Convalescence, chapter 7Mature

Garrison, indeed, dated Jan on Monday night, and he was so elated, walking with her side by side down the streets in his town in China, that it was like a dream.

It was, in fact, almost indistinguishable from a dream, for this is what he experienced.

I, Garrison, am strolling down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées,with Jan, my sweetheart. We look at each other with glowing eyes, always smiling. She seems to find my manner oddly amusing, and she frequently giggles, making me laugh back, happy to be finally accepted by someone.

We note the horse-drawn carriages, and I pull my pocket watch out of my coat pocket. It's 9:30 PM on this spring night in Paris, at the beginning of a new century--the twentieth century, the year 1900! A time for a new beginning!

I adjust my top hat and brush some lint off my coat-tails. Jan, hot in her frilly Victorian dress, fans herself with the oriental fan in her gloved hand. I look deep in her blue eyes, mine telling hers how I want to kiss her hard on the mouth; but she looks away, her pink skin blushing to red.

I gently stroke her blonde hair, then look around at the other Parisians; instead of seeing them, however, I see only Asians dressed in the same kind of period clothing that we're wearing. Then I look back at Jan, but see a Chinese girl. I look down at myself, and now see the modern clothes I wear here in China, in the year 2009.

"Garrison?" Jan asked, confused by his daydreamy face. "You OK?"

"Oh, uh, yeah," he said, embarrassed, but smiling from ear to ear. "I'm great."

"You really nice," she said. "But a little crazy."

"Yeah, well...you make me better. Like my own personal doctor."

She giggled, slightly taken aback by his eccentricity, but finding his flawed humanity endearing. Indeed, she felt compassion for the suffering she unmistakeably saw in his eyes. She certainly wanted to help him heal.

"Look, it's getting late," he said. "Let me take you home. I have some stuff I have to do, to prepare for my work tomorrow."

"OK," she said. "When I see you again?"

"How about Friday night? I'll be free then."

"OK." The grin on her face never faded.

He took her home, they said goodnight, then he rushed back to his apartment, bubbling over with a happiness that would have made an ecstasy high seem superfluous.

At his bed, he began to pray.

"Oh, thank you, God, for this wonderful date with Jan. I had such a great time with her...and she llkes me, too. Please don't let me have hallucinations anymore when I'm with her. Have her like me as I am, with all my faults. Let her love heal me, for I so hope she'll love me. And let me feel You inside me, Lord, guiding me, loving me...not this spiritual emptiness I always have. Let me feel angels in me, angels like Jan, not devils." Then, doing the Sign of the Cross, he ended with, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen."

Then he got a bottle of Jim Beam, put some ice in a glass, poured the liquor in and added some Coke. As he drank from that first glass, he sang in slurring syllables the lyrics to the Beatles's song, 'Getting Better'.

I have to admit, it's getting better/It's getting better since you've been mine.

After several more drinks of bourbon, he fell asleep, completely wasted.

This was his dream.

I, Garrison, am with my blonde-haired, blue-eyed French beauty, Jan, strolling down the streets of Paris at night in the year 1900. Holding hands, we look in each other's eyes, smile, and laugh in our enchantment with one another.

I look out among the Parisians on the busy street; but one by one, they appear increasingly to be Asian. When most of them--among the crowd of people walking by us--are Asian, I am even more alarmed to see the few white people mixed with them. For those few white faces are familiar to me.

First, I see my mother and father. Then, amid the sea of Chinese in period dress, I see Lee and McLean. Then I see Reynold; then, Steven. Next comes Fred, with Corin following soon after. Finally, I see Julia chatting with Gérard. I shudder.

I look over at Jan, but instead of seeing a pretty French blonde, I see a pretty Chinese girl. Though her looks have changed, I keep smiling all the same.

***********************

On Friday, Garrison took Jan to a tea shop. There, they talked about their families.

"I don't like my Mommy either, sometimes," Jan said. "She treat me not fair."

"She sounds so like my mom," he said.

"She treat my brother better, always," Jan said, then sipped her tea.

"Same with my brothers and me," he said. "You and I have a lot in common."

"Not everything same about us. You're crazy, I'm not. I'm ugly, you're not."

"Nonsense! You're very cute, Jan."

"No," she insisted.

"Don't say bad things about yourself, sweetie," Garrison insisted right back. "They turn into bad beliefs, trust me."

Again, he ended the date with her early, claiming he had important classes to prepare for the next day, but really so he could party with Lee and the others. I came along, as usual: we went to Steven's apartment.

After having passed around a few joints and drunk a few beers, everyone was stoned and spacing out. Garrison started his mumbling.

"Julia is...a lot like...Gérard in...many ways," Garrison mumbled softly. "And totally...unlike Jan."

"How so?" I asked.

"My sister's love...and graciousness are...as phony as...a three dollar bill," Garrison explained, then he whispered, "Gérard's the same way--quite two-faced. Jan's love, however, is real: I know."

"She's very sweet, I'm sure," I said. "But you hardly know Jan."

"I know enough about her," he insisted. "Back to my sister. Like Gérard, Julia will...smile sweetly...at strangers, then turn around...and make cutting remarks...at me. The smiles are...fake and self-serving."

"Who are you talkin' to, Garrison?" Gérard asked. "Your devil friends sure are good conversationalists, aren't they?" He, Lee, and the others began chuckling. Then Gérard returned to smiling politely while listening to Lee's and McLean's political opinions, which he abhorred.

"See what I mean?" Garrison asked me. "But I can tell...that Jan's sweetness...is natural."

"I hope for your sake that that's true," I said. "She certainly seems very nice."

"Julia will gossip...and bad-mouth people...behind their backs," he continued. "Just as Gérard does...behind Steven's; one day, he'll find out...about the rumours...Gérard's spreading about him, spreading in retaliation...for Steven's constant...cutting remarks...to Gérard's face, about his marital...infidelities, and his...religious hypocrisy...a hypocrisy Julia...has, too. When Steven learns...of Gérard's gossiping, he'll go crazy...much crazier...than I am."

At the end of the night, I finally took a totally wasted, staggering Garrison home. He slept in his clothes again.

This was his dream.

I, Garrison, am in the living room of my old home in Toronto. I'm about fifteen, listening to records, for I haven't yet caught on to CDs.

Julia doesn't like the music I listen to (I'm listening to Yes'sRelayer), because underneath her pretentions as a 'literary' type, she's at heart an incurable philistine.

She storms into the living room from the bathroom. "Turn that shit off, Garrison!" she shouts. "Your weird music's getting on my nerves."

"Don't I have any rights?" I protest.

"Don't I have any rights?" she mimics in an insultingly whiney voice. Then she shouts, "It's shitty music. Turn it off!"

"No!" I shout back.

"Don't you talk back to me in one of your devil voices!" she yells, slapping me. "Turn it off!"

Cowed, I take the record off the turntable. Then the doorbell rings. She answers the door. Jan is at the door.

"Hello?" Jan says. "Is Garrison here?"

"Yes," Julia says with one of her fake smiles. "I'll go get him." She walks back into the living room. Frowning, she says, "Your girlfriend is here." I get up. As I walk with Julia to the front door, she says, still frowning, "You don't want to marry her, do you?"

"Yes, if she's as wonderful as I think she is," I say, barely hiding my hurt at Julia's rejection of my Jan; for I know Julia would much prefer to pick my future wife out for me...always with my best interests at heart, of course.

We reach the front door. "Hi," I say to Jan with a grin. She, smiling sweetly at me, comes in the house.

"So, Jan," Julia says with another phony smile, "Garrison's told me so many good things about you. Please tell me about yourself." I scowl in disgust at my sister's shameless hypocrisy.

I look at Jan, then back at Julia...but now I see Gérard instead. He's smiling with the same gracious insincerity as he talks to Jan, who's no longer Asian, but now looks like a white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl.

He looks back at me. With an evil grin, he asks, "Have you introduced her to any of your devil friends yet?"

Garrison suddenly woke up, shaking and coughing for breath. "Oh, Jan, please chase all the devils out of me," he gasped.

The End

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