The Paperweight Remix by Music Diamond
"This is the part of the story," JC said, "when you wake up."
"JC." Lance pulled up near the sidewalk on the shoulder of the road. He was in his shiny red convertible with the top down. His sunglasses were on and his perfectly tanned fingers tapped idly on the black leather steering wheel. "What are you doing?"
JC forced himself to look straight ahead, to stand tall as he walked. Despite the sweat blooming down his back, the sunlight reflected off the sidewalk so intensely that he could barely see. "Making a statement, Lance."
Lance's car purred smoothly with the clean sounds of a well-oiled engine and air conditioning. There were the lightest strains of a Beatles love song. 'You'll never know how much I really love you, you'll never know how much I really care,' they promised at the same time Lance said, "By literally walking out on me?"
JC said nothing, but his hands tensed. He realized he was still carrying the large glass paperweight he had seized as he had slammed out the door—it felt slippery and uncomfortable in his right palm.
JC began to walk faster. "You're serious about this, aren't you?" He laughed harshly. "You know sometimes, JC, I wonder if you're an actual human being or just a caricature of what you think one should be."
JC closed his eyes for a moment as the words sank in. He felt so very, very tired. All that existed around him was the shimmering summer heat and Lance. "You don't have to do this, Lance."
"Of course I don't." Lance's voice took on a steely edge and JC nearly flinched. "But this is ridiculous. It's swelteringly hot and you're walking to a place miles away."
"I'll be fine."
"Of course you will," Lance snapped. "Because it's all about you, isn't it? The rest of the world be damned—the rest of the world won't start asking questions about why you seem hell-bent on giving yourself sunstroke when you could, you know, drive somewhere."
"You are a motherfucking prick," JC said slowly and evenly. "Get the fuck away from me."
"Get in the damn car, JC," Lance said. "I'll take you home."
"I really don't want to be in any sort of confined space with you right now," JC said. His palm itched and he could feel the heaviness of the paperweight in his right hand.
"I'll keep the top down and the happy music up. We can smile at a lot of nothing and pretend it's a photo shoot."
"Our entire relationship has been smiling at a lot of nothing," JC replied.
"Theatrical to the end," Lance said. "Anymore one-liners you'd like to throw out there before we can talk like real people and not hackneyed Tennessee Williams characters?"
"But I have been foolish—casting my pearls before swine,¨ JC said. "Is that Tennessee Williams enough for you?"
"Let me drive you home, JC," Lance said. "Or at least let me call a limo."
"You have miles to walk in hundred degree weather in the full glare of the sun. You can't seriously believe that—"
"I can and I will," JC said. The layer of sweat started down his face. He didn't care. "Go away, Lance. I don't need your patronization or your pity."
"When will you realize that this isn't all about you? That this entire relationship has not, in fact, been all about you?"
"Never," JC said, matter-of-factly. "Because, for once, this is all about me and has nothing to do with you at all."
Lance shrugged. "I can't talk to you when you're like this, which is always. I can't talk to you. Never could." With that, Lance peeled away and was gone.
JC continued walking briskly until he was sure Lance had disappeared. After a few minutes, he sighed and slowed, feeling a little lightheaded. He fumbled around in his pocket for his cell phone but ended up staring stupidly at the glass paperweight again. It was clear, and despite the streaks of sweat across the exterior, JC could see through to the laser etching of a rose. He couldn't remember when he had gotten the paperweight, or whether he had bought it or it had been a gift. All he knew was that as he was leaving the house, he didn't want Lance to have it anymore.
JC stared at the white plastic cup that was filled with lukewarm watered down coffee. It looked tiny and stark against the dark material of his jeans.
JC glanced up at the rest of the people milling around the waiting room. He saw weary nurses, elderly people with lined faces, restless mothers. The walls were painted in an odd, garish orange color. The off-white, circular clock set as the focal point of the long, windowless wall.
He shifted in his slippery plastic seat and barely managed to avoid spilling his coffee.
"Hey." Justin appeared, suddenly, healthy and vibrant against the washed out colors of the people and the room. "Hey."
"Hey," JC replied, releasing the tension that had flooded his system at Justin's arrival.
"How are you?" Justin asked. He was holding a white cup in both hands.
"Not so good," JC said. He wanted to say something witty and ironic, something philosophical and moving, even something pathetic and tragic. But mostly he felt small and tired.
Justin chuckled weakly, nervously. "That's a good way of putting it, yeah." He paused and looked down at his hand. "I got you coffee."
"I'm good, thanks." JC picked up his cup and held it gingerly.
"Oh." For a moment, Justin seemed at a loss. "That's. Okay."
JC started at him. Justin's left hand was shaking a little. Small droplets of coffee oozed out from under the lid down the sides. "Justin, are you okay?"
Justin laughed again, more loudly this time. A few people turned irritably at the sound. "I guess I'm not sure how I'm really supposed to—" He stopped. "I'm sorry. I know you should be the one that's, but I really think I'm going to be sick."
JC watched as the coffee slipped from Justin's hands and hit the floor with a tremendous splash. He felt a curious sense of detachment as Justin's body crumpled in front of him neatly—ever perfect and graceful in all things. JC thought people might think it strange that Justin fainted and not him, but he was sincerely relieved. This situation called for a dramatic reaction, even if JC wasn't the character to do it.
"So you're finally awake," Lance said tonelessly.
JC let his vision come into focus on the lamp in the center of the taupe colored ceiling. He was laying on his back in a somewhat stiff bed with thin, sterile sheets. He was in a hospital. "Lance."
"JC." Lance was sitting with one leg crossed over his knee, flipping through a health magazine with an attractive, smiling man on the front cover.
"What happened?" JC slowly pushed himself upright and the world spun slightly as he did.
"You collapsed. Like I said you would," Lance said. "An elderly couple walking their dog found you on the grass."
"Why are you here?" JC asked. He didn't mean to be sarcastic—he was truly curious.
"Thanks. I really feel the appreciation for setting aside time to sit with your unconscious body as a result, I might add, of the foolish actions you took while you were awake to spite me."
"I didn't do it to spite you," JC said. "And I really want to know. It's obvious you don't want to be here."
Lance slapped his magazine shut. "I can't be there for the one I love?"
"You don't love me."
"There you go being theatrical again." Lance slammed his magazine down on the nightstand and stood.
"You're the one getting upset"
"There's a difference between 'emotional' and 'theatrical', JC," Lance said. "I feel genuine, honest-to-god emotions when things happen. You just read cue cards and call it living."
JC stared at the nightstand with Lance's crumpled magazine and realized that right next to it was his paperweight, miraculously unbroken. It looked as if it had been recently cleaned and polished as well. JC felt a small surge of joy at the sight. "Why are we still together?" JC asked, eyes never leaving the paperweight.
"You mean the play hasn't ended yet with your dramatic exit stage left?"
"You mean this is the part of the play when I come gallantly rushing back to save you and declare my undying love, right?" Lance's lips stretched wide over his teeth, but there was only pain in it.
"Between all you crazy boybanders, there's a whole lot of fainting going on in these past few weeks. I feel like I've moved into the hospital," Chris said. His voice echoed oddly in the room.
"Are you okay?" The question seemed directed more at JC than Justin. Joey always knew how to play his part with conviction, even if it was only a bit one.
"Fine," Justin said faintly. He smiled a little. "Bet I gave you a scare, huh?"
JC smiled weakly too. "Something like that."
"You heard the news, right?" Joey's voice was high, wavering.
"Of course he did," Chris said harshly. "He's simply avoiding answering a stupid, pointless question. It's obvious he's not okay."
"Are you going to let them do this?" And somehow, even Chris's pity was demanding, ten times worse than Joey's uncomfortable distance. "Are you really going to let them—tomorrow?"
"I don't have much of a choice, really," JC said, even though he knew that wasn't the right answer. "His parents are the ones that decide."
"But they'll listen to you." It was Justin doing the pleading. But it was more than Justin, it was all three of them pleading with JC to do something—anything. To intervene. To read their lines for them.
But JC was tired of reading lines—his or anyone else's. He was tired of this act, this play, this genre. JC hadn't read ahead, but he knew there were only two ways this climax could play out. Because, after all, this was not a spiritual tale, or an epic, or even a passionate romance. This was a tragedy, and in a common man's tragedy, there are no miracles.