Volume 2 , Number 10
October , 1997
Blood Poisoning - Part IV
by Greg Tennant
- 8 -
Will sits in a restaurant at the window bar. He's got a drink with him, tequila on the rocks. He's watching people go by outside on the sidewalks. Business types, dressed so fine.
He watches the women pass. They've all got on their close-fitting skirts, which fashion dictates must be short. Some skirts flutter in the breeze, for that teasing glimpse of thigh.
Some women wear pant-suits. But they aren't all business either - many have a frilly bit of lace showing in front under the jacket.
Every woman out there has something sexy about her.
Will just watches impassively, sipping his drink.
No way in.
- 9 -
Will's at home now. Tequila bottle is empty, aloe vera plant in shards. Magazines are torn and strewn. The light from outside filters in cold blue. Lights in the courtyard glow warmly. Will is drunk, and not a happy fellow.
Now he has the phone in his hand, and he's carefully slowly deliberately typing out a sequence of numbers.
Now he listens as it rings.
It rings again, and then a third time...
And she picks up. The woman's voice again, same one he called before. It's not Cassia, it's someone else.
Will doesn't say anything at first, just feels the breath straining against his chest.
She's getting impatient with these calls. "Hello?"
Will's voice is rough. He clears his throat. "I need a fix."
The woman hesitates, bobbles the phone. "What?"
"I need a shot."
"Of your voice. I need to hear you. Say a few things."
She's irritated. "What do you want me say?"
"Anything. Do like you're doing."
"Jesus. You're really fucked up, you know that?"
"Yeahhh... Just like that..."
"Give me a break. I'm hanging up."
"Don't call again." Click.
He winces. But he's had his fix. He's heard her voice. He lets the phone fall from his hand, and he's in ecstasy, as if pure morphine washed clean the grungy filth from his brain.
- 10 -
Will is at his desk at home. The midnight lamp is on in the dark apartment. His office clothes are still on, but they're disheveled and his hair is a mess.
He's working on a project, writing feverishly with the fashion magazines piled up around him on the desk.
But every so often he breaks down into swearing.
"God damn it, pay attention. What do you do in these situations?!" That's what he's been looking up in the magazines.
He turns aside from the work. There seems to be something the magazines don't know.
"What you do is..."
As if it made any difference. Nobody's listening.
"What you do is you say 'Listen, we need to talk, I need to talk to you, because there's something between us and I don't want there to be. I am hurt when you say those things. I'm not talking about whether you're doing right or wrong, I'm only telling you my reaction, because that's what I know about."
Then he sits back, smouldering tiredly. Obviously he's thinking about some alternate reality.
"No, that is not what you do in these situations."
He starts writing again, reading aloud as he goes. "Hello... Cassia?... It's Will... Listen, I'm really sorry about what... I said. I was... being... an asshole."
He stops writing and talks to himself some more. "Then she goes, 'Yes, you were -- a big asshole.' And I go 'Could we just put aside the accusations?' No, I go as follows..."
He writes some more, reciting the words mockingly. "I know... You're right... I'm sorry... It's all my fault... I only... hope... you let me... make it up to you."
He finishes, and silently reads back what he's written.
"This is so stupid..." He tears the paper and gets off his chair, switching off the light.
- 11 -
Today Will has decided not to go to work. "I should be in tomorrow," he tells someone on the phone. "Don't worry, I'll catch up. There were no pressing calls. I'll see you tomorrow."
He walks down a city street. He knows where he's going.
At a door, he stops. "Photo Studio" and someone's name are stencilled on the front. Will pauses a moment with his hand on the handle. This is where he's going, so in he goes.
He's in a photo studio. Lights are set up and a backdrop hangs down. Equipment is on the floor, and a table with tasty food snacks stands to the side. A makeup artist sits in a chair watching.
There's the photographer, dressed in a black t-shirt and black jeans, with a buckled belt, shooting pictures of this woman in front of the backdrop.
The woman strikes different poses. She is a high-fashion model. They're probably doing a makeup ad, or a clothing ad or something like that. She makes a lot of alluring faces at the camera, "making love to the camera" they call it. That's how fashion people talk. They make love to cameras.
Will watches from the hallway, just outside the door. They haven't noticed him. She's very gorgeous and sexy, and she's playing teasing games with the camera in the photographer's hands, beckoning it hither, forcing it away, offering her body to it with knowing eyes. The photographer talks to her, saying things like "Oh, yes!" and "Great!" and so on.
Will finds a resting place and settles in for the show. He doesn't want to be seen, but he wants to be there. It's like, he does and he doesn't, if you know what I mean. If he could watch all day, he would, as long as he doesn't get found out. But that's no way to live. He'd get tired of it after a while, wanting more. And as it happens that's just the little problem he's had with this girl since he first met her. See, this of course is the woman he's been calling, who used to be his girlfriend. They used to be a couple back in the old days, the earlier times. Something went wrong.
The photographer and the model decide to take a break. The photographer goes over to the windows to make some calls on his cell phone, and the woman comes to the snacky table before heading to the dressing room. Will wants to talk to her, but the makeup artist is there, so he waits. In a moment, the woman leaves the table.
Here it comes. Here he comes. Will makes himself known. He steps up. Says, "Hi."
She looks around in surprise. "Oh my god," she says upon seeing him. She instantly becomes tired.
"Can I talk to you?"
"Aren't you on lunch?"
"I just want to talk a little bit. Please?"
"I told you to stay away from me."
"I have stayed away."
"You called me last night! And I'm sure that was you hanging up all those times, too!"
This makes Will pause. All right, so he's called her, yeah, but that's not so bad -- he's hung up most times, too, so what's the problem? It's just a wrong number that way, it's not like he's hounding her.
"I thought we had something special, and it hurts me just to throw it all away," says Will.
"God, I'm sick of your 'therapy' talk! Leave me alone! It wasn't even that special, you blew it all out of proportion."
"You said it was."
"You tricked me into it!"
"How could it not be special when it lasted all that time?"
"I told you, I don't want you any more!"
"Why? " His question resounds in the open studio.
"I don't have to explain."
"Yes you do!" He's putting his hands on her now, holding her by the arm so she won't get away.
Which means the photographer should come over. Someone's harassing his model, who's shouting, getting upset. That's bad for business. And where's the makeup woman, anyway? She must've gone outside for a cigarette.
"Is this guy bothering you?" This photographer speaks with an Italian accent, and his manner is threatening. His t-shirt shows off his arm muscles.
"Listen buddy, why don't you get out of here and stop bothering girls, huh? Get a life."
"I came here to talk to her."
"Well I don't think she wants to talk, okay?"
"You have to get other people to fight your fights for you?" asks Will to this girl. What's her name, anyway? No one's said it yet.
The guy grabs Will by the shirt or the arm or somewhere, maybe both, and shoves him toward the door. No, he doesn't shove him, he carries him, pushing him forward while maintaining a solid grip.
This means Will has to fight back. It's rather humiliating to be lifted up and thrown out of a place, especially when someone's watching. The guy lets go with one hand to open the door to the street, and that's when Will twists and flails an arm out. The suddenness of his move takes the photog by surprise for a brief enough moment that he loses his grasp. Will swings another arm out, bashing the dude on the side of the head with the back of his hand. Actually more on his cheek bone. And another quick pound lands on the guy's nose, squarely. Pop! Boy, what a good hit that was. People on the street outside are watching now, too.
But the fight is to no avail. This guy's strong, and he's really only surprised, not hurt. One slug-armed hammer in Will's gut, and Will crumples over, gasping for breath after landing heavily on the pavement. That really stung. "You piece of shit!" the photographer is screaming in his Italian accent. What a bonehead. He's going to start kicking Will if this girl doesn't stop him.
What she does is push past the slick-haired dude to lean down over Will and scream furiously at him. "Stop coming around here!" she yells. "I don't want to see you ever again! If you call me any more I'll get the fucking police on you!"
"I love you," creaks Will.
What?? He loves her? What a weak, meek little thing to say! This Will, he's a gas!
"I hate you!" screams back the girl.
And then everything gets kind of silent. The girl throttles back, settles down, and notices all the people standing around watching, even from the other side of the street. She sees blood dripping from the film guy's nose, and him scowling down at Will. She puts the edge of her hand on him to calm him down too. She's realizing something about what she just said, and now she's just kind of disgusted.
"I don't even hate you," she says to Will. "I don't give a shit about you. I don't care what you do, you can moan and cry over me for the rest of your life. But if you piss me off again I'll throw your pathetic ass in jail. You're worthless, you're nothing to me. You're empty. So just blow away."
Her words drape him like a cloak as he lies there on the ground. Having said her piece, she walks back inside the studio and disappears.
The photographer guy is pissed about getting his nose smacked, but since she's through fighting, he decides to go inside too. Will stays there on the ground like an idiot, feeling the cold cement against his cheek, hurting in his gut. Some of the people standing around mutter and chuckle.
- 12 -
Has Will learned his lesson yet? Can we get out of here?
I don't know. He's coming back home now, or he is back home, and he's checked for rib breakage. He's put a bit of salve on whatever scrapes he's incurred. And now he's sitting at his table reading the dumbo apology he wrote up for Cassia. He's put the torn pieces back together again with Scotch brand magic adhesive tape.
Take it with you, Will. Go for broke.
Now he's standing outside Cassia's door, the one he dropped her at before, and he knocks.
Cassia answers the door. Regards him coolly.
"Hi," says Will. "I came to apologize."
Cassia thinks for a moment, and decides to let him come in.
In her living room, they sit on soft furniture.
Let her rip, dude. Say the lines.
"I'm really sorry about what I said. I w-- " Keep it up, don't stop now, you've only started. "I was being an asshole."
"Yes, you were. A big asshole."
He looks at her sharply. This is going to be as hard as he thought it would be.
Never mind that, there's work to be done. "I know. You're right," he struggles. "I'm sorry. It's all my fault." A deep breath. "I only hope you let me make it up to you."
Cassia's quiet a second.
"Well, I wasn't being very straight with you either," she says.
"What do you mean?"
"I guess I should apologize to you. I was embarrassed that I asked you in and you said no. It made me feel a little like a slut."
This is an interesting development. She seems like she's going to be sincere.
"Oh," says Will, not sure what to do.
"I think I was trying to play you and Jughead against each other. I'm sure I confused you as much as you confused me."
"We should have just talked."
Will nods slowly, feeling his anger and defensiveness drift away.
"So, who was that woman who beat you up today?"
Whoops. What? Where did that come from? "You know about that?"
"I was having lunch with Matty across the street. All of a sudden there was this shouting, and everyone looked over and there you were falling out a doorway with some woman screaming at you."
Will is rather stunned. "Oh, boy..."
"What was that about?"
Will sits back. "I used to know her. I don't any more. I went back for the coffin nails, and she gladly pounded them in."
"Well, does that mean you're settling for second best? Am I supposed to be your rebound?"
"I don't think so. I think she was the wrong person for me altogether, and I was fooling myself. She was very much an image, and I treated her that way. So naturally it went wrong. You're a real person, and I like that better."
She thinks about what he's said. "You've got a lot of anger."
"I know. I've been learning to keep it in check. I just hope you'll give me another chance."
"I always seem to take care of losers."
"Every man is a loser," says Will, "all day every day. Sometimes we win, too. Some can just take it better than others, that's all."
Cassia smiles grimly.
Will goes on, "If I can't speak honestly to you, then there's no point saying anything at all. It's a lie to say I belong here in this job. It's a lie for me to wear that tie. I hate the corporate world, because no one ever tells the truth about anything at any time, ever. But it's not a lie that I like you a lot, and it's not a lie that I want to spend some time with you. And I hope you won't lie to me about wanting to spend time with me, whether it's a yes or a no."
She thinks about it. It seems pretty clear she's probably going to give in.
"And please don't lie about agreeing with me, either," he says. "It's more interesting if you disagree. We could even fight about it. But I don't want to fight about lies, because it's just too dangerous."
"Maybe we can work something out together."
"I hope so."