Convalescence, chapter 5Mature

Next Friday, Garrison told me some wonderful news: on Tuesday, he'd met a girl! She was a gentle, shy, and delicate creature who worked, he said, in an ice cream shop.

He had gone into the shop and seen her there. He was delighted with her sweetness. As soon as she looked at him, he flashed the most absurd grin at her, shaking his head slightly, squishing his eyes closed, and baring all of his front teeth, as a child might do in front of a camera. She giggled at his silliness, apparently not knowing how else to react to such a strange man.

He said nothing to her, bought some ice cream, ate it there, and left.

Two days later, he went back to the ice cream shop and saw her again. He smiled at her again, in the same inane manner, but instead of giggling, she frowned and asked him what he wanted. Discouraged, he said nothing, bought some ice cream, ate it there, and left.

Up until that time, Garrison had had longer hair and a beard, so the next day, which was Friday, he got a haircut and a shave. He went back to the ice cream shop and saw her again; but this time, it was she who smiled at him.

She approached him. "Shaved, and with your hair cut, you look really handsome," she said.

"Thank you," he said, smiling back, but without the silliness. "You're quite cute yourself. What's your name?"

"Jan," she said, giggling.

"My name's Garrison," he said. "We should go out some time."

"OK. When?" she asked.

"Not tonight." He, of course, wanted to get drunk and stoned that night. "But how about Monday night?"

"OK."

"Great. I'll meet you here at 8 PM, OK?"

"OK. Bye."

He left the ice cream shop as if gliding on the clouds. After telling me the good news, he and I went with his friends to McLean's house that night. Instead of getting drunk and stoned to ease his pain, Garrison now would do so in celebration.

When we all went in McLean's house, techno music was already playing on his CD player. A half dozen ecstasy pills were on the coffee table, along with a six-pack of beer and some chewing gum, so nobody would grind his teeth to oblivion when peaking on the E.

Steven brought some marijuana and papers. Everyone took half a pill of ecstasy and began drinking a beer as Steven prepared a joint. Garrison just sat on the sofa, smiling.

"Hey, Garrison, what are you so happy about?" Lee asked. "Even when we're getting high, you usually pout."

"Did the devils take a day off?" Corin asked.

"I met a girl," Garrison said.

"Ooooh!" everyone intoned in unison.

"Have you dated her yet?" McLean asked.

"Have you fucked her?" Lee asked.

"Have you eaten her asshole out?" Steven asked. Everyone laughed.

"No, no, and no," Garrison said, sighing impatiently. "I'll go out with her on Monday night."

"Well, keep us posted, eh?" Gérard said.

Steven finished rolling the joint, lit it, took a few puffs, and passed it to Lee. Lee toked on it and gave it to Garrison.

Thirty minutes or so later, everyone was thoroughly stoned from the pot, tipsy from the beer, and beginning to feel the E. The others were discussing Canadian politics again, and how much government was too much, or too little. Garrison, tingling all over and his head swimming, looked over at me. The mumbling began.

"I really don't...appreciate the...smart-ass attitude...of Steven sometimes," Garrison said. "I used to think...of him as...one of my...best friends here, but he's such a...wanker, like my brother, Reynold."

"Reynold?" I said. "Tell me about him."

"Oh, he's a real...wanker, too," Garrison said, belching. "Completely in...love with himself," like Steven. You see the way...Steven taunts Gérard...and me? It's like Reynold...who did the same...thing to my sister, Julia, and to me."

"Interesting," I said. "Continue."

"When we were all kids, Reynold and Fred...got low marks...in school, but Julia and I...got higher marks."

"That should have disproved your mom's demon theories: you could trust your senses enough to do well at school."

"She says the devils helped me...to trick me...into thinking I can...trust myself," Garrison mumbled.

"Oh, for fuck sakes," I said.

The other guys broke from their political discussion and looked over at Garrison. They briefly chuckled at his, to them, incoherent mumbling, then resumed their debate over the State's role in society.

Garrison, fidgeting from peaking on the E, continued telling me about Reynold. "Our dad was...really hard...on my brothers...because of their...bad academic performance, but especially...on Reynold, yelling at him, calling him 'stupid' and 'useless'...that kind of thing...Dad pushed Reynold...so hard that, one time, he swallowed a...bunch of sleeping pills."

"Wow," I said.

"They got him to...the hospital in time," Garrison said. "But later, he got so...sick of Dad...that he packed his things...and left home. After several years...of trying to live...with no high school diploma, Reynold came back home, desperate. He went back to school, did well, and now he works...with computers and stuff...He makes the most money...of any of us...kinda like Steven, who makes more...than any of...us teachers. But Reynold always resented...Dad's saying he was stupid...Reynold is jealous...of Julia and me...for being favoured...by Dad. Reynold likes to call us...stupid people...who don't know anything."

"He sounds like a real charmer," I said.

"He is a real wanker," Garrison went on, now whispering. "His jealousy of Julia and me...is like Steven's...of Gérard."

"How so?"

"Steven's wife is...fat and hideous. Gérard's isn't...much better-looking, but Gérard gets pussy...all the time. Steven's too pussy-whipped...to try. He resents Gérard's...gift of charm, and makes him feel...guilty for it."

"I see."

The night wore on as usual, and finally I took Garrison home to bed. He lay on his bed and slept. His dream...and what came before and after...were as follows...

I, Garrison, am tripping out on the sofa in McLean's house. He, Steven, Lee, Corin, and Gérard are debating politics as usual, with Lee and McLean on the socialist side, Steven in the centre, and Corin and Gérard staunchly conservative. Mumbling to myself, I pay little attention, especially since I despise all politics, and all governments.

I go home, fall on my bed, and go to sleep...In my dream, I'm in my old Toronto home, sitting on the sofa and watching TV, when Reynold comes in the living room. I'm in my teens, which means my brother is in his early twenties.

"What are you watching?" he asks me.

"A movie version of Shakespeare's As You Like It," I say.

"Well, as I don't like it, give me the remote," he says, arrogantly holding out his hand for me to hand the remote over to him.

"Forget it, I was here first," I say angrily.

"Give me the remote, you little shit! And don't you ever give me a hard time like that again!" Frightened by his shouting, I give him the remote. "Just 'cause you and Julia pretend to like that fancy-ass shit doesn't make you smart!" He changes the channel to something more cultural...an old episode of 'Three's Company'.

Then Julia comes in the living room. "Reynold," she says, "We're hoping to have a family get-together with our cousins on Saturday, and--

"Forget it, I can't," he says, sipping a beer and obviously not caring. "I have to work all day then."

"But it's important, for the family," she says, though now with Gérard's voice. "Family has to be close to be happy."

"Yeah, you're real close with your family, aren't you?" Reynold says, but with Steven's voice.

I look back at Julia, but instead of seeing her, I see Gérard walking back out of the room angrily, saying, "Fuck yourself."

"Fine," says the voice of Steven. I look back and see him, rather than my brother, drinking from the beer bottle, with a joint in the other hand.

I then leave the living room, thinking, Wanker. I go to my bedroom, fall on my bed, and sleep.

I wake up, 39 years old again and in my apartment in China. It's late in the afternoon. After showering and changing my clothes, I go outside. I walk down the street and see--impossible!--Reynold, Julia, Fred, my mother, and my father sitting at the café I so often go to!

I turn my head away, hoping they won't see me. As I walk past with my hand covering my face, I hear their voices, calling out, "Hey, Garrison! Garrison! Where ya going?"

I keep walking, still hearing my family's voices, though they're getting fainter. Then I see Jan up ahead, further away. One of those voices from behind calls out, "Ah, fuck 'im. Freak!" But instead of it being one of my family's voices, it's Lee's!

Jan smiles at me and waves. After smiling another silly grin and waving to her, I turn around and go back to the café, where, instead of seeing the Five, I see my five friends from last night's party.

"Are you deaf?" Steven says, though I hear Reynold's angry, shouting voice.

"What?" Garrison said, confused.

"Couldn't you hear us when we were calling out to you?" Steven said in a calm, conversational voice.

"I-I thought I h-heard someone else calling out to me," Garrison said, with a troubled look on his face. "S-someone I didn't want to talk to."

"Oh, the demons again, eh?" Lee asked. The others laughed.

Maybe they were, Garrison thought.

The End

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