77. Our melancholia is just plush and uncivic (from Virtualis)

“There’s no challenge to it,” Jesse said, looking at Colin sadly.

“You’d hate it if I teased you,” Colin said, irritated.

“But you’d hate it worse when I didn’t respond the way you wanted me to,” Jesse said. “I vote we shut up like manly men and put a real push on here.”

“I thought Abbie was s’posed to help you,” Cary said, looking around slowly.

Colin and Jesse glanced at each other, and turned up the speed. The last of the boxes were on the truck half an hour later, and the furniture was done an hour after that. 

The whole time Abbie sat in the cab and cried, and the wind and the rain never ceased.

Colin had paused and spoken to her a couple of times.

“I feel like such a bad person for abandoning him,” she said during one such conversation.

“Maybe this will force him to get the help he needs,” Colin said.  He felt awkward, but he normally did, so the awkwardness held no lessons.

“I think he’ll kill himself,” Abbie sobbed.

Jesse had once joked that Colin only did emotions on alternate Thursdays by appointment, and Colin was thinking about that as he spoke.

“As much as we can love other people it’s damned hard to predict what they’ll do. Does he have any other friends and family who can bang on his door or call him and check up on him?”

“Not me,” Abbie said. She stopped crying, but looked like she could start up again at any time.

“I’m thinking, no, not you,” Colin said.

“Well there’s his mother, but she can’t do the stairs anymore.”

“Is there a social worker or public health nurse or something?”

“I’m done. I’m not going to arrange it.  I’m hanging by a thread here!” Abbie said.

“I understand,” Colin said.  He got down from the cab and grabbed a furniture blanket from the back. He brought it to the cab and tucked Abbie in, commenting that she must be freezing.

“You guys have been wonderful.” Colin took out his hanky, which was folded, clean, and warm from his pocket. He probably wasn’t getting it back, but he’d just found his grandmother’s stash of them in the basement in North Van, package after unopened package, like a display in a retail store, carefully sealed in a storage tote against the depredations of time. He didn’t imagine that his grandmother would grudge this one.

“We’ll be done soon,” he assured her.

Jesse meantime was being followed around by Cary.

“Why isn’t she taking everything?” he groused. “I don’t want to get stuck taking care of her shit.” He aimed a half-hearted kick at a red and orange sofa.

‘Taking care’ was not the phrase Jesse would have used to describe Cary’s interactions with physical reality, but he didn’t speak to that.

“Abbie’s leaving everything your mother gave you when she downsized her house, which she’s told you at least once because I was in the room when she said it,” he said gently. “She’s not going to steal it from you.”

“It’s not stealing, I don’t want it,” Cary said. “You have to take it with you.”

“She doesn’t want it and she’s the one paying for the move, which she organized overnight for your convenience, or have you forgotten that part?” Jesse said. “She’s leaving the tv in your room, and she paid for that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Cary said, aggrieved, “I can’t afford to pay for cable. I can’t afford to pay for this house either without Abbie so all this shit will be sitting in the rain soon enough when I’m evicted.”

“I’m sure it all seems very overwhelming,” Jesse said.

“Don’t patronize me, you musclebound punk,” Cary said, shifting from tonelessness to stilted crankiness.

It wasn’t the worst he’d been called. “Fine, stop talking at me and complaining non-stop,” Jesse responded.

“I’m suffering from depression,” Cary said.

Jesse lost it. “So’s everyone around you, ya jackass.  I’ve got two chronic medical conditions, one mental, one physical. I just turned twenty-four, and you know what? I take care of business. I work, I have friends, I have a love life, I eat properly, I wash my fucking dishes. That’s what adults do. If you can’t manage it then you need to get someone to look after you until you can, and if you can’t ask for help I don’t know what to say. If you’re actively suicidal —“

“Is that what Abbie says?”

“She said she’s afraid you’ll kill yourself, yeah.”

“Does she sound like it would make her sad?”

“Of course the man she’s loved for five years and lived with for two years is somebody whose suicide would make her break out in three cheers, what the hell kind of question is that? Nobody wants you to kill yourself. Shut up and quit whining, sure, but not kill yourself.”

“Now you’re being hateful,” Cary said.

“I’m not a professional, and you’re needling me. What do you want?” Jesse asked flatly.

“Take all my mother’s crap with you.”

“Not unless Abbie agrees,” Jesse said.

“She’ll say no to make me suffer,” Cary said.

“What about her suffering?”

“Her? She acts like an angel when someone else is watching.”

Mentally making the Neil deGrasse Tyson jazz hands gesture, Jesse made no response and continued moving trash bags full of blankets and clothing. Colin came back inside, looking pinched.

“You’re going to ignore me. It’s like I don’t exist.”

“You’re too inconvenient to be non-existent,” Colin said, pushing a wave of cold, damp air into the room. “So cheer up, you still exist,” he added.

“My depression is not something I have for your entertainment,” Cary said doggedly.

Good, because it’s not very entertaining, Jesse and Colin thought at the same time.

“Nobody asks to be depressed,” Colin said, trying to sound less like a jerk.

“Adults take charge of their mental health problems and work toward better quality of life,” Jesse said.

“You think I should cure myself,” Cary said, staring at both of them with his dead, pouched eyes.

“Do you need help?” Jesse asked.

“Not according to you!”

“Right. Twist what I say so it fits your world-view, externalize responsibility, demand assistance, show no insight,” Jesse said.

“Now you sound like the world’s worst psychiatrist,” Colin said, looking at Jesse in alarm.

“What do you know about psychiatrists?” Cary asked. That creepy smile was back.

Colin took a breath, and Jesse put an advisory hand on his arm. They returned to their duties.

“Quit talking to me, how adult,” Cary said.

Colin took another breath, and this time Jesse forestalled him. “Colin, we’re both making things worse.” Speaking directly to Cary, and using every bit of his twenty centimetre height advantage, he said, “We’ll be leaving in about ten minutes. Please go back to your room in the meantime.”

“You’re in my residence without my permission,” Cary said.  “I’m calling the cops.”

“You’re not on the lease,” Colin said.

Jesse got his wallet out and produced the business card of a senior RCMP officer. It had been stolen for him by Michel, but he wasn’t going to say that. He held it in front of Cary long enough that he could read it.

“Our firm,” Jesse said, “Is informally recommended by local law enforcement for moves impacted by mental illness or domestic violence. Go ahead and call the cops, but I suspect your hospitality options are going to be a hard jail cell for uttering threats or a soft observation room in the local psych emergency for uttering threats. I’ll send you to the nearest ER in a cab if you’re in crisis.”

“I didn’t utter any threats,” Cary muttered.

“Who do you think the cops are going to believe, especially after they check the history at this address?” Jesse said blandly.

Colin was appalled. “I’m not lying to the cops for you, or anyone else,” he said, brows meeting.

“You self-satisfied goon,” Cary said to Jesse.

“Go back to your room,” Jesse said.

“Dude, please,” Colin said.

Muttering all the way, Cary made his slow, troubled return to his lair.

“I’m never helping you on a move again,” Colin said.

“Blow off a chance to work with Michel? I don’t think so,” Jesse said. They did a last walk-around to ensure they hadn’t left anything, and then to be sure they called in Abbie.

“Yeah, everything’s on the truck.”

Jesse and Colin bundled her out of the house as soon as they heard Cary’s voice calling for her.

They unloaded the truck into her step-dad’s garage in Whalley. He came out at three in the morning to greet them, and to assist.

“Craziest thing I ever heard, moving in the middle of the night like this,” he said to Abbie, after a long hug. “I’m glad you scraped that duffer off your shoe, though, girl.”

The offload went like clockwork. The wind and rain died down.

Jesse let Colin drive. When they got to the normal spot to park the truck, half a block from Jesse’s apartment, Colin said, “Can I crash at your place? Don’t feel like moving anything anymore, not even a gas pedal.”

Jesse said, “Sure.”

“Was I really that much of an asshole tonight?” he asked after a minute.

“Truth. I just don’t have the energy to bitch you out about it,” Colin said. Jesse pulled out the sofa bed and tossed him bedding.

“Now for that shower,” Colin said.

“Nope. How privileged you are! Landlord won’t let me shower between 11 pm and 5 am. Whore’s bath for you.”

“So I have to get into grandad’s car and go all the way back to North Van if I want a shower.”

“You coulda had one in the rain if you’d brought soap,” Jesse pointed out.

“I’m officially so tired I don’t care,” Colin said. He stretched out the bottom sheet, snapping it on the corners, and threw himself down. The sofa bed made eerie noises of protest, including a long, low, ‘ga-wunga-wung’.

Jesse went to bed.

When he woke up there was a text from Abbie asking if she could friend him and Colin on Facebook.

Glad you can’t see my face, sister.

He texted: Can’t speak for Colin, don’t have Facebook.

Can u ask him?

If you only knew he spells everything out when he texts, and would maybe even shudder if he saw that ‘u’. Good thing I have a backstop.

If you didn’t get his phone number, that’s on you. I’m not giving out a coworker’s number. If he didn’t ask for your number, that’s on him, and probably means

    He tapped enter.

he thinks grinding on a woman who sat in a cold truck and cried for hours is super bad manners.

Find your breakup toy at the library, sister, Jesse thought.

Guys like Colin are hard to find.

Jesse burst out laughing, one of the advantages of text over shared space.

I concur, but not for the same reasons.

He considered his response.

Your story has touched me deeply.  I will consult with him.

He texted Colin.

Abbie wants your phone number.

He was glad Abbie couldn’t perceive Colin’s response.

Good God, what for?

Took a shine to you.

It was not mutual. I was trying to provide respectful support to a client. Is this how desperate women are to be treated like human beings?

Maybe you look like breakup sex to her, what do I know. I don’t specialize in grieving women. You could always friend her on Facebook and leave it at that.

I can do that. We’ve met, we’d recognize each other in the street. I’m not ashamed to know her.

Jesse cracked up again. Cool Mr. Smooth, he thought.

My work here’s done.  

Fuck you, came Colin’s cheerful response.

Two hours later there was a ping on his phone, a single word text from Abbie: Thanks.

He immediately texted Colin. You chump, did you start messaging her on Facebook? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

You’re an asshole.

Nope, I’m only *part* asshole, just like errybody else. Set good boundaries! Carry lube and condoms! You can talk to me anytime!

See previous communiqué, peace out.


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Born when atmospheric carbon was 316 PPM. Settled on MST country since 1997. Parent, grandparent.

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