decided to channel his anger into poetry. For the first time, he wrote poems to Liliana that were truly angry and bitter, lashing out at her for abandoning him when he needed her. He would later realize on reflection that they weren't entirely fair, but in rewriting them he left them that way, because the emotion he was feeling wasn't about fairness. It was about need and the huge gaping hole left in his life by losing his job and not having his girlfriend around to help him through it and how awful he felt and how difficult it really was to be a human being in love with a creature out of faerie, even if she was real enough to hold. You couldn't hold her if she wasn't there.

He got so caught up in writing, and in being angry with Liliana, that he didn't take his usual walk to the park at eight o'clock or so, but looked up at the clock to see it was nearly midnight. He had a sudden pang of guilt for having forgotten her, but it was quickly supressed in favor of a "Good, I hope she waited for me. Serve her right to see how it feels for once." But it was hopeless to try to maintain that attitude. He was too dependent on her, and he knew it. He threw on clothes -- he'd never even bothered to dress today -- and walked over to the park, hoping she was there, hoping she was angry with him for being late and yelled at him so he could feel perfectly justified in yelling right back.

She wasn't there. He tried to be angry with her for not being there, but he didn't know if she hadn't shown up or if he had missed her because she had given up on him, and he felt like he couldn't get mad at her for not being there if it was his fault they hadn't gotten together.

He trudged home disconsolate. He had ruined everything today. He'd thrown away his job, possibly pissed off Liliana -- and if he had, would he ever see her again? What a loser. Things couldn't possibly get much worse, he decided. Almost immediately, he cursed himself for the thought -- that's just what the universe wants you to think, he thought, so it can hit you with a double-whammy.

He actually began contemplating horrible things that might happen to him now for having thought that things couldn't get worse, but his one bit of luck today was that none of them materialized.

Indeed, he actually discovered that perhaps the universe had decided to smile on him after all. For when he returned home, Liliana was there waiting for him. She hadn't come alone to his apartment like this in some time, and when she did she always showed up naked, in his bed, but tonight she was sitting demurely on the couch, still clothed in the same black dress she always wore, the necklace he bought her gleaming in the moonlight coming in from the window. He hadn't turned the lights on yet, just walked in the door and saw her across the room.

"I'm sorry, Jeremy. I wish there was something I could do."

"You know?"

She nodded. "I cannot come to you by day. I can stay sometimes when I am here, especially in winter when the days are short and often dark and gray. But I could not come to you today, though I wanted to."

It was enough. It was more than enough. He forgave her fully, ran to her and swept her up into his arms. He let the sonnets stand, later, as an honest testament to his own feelings, but wrote other, remorseful sonnets apologizing for having berated her in such fashion.

She did indeed stay with him the next day, and the day was indeed dark and gray, and they stayed inside and didn't leave the whole time. She cooked him breakfast, and he cooked her lunch, and they ordered in a pizza for dinner, and made love, and she read while he wrote, and Jeremy allowed himself to imagine that they could live like this forever, happy together almost like a normal couple. Maybe even get married. Maybe even . . .

Could Liliana bear his children? Was it even possible? And if they didn't want that to happen right away, should they be taking precautions? He'd used condoms religiously early on, a member of the generation that grew up with AIDS the idea of condomless sex was as illicit as the idea of shooting heroin -- sure, there was a bit of enticement to the illicitness, but the negatives seemed to far outweigh the positives. But she had asked him why, and he had tried to explain to her, and she had laughed and assured him that he wasn't going to catch any diseases from her, and somehow he believed her, and he had to admit that it was far better without them.

But he hadn't even thought about her getting pregnant. He assumed that she would take care of that. If she'd been human, he'd of assumed she was on the pill. As it was, he just assumed that she either was unable to get pregnant or could decide to when the time came.

Maybe it was something he should ask her, but he wasn't sure how. Or when. Or if he could even work up the courage to bring it up.
He shook his head, and looked back down at the story he'd been trying to write, which he'd broken off as his reverie took over his mind and he stared off into space.
"If I have a child by you, it would not be your child," she said gently.

He looked up, startled. "What?"

She smiled sadly. "I told you, Jeremy. All women read minds. Even your human women, though not all of them are good at it. I know what you were thinking, and I know too how your world and mine interact, and I say to you that you should not even allow the idea of settling down to live with me as man and wife to enter into your head. It cannot happen. My kind take from your kind, and while we give something in return, we cannot give you family, hearth, or home. If I were to bear your child, I would be lost to you forever, as would the child as well. Even human females who bear the child of one or our males soon loses the little one -- to crib death, perhaps, or one day the child just vanishes. But he is not really dead, nor kidnapped by a madman. He's been returned to his people, where he belongs."

"I wish I belonged there."

"Aye, most of your kind who see the other side do feel that way, and perhaps I was remiss to take you there."

"Is there any way I could go there? To live, I mean? With you?"

"Ah, Jeremy. Best not be considering happy endings that have been forbidden. Hold me close while you have me, and be happy for the time we have. It's brief enough. What may come may come, and come what may we will always have this moment, to warm us through cold nights and ease our minds when they are troubled."