"A QUESTION OF SPEAKING"
by Maxine Mayer, 6/21/98
(Inspired by Maygra de Rhema's piece, "A Question of Silence," which was in turn inspired by the Highlander episode, "Not To Be")
Long after Joe and Methos left the barge, Methos' final farewell toast ringing in the night - "Long life!" -and long after Amanda kissed me goodbye at dawn, what I myself had said to Methos thundered in my mind and heart, and I was ashamed.
Kalas' description of me - "always a day late and a dollar short" - didn't begin to tell the story, I believed.
I got out of bed and shaved and showered quickly, put on a clean black sweater with a round collar and long sleeves - not wool, a t-shirt fabric. And a clean pair of socks and jeans. And shoes.
I took my van keys from the bowl near the sink and shoved them into my pocket. Went to the wardrobe and found a handkerchief and stuck that in my other pocket.
I was all dressed to leave the barge, and go - where? I didn't know where. "All revved up and no place to go." The song lyrics mocked me but I had to smile. Methos had introduced me to Meatloaf....
And it was still dawn - had twenty minutes passed since Amanda left? Still dawn, then. Yes.
Where to go? And more, what to say?
When I remembered again the words I'd spoken to Methos, I felt my face flush. Inadequate. Insulting. Awful.
Not that he'd thought that. He'd seemed surprised I'd said anything to him at all. Any word of friendship or caring.
But he'd accepted the words, even my contemptuous proviso - that he wouldn't want to hear them, but I'd say them anyway, of course.
I'd told him he'd taught me that life is about change. About accepting who you are, the good and the bad...you accept the change and move on.
He'd been true to that teaching - accepting my speech, those words, as if they were sufficient. As if they summed us up adequately. For a moment I wondered whether he really believed they were good enough for what we'd shared, or whether he was simply too proud to admit they fell short.
This I'd said - all I'd said - to a man who'd saved my life and my sanity. Not just once, many times.
Not that he'd asked for gratitude or done anything but joke about his risky efforts on my behalf. This time, or the other times. Always the same. Nothing ever changed. I didn't owe him a thing. He was like that. Not an act, then, I believed. Not an act. He truly believed either that he somehow owed me whatever he gave, or that what he gave wasn't much.
Sitting in my favorite chair, talking to myself, the question made me raise my hands in bewilderment.
All right, I thought. You're ashamed of what you said to him. It wasn't enough. Didn't begin to cover what you owe him - is that it? You're ungrateful?
I wasn't ungrateful. That wasn't why I blushed when I remembered what I'd said to him.
Gratitude didn't enter in.
I'd embraced Joe. Made love to Amanda. Methos, I'd spoken to with hands carefully kept to myself, and both of us facing away, as if we were embarrassed to look at one another.
He'd saved my life that very night, last night! And I was embarrassed to look him in the eye!
I'd hugged Joe, told Amanda I loved her. Expressed what they meant to me. No fuss, no muss.
And thoughtfully explained to Methos what he meant to me. Told him that he'd done the one thing he wished never to do - been a good teacher to me! Incredible irony, but he hadn't grinned nor seemed to see it so. He'd - had he pretended?
He'd pretended, then, that I'd said the right thing. Made the right "gesture." A sufficient move and word.
To please me? No. Just so I wouldn't be hurt or embarrassed.
So. What should I have said? Was there anything that wasn't already obvious, already clear, for all that it was unspoken?
I hadn't said anything about friendship.
That was it. For some reason, I couldn't speak to Methos about friendship.
Why not? We were friends, weren't we? Had been, almost from the first moment.
No. Not then. Then, with Kalas threatening, we weren't friends. We were - squire and knight. Or, I'd offered.
Not been accepted. I couldn't fight his battles for him.
But he could, for me.
And when he couldn't - for whatever reason - then the exaggerated offer of his head, his power, to shore up mine.
When he couldn't prevent me fighting, he'd tried to ensure the outcome.
When I wouldn't permit that, he stopped the fight.
One way or another, saved my life. Always his goal.
One way or another, more than friends.
Then the other - the Dark Quickening. Again, more than friends.
No one else would have attempted to do for me what Methos tried to do. And succeeded.
Connor would have had no patience for it. Methos never cracked a smile. He knew "serious" when he saw it, Methos did. Danger and serious danger and death on the hoof. Which was what I was.
But none of his running away, then! Oh no! No cowardice then!
He brought everything to bear on it - on my "problem," my Dark Quickening. His millennia of experience, his calculating mind, his bag of tricks, and his indisputable courage.
And his poet's heart. Yes, yes. Stupid, stupid. I was so far gone he could afford to be a poet in my presence, without me noticing, remembering, and teasing him about it afterwards. I saw nothing but red flames, then, and poetry was lost on me. But not altogether lost. Because Methos did succeed.
What of the Horsemen, then? What did he want?
He came to me - disheveled, out of breath, abrupt, shaken. What did he come for? What was he looking for?
A brother to fight against his Brothers.
What he got was something else. A fool who fought on the side of his Enemy.
And never once a word of reproach. Simply, much later, a plea for forgiveness.
What he got then, was something else, too.
When I thought about it, I blushed again.
A brother, then, not just a friend.
The thought catapulted me out of the chair and I grabbed my coat and sword, taking no time to hide the weapon before I was up on deck and ready to go - where?
I was astonished to find that it was still dark. Not even dawn. I hadn't realized how early Amanda'd left. Perhaps I'd been a poor host, and not the best or most thoughtful lover, last night. Maybe I'd been too distracted....
There was much on my mind and I felt separated from Amanda and Joe in a strange way, though I loved them both with all my heart. More, since I'd seen the possibilities....
Somehow I was still rocking in the cradle of false memories Fitz showed me. Yet I felt distanced from Joe and Amanda although the responsibility I assumed for them was stronger than ever. Bedrock.
But not for Methos. Neither distance from him, nor responsibility for him.
I felt neither, about Methos.
There was no distance: he was close. I could almost feel his presence surrounding me, inside me, though not his Immortal aura, so he wasn't truly near.
And I felt no responsibility for him at all. He was who he was. I couldn't make a difference. Fitz was wrong.
I thought that, and knew I believed it. Maybe all the other lives Fitz showed me were real possibilities. But the alternative universe he'd shown me for Methos wasn't possible.
Methos didn't need me.
Other things might be true - he might have wished for a friend, and that friend was me. He might have hoped for a brother who'd fight by his side, and that brother was me. He might have longed for a hero, someone he could look up to, who'd gladden his heart, and that hero was me.
But he didn't need me to tip the balance between good and evil for him. He didn't need me to keep him on the straight and narrow road. He'd done fine for two thousand years without help from me.
Whatever our friendship meant to Methos, it didn't mean what Fitz' story implied. That Methos fed off my strength and my actions, to keep him good.
He was fine when we met.
Whatever he wanted from me - or I from him - it wasn't strength or purpose or decision or even simply shoring each other up in the face of moral ambiguity.
Or if it was that, I was the one who needed it from him, not the other way around. Whatever help I'd offered, he'd refused, more than once. But he'd forced me to accept his help, when I needed help. Gave me no choice at all.
Then, what did he want from me? What were we to each other, that I couldn't say, but knew enough to blush about, because I didn't say it?
"A day late and a dollar short" and Methos was - resigned to it. Never batted an eye.
And suddenly it was clear. So clear.
He'd given nothing late and nothing short. On time, every time. With his love.
What he'd wanted and needed and hoped for and longed for was the same, returned. On time. Love.
Something in me knew it, or I wouldn't be embarrassed at the words I'd spoken to him last night, without an embrace, without a smile, without warmth.
Knew it. Refused to give it.
Awkward as I am, I managed on occasion to embrace Connor, Richie, Fitz, Darius, Joe. And women. By the score, by the hundred. Love them or not, I embraced. I gave of myself, what I could. Most of the time, that was a lot. I'm not a stingy friend or lover.
It's difficult for me, much of the time, to hold back.
With Methos. Ah.
With Methos, who am I?
A joke. A fool. A judge. A jury. A sparring partner. And that's the better part of it, that last. Every kind of sparring partner.
I killed his friend, with whom I had no quarrel, and drank scotch with him afterwards.
He killed Kristin, with whom he had no quarrel, and drank beer with me afterwards.
What is it? What is it?
Who are we, to each other?
Why am I ashamed of what I said to him last night? It wasn't bad. It wasn't untrue.
Also, it wasn't enough. It wasn't all.
I shivered in the cool dawn air on deck. I couldn't be sure how long I'd stood there but the sun was up now and it hadn't been when I'd first come out of the warm barge.
There was a soreness in my heart that tore at me strangely, unbidden. I couldn't remove it with effort, nor did I wish to. It felt as if it belonged there, that soreness of heart.
Why was I thinking of Methos? Not Joe, not Amanda. Not even about my dead - Tessa, Richie - thoughts of whom were never far but the memories came and went, then were gone.
Methos was never gone.
And I wasn't simply "thinking" of Methos.
Methos was a soreness in my heart.
That was never gone. It was the underpinning of my life. It was - something I cherished, that soreness. When I was alone, I made it ache harder, sometimes, when I read poetry or listened to certain music or looked at the stars or the sea.
I clung to the soreness in my heart - I wouldn't give it up. Why, I didn't know.
But I knew something. At last. Now, I knew something.
Methos was the soreness in my heart. And I didn't understand.
And then suddenly, I did.
I threw up my hands again, like some demented fool in a mental institution, talking to himself. Perhaps if the quai hadn't been devoid of people, I'd have minded appearing to be crazy. As it was, I was past caring whether a Watcher might think I'd lost my mind.
I couldn't believe Methos gave a damn whether I told him I loved him. He'd shown no sign, ever, if he did.
No, he wouldn't give a damn, not for his own sake.
But I knew he'd be grieving for me. Because he knew I loved him and he'd want me to be true to myself and I'd come long past the time when I should have known. Long past and not seen and not known and therefore not spoken. That would bother him. He'd give a damn about that.
He'd told me, "Live, Highlander!" Not - "Mark time, Highlander!" Not - "Be a deluded fool, Highlander!" "Live!"
Yes yes. No life without growth. My teacher, still teaching. I had some of it right. I'd said something true. Not enough. Not all. But something.
I felt in my pocket for a scarf and wrapped it around my neck, tucking the ends into my coat.
It wasn't far to Methos' flat on foot but I decided to take the van. I was in a hurry. I had a feeling - well, I thought I ought to move fast.
I knew him pretty well, by now. Not like he knew me, of course, but well enough.
There was that second part of what he'd taught me - the business about moving on....
If I wanted to get there in time to say anything at all, anything worth saying, I'd better hurry.
I'd be a day late but I hoped that this time at least, I wouldn't be a dollar short.
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