Sleep seems to be a fantasy these days, not even a week, or is it a month, I can't tell, since...well. It must be a week because the scabs on my hand are still crusty, the bruises only yellowing, not gone.
Still...Billy left that lovely card he made, so thoughtful...Wipe away one tear, head quietly down the stairs to not wake Maggie, and look for coffee.
"Hey, Dan, want to make an early coffee run with me?" I ask when I see him holding flowers and a card. Presents everywhere, it seems.
"Jake...hi...sure," I smile a bit. "I just take these...inside...hang on."
I slide the card into my pocket. I'm not sure if I'll show to Jake, it must be hard for him knowing him and Billy. I take the flowers in and put them on my nightstand. Then I'm back ot with Jake.
"I could use a cup of coffee," I push my hands into my pockets and walk beside Jake.
"Man, Dan, coffee is the elixir of the gods, y'know?"
Here we are, we two, here since the beginning, practically in my case, for real in his, and neither of us has a successful relationship. WAs that the point of coming to camp? I mean, didn't I come for the experience, to practice so I could be a better therapist when I got my degree, and have some fun with acting and shit? Why did Dan come? I don't even know what brought him here.
No time like the present for this long-overdue 'getting to know you' conversation.
We get our coffees, my regular nonfat decaf latte ready by the time I reach the counter, Dan's--I don't even know if he has a regular coffee, I'm so not tuned into him--whatever, in his hand, and head for a booth. Sitting, I take the first sip--oh, yeah, baby, nothing like nice dark French Roast--and really look at him.
Tired. Not tired: wary. Sad? Maybe. Trying to be cheerful, because that's how Dan is, Scarlett and Emma have both told me that, but underneath...And what does he see when he looks at me?
"So, Dan. How are you, anyway? D'you know, I think this is the first time we've actually, in all these months, just sat and had some coffee and conversation?"
"Yes, it's so nice, we're finally meeting each other properly," I smile and sip my coffee, my normal coffee with milk and lots of sugar. "I'm alright, I've been better and I guess I've been worse...sometimes," I shrug.
This is weird. I wonder which one of us will say it first, that we're in the same boat sort of speak. But our situations are still very different. Billy and Jake had a relationship, they were really together. I wasn't with Dom, not really. I loved him, I still love him, but we weren't together.
"How are you?" I look at Jake again.
I tap the table several times, take a sip of the coffee, and smile slighly cynically. "Are you too young for me to answer 'Just fucking fine'?" Silent laugh, another, then a smile..."Nah, I guess...Not fine. And not fucking, either. How about you?"
"I think the same answer will work for me too," I smile at him. "Listen...I don't know if I shuld say this...I don't know you that well, but I'm so sorry about you and Billy. You looked happy together and...sorry, I know you probably don't want to talk about it, but I'm sorry...I just wanted you to know that."
I look down at my hands. I wanted Jake to know that I care, even though we've never been hanging out together or done things together, but he's important around here and he's been a huge help to many of the campers and staff members.
"Uh, thanks, Dan. That means a lot. I'd love to talk about it, but I don't quite know what happened. I mean, I know we broke up, and I kind of know why, but not really, and not at all why now, why this way...it just fucking hurts, you know?"
He nods, briefly, and looks away again to his hands.
"I know that very well," I slide my hands across the table nervously. "I'm not sure if you know about me and Dom...about the thing we had before he left the camp," I carefully look at Jake. "I was...am in love with him, but then things...well, went horribly wrong and now, at this very moment, I can't be with him..."
I sip my coffee and lean back on the chair.
"So I know how it feels to lose someone you loveand not really understand the reasons of the break up...or something," I shake my head, it's hard to explain this whole situation.
A medley of Motown songs
plays through my mind: The Tracks of My Tears, Ooh Baby Baby, Walk On By, Goin' Out of My Head...If Bill were here, he'd tease me about wanting to sing them, but he's not here...he won't be here...Not like that.
"Yes, you do, Dan. Not fun, is it? I'm sorry, you're so young, too...fuck." I snort a little, shake my head, run a finger over one eye as though it itches, but I know from how his eyes soften he knows it's a tear I don't want that I'm wiping away.
"What're you doing today, Dan? I'm going to be gone over the weekend, going with Karl and Hugh, Hugh's gonna have a procedure done in Irvine, Karl's going with him, I'm gonna be the backup...I need someone to look after my little trees for me. It's not hard, you don't need to be a gardener or anything...Would you be interested at all in looking after them for me, for the weekend?"
"You want me to do it?" I look surprised.
He has friends like Scarlett or Orlando, why would he ask me. But I'm honoured he asks me, happy he trusts me so much.
"Of course I can do that," I smile a bit. "Are they in your cabin or in your office?"
"That'd be great. They're down behind the pool house, actually, in back, outside. It's kind of nice there, you know? Quiet...there's shade in the middle of the day, but light enough for them."
The coffee's good, I'm waking up a little now. "It's not like I'm some big bonsai master, Dan. I found these little trees kind of abandoned up here behind one of the outbuildings, and...I dunno, they give me something to care about
, something...something greengold
in my life. Otherwise these blues would kill me, I think."
Another sip, another thought slid away from, this one the little garden at the hospital, Bill's first day out of doors after...can't. Cannot go there. Stay here. Stay now."
"Do you have things to keep busy with, Dan?"
"I've been reading and studying a bit," I shrug. "And I have my friends...I actually had fun with Shane...he's a very nice guy," I smile. "I showed him this big oak tree I found earlier when I was riding alone. It's a gorgeous tree. Shane liked it...I had this plan to have a picnic there with...but I guess I'll take someone else there," I sip my coffee again. "Hey Jake, thanks for asking me to take care of your trees...I won't let you down."
Meant to show Dom, he means.
"I know, Dan. I'm not worried about that. They just mostly need someone to talk to them, they don't take much daily care...you can't really water them or feed them too much, or they outgrow their container..."
His smile is so lovely, soft, full, rich...the sincerity in his eyes, happy to be useful. God. What do we do when we hurt each other?
"I miss him, you know, Dan? It's not even been long enough to really realize it's over...and I miss him so much...if he were here, he'd ask me 'How are you feeling,' he'd say, 'tell me, just tell me what you're feeling', but...I don't know. Nothing, Everything."
My face just crumples without my permission, two tears spill out, drop down, splash on the table. "I'm sorry, Dan. Sorry. I'm supposed to be the 'big oak' here, aren't I?"
Stupid smile, reach for a napkin but there're none on this table, it's too early in the morning and they've not had a chance to fill everything yet.
I take a handkerchief from my pocket and carefully slide to sit next to him. I put my hand on his arm when I hand him the hanky.
"I know...," I whisper. "I miss Dom too...I know we didn't have anything close to what you and Billy had, but I know..."
I squeeze his arm and lean closer to him.
"Oaks need support sometimes too," I whisper and press my head carefully against his shoulder.
He lays his head down so gently.
WHat's he afraid of? That I'll break? That he will?
Reasonable, I suppose. I put my arm around him, pull him in for a little hug. "Yeah, we do. We all need support, don't we? You're a good kid, Dan."
"You're an ok guy too, Jake," he says, shrugging his way tighter into the hug.
"Comfort and support. We do each, all, need it. Who am I to judge where Billy finds it? He's alive. That's all that really matters, isn't it? The rest...how I feel, what it means to me...I'll work that out, I guess, or not." I look down at him and smile. When he gets his growth I'll bet he outstrips me in height. He's going to be a very handsome man, with a good heart. Someone will be very lucky indeed, to have him. "You? You going to be ok?"
"Yes, I'll be fine...," I smile at him. "I just have to direct my thoughts to somewhere else. Thanks for the words Jake, we all just have to hear those sometimes."
I hug him tightly with my both arms. It's so good to hug someone and be hugged. Jake is amazing and so strong! He's hurting so much and yet he's there to comfort me and others. He's smiling, but I can see the hurt in his eyes. I hope I see the smile again in those eyes, they are so beautiful, his eyes.
"I hope I helped...even a little bit," I squeeze his hand when I slowly pull back.
"More than a little, Dan, more than a little."
Touch feels good. His hand lingers a little in mine, and I don't want to let it go. I probably should, but I don't want to.
"You were out riding? We could go riding sometime, you, me, Scarlett...or cycling...I need some thing else to do, so it's not all just rescuing and losing..."
I give his hand what seems to be a last squeeze, pat it, and let go. Just as long as I don't get cold-hearted again, it'll be alright.
"Riding a bike," I smile and look at Jake. "No horses, never been horseback riding.
I enjoy the friendly touches Jake offers. I've missed the closeness with another guy, but Jake is just friendly. We've both been through some heartache, so it's natural to support one and another.
"I'd like that, I like Scarlett, she's always been sweet and kind to me," I look at Jake. "Maybe you and I could be like that too?"
Carefully I glance at Jake. I hope he doesn't think I'm coming onto him, I really could just use another friend.