Categories > Theatre > Rent
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
- T.S. Eliot, "The Hollow Men"
"Hmm?" Roger cracked his eyes open, shut them again, then rolled over, wrapping an arm around Mimi. It was mid-morning by the light filtering in through the windows, which was, in his opinion, too damn early to be getting up for anything. And then she snuggled closer to him, and he had to amend that thought: anything but her. He buried his nose in her hair, smelling cigarette smoke and perfume and her own soft, warm scent, and mumbled something that might have been "Good morning" or "I love you" or any number of other things. He wasn't awake enough for specifics.
"You awake?" There was a hint of laughter in her voice, but also a little bit of uncertainty, and that made him open his eyes and really look at her. He tried to ignore the hollows under her cheeks, the dark circles under her eyes, and focus on her expression. She had that face she got when she wanted to ask him something.
"Mmm. Whassit?" There. Words. He was proud of himself.
Mimi bit her lip and stared at him, and he resolved then that whatever it was she wanted, he'd make sure it was hers. Her next words, though, took him by surprise. "How come I've never met your mom?"
He blinked, and groped for words. "Well, it's not that I... She's in Maine, and..."
"Baby, if there's something bad that happened, that's fine. I just hear you talk, and I've never met her, and I was... wondering, that's all." She kept gnawing on her lip, uncertain and childlike, but still incredibly sexy. He couldn't resist the urge to kiss her. When he finally pulled away, he'd figured out what he wanted to say.
"No, if you want to meet her, that's fine. It is. It's just that I left home years ago. With April. And although Mom and I are okay, it's just... It's a little hellhole of a town, okay? Seriously, it's a creepy kind of place. Nothing but tourists and really weird locals. But... If you want to..."
She nodded. "I do. Before I... get sick again. If you don't mind me meeting her, I'd really like that. We've been pretty serious for a while now, and it's not like you haven't met my mom..." She looked at the ring on her left hand, and without bothering to look at his own, he rubbed the similar one on his own finger. They'd never made it official; with both of them sick, there didn't seem to be any point in shelling out the money for a marriage license. But they wore matching silver bands, and they woke up together every morning. It was enough.
And it was because of that, because he was hers, and she was his, and he knew just how little time she had left, that he broke the promise he'd made to himself the day he left home. "Okay. I'll call Mom. Last time I talked to her, she was asking when I'd bring home a pretty girl for her to interrogate, anyway. I'm sure I've got something I can hock to get us a car. We could make it a road trip..."
Mimi squealed with delight and hugged him. Life, he thought, was good.
"I've just gotta tell Mark that we won't be making it over for dinner for a week or so..." He felt a little guilty about that. With Maureen and Joanne so wrapped up in each other and their drama of the week, and Collins out of town again, the two of them were really all Mark had left. Having dinner together had become a ritual for them.
"Hmm." Mimi rolled on top of him, straddling his hips and grinning mischievously. Uh oh. She has an idea. "We could take him with us!"
Mimi tapped his nose for emphasis. "Take. Him. With. Us. You know the boy's gonna be lonely by himself. And he's so skinny, anyone's mom would love to feed him, fatten him up a little. The change of scenery would do him good... He could film out there." She started coughing, and he looked up at her, concerned, but the coughing fit stopped quickly, and she was smiling again. "Smoking too much," she said, shrugging it off.
"We'd be a little short on time alone if he came with..." It wasn't much of a protest. Mimi knew him better than he did; he'd be just as miserable without Mark as Mark would be alone. But this was the love of his life, and Alone Time did take priority.
"We'll figure something out." She smirked. "At worst, he can always watch. Or even join in. I don't mind."
Roger choked. Roger sputtered. Roger turned several interesting shades of red. Mimi just looked down at him, head cocked.
"You mean the two of you have never...?"
Roger shook his head, frantically.
"Never even watched?"
Again, he shook his head.
"In that case, he's definitely coming with us. He might learn a few things." There was a sparkle in her eyes that he hadn't seen in weeks.
Finally, he found words. "Mimi... He dated Maureen. I doubt he's as sweet and innocent as you think he is."
"You mean I don't get to corrupt him?" She pouted.
"No," he growled, then paused, considering. "You could try your hand at corrupting me, though..."
Mimi slapped at him playfully. "I think you're long past the point where I could do a damn thing to corrupt you."
"Yeah," he replied, smirking. "But you could still try..."
She laughed and bent over him to kiss him again, then pulled back, staring at him as if she'd only just realized something. "...You're from Maine?"
Roger groaned and covered his face with a pillow, somehow certain that wasn't going to be the last time he heard that.
"You're from Maine?" Mark blinked, startled. He'd have taken Roger for a native New Yorker, with his tough-guy trappings and rock star sensuality. The idea that Roger, of all people, could be from Maine...
"Yes, I'm from a shitty little town in Maine," Roger growled, annoyed. "And we're going up there to see my mom for a week or so."
"That's... great. When are you guys leaving?" Mark tried to hold back his disappointment. He could live without Roger there for a week, couldn't he? It wasn't like he was just taking off for Santa Fe again.
Mimi broke in. "'We' means you too," she said, slinging an arm over Mark's shoulders. "His mom says it's fine, and she'll be happy to have another boy around to feed. So start packing, mijo."
"But... This is... The two of you! You shouldn't have me tagging along!" This wasn't happening. He was Mark, stay-at-home Mark. He didn't get invited on road trips, didn't go to meet other people's families.
"You're not tagging along, idiot." Roger came in from the other side, his arm also around Mark's shoulders, over Mimi's. It was... nice. "We're inviting you. And you are coming. The more the merrier, when we're going into the Den of Evil."
Mark laughed. "Roger, it's Maine. How evil can it be?"
"Obviously, you've never read any Steven King. Everything twisted and wrong and evil comes from Maine, trust me."
"Well," Mark muttered, "I guess that explains you..." He grunted as Mimi poked him in the ribs.
"Play nice, boys."
"Ass," Roger said, glaring at Mark.
"You know it," Mark replied, unrepentant, as Mimi rolled her eyes. "Seriously... You're from Maine?"
Roger glared at him. "Don't make me hurt you."
Mark raised his hands in surrender. "Fine, fine. You're from Maine, which I'm sure is a great place..."
"It's a hellhole," Roger broke in. "Creepy and evil, when it's not provincial and cheesy and full of idiots. We covered this. But at least it's pretty out there. I'm sure you'd find something to film."
"I'm looking forward to it. Next, on Buzzline: Maine! Home of trees and moose! ...You guys do have moose, right? Mooses?"
"Moose." Roger rolled his eyes. "And yes, we have them. Ve haf moose! And squirrel! Seriously, moose are mean fuckers. Don't ever piss one off."
"Right. I'll make a note of that. Don't anger the moose." Mark shook his head. This was Roger, giving him advice on moose. His head was starting to hurt. "But, hey, aren't you guys going to want some time alone when we're there? I guess I could take some long walks..."
"Mimi assures me we'll figure something out. Though she seems more interested in getting you to join in," Roger said, smirking.
Mark choked, sputtered, and turned several interesting shades of red. When he could breathe again, he noticed that Roger was laughing. Fucking Roger. But apparently, it was Roger's turn to get poked in the ribs, which did a lot to make him feel better.
"Ignore him," Mimi said. "He's just getting over having the exact same reaction. Maybe the two of you are protesting too much... You know, everyone's supposed to be inherently bisexual."
"My girlfriend. Not sharing." Roger pulled Mimi into his arms, glaring at Mark as if he was planning on abducting her on the spot. Mark just shifted uncomfortably.
"It wasn't me I was talking about sharing," Mimi said with a smirk. "You two would be really cute together. You have to have thought about it..."
If Roger reacted to that in any way, Mark missed it, suddenly deeply absorbed in making sure his camera was properly wound. "Okay," he said, picking it up and pointing it at the two of them, "close on Roger and Mimi, soon to embark on a terrifying journey to lands unknown. And me," and here he turned the camera around, actually filming himself for once, "being somehow roped into coming with them. What strange and horrible things will we find in... Maine?"
Roger was humming some ominous music when the phone rang. Mark let the machine get it, but dashed for the phone once he heard the voice on the machine.
"Hey, bitches! Pick up the damn phone!" Collins. Mark set the camera next to the phone and obediently picked up.
"Hey! How've you been?" Phone calls from Collins were a weekly occurrence now, but everyone still crowded around the phone, faces almost touching, like it had been months. Mark thought that maybe it was just that no one knew which one would be the last call... Mimi's last call, or Roger's, or Collins'. Any one of them could be the next to get sick, so every call was a way of keeping their family together a little longer. But this wasn't the time to brood about it.
"...so, all in all, not too bad," Collins was saying. "I'm coming down in a couple days to visit Angel, and I was hoping to see you guys again..."
"Oh." Mark stared at his shoes. Collins would pick just then to decide to visit Angel's grave, wouldn't he? "It looks like we're going to be in Maine... Road trip. Visiting Roger's mom. But I could stay, if you want company..."
"No, it's cool. You go. Let me know what it's like away from civilization."
"You're welcome to stay here, though," Mark said. "You still have those keys I had made?"
"Of course I do. I'll make it in without getting my ass kicked again, don't worry. See you when you get back, maybe?"
"I hope so. Look, we'll call from Roger's mom's place, just so you know we made it there safe, okay? We'll leave the number, so give us a call once you get in."
"Sure. Wait... Roger's from Maine?"
"I heard that," Roger snarled, as Mimi turned away, covering her mouth with one hand, in what Mark hoped was only a faked coughing fit to cover her laughter. She was smiling when she turned back towards them, anyway.
"Of course you did. I meant for you to. Mimi there?" Collins continued, unperturbed.
"Where else would I be?" she asked, leaning closer to the phone. "Someone's gotta keep these two out of trouble."
"It's about time Roger took you home to meet his mama. What took you so long, Rog?"
"Maine's evil. I'm going back against my will, trust me," Roger said.
"Shame on you. Get your ass back home, tell your mama you love her, and bring me back some Davis family home cooking, hear?"
"Yes sir," Roger replied, rolling his eyes.
"You gonna hock Sophie to get you out there?" Collins asked.
Mimi looked at Roger, her brow furrowed. "Sophie?"
"His Fender," Mark told her. "Sophia."
"The goddess of wisdom," Collins said. "Good name for an instrument. You'll get her back, Rog, don't worry. Look, I've gotta go in a sec. Used up all my change."
They all said their goodbyes, Roger promising to bring Collins a tacky souvenir or two. Or five.
"Great," Collins said. "Where in Maine are you from, anyway?"
"A little tourist trap called Silent Hill."
If Collins said anything else, none of them heard it. The time on his pay phone had finally run out.
The car was small, smelled overwhelmingly of smoke, both tobacco and other, not so legal substances, and featured the world's most uncomfortable seats, but Mimi didn't care. Roger sat next to her, Mark in the middle of the backseat, camera in hand. The radio was broken, and Roger had taken it upon himself to provide entertainment for all of them by singing at the top of his lungs. Stuff from the radio, songs he wrote when he was with the Well Hungarians, anything that popped into his head. She sang along when she knew the words, Mark joining in from time to time, but for the most part, Mimi preferred to listen. She loved his voice, loved the motion of his hands as he tapped out rhythms on the steering wheel, loved the way his hair blew in the wind from the open window.
And all of that was enough to make her forget the uneasy feelings she'd had since the trip had started. The urge to know more about Roger, to meet his mother (he'd never said anything about his father, and she hadn't asked), had been growing steadily since they'd exchanged rings. It had seemed important to go back to his hometown, but now... She shook her head to clear it. She'd just had some bad dreams, that was all.
Besides, she knew she didn't have much time left. She could tell Roger that cough of hers was from smoking too much, but there was always that nagging thought in the back of her mind that whispered what the real cause could be. Pneumocystis pneumonia. PCP could be fatal, from what she remembered of the talk at the clinic about possible AIDS complications. Her T-cell count was low enough, and it could be... But she didn't have a fever. It could have been anything. She'd take it as a warning, though... She had too little time to waste any of it.
Roger stopped singing and pointed to a sign on the side of the road. "Welcome to Maine! Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
She laughed. "Come on, it can't be that bad... Tell me about where you grew up?" She turned too look at him, and saw Mark out of the corner of her eye, eagerly filming everything.
"Well." Roger paused and lit a cigarette, offering her one, but she just shook her head. He raised an eyebrow and continued. "Silent Hill is a lovely, quaint Maine town. Visit lovely Toluca Lake -- don't worry, it's only a little bit cursed -- and see the scenic lighthouse, one of Silent Hill's oldest structures! Enjoy yourself at Lakeside Amusement Park, and don't forget to stop by the Silent Hill Towne Center for all your shopping needs!"
Mimi giggled. "That's not what I meant. You sound like a brochure."
Roger shrugged. "I worked at a souvenir shop for two years, selling tourists itty bitty lighthouses, real Maine 'driftwood sculpture', and other overpriced crap. Give the tourists the same lines enough times, it gets to be automatic."
"Waaait." Mark poked his head between the two front car seats. "The lake is cursed?"
"Yeah," Roger said, exhaling a long stream of smoke. "Supposedly there was this boat full of tourists that went out on the lake years ago, and just -- poof! --" he said, flinging a hand out dramatically "-- vanished."
"You're kidding," Mark said, focusing the camera on Roger. "They've got to have found them. Dredged the lake or something."
"They tried," Roger replied, taking an almost sadistic delight in the story, "but there was nothing. Nothing. They say that the passengers are still down there in the lake, waiting to drag others down to their doom."
"You really believe in that stuff?" Mimi turned in her seat, facing Roger, feeling excited and scared and curious all at once, like a little kid with a ghost story.
"It makes about as much sense as all the UFO sightings," Roger said, shrugging again. "And me and April used to go watch for UFOs by the lake all the time. Never saw any, though."
"You two went way back, huh?" Mimi asked softly, pushing a mass of curls out of her eyes.
"Yeah." Roger left it at the one word, but Mark, whether fiddling with his camera or just unusually oblivious, missed the hint.
"Watching for UFOs? Right. Sure, Roger." It was only then that he looked up again, noticed the haunted expression on Roger's face, the hands clenching the steering wheel. "Fuck. I'm sorry, Rog--"
"Don't be." Roger's reply came too quickly, the smile too forced. "Ancient history. She's got a grave there, did you know? Her family wanted her to be buried back home. They wouldn't release the body to them... Biohazard, all that AIDS scare bullshit, but there's an empty coffin buried out there. Nice little grave, got a little statue on it and everything, or so Mom tells me. Maybe I should pay a visit."
Mimi stayed quiet, not wanting to break the sudden silence. She didn't get jealous, especially not of someone who was dead and gone, no matter how much Roger had loved her. But going back to the town he and April had grown up in, where he could visit her grave... That didn't feel right. Didn't feel right at all, and she questioned again why she'd been so set on going to Silent Hill.
The silence stretched on, minutes becoming hours, no one remarking on the fog that was creeping up around the car, until it grew so deep that it was hard to see more than a few feet ahead. Roger peered through the windshield, frowning.
"We're getting close," he muttered. "Good old Silent Hill fog. Wrong time of day for it, though."
"Freak weather pattern?" Mark suggested. Roger just muttered obscenities under his breath, squinting into the fog.
The bad feeling kept getting worse, and Mimi had a sudden urge to tell Roger to turn back, that it wasn't that important anyway. But that was stupid. They were almost there, weren't they? And before she could consider it further, the coughing started again... only this time, it didn't stop.
"Mimi, are you...?" Roger turned away from the wheel for a moment, pressing a hand to her face. A sign proclaiming the Silent Hill town limit went by unnoticed. "Shit. Mark, she's too warm."
Roger's hand went back to the wheel, only to be replaced by Mark's. "Shit," Mark echoed. "She needs a hospital, Roger."
"I'm fine," Mimi protested weakly, between coughs.
"No you're not," Mark and Roger said in unison. She got the distinct impression they'd have laughed over that, if the situation wasn't so serious. Boys... she thought to herself, amused and exasperated on top of everything else.
"Roger, where's the nearest hospital?" Mark asked, still leaning up between the front seats, his face tight with worry.
"Brookhaven's closest. But that's not where we're going." Roger kept his eyes on the road in front of him, ignoring any potential protests.
"Why not?" Mark asked. He seemed to be trying for a tone just as firm as Roger's, but to Mimi's ears, at least, he only managed 'petulant'.
"Because Brookhaven's also the local mental hospital. It's a bad place, trust me. Alchemilla's not that far."
Mimi noticed, through the haze of cough-induced tears, that Mark when even paler than usual at the words 'mental hospital'. It wasn't much surprise when he simply said, "Oh," and lapsed back into worried silence.
Through the fog, Mimi could see what had been just trees and highway turning into barely-visible houses and shops. Roger was slowing down at a large building that had to be a hospital. They were there, and she was going to be fine. She just had to keep telling herself that.
Roger pulled into a parking space and immediately got out of the car, all but vaulting over the hood to get to the passenger side door and open it for her. "Here. Lean on me."
His hands on Mimi's arms were careful, as gentle as he'd ever been with her, and Mimi suppressed a flash of annoyance. I'm not going to break, she thought, but with the coughs wracking her body, she couldn't bring herself to complain aloud. Mark rushed ahead to hold the door open for the two of them, and a few moments later they were inside, the small lobby clean and smelling vaguely of disinfectant.
It wasn't too bad a place, Mimi mused. Nicer than the huge, impersonal buildings she was used to. This was... cozy, kind of.
"No one here," Roger said, a slight growl in his voice. "What. The. Fuck?"
"Oh, there's a bell," said Mark, ringing it a few times. "Must be slow right now."
Roger snarled in response. "Fucking Maine. It's a fucking hospital, isn't it?" Before he could get started on a full-scale rant, though, a nurse poked her head into the reception area, looking a little embarrassed.
"Oh, sorry! It's just been so quiet tonight, I hadn't expected..." She leaned over the counter to take a look at Mimi. The nurse was blandly pretty, and almost frighteningly generic, in a way that made her both wholly unremarkable, and vaguely frightening to anyone who'd been in a hospital as much as Mimi had. No nurses actually looked that... nursey... did they?
"I hardly think I need to ask what's wrong. Here, let me get you your paperwork. If you think you'll be able to fill it out, that is..." At Mimi's nod, she pulled a clipboard from under the desk. "Here you go."
Mimi took the clipboard and made her way to a chair, while Roger headed for the pay phone, picking up the handset and holding it to his ear, then frowning, and picking up another. "They're all dead," he said, puzzled.
"We're having some problems with the phone system," the nurse explained, giving Roger a conciliatory (and completely empty) smile. "Everything's out for now. Was there someone you had to get in touch with?"
"My mom," Roger said, glancing at Mimi. "She's expecting us, but..."
"You could try waiting until the phones are back up," the nurse suggested, but Roger just shook his head.
"You don't know my mom." Roger sighed. "Someone's going to have to stop by, let her know we're okay. Mark, could you..."
"No idea where she lives, remember?"
"Right." Roger ran a hand through his hair, then looked over at Mark again. "Okay, you stay with Mimi, and I'll--"
"Not a chance," Mimi said, struggling to keep the coughing under control. "This isn't the Mimi Marquez hospital documentary. You know I love you," she said, winking at Mark, "but just you and me in the hospital, waiting for Roger? We'd drive each other crazy."
She met Roger's eyes, doing her best to look stubborn and not as sick as she felt. "I said before. I'll be fine. You two go ahead, get my stuff out of the car for when I can get out of here, okay?"
"Look," Roger said, bending down to kiss Mimi's forehead, "I just don't want them treating you like shit, because of the..."
"AIDS?" Mimi asked, raising an eyebrow. She looked over at the nurse. "Hey! I've got AIDS!"
"We'll take all the precautions we can, honey, but don't worry. We're not like some hospitals. We take care of all our patients here." The nurse's smile didn't change at all. Mimi figured she was sincere, a really good actress, or she was on some truly amazing meds. Still, it was a good sign.
"See? I'll be fine," she repeated. "Now go. Give my love to your mom."
Roger cast a pleading glance at Mark, looking for guidance, but Mark could only shrug.
"You heard the lady," Mark said, reaching over to give Mimi's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "Let's go." He looked down at Mimi again. "We'll be back in no time, okay?"
"That's a promise," Roger chimed in, stroking Mimi's hair.
"Right, right. Now get out of here." She forced a smile, suppressing another bout of coughing.
"If you're sure..." Roger said, still looking uncertain.
"I am. Go."
Finally, he left, and Mimi finished filling out the paperwork, the nurse (where was the woman's nametag?) still hovering.
"Look, this is a little unorthodox, but we've got a room open, and I can get you there right away," the nurse said, taking the paperwork from her. "A doctor will be by to see you in just a little bit. How's that?"
"Sounds good," Mimi said, not bothering to hide her coughing anymore. "Lead the way."
Mimi stood up, only to lean dangerously to one side, the room swaying around her. In a second, the nurse was at her side, supporting her.
"Let's get you a wheelchair," the nurse murmured, her voice sweet as ever.
Mimi nodded her assent and sat down again, waiting for the nurse to come back with the chair. In just a minute, the nurse had returned, wheeling the chair in. It took a couple of minutes to get her in the chair, the way the floor tilted, but they managed eventually.
"Yeah," Mimi replied, when she could find enough breath to speak. The coughing was getting worse, and okay, she was starting to get worried. Just a little. The nurse didn't say anything else, though, wheeling her through silent corridors until they reached an elevator.
"Quiet in here," Mimi muttered, her unease growing.
The nurse just made a little "Mmmhmm" noise in response, pushing the button and waiting patiently. The elevator ride was spent in silence, as was the trip to one of a seemingly identical series of rooms.
"Here we are," said the nurse, wheeling her to the edge of the bed and helping her up. "I'll be back in just a few minutes to check your vitals, okay?"
The woman's smile hadn't changed at all, and Mimi was suddenly scared. Truly, deeply scared. "Look, I think I'll be fine..."
"You know better than that, dear. Just stay here." And then she was gone, walking with a strange shuffling gait. Had she moved like that before? Mimi wasn't sure. Either way, she was thinking maybe it was time to get out.
When she tried to get out of bed, though, she crumpled to floor, coughing helplessly. There had to be a way out. Everything was wrong, and there was no one else in the hospital...
She was still on the floor when the nurse came back, holding only a syringe. "I told you to stay where you were, didn't I?" the nurse tutted, still wearing that fixed smile.
"What's that?" Mimi whispered hoarsely. "I thought you were just..." she coughed for a few minutes, the nurse watching her, "...going to check my vitals."
"Change of plans, sweetie. Come on, back up on the bed." The nurse set the syringe aside, easily picking Mimi up and placing her on the bed, then pulling a tourniquet from her pocket and tying it around Mimi's arm before she could protest.
"Look, something's wrong here. Can't I just go?"
The nurse's answer, if she gave one, was drowned out by another coughing fit.
"Just relax." Not even bothering with an alcohol swab, the nurse took the syringe and punctured a vein in one quick movement, sending pain shooting up Mimi's arm. She tried struggling, but the needle only twisted in her arm as the plunger was depressed, and then...
Then she didn't care anymore. As the nurse loosened the tourniquet, she felt it, a rush of warmth and pleasure starting in her gut and uncoiling, stretching from scalp to toes. She knew this feeling, this rush, intimately. Heroin. Nothing else was so fast, so good. She couldn't help but detect a hint of smugness in the vapid smile the nurse gave her.
"That's better, isn't it?"
Mimi smiled in response. Better than she remembered it, and yes, she'd missed this, missed it so much. Better than dancing, better than sex, even sex with Roger, and he'd have to forgive her for that, because nothing else touched this. For one moment, everything was perfect.
A small part of her mind wondered at the purity of anything the hospital would have, and the dosage she'd just been given.
A small part of her mind was panicking.
On the whole, though, she didn't care.
"You've got a visitor, you know," the nurse said, voice warm, approving.
"Roger?" she managed, but the nurse only backed away, melting into the shadows in the corner of the room, twisting for a moment, becoming monstrous, and then disappearing altogether. Mimi couldn't be alarmed, though, not when everything felt so good.
"No, honey." It was a different voice this time, another woman, pausing in the doorway to the room, then slipping inside. She stepped up to the bed, reaching out with an ice-cold hand to brush Mimi's hair out of her eyes.
Distantly, Mimi noticed the red, angry slash on the inside of the girl's wrist, still open, yet not bleeding. And there was something wrong with her eyes, bloodshot, with something... something sharp, and silver, protruding from her pupils.
"My name's April."
And then there was just the warmth and the darkness, and Mimi never even noticed when she stopped breathing.
Sign up to rate and review this story