imogen (imogenics) wrote in peter_and_fran,

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Part 25 (Spring 2003)

Sean Bean left New Zealand first. Elijah left last.

Bean didn't say anything to anyone except Orlando, and when Orlando came down to the breakfast table after, he only said, "Bean's flown home. He said to say, to tell you all," and he shrugged, looking around at everyone's faces as if for a cue. "Anyway."

Viggo left next and after that, it looked like the dam was broken for real, and the others trickled and finally flooded off to the four corners. There were hugs and non-conversations in Departures; Elijah felt like he was sleepwalking. He stood at six different gates, his hands in his pockets, running his thumb back and forth over his lighter, watching someone's shoulder or sneaker or backpack disappear around the corner of the jetway. Then, on his seventh trip to Wellington International he finally got on a plane to New York.

New York was an easy choice to make. Hannah was there, and it was the practical place to go if he wanted to get hooked up with work while he decided what to do with his life after Peter and Fran. When he was being slightly more honest with himself, it was the best place to go to hide, avoid everyone he knew and decide what to do with his life after Peter and Fran.

He woke up again on the pale side of February, washed up onto Hannah's couch like a raft, watching reruns of The Daily Show and Adult Swim. When he caught Orlando's war movie on some HBO channel, he smoked through twenty minutes of Josh Hartnett's corn-fed American heroism until Orli popped up, all quick bright flash of teeth, surrounded by carnage and fucked-up foreign policy fallout, looking like Sinead O'Connor with a semi-automatic.

Elijah'd seen it before, but Orli looked so eager and young it made his teeth hurt, and no matter that Orli had a couple of years on him, it didn't stop being weird. He fell asleep again to the sound of gunfire and when he woke up his phone was ringing and Orlando's voice was in his ear, coming from some place in a time zone where people weren't passed out on the couch with an episode of Arliss on the television, making them wish they were still asleep.

By the time he found the remote, Orli had gone, there was someone else on the line, and apparently Orli wasn't fucking around, it really was a reporter from Details or some shit, wanting to talk about Orlando's new movie and then Peter and Fran. It was the questions about the band that finally snapped Elijah awake with irritation more than anything else.

He wasn't really familiar with the Orlando the reporter was asking about, this person with mystique and a hairstyle that was considered an actual topic of conversation. He listened to himself spouting some inane pull-quote-ready crap and at the same time thought about Orli, someone who could juggle with silverware, someone who couldn't hold his liquor and usually had food in his hair by the end of the night.

Later, Elijah would wish he hadn't made that stupid comment about Bowie, or had least picked something more original. There was a weird pebbly imprint from the couch cushion on one side of his face and he kept brushing the tips of his fingers over it, distracted.

"Go back to sleep," Orli said softly when he got back on the phone, and Elijah knew "sorry" when he heard it.

"'Sokay," Elijah said. He rubbed his face. Outside on the street, two people were having a shouting match about paying cab fare. "Tell me at least they're buying you a really fucking great lunch, or something."

"Or something, yes," Orli agreed mildly, and Elijah sometimes forgot that Orlando did deadpan even better than Dom when he wanted to. No one suspected the sweet one. Elijah added it to the list, right beneath the juggling and the parachuting. "What time is it there?"

"I have no idea. What time is it there?"

"I have no idea."

Elijah huffed a laugh into the phone, wanted to flop back onto the couch and spend the next two hours smoking and talking about nothing, wished there wasn't a reporter sitting probably six inches away from Orli right now, pretending to eat an overpriced salad and listening to every word.

"Be good," he said instead.

"Never," said Orlando, affronted, and then laughed low and sweet like a promise before hanging up.

Most afternoons after Elijah woke up he and Hannah kicked around doing stupid things, shopping at Zabar’s for two hours for cheese, going to the West Village so that Hannah could buy a box of ugly second-hand hats to redecorate.

"I think I kind of forgot," Elijah said, balancing the box of hats and a styrofoam container of curry, "I missed this."

"Dork," said Hannah. "There’s curry on your face."

They walked awhile before she said, “Are you saying that because you’re taking off again?”

"No, no, I don’t know. I’m just. You’re starting at Parsons and I’m going to learn how to cook, and like, be normal."

"You can be depressed on my couch until you learn how to cook," said Hannah, considering. “I won’t address your unrealistic goal of normalcy."

"I’m not depressed, I’m coping," said Elijah. He stopped at a café window and did a quick curry check, briefly freaking out a woman sitting on the other side of the glass.

"Remember when you were like ten and you only wrote songs in G for a month,” Hannah said, “And mom said you should maybe try to branch out a little? And you were like, no, no, the other keys might fuck with my flow – "

"I was ten, I didn’t say fuck."

"– so I’m saying, get a project," she said loudly over him, grabbing the box of hats back.

Elijah’s project for the past month mostly involved sitting on the couch eating pita sandwiches, but it wasn't like he’d lost all sense of perspective. Most days he could count on one hand the people he actually wanted to talk to. He called Dom’s cell and then Billy’s, but apparently when the great American craft fair circuit beckoned, voicemail got lost in the shuffle because it was weeks before he got anything more from either of them than a dirty limerick written on a stained postcard.

His mom called instead with advice and the number from a guy at Interscope who wanted talk to him. Elijah could guess what that’s about. He and Hannah sometimes tried to keep a count of all the Moby and faux-Moby rip-off commercial jingles in existence, all the smooth, bright electronica for smooth, bright cars, jewelry, and beer. Elijah knew he was better than Moby now, and he liked to think he was better than Moby back when he was 14 and making his first EP of club songs in a friend’s basement.

He wrote the Interscope phone number down on the back of a Radio Shack receipt and dropped it behind the couch when he saw Dom's number on his call log. On his voicemail was Dom's voice, singing to the tune of "Sandinista Rock": Poughkeepsie next Tuesday, beg, borrow or steal some transportation. On the train he worked on a mashup for Hannah, a Frankenstein marriage of Otis Redding and the Bangles, something he hoped would say thanks for the couch, and stuff. At the train station he stood around squinting in the gray light on the platform, watching the dead newspapers wilt further in the cold drizzle until someone said behind him, "There, ha, look what he's done to his hair!"

He was grabbed from behind and Dom was laughing into his hair as Billy hugged him, grinning at Dom over Elijah's shoulder.

"Told you he'd come," Billy said, pleased.

"Fuck you," Elijah half-laughed, one hand holding on where both of Dom's were crossed over his stomach, the other arm around Billy's shoulders, and he never wanted to move again. "You thought I wouldn't?"

Dom just shook one shoulder. Elijah's ribs were starting to ache and Elijah knew Dom, knew sometimes Dom tried not to expect the things he really wanted, and that was something old, something that wasn't about Elijah, or any of them. Elijah was feeling better standing on this platform getting mauled than he had in weeks, and he wanted to laugh at himself, because the joke was on him. Billy and Dom looked sunburned, dirty, loose and happy and Elijah thought he should have prepared himself better for this on the train. He wasn't ready to end up being the one waiting to hear Viggo's crazy giggle over his head or feel Orli's bony elbow dropping down to lock itself around his hip.

Finally Dom let him go and grinned wide and sharp. "Food, food and drinks, let's go," and they fell into the same bumping synchronized stride as always, Elijah sandwiched between like his legs were tied to each them in a three-legged race.

Elijah'd done enough sitting in pretentious cafes that winter to last a lifetime, so they raided a cornershop deli for beer and sandwiches, then pushed each other back out onto the street. Spring was still clenched up like a million little fists, cold and reluctant even in the wet. They drifted and settled on the steps of a war memorial in the park, sneakers touching, the drizzle just starting to ghost down with the wind. Elijah ate and drank and listened to Dom describe his favorite bugs of the Mohave until he was wet through, his hands cold and his stomach warm from the beer, until he forgot what time it was.

The light in the park was failing when Dom stretched out on the steps and grinned back at Elijah, adjusting his hat with two dirty fingers. Whenever Dom wore that hat Elijah thought he looked just as likely to steal your wallet as help an old lady across the road. Elijah tapped the end of his cigarette against the edge of Billy's shoe and waited to see which it would be.

"You're writing your blues album, aren't you," Dom said to Elijah. "And all the songs will be about how your bandmates left you to weld and swan about in pirate costumes. Aren't you."

"Yeah," Elijah said, and then kicked Dom, "and shut up, my blues album wouldn't suck. Except the song about your crafts, because really."

Dom kicked him back and then spilled some beer and Elijah waved him off with the lit end of his cigarette until Dom just plucked it from his hand and deposited it on his own lip.

"No, I'm calling it, I'm gonna call it "Divorced At 22"."

Billy laughed, took the cigarette from Dom's mouth and handed it back to Elijah. "You're not divorced, we're not all of us –"

"Viggo and Sean are," Elijah said, and took a hard drag to stop himself from saying something that might be worse. "And now they're divorced from each other, too. It's catching. I'm too young to be this nostalgic."

"No, I know what you've got," Dom sat up suddenly, pointing at Elijah with the neck of his beer bottle, "you've got personal growth."

Elijah thought it was kind of quaint, really kind of special that Dom was that ready to remind Elijah to get over himself. Elijah hadn't gotten the chance to fall so unsubtly to pieces the way Dom had, the last time the band had broken up. Elijah wondered if it was his turn yet, this time. He wondered if he even wanted a turn. He looked steadily back at Dom. "What should I do, doctor?"

"Nothing to be done. Personal growth is incurable."

Elijah took another swig from his bottle. "Sounds pretty bad."

Dom lounged back on one elbow and gestured equivocally, "It's not, not really. It's like, like – like sex with Orlando, you just have to go with it. Stop thinking and it's not bad, really."

Elijah looked at him sideways. "You didn't. Did you?" He looked at Billy rolling his eyes. "You didn't."

"I'm the doctor," Dom said importantly, trying to hide his sharp teeth behind his hand. "I don't have to tell you anything."

"Don't you believe it," Billy put in over Dom's shoulder. "It's just that he can't bear to be left out of anything."

"Like you were ever left out of anything," Elijah muttered, harsher than he really meant, but he was already thinking about the train ride home alone, looking between his own milk-pale hands clenched around the brown bottle and Dom and Billy's dirty fingernails, the identical dusty-smooth knees of their jeans.

Dom got up and jogged back to the cornershop for more beer and when he came back his eyes were wide open under his hat and they stopped Elijah mid-sip. "What are you doing? Really."

"I don't know. Nothing."

"Come with us then. Time to join the circus."

"Dom," Billy said, "let him –"

"What?" said Dom, shrugging. "I am."

"If I did," Elijah said, looking at Billy, then at Dom. He stopped and took another drink. "I keep thinking it shouldn't be that easy."

"It always was before," said Dom, shrugging again. He smiled and it was both crooked and soft.

"Exactly," Elijah said. "Before."

"So," said Dom.

"So." Elijah leaned down to pick at his shoelace.

"So," said Billy, and then by some signal took Dom's cigarette and pulled on it quickly. He and Dom both leaned forward on either side of Elijah and blew out plumes of warm smoke into each ear. Elijah shouted and flailed, the sharp ridge of the step digging into this back.

"Stay then," Dom cried, his fingers digging into Elijah's ribs, "stay with your posse of artistes, Bills and I would only bore you anyway."

"I don't have a posse, ass," Elijah insisted, wiggling uselessly, " and I hate everyone that I'm supposed to be hanging out with. It's like, everybody whose bar mitzvahs I used to go to, only now they're old enough to drink and they won't shut the fuck up about Coldplay. Coldplay, okay?"

Billy patted his knee. "I'm sure they hate you, too."

"They should. Snotty twat that you are," Dom agreed. "Do you have socialization problems, Elijah?"

"Yes, I have fucking socialization problems," Elijah almost yelled, laughing. "I spent my formative years with you all. You and Viggo."

"You know." Dom ran his forefinger over his chin, looking at Elijah like he'd never seen him before, eyes wide with delight, or possibly horror. "I never thought about it that way. It's a wonder you can even dress yourself. C'mon," he said suddenly as Elijah tried to kick him again, and Billy grabbed Elijah's other arm and heaved Elijah to his feet. "You'll miss your train."

They wove their way down the muffled main street, not really drunk enough to be that tangled up in each other, and pelted unsteadily down the empty platform.

"Shit, I've gotta –" Elijah twisted around.

"Don't go to Tibet," said Dom suddenly.


"No one gets to go to Tibet ever again," said Dom, and kissed Elijah on the ear.

Elijah surprised himself by falling almost instantly asleep on the train and woke up just as suddenly when someone nudged his shoulder with their bag disembarking at Penn Station. The air was black, wet and sharp and he felt more awake than he had in a month. He walked most of the way back to Hannah's, ate a pita sandwich standing up in the kitchen, and made two phone calls. Fifteen minutes and he collected as much vinyl as he could fit into his messenger bag and slipped back out onto the street again, wide awake.

(Part 25b. The Man Puts Down the Tambourine)
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