I feel as though it has been snatched away from me. My time. My one chance. My only chance to be human.
Snatched away from me, my dark time .
They came to my rescue, my friends and fellow officers of the law. Tripped over their feet to join me, just when Id almost grasped it, grasped meaning .
I had this wondrous opportunity, this chance to know, really know, what its like to be beaten, lost, afraid, alone, reviled. Not ridiculed, not laughed at or merely mocked. Truly reviled. To know what its like to lose. To have no true hope of winning. To be afraid.
Because I was afraid.
I was in real danger, because I was alone. I might have been killed. Easily. It is not an uncommon occurrence in this realm, among such people.
And for the first time, I think, since I came to Chicago, I recognized that.
Went into a bad place and saw it for what it was, didnt protect myself carefully from what it was.
Went up against a bad man and saw him for what he was. Didnt really expect to find the good inside the bad.
Begged him for what I needed - his remorse. Goaded him for what I also seemed to need - his fury.
I looked for something in Warfield. Im still uncertain what. Not remorse. I knew better. Just for him to give in? Is that what I asked him for, that he simply give up, as so many other criminals have done before, when faced with my righteous indignation? Backed up, of course, always, by my formidable partners .
I pushed very hard. Pushed Warfield. Pushed Ray Kowalski. And Lieutenant Welsh. Pushed myself.
But I was the one who ended up with his back to the wall. Crushed by the weight of all the nos in this little world, this part of Chicago, this sampling of mankind, this imperfect Universe of ours.
No, you cannot achieve Justice.
No, you cannot teach by example.
No, you cannot save everyone.
No, you cannot overcome the world, all by yourself, on your own.
You can only die for it.
And then they will forget you, because you are not Christ .
I almost had it - despair - agony and anguish and hopelessness .
They took it from me, my friends, fellow officers of the law .
Perhaps that is the greatest darkness of all, for me. The humiliation of losing even the possibility of despair .
Not good enough. I am not good enough to face true darkness. Survive true darkness. I didnt survive it - I was rescued from it by my friends, whom I love. Who forgive me for my rigidity and selfishness and arrogance and instability and heartlessness and inhumanity, forgive me for who I am, forgive me, every day of the week, with love .
I am not grateful.
I am an ingrate.
I do love them. Truly.
But I was not grateful that they bailed me out, snatched me from the jaws of death and despair, then.
And I am still ungrateful, now.
I want to be a hero, God forgive me!
I want to be a hero.
This brush with death disillusioned me. It was bad for the soul .
* * *
You okay, Fraser? Ray Kowalski calls, following me out of the bullpen, away from the Christmas party, down the hallway towards the outside door. Rushing to catch up with me, running after me again, as always. Almost always .
Im fine, Ray, I tell him, lying in my teeth. I nearly cannot swallow, I am so not fine. He mustnt know this.
Ya got, ya know, plans? Fer Christmas? he asks, catching up with me and putting a hand on my sleeve, to stop me from leaving the precinct. He is not wearing his coat.
No, Ray, I dont have plans. I dont celebrate Christmas. However, Inspector Thatcher and Constable Turnbull and I will eat dinner together tomorrow, Christmas day, before they both fly home to Canada to be with their families.
That sucks, Ray tells me, and I can see by the look on his face that it hurts him to know that I will be alone through the entire holiday season, straight through New Years Day.
Its all right. I have plans of a sort. There are several books I wish to read. Highly recommended by reviewers whose opinions I value. And the classical radio station here always plays some of the greatest music at this time of year -
Yes, Ray? I knew he would interrupt me. Books and classical music are no substitute for friends and relatives, to Ray. Not even to me. I had to try, though, to make him stop worrying about me. Futile. I should know better.
If youre not doing anything now, well, neither am I. How bout we go get something to eat, rent a flick? Watch it at my place?
I dont reply. It is a tempting way to spend the evening but my heart is very heavy, my spirit is at a very low point. I will bring Ray down with me, if I spend time with him.
Ray sees that I am hesitating and presses his suit. Then tomorrow we can take Dief for a run, maybe see if we can get some tickets to a - a concert or something, after Thatcher and Turnbull leave. Your kinda music, okay?
His heart is in his eyes. How he loves me! It is truly a sin, to let oneself care so much for another person. Risk so much. I could never do that. Not after Victoria. Never.
Nevertheless, I find myself saying yes, at least to this evenings proposed agenda. I know that Ray doesnt want to be alone and - for reasons that I dont want to think about or even consider - will not spend the holidays with his family. They have made up but still . Something is not truly right there. I am afraid to learn just what is wrong. I do not trust my own reactions if what I think is wrong is actually the case .
Thank you kindly, Ray. I am feeling a bit hungry. Perhaps - Chinese?
He lights up like a Christmas tree when I agree to have supper with him.
Once he remarked - oh, long ago, when we first met - that I looked like something off a Christmas tree. He was right - I am merely an ornament, compared to him. Of course, that was not what he was trying to say about me at all .
Yet, he was right.
It is Ray who bears the light, the true light from within.
I wish he did not love me quite so much. It makes everything between us terribly difficult. It is difficult for me to maintain the kind of distance I keep from Francesca and Inspector Thatcher and Constable Turnbull and others who love me.
I want their friendship. I do not want their love.
Very hard to maintain.
With Ray, it is harder.
We are always together. Or so it seems. Morning, noon and night. At work and at play. Through stakeouts and car chases and runs with Dief and lunches and suppers and after-a-case-is-solved sandwiches and coffee or beer and - always.
Wonderful that we are always together.
Difficult that we are always together.
Similar to what happened with Ray Vecchio and me .
But Ray Vecchio had a life. He had a real family - people who truly loved him. He had other male friends with whom he spent at least some of his spare time. He had women .
Ray Kowalski has nobody.
Nobody but me.
It is very difficult to hold Ray Kowalski at arms length.
But I try.
I do a great deal of sighing and smiling and clearing my throat and talking.
And I succeed.
Another triumph which is bad for the soul, it appears .
Ray selects a foreign film - Chinese, with English subtitles - at the video rental shop. Farewell My Concubine. This is a generous concession to me, I imagine, because his eyes are not good. But I am incorrect in that assumption.
I seen it three times, Fraser - youll love it! Loaded with history and costumes and lotsa little details that you can memorize and remind me about, when I get em wrong!
Its not about history, Ray. Farewell My Concubine is a love story, pure and simple.
Ya seen it? he asks, disappointed that he hasnt surprised me with something new.
No, but Ive read some of the reviews. Its clearly a love story.
Well, those guys can be wrong. I say its about history. Not just a love story. Well watch it and then you can decide, okay?
Very well. I have no objection to seeing the movie. It is purported to be one of the great films of our time, I reply, and wait while he pays for the rental.
Ray has decorated his apartment with some Christmas ornaments, red and gold garlands and tinsel, but he has no tree.
However, the living room is tidy, for a change. I wonder whether he made a date for Christmas Eve who cancelled at the last minute. Whether he is disappointed about that. I conjecture that, if he expected his date to come back here, perhaps have sex with him, it would explain the unusual attempt at cleanliness and order .
Got some apple cider in the fridge, Fraser, he tells me with a grin. Ya like cider?
Very much. Is it homemade?
Yeah, its from the health food store near the precinct. They claim its fresh - no preservatives, no additives, the whole nine yards. So we better drink it all up before it goes bad on us. It better be sweet!
Thank you, Ray. That will be very nice, indeed.
Well, I thought a you when I got it. I know ya dont drink beer or wine or nothin and I wanted somethin special for the holidays.
I stare at him. You - you planned to ask me to spend Christmas Eve with you, Ray?
Yeah. Of course. What else? I know you got nobody. I got nobody. Stellad sooner spend time with a rattlesnake than me. He flicks his wrist. So, yeah, I hoped wed be doing that thing we do, tonight.
That is very generous of you, Ray, I tell him.
What hes told me is a terrible thing. Im almost speechless when I hear it. Feel close to tears.
I lick my lower lip and when my tongue touches the bruise near my mouth I am aware of how I must look. It must be painful for Ray to look at me. If hed been beaten in such a way, Id be insane with fury at the perpetrators. I would not rest until Id given as good as Ray had gotten .
Ray, however, is not a violent man. Nearly all his anger is directed inward and his rage is simply a posture. He has a bit of anger left over for other people - criminals - sufficient to make him a determined police officer. But fury, rage - these are not part of him. Loud noise is a part of him .
I smile ruefully.
Nothing. Well. Something. I was thinking about our facades.
Our - whats?
Our masks. You wear a mask of anger and violence, while inside you are a man of peace. I wear a mask of imperturbability, while inside I am a very angry man.
You angry at Warfield? Them goons who beat you up? he asks as he hands me a glass of cider, puts his mug on the coffee table, and joins me on the couch.
Not really, no. It was my fault.
Yours? How ya figure that?
I went where angels fear to tread. Got what I deserved. Im no angel, Ray.
Close enough, Ray replies with a quick grin.
Dont be foolish. You said it yourself, Im selfish. You were right.
Were all selfish, Fraser. Some more than others. You, least of anybody I ever met, except my mum. Hes holding the remote control, ready to start the film, but doesnt. You gonna throw that crack I made about you bein selfish in my face every time we hassle, from now on?
No, Im sorry. I didnt mean to allude to that in a bad way, Ray. I simply believe you hit upon a truth about me that few people realize, and I am grateful that someone - you - does know. I hope you wont forget and be disappointed when I exhibit behavior which is selfish, in future.
Yeah, he says dismissively, we should all be so selfish. All be unlucky enough to have lots and lots a selfish guys like you fer friends. Which aint happenin, cause there aint no other guys like you. He presses the remote and the trailers for future films available on video come up on screen. Lets watch this. I think youre gonna love it. He settles back into the cushions, grabbing his mug of cider on the way.
Im sure I will, Ray, I tell him. I take a sip of the cider and carefully lean back against the cushions on my end of the couch. My back hurts. My hip hurts. My whole body aches. I do what I can to hide this from Ray, remembering how brave he was when hed been beaten by a professional prizefighter some time ago. It wouldnt do to give in to the pain. Wouldnt do to be less brave than the next man, even if the next man is Ray Kowalski, who never gives in, never gives up . Who is the bravest person Ive ever known, even taking into account my father .
The film begins and not ten minutes pass before I am identifying with the younger boy, the female of the duet. Ray identifies with him, as well. He tells me he thinks the older boy, the male, is like me. Protective, strong, perfect, no identity problems. He tells me that he sees himself as the younger boy, the weaker one.
I, of course, say ah and hmm many times. I dont tell Ray that I also identify with the younger, female boy/man. That I see Ray as the strong and protective older male boy/man.
I dont tell Ray that he is wearing his heart on his sleeve. That his love for me is evident in his interpretation of the movie, as is mine for him. Which he must not know.
We are both teary-eyed and exhausted by the time this very long film is over.
But the evening is not over, not for us.
Ray asks me - perhaps imagining that enough time has passed for me to have forgotten what he told me earlier - Ya think the older guy knew? I mean, really knew, how the younger one felt about him?
Yes. He knew.
So - like, why didnt he say anything?
Are you serious, Ray? I ask, astounded that he doesnt understand.
Yeah, Im serious! I dont get it. How could he go through his whole life without leveling with the younger guy? At least telling the younger guy that its hopeless? That he should find somebody else? Why dont he chase the younger guy away, if he doesnt feel the same way?
Ray, the older man is - I stop, I dont even know how to begin to explain the complexities drawn in this film to Ray.
The older man is? What, Frase?
The older man needs the younger one. Desperately.
And he needs him. Thats all. He needs the younger man in every conceivable way. Except - I cannot say it, but Ray knows, finishes my sentence.
Except sexually? That it, Frase?
In the movie, yes, I say. And flush. I can feel the heat in my face. How could I have let such phrasing slip from my mouth? I cough but do not succeed in distracting Ray from my error or his questions.
You feel like that older guy, in the movie? he asks. You identify with him?
The question Ive been dreading. I thought Id gotten away without answering it, when Ray told me all about his identification with the younger man, and didnt ask me who I felt more like.
No, Ray, I dont.
Ya dont? He is puzzled, now. I can hear it in his voice, see it on his face.
I, too, identify with the younger man. Who is hopelessly in love with someone he cannot have, except as a partner and a friend.
You feel that way, too? It seems Ray is having trouble accepting this fact.
Yes, Ray. The film is designed that way, I explain carefully, patiently. Designed - written, directed, shot - so that every viewer identifies with the younger man -
So, like, it dont mean nothing? I mean, that I feel that way, and you feel that way? Its - its just the way the movie was made?
I believe so. For the most part, the story is told from the younger mans point of view. Through his eyes, so to speak. We know his pain, his suffering, his heartbreak. We dont really know what is happening in the heart and mind of the older man.
Oh, I get it. Thats why we get mad at the older guy when he makes the younger guy miserable. I see dat. Thats great. Greatness! His eyes light up, and his face, too, and hes happy again. And I dont know why.
You like that? I ask.
Sure! Its like dancing, a dance routine. Figured out just so, to get you where you want to be, at the end.
Thats why you like it - to know that? I ask again, certain that there must be more to account for the pleasure Ray evidently finds in my explanation.
Okay, Fraser, youre right. Thats not the only reason. Im also not sorry to look at the movie that way - from a zillion miles off. It didnt feel so good to hurt like that, for the younger guy. To think - to hurt like that. Like him.
Yeah, Im sure you do. You always see. Everything.
I look over at him, startled by the sudden sarcasm, the downward spiral of his mood, also sudden.
Are you angry with me, Ray? I ask. It is delightful to think that. That he is angry with me. Im not sure why thats true, but it surely is.
Yeah, Fraser, Im angry with you. You punched the stuffing out of the movie, for me. Ill never watch it again without thinking about points of view and a director and a cameraman. You screwed with the beauty of the thing for me. Yeah. So, Im angry with you. Dont worry about it, Ill get over it. I always do.
Im sorry, Ray. Truly, I am -
And again, suddenly, he turns on me. Whyd ya do it, Frase? You knew I loved this flick. You knew what you said would spoil it for me. Why?
I - I dont know why, I tell him. But I do. I do.
Ya sure you wanna leave it there - that you dont know why? Ray presses with his best detective voice. Because you do know, Fraser. And so do I.
Hit too close to home, huh, good buddy? Friend? Partner?
You and Vecchio were real tight, right? Like the guys in the movie? You and me, were real tight, too. And theres no place for it to go, is there? Not with Vecchio, not with me. This - tightness? No place to go with it. Never. Straight guys dont go no place with it, they just punch each other on the arm and do a little boxers two-step and move on, right? To the next girl, and the next girl, until the right girl comes along, just like for the older guy in the movie, and they get married and live happily ever after. Right?
His belligerence is astounding and beautiful. As is his grasp of the truth. Breathtaking. I cannot breathe.
I stand and face him. He is still sitting on the couch, but his feet are on the floor, not on the coffee table, and hes hunched over, ready to stand on a moments notice, at any least sign of a threat.
Like this one.
Im leaving now, Ray. Thank you kindly for the dinner. And for the movie. Dief, come.
Ray is up and hes all over me. You are not leaving, Fraser! Come on, come on. How about it? More than partners? More than friends? Huh? Come on, Fraser, lets do it!
I step back, as far out of his space as possible. I shake my head no.
Frase, he says softly, all the anger gone from his voice. A plea. Im not - Im not pushing ya just for the fun of it. I love you, ya gotta know that.
I do know that, Ray. Im leaving now. Please forgive me. This is - this is something I cannot do. I am not angry. I promise you that. Its simply - its impossible. Forgive me.
I turn on my heel and without a thought for whether or not Diefenbaker is following me, grab my overcoat and my Stetson and rush out of Rays apartment. Down the steps and out of the building. Into the clean, cold Winter air. I take many deep breaths, bending over as if Id run a race as I do so.
I cannot even feel the pain in my back or my side or the bruises on my face, now. The pain in my heart is so great, overwhelming.
Ive done it! Ive done it! Pushed him away!
He made a move on me and I pushed him away!
I am thrilled, exhilarated! I did it!
No one will ever come in again, Id promised myself. But I wasnt certain I could prevent it. Help myself. Keep myself closed to the importunings of such reckless, volatile, dangerous people as Victoria or Ray Vecchio or Ray Kowalski. Wasnt certain at all.
But I did it! I pushed Ray Kowalski away, as I never could push Victoria away! As I was never required to push Ray Vecchio away.
Praise God, I am free and whole and me, again. Nobody in, nobody out. Good.
Love is bad for the soul.
Trust is bad for the soul.
Makes a person believe he is not alone, that he has made contact, forged a bond, a link with another person.
These dangerous ones - first they destroy my peace and solitude, and then they would destroy my life as I know it.
Once upon a time I was too weak to fight it, too na´ve to see it, too foolish to fear it, with Victoria. Ray Vecchio warned me, in his way, by treating my affair with Victoria as if it were an ordinary man and woman thing. A love story. A romance. By smiling and being happy for me. For his Benny.
His reaction reminded me of what I knew in my heart - that there was no Benny, that there was no Vicky, as Ray Vecchio probably would have called Victoria, had he met her under different circumstances.
There was no romance.
There was only desperation, driving fear, lust, love. And finally, when I was alone again, despair.
Nothing romantic, nothing like Ray Vecchios relationships with women, even the worst of them.
Nothing beautiful .
And not something to be sought after, hoped for, or repeated.
Something to be fought against, rebuffed, murdered, if necessary.
Women like Victoria, men like Ray Kowalski - their love, their overwhelming love - will destroy me. I know in my soul that I must destroy such people before they destroy me. And now Ive accomplished that, with Ray.
I wasnt sure I could, particularly after these recent set-backs. Particularly after he called me selfish, when all I was doing was being myself . Particularly after he told me he was proud of me, when I knew he was not .
Go away, Ray. Leave me alone. Im all right. I tell him this while Im still doubled over near the curb, hands on my knees, vomiting all of my dinner onto the roadside.
I can see that, he replies sarcastically. You need a doctor? The hospital? Food poisoning?
Knew that. Okay, ya want I should drive you home? Or ya wanna come back up ta my place and rest for a while? Its still early.
Ray, I cant - I try to take a deep breath but still cannot get enough air into my lungs. I notice that Im crying only when the tears slip into my mouth and I taste them on my tongue.
Cant what? Let me drive you home? Or come up and sleep over, where I can keep an eye on you, make sure youre okay?
I manage to stand, finally. Im about to wipe my mouth with my hand when Ray gives me a handkerchief and I use that.
I rub my hand over my forehead. Squeeze my eyes shut. The look on his face - pure concern, no anger, no resentment, no love, even. Simply concern for my well-being. It is awful to see.
Awful and beautiful to see.
I have not destroyed him, after all. Clearly, he is indestructible. Beautiful and awesome and indestructible. Incredible.
My relief is incredible, as well.
Yes, all right. Thank you. Ill come up for a moment. I need to use the bathroom. Wash up. I would like a drink of water.
Wow, whole sentences! Right after puking your guts up in the gutter - no pun intended! Youre the best, Fraser! Ray teases with a grin, then picks up my Stetson and my overcoat from where Ive dropped them - thank goodness, several feet away from the mess Ive made. He puts his hand under my elbow and guides me back into his building. I do not need that but I dont try to shake his hand off. It is not necessary to be rude. Cruel should be sufficient. Rude is overkill, Ray would tell me.
Ray checks out my face when I come out of the bathroom. Frannie did a good job with that ointment, Fraser, he comments with a little bit of humor returning to his voice, which is a relief to me after those few minutes of absolute seriousness while he got my tunic off me and led me to the toilet. There wont be any scarring, I dont think.
And if there is? I ask, perversely, joining him on the couch. Can he even conceive of the plague this perfect face is to me, in my life?
Ill be the only one left who loves you, then! he teases once more, with the grin I call his try to top this one look. Truly indestructible, Ray Kowalski .
I fear not, Ray, I find myself saying, only aware of what Ive actually admitted when I notice his eyebrows go up. Even scars will not dissuade Francesca.
Ya got me there, buddy, he replies, laughing. So, then, its Frannie, and me - hes counting off on his fingers - and Thatcher, and Turnbull, and Vecchio - when he gets back - and who else?
I cannot think of anyone else, at the moment, Ray, I say. Im smiling, too. I can tell by the pain beneath my lip, where the bruise opened up when I washed my mouth and smeared toothpaste over my teeth and tongue with a finger.
Ray is slouched on the sofa again, but his feet are on the floor, this time. Hes ready for anything. He doesnt quite trust the peace . I do not blame him.
Its still a little early for me, but if youre tired, Frase, you can have the bedroom - I just changed the sheets - and I can stay up a while longer, in here. Ill sleep on the couch when I get tired.
I am feeling perverse, almost vicious. Not angry - not at Ray - but too tired to fight any of the emotions that well up in me, particularly one emotion.
You changed the sheets, Ray? Were you expecting someone? I ask.
He grins, agrees readily. Yeah, I had a hot date planned fer tonight. But she crapped out on me so I ended up settling for you! He shakes his head. You nuts, Frase? I changed the sheets. It dont mean nothing. I took the dirty ones to the laundry and threw on some clean ones.
Oh? Not ah or mmm?
Im sorry, Ray. That was uncalled for. Im very tired. Somehow, out of control, tonight -
Out of control? He snorts. I wish!
I am. Ive said many hurtful things to you tonight. I apologize. I hope you will forgive me.
I forgive ya, Fraser, Ray says immediately.
Well, thats - Im happy to hear that, Ray.
We still partners? he asks. I have said the hurtful things but he asks.
Of course, I answer quickly. Then, If you wish to be my partner.
I wish to be your partner, he replies solemnly. I wish to be your friend, too. We still friends, Fraser?
Yes, Ray, were still friends, for as long as youll have me.
And the other stuff, the rest of it? His voice is low, his tone even, without a shred of hope.
That is impossible, Ray.
I do not reply.
Frase? Because? Because you dont love me that way?
I - It is impossible, Ray. Please dont ask me for that.
Because you dont feel that way about guys? About me? he presses.
Are you like that guy in the movie, Fraser? You want everything but the one thing?
No, I am not like him. I cannot lie to Ray, not now.
You do want everything, even the one thing? His voice rises. He is incredulous.
I wont do this again, Ray. Never. I cannot. Please dont ask me again. Dont try again. I beg of you. Please. My passionate plea is delivered with no heat, little inflexion in my voice, and with my eyes fixed on a point far across the room, not on Rays face.
After what seems like minutes of silence I venture a glance at Ray. He is staring at me. When I turn to him he looks away, settles himself into the couch, his elbows on his knees, and stares at the floor.
Ray? Are you all right?
Is that our theme song, Fraser? he mutters. Are you all right?
I simply want to know. As did you, about me, a while ago.
Im okay. Just - Ive known from the beginning that you had the hots for me. He holds up one hand, the one without the bracelet, raises one finger. Doesnt look at me. Dont interrupt, dont deny. Major hots. I knew. I figured Id take my time, not rush you. Canadian guy, maybe not too much experience with sex, with men, with anybody. Take my time. Never doubted Id get where I was going, mind you. Just - he flicks his wrist, hand still up to prevent me from talking - figured Id let you relax into it, ya know? Now he glances at me, quickly. He seems to be reassured by whatever expression - or lack thereof - is on my face. He goes on. I know you love me, Fraser. I know it. Even if you denied it, Id know. He pauses. You dont deny it. You just tell me no on the sex thing.
So, well - its okay. He puts his hand down and looks at me. I mean, its okay. Im not saying I dont need sex, just that - that I can do without it, if I gotta. Theres always the other thing. Ya know. Masturbation. If you dont wanna, its okay with me. Partners, friends. Love, the alright kind. No sex.
I dont speak. I cannot speak. I swallow, look away, look down, begin to cry. Sob. Sob like a child. Like a child who has lost his best friend.
Fraser! He scoots over on the couch and puts an arm around me and I bury my head in his chest, against his chest, and both his arms close around me, as I cry.
After a few minutes I manage to mutter, Bad for the soul.
What? Whats bad for the soul?
Life, I tell him. Its dreadful for the soul.
Yeah, Im all over dat, Ray replies, and his hand goes up and ruffles my hair. Also, getting beat up. Thats bad for the soul.
I think it is, Ray, I tell his shirt.
Not having your friends around when you need em, also lousy for the soul, huh, Fraser?
I begin to cry again. It hurt, Ray.
No, you. You - left.
Im sorry. My mistake. Thought I could pressure you out of it, if I left, showed ya how dumb a move I thought you were making, with Warfield. Dumb cop, me.
I never faced - faced Chicago, alone, before, I murmur.
If I have my way, ya never will again, Benton-buddy.
I didnt trust your judgment, yours and the Lieutenants. Im sorry.
Wrong call, start to finish, yours, mine, Welshs - all of us.
Thats very generous of you, Ray, I reply, looking up at him now. He wipes my cheeks with his palm, wipes away my tears. I keep talking. I understand, now. I cant beat the system - not alone. Together. Solidarity . Together, maybe, we can I take a deep breath. I wanted to be a hero, do what others could not - or would not - do. Risk everything. I thought I had nothing to lose .
Do you have somethin to lose?
Not so ready to die, now? Ray mutters with a small smile.
I dont think I am ready to die, Ray. Theres so much - I trip over the words. Try again. Theres so much - I have so much to live for.
Youre getting it, Frase. I dont want you to die, or even get roughed up. Ya gotta think a that, a little bit, at least, when you go up against guys like Warfield.
I will think about that, Ray.
Okay, good. Thats great, greatness. He looks around for a minute. Where was I? Oh yeah, time for you to go to bed. No argument. Sleep it off, and if whatever they done to your back and your hip aint better by tomorrow, you are going to the doctor, no argument.
He knows. About my back and my hip. Not just my face.
Im certain Ill be fine in the morning. Your bed appears to be very comfortable. A good nights sleep and Ill be fine.
Yeah, sure, good as new, Ray says as he helps me up and negotiates our way to his bedroom. Ya need anything, middle of the night, you reach out, Frase.
I sink onto his bed, which is indeed comfortable, and sit for a moment, working up the energy to take off my boots and the rest of my clothes.
Before I know it, Ray is there, undoing the laces, pulling the boots off, pushing me down on the bed, pulling the blankets up over me. Ya dont need to get all undressed. Just try to sleep. If you go to the john during the night you can strip off some of the rest of this stuff.
Thank you, Ray.
Think nothing of it, Fraser. And he does the guy-two-step-boxer-macho thing near the bed and smiles down at me.
He goes to the doorway and then turns to me again. My eyes havent left him yet. Wont leave him, until hes gone. Merry Christmas, Fraser. Gifts in the morning. Well drive over and pick up yours for me from the Consulate. I got mine for you in the closet.
I do have a gift for you, Ray.
Hey, I know that! Guy makes me a present for somebody elses birthday, you think I dont know he made me something real special for Christmas!
Me, too, Fraser.
You made a gift for me, with your own hands? I ask, surprised enough to lift myself up with my elbows a few inches, the better to see his face.
Youll see, in the morning.
You made me a gift with your own hands, Ray? I repeat.
What, ya think I got no talent?
I didnt say that -
I made you something, he replies firmly. You better like it.
Im sure I will.
Good. Now, sleep. Were on for tomorrow, for a Dief run and a concert, after Thatcher and Turnbull leave, right?
Yes, Ray, if you like.
I like. Now, lights - on or off?
Dief - in or out?
Out, please. Hell be happier in the living room with you. He doesnt like to go to sleep when theres something interesting in the offering.
Interesting? Me watching TV is interesting?
To Dief, yes. I pause. To me, also.
Yeah, well, dont make me blush, here, Fraser. Good night. Sleep well. Ya can borrow my dreamcatcher, any nightmares come your way.
Thank you kindly, Ray.
Youre welcome. Very. Welcome.
I feel welcome. When he turns off the light, closes the door and leaves the bedroom I dont feel alone. It seems as if there is merely a membrane between us, separating us. A very thin membrane. It is very real but also quite fragile .
I pull Rays blankets close around me. They are very soft and warm.
I feel battered, inside and out. Bruised, in every conceivable way. Batter my heart, three-personed God, I murmur. Its from a poem that comes to mind. Irrelevantly, I believe. Im too tired now even to recall who wrote it.
I feel too good, too well. Bruised, tired, battered, yet well. I am astonished at the feeling of well-being that pervades my spirit. I feel lifted up.
Might it be, is it possible, that I have survived this dark experience and come out of it better off than before? Not a lesser man, not less of a man in any way - although a poor specimen of a hero, overtaken as I was by despair at the first taste of real pain, after a pitifully few steps on a solitary road .
Perhaps love is not bad for the soul.
Perhaps love is actually good for the soul.
Perhaps love is good for my soul.
Perhaps Ray Kowalskis love is good for my soul .
I am uncertain if my love is good for him. That he wants my love is not to say that it is good for him.
All the dangers are vivid in my mind, still. All the dangers that ever were, are now, and might be, in the future, vivid and bright - like stars.
Stars. In a comfortable blue velvet night sky.
The dangers, vivid.
As I feel, to myself.
Vivid. In a comfortable soft-mattressed bed.
Rays bed, I am suddenly certain, is good for the soul.
Rays bed is good for my soul .
I must be sure to tell him that first thing in the morning - Christmas morning - I think, right before I fall asleep.
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End Bad for the Soul - 1/1
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