Playing Stories — Chapter 50: Miss You

Chapter 50: Miss You
from the 2020 album “Dear Happy” by Gabrielle Aplin
given to Quentin on his arrival at the lighthouse, 21:52, 28 September 2019


Then you tell me that you miss me, and I’m like
“Oh God, I miss you too, it’s all I ever do…”

THOMAS

The night I dreamt of Morgan again, I was caught in a nightmare. I was back at school, hearing Mrs. Dawkins go on and on and on about something again, and nothing she said even made sense. One second she was talking about pendulums and grandfather clocks, next she was talking about Berlin from a hundred years ago. Her mouth moved, and a million words tumbled from her lips, firing them out with the rapidity of a machine gun. I swear to God, I was trying my best, but the words just never coagulated into sentences. And then she looked at me. “So, Thomas Evenham. Looking at me with those big round eyes. What do you have to say about this?”

Panic struck me. I opened my mouth, opened it wide, but nothing useful came out. Oh God, I thought. Here it comes. A long train of humiliation, a long conga line of horrific scenarios, and all I can do is just sit and…

The bell rang. Mrs. Dawkins disappeared. And everyone else slowly filed out of the classroom. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Sun gently streaming in… and I don’t know how it happened, but I suddenly allowed myself to hope right then.

MORGAN

The moment you realize you’re dreaming, you do everything you can to control the story. Only one thought runs through your mind at that instant: that all this can turn sour at the drop of a hat. There’s nothing stopping you from the machinations of your own brain, nothing that can halt it from careening if it wants into that living hell until you wake up, drenched in a shower of your own sweat. So you try to fight back. It almost never works, though.

Anyway. Last night in Dreamland, I found myself onstage at the Globe. Not just helping out behind the scenes, actually having to perform. I’d performed onstage exactly once before, in a kiddies’ production of “The Wizard of Oz”, and back then I’d barely managed to hold myself together. But doing As You Like It in front of a crowd? No. I’d sooner die than expose myself to that kind of shame.

And yet it seemed to be going well. Shakespeare’s words were a mystery to me, but I spoke them as if I’d rehearsed them a thousand times. A voice inside coaxed me, drew the words out in a never-ending, rapid-fire string. Maybe this wasn’t going to be a nightmare after all. Maybe I could do this.

“Henceforth I will, coz, and devise sports —” Then I stopped. The voice inside me that knew the words slid silently away from me, abandoning me just when I was on a roll, and there I was, all alone in the harsh glare of the spotlight, being eagerly devoured by a crowd of thousands. Even now they were shifting uneasily, looking expectedly at me. A few murmurs from the disappointed groundlings. I shut my eyes in horror. There was only one thing to do now: go nuclear, wake up, smash the dream to bits and hope I’d have better luck on going back to sleep…

Then out of the darkness, a voice, confident and refined, shooting through the crowd. “What think you of falling in love?”

I knew it immediately. A second heartbeat, and my eyes had found Thomas within the masses, grinning at me like a mischievous schoolboy.

THOMAS

I followed the crowd outside. The corridor was empty, the vinyl of the floors fresh and desolate. Everything was switched off, but the light, the warmth of the Sun was filling up the hallway, and I breathed in the fetid air — of plastic, of glass. And just the tiniest bit of… of lemongrass

Then I saw her, running down the corridor towards me. I saw the sunbeams bouncing off her chestnut hair, saw in her face the determination with which she was charging towards me. I’d forgotten she could run so fast. She slowed down late, so that when she stopped her face was mere centimetres away from mine, and I read once more the details that I’d come to know so well in Germany. Despite her speed and the heavy breathing which I could now even feel on my neck, I can’t remember any sweat on her brow. Perhaps our brain paints out these finer details when we’re dreaming. Still we continued to look at each other, to admire the colours in each other’s eyes.

“Morgan,” I said at last. “What are you —“

She kissed me gently, and I felt myself levitating once more. That cocky smile, the hair over her eyes. “Let’s get out of here, shall we?” she whispered, and it was all I could to not shout “YES”, to pull myself out of this deep deep feeling.

MORGAN

I have no idea how I spotted him in the crowd, or even why my brain had decided to put him there. I hadn’t seen him for months: so much had happened in the world around us, we’d simply drifted apart. We talked via texts, texts that stopped and started and sputtered out into incoherent riffing. A wry joke here, a “how are you” there. Perhaps we were bored. Boredom always makes you rash.

But he was there, and he was staring at me. “What think you of falling in love?” I found myself saying. A peal of thunder and lightning tore through the heavens above, and in the flash I could see him grinning at me as my Celia responded. I saw the curve of his cheekbones, the mussed up hair. God, what I wouldn’t give…

Then I felt a drop on my skin. I looked up at the skies over the Globe, just as another drop fell; then another, then another. This wasn’t the type of rain that descended leisurely from the skies: this was a pouring, raging torrent, the judgment of God reincarnate. I felt the rain seeping through my costume, soaking through the fabric and my hair. As I wiped the water from my eyes, I saw everyone begin to melt: first their hair, then their heads and arms, then their bodies. The actors, the groundlings… everyone slowly dissolving into puddles of nothingness. The electric lights flickered and went out: the candles, perversely, remained alight, the flames casting their dim glow as far as the edge of the stage.

Fear stabbed me in the heart. What about Thomas? Was he melting too? I couldn’t see him in the darkness, and I imagined him splashing onto the ground, his face morphed and twisted into a featureless liquid, to be washed away for eternity. So this WAS a nightmare, a world where everyone you could love and trust disappeared into nothing…

“MO!”

THOMAS

We walked through everything, a collage of scenes that seemed to dissolve and reform with every step we took. One moment we were walking down a forest, then we’d turn a corner and we’d see a playground strewn with rubbish. We ended up in an IKEA for some reason.

We’d walked quietly this whole time, or maybe we murmured something to each other — I have no idea. But she was quiet towards the end, and when at last we sat down on a sofa — this beige, nondescript sofa, the sort that looked suspiciously like the one I had in my flat — we looked at each other. Something was off, something looked wrong in her eyes.

“Mo,” I said softly. “What’s up?” And then she was crying, and then I was hugging her and I could feel the tears falling on the hoodie that I appeared to be wearing at the time. I didn’t know what she was crying about, nor (despite my best efforts) was I ever going to find out that night — but I held her close, let Mo spend her tears on my shoulder.

A shadow appeared above me. “You absolute idiot, what have you been doing with her now…” Turned my head. A woman was walking towards us, shaking her head. She looked a bit like Morgan, and I suddenly realized who she was.

“Evelyn?” I asked.

“Damn right,” said Mo’s sister. And sitting on the other side, Mo unclasped herself from my shoulder and we simply sat together, right there in a desolate furniture shop. I’ll be honest, I felt like a third wheel then, all useless and unable to do anything. But she didn’t shoo me away.

The scene dissolved, or maybe we did do a lot of things together. But next I remember, we were standing outside on the street. Evelyn was whispering to Mo, who simply giggled and nodded. She looked at her phone. “Hey, I’ll catch up with you two later… I’ve got something to do in Enfield!”

Now? We’d only spent a couple of minutes together… “shall I walk you —”

“Nah, the bus stop’s round the corner,” she said. “See you soon!” And then she was gone, and I couldn’t even call after her, see which way she’d gone.

A tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see Evelyn staring at me, her hands on my hips. “I’m gonna ask you one question only,” she said. “Do you still want her?”

I nodded. She slapped me on the back. “Then what are you waiting for?”

MORGAN

In that moment, I wanted nothing more to throw myself at him, to kiss him right then and there. I wanted to press his wet hair against mine, to hear him say my name a thousand times, and to clasp him to my bosom forever and ever. I spun round and saw him climbing up onto the stage, his wet hair plastered to his face. I didn’t even notice the wrist flick, the rains stopping and quivering in the air. Our lips met almost immediately, our eyes closed in bliss. I felt his warm skin underneath his clothes, the heart beating just beyond that. If this was real… oh, if only this was real…

I opened my eyes. Gazed at him. “What’s wrong?”

“What now?” I whispered.

“It’s all up to you,” he said. I suddenly realized what I had to do. I took his hand in mine, and I led him to the edge of the stage, a dark void that seemed to be swallowing everything.

“Are you sure?” he asked me.

“Only if this makes it real,” I breathed. I smiled at him — he loved it when I did the cheeky grin for him. We didn’t even need to look at each other — the leap was simultaneous —

Everything went dark. I was falling through the air, landing with a whump on my bed. I could feel the mattress pushing into my back as I stared at the ceiling, quiet birdsong filtering in from the brightness outside. What had just happened… what had just happened was something I couldn’t explain. I could still see Thomas’ face now, trace his outline even when it was just a memory fading fast — and I found myself wanting to see that face again, to pour out my feelings to that man for once and for all, to tell him how much I missed him and how he could never be anything less than my best friend and my lover…

It was all falling into place.

THOMAS

Enfield, Enfield… my legs seemed to know which way the buses for that was. That gave me time to pray: to pray that logic would hold together, for just one more minute, to give me a fighting chance just to say what I had to say. Thank God, it was just round the corner — and she was there, still waiting on a road that seemed curiously deserted, a road that seemed like it would never see a bus, a road that was even now fading away as I scrambled to run up it.

She turned just as I ran up to her. She grinned at me, that grin I’d seen a thousand times, that grin that I could still trace every crease of in my dreams. “Is there something you want to say to me?” — and at that moment, the shock of realization struck me, struck me so hard that I was falling, into the void where dreamland transitions back into reality, where your brain scrambles in the darkness. I opened my eyes in shock, shock that quickly turned into despair.

It took me two seconds to decide what to do. I jumped out of bed, raced for my phone immediately. I’d realized that there was only one thing I wanted at that instant. I felt no numbness, no fear of the disappointment she might deal me again — God help me, hers was the only phone number I knew by heart. My thumb hovered over the call button. I stood staring at my phone, trying to summon up every nerve of mine to press that button, to reach over the airwaves and tap on her shoulder.

Then my phone started ringing. David Bowie’s “Golden Years” rang through the house as the single name “Morgan’ appeared on my phone. I nearly dropped the damn thing, seriously — what sorcery was this? How had she known? I pressed call immediately, and we were connected. Silence for what seemed like an eternity.

“Hello?”


Does it matter what happens in the end, really? Put it down and come inside.

E 🙂

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