Playing Stories — Intermission: It Don’t Come Easy

Intermission: It Don’t Come Easy
from a 1971 single by Ringo Starr
24 May 2019

I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust
And you know it don’t come easy

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me you’d come back?”

She stood at the door of the café, her eyes glaring and accusatory. The young man in the doorway — little more than a boy — he swallowed, and simply turned back inside the dark, empty structure.

She followed him inside. The café echoed to the sound of their steps as she strode after him, her heavy footfall slapping the slightly dusty floorboards. The wood creaked, sending a shudder through the place, threatening collapse at any second.

“Quentin.”

He sat down at the far end of the room, on the fold-down bed that she now saw, tucked into a corner. Had it been there before? He didn’t even lift his head to look at her. “I’m sorry, Em.”

“Do you have any idea how worried I was? How do you go away without saying goodbye? You didn’t even say anything besides that: I thought you’d gone and killed yourself or something.” She looked out of the window, at the beating waves and the jagged rocks underneath the pier. She felt the emotion in her throat, but hiding these things was second nature to her by now. “Why would you even do this to me — to us? We were all worried sick — your aunt Clare, your friends out in the town, even me! We even thought about calling the police… why didn’t you reach out?”

“I just… I was confused, okay? I didn’t know how to feel about everything…”

“That’s no forking excuse, Q! You could have called, you could have written a note…” she trailed off. Turned to see him looking at her, regret in his eyes. She turned away again, saw the fine film of dust gathering on the glasses and tabletops. The thick curtains on the windows, overlooking the behemoth in the distance. Aurora. She looked back at him. “Q.”

“I just didn’t know how to feel at the time. You seemed to be depressed all the time and I was having problems with the café and… look, I’m sorry about it all, okay?”

“This isn’t something that you can just wave off with words like that, Q. How could you leave just like that? I mean… I thought we were friends. That we trusted each other enough to, like, drop a note and tell them where we were going if we were ever gonna disappear into thin air or something.” She sat down in the chair, facing him directly. “Instead, nothing. Why didn’t you give me a call or write me a note? For that matter… why didn’t you tell me when you came back?” He didn’t answer, and she could only slowly shake her head at him. “I had to find out through Rachel. You know how hard it is to get stuff from Rachel? I know things were bad between us, but we could have at least talked it out. Even… you know, a single word would have been nice.”

“But why would I need to tell you?” he said, collapsing back onto his bed. “You wouldn’t listen anyway. Nobody listens. They just think I’m there to soak up all their bad stuff like a sponge, and that after I finish I’ll give them a pat on the back and tell them that they’re not worthless pieces of shit after all. Who the hell gives a damn about what I think?” And now he looked up from the bed, his glare unaccusatory. Just pathetic. “Did you, when I left?”

She stared at him for a very long time. He didn’t try to force her to say anything. Finally she stood and walked up to the bed. Gingerly sat on the edge of the bed. Without saying anything, he shifted closer to the edge. They sat there, listening to the sound of crashing water far below them, his head a hair’s breadth away from her hands. Finally, she spoke. “I did, actually.”

He lifted his eyebrows in weary surprise. “What, because you actually had to make your own sandwiches?”

“One reason. But it was something more than that. Remember your story for ‘Another Day of Sun’? How both Liam and Isabelle were trapped in the train station for eternity? It felt like that,” she said. “But instead of someone to talk to, there wasn’t anybody. I went out on the town a couple of weeks ago, try to make new friends. But everybody seems so wrapped up in their lives and they never seem to have a lot of time for me. And you know I don’t talk so good, so… yeah. It felt weird.”

He swallowed. The itch to be therapist was there. But maybe there was some other way out of it. “That’s how lonely this place really is. You think that everyone’s gonna be here, that you can develop something good with them. Perhaps you even dream of falling in love with them — that’s why I wrote that story on ‘Take On Me’, cause I really just did not know how it could happen to me — but the best ones are already taken. And I guess I was scared about that… it’s just like shouting into the abyss when you know it’s just you in there. So you try to make life in it easier. You tell yourself you’re okay without them. Maybe it even works.”

“Yeah, but nobody ever told you to close yourself off like that either! What, did you think that simply making everybody happy without telling them about things your side would make you happy as well? That you could spend your days simply whipping up coffees and telling jokes and that would somehow help you be less lonely? That’s never worked. We need somebody to love, we need somebody to trust.”

He turned his head up to look at her, and for the first time that day, he grinned. “Speak for yourself.”

She snorted despite everything. “Okay, yes. You got me. But it’s still true. Like you said so long ago — we’re stuck here, so we might as well lean on each other for now. And — I mean, I’m willing to try and make friends with the people around this place. Maybe you just need to talk with people more. I know you like to hide everything behind that sunny façade, but I promise you I won’t run away if you suddenly break down in front of me, just as I already know you won’t do that to me either.”

“Now hold on a second, that was because you were also retchi —”

“ANYWAY, yeah. That’s not gonna work unless we, you know, try and actually tell each other stuff. Once in a while, at least.” Another silence between them. “And I know everything between us has been more — you know, formal or tense or whatever. I know I haven’t been… good at talking or anything so far with the letters, and I might have scared you away with that…”

“No, it’s my problem, I should have stayed behind to chat. I didn’t know what to do at the time…” He stretched and his arms fell across the bed, brushing past her feet. She didn’t flinch. “Anyway. You’re right I guess. Just a lot of stuff to deal with. I promise I’ll be a little more honest with you — but please, please, please, will you do the same for me?”

Maybe it was because she’d spoken for so long — a rarity for her — but she caught herself mid-nod. “I guess? Maybe?”

“Emily.” He looked up at her again. “Come on. I trust you with this.”

She stared at him. What else was there to say? “Remind me if I ever feel too distant, that’s all I’m saying.”

“If you like.” He sighed. “Damn it, Emily, why are you always the right one…”

She said nothing but patted his head. His green eyes looked back at her, then something seemed to shift within them. Another thought in his head, apparently. “Speaking of which. Do you want to continue the short story trade? I kind of like doing it, to be honest. Gives me something to do, something to escape from everyday life.”

She turned it over in her mind. It was true, actually: there really wasn’t much to do down in town, and her friends always seemed busy or so unsure about walking twenty minutes to visit her at a frigid lighthouse. And books only did so much. “Yeah sure…”

“Can we switch formats though? To tell the truth, I’m beginning to run out of stuff to write. I can’t come up with anymore ideas — you saw me, I practically repeated myself in the last couple of stories.”

“Come on, you wrote, like, ten and now you’re out of ideas? That’s not the Quentin I know from school…”

“Seriously, these things are hard to write. It took me five days just to come up with one in the later days.”

“Fair enough… so how about a continuous story? Like you write one chapter, I write the next, and we’ll see how we can build things up to a finale or something.”

“Sure. You start.” He grinned at her.

She gave him a playful shove. “Damn, forgot it was my turn… give me some time, though, majoring in Literature doesn’t mean I’m a genius at coming up with good stuff on the spot,” she said with a yawn. “Anyway… got to get back to the lighthouse now… way past my bedtime.”

“Sure… send me a message when you’re up and about?”

She gave him a pat and got up from the bed. Throwing open the curtains, she saw the sunshine streaming through for the first time: somehow, this place seemed softer and more intimate during the day. She turned back to glance at the dust, floating about in the ghostly interior of the place. An albatross flew off the roof, soaring off towards the ocean. “Let’s hope this works out third time round,” she whispered under her breath.

Something on the floor seemed to have caught his attention. Perhaps a cockroach, or a small hole where you could see the waters below. Then he shook his head slightly, as if to clear his head, got up and reached for a glass and cloth. Looking up, he saw her staring. She blushed and walked towards the door.

“One last thing, Em,” he said. She stopped at the doorway. “That lesson about loneliness. Just how much did you crib from your ‘Love is All Around’ story?”

She only smiled and turned away. She felt the warmth of the Sun on her back as she walked down the pier, the slight breeze bringing a new lightness to every touch of her feet on the woodwork. Everything felt slightly fresher, the fetid smell of the rickety wood carried away by the breeze, and she said hello to the couple of tourists who, despite the early hour of day, had already found their way down to the faraway pier. They looked past her to the young boy watching her from the door of the café, who was even now admiring the way the girl’s golden hair danced around on her bare shoulders.

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