Title: Those Were the Days of Roses
Pairing: ER, Ray/Neela
Spoilers: There are a lot of allusions, nothing too spoiler-y, really. Set during S14.
Summary: Sometimes she felt just so fraught.
Goodness gracious. It was a rainy day, I had some time to kill and this just came out.
Sometimes she felt just so fraught.
Sometimes she wanted to send him all the stupid girly songs she listened to that reminded her of him. She did not know what the point of that would be. Sometimes she hated him because every good song she’d listened to in the past two or three years reminded her of him. Sometimes it was just one line of a song that she hadn’t listened to in awhile. Sometimes it was the entire song, and she just sat there in front of the speakers, transfixed like some dazed, dumb moth.
When her husband had died, she could not even listen to the songs that reminded her of him. She couldn’t deal with anything that jogged even the most fragmented of recollections of her husband and of the life they could’ve had together. She was too angry, felt too cheated, felt the aspirations she had so cruelly belittled.
Here she was again.
she realized there was too much to turn away from. Too much. She thought she would confront her demons this time, if she could, at least be honest with herself. Suffer consciously.
Sometimes everything reminded her of him. He had touched upon so many things—physically and otherwise. She would remember him stroke the keys of her laptop with a careful index finger as she would every instance she tried to begin an email to him. He had lightly slept in that throw of hers. His head had rested on the pillows she’d always bring out from her room into the living room. They were such flat pillows. She felt guilty for that. And, he either considered himself too much of a man to complain about pillows or he didn’t have the heart or guts or something to do or say something about it. Those pillows were still in her room. Flat as ever, but she could not throw them out. She was the heartless, gutless one now. It baffled her that she had been perceived as the wise one between the two. More structured. More organized. More put together.
He passed judgments on some of the literature she read. She would tell him they were Abby’s, since he wasn’t supposed to see those books anyway. He knew her too well to believe her. And music. She listened to what she could put in the background to work, what could lift her mood, smirk at a little, what she didn’t have to think about too much. He looked at it as creed. As something he had done a dissertation on. He was such a snob that way.
His taste wasn’t too rigid, actually. They shared some personal favorites. Sometimes something would play on the shuffle and both of them would take notice at the same time. He would tip his head in that way of his. She would feel her body loosen. The air would get shy, softer, and more sentient. This would usually happen with the quieter songs, the ones you really needed to listen to for the words.
They both liked this Tom Waits song, Martha
. It was a song about the one that got away. They had a conversation about it, about Tom; cogitating over that relationship he had with the song’s namesake, why forgetting was hard.
He had covered that song and put it on the CD he’d given her before his accident. God, that voice of his; how he would hum softly to himself, along to songs, even to her as she’d doze off with her head on his shoulder.
Places remind her of him. Parts of County. Streets in Chicago. Everything in Chicago. They had been everywhere together, most of the time because she had made him accompany her. It was as if the unconscious part of her mind had compelled her to mark everywhere with a memory of him, just in case. Just in case she would lose him too. Why would she do that to herself?
He had this habit of tipping virtually every musician he’d come across on the street. No matter what they played. He did hold a fondness for certain musicians. You could tell because he would offer a compliment, even stop to chat, as he and she would wait for the train to arrive.
There was a particular Indian grocery on Devon that she liked to visit with him. Initially, the storeowner would give them an inscrutable look of judgment, though not of complete surprise or aversion. But, when she began shopping there alone, the storeowner would give her another one of those vaguest of looks—but, instead, it would ask, “Where did he go?”
Maybe she was projecting, but it still hit her, the not whole feeling with which she conducted her days. She felt as if she had been widowed all over again.
She missed his mind. He had such a wonderful mind, the way it functioned, the way the she could sense the little cogs in his head turning in trauma, or before he would say something especially significant. She wanted to ask him what books he was reading, even though she didn’t remember ever asking him that question when they lived together. But, sometimes she was tempted to do just that: no hellos, no how are you, just one sentence: what are you reading? What are you doing?
At times she felt parasitic, like a part of her own mind had fallen out because she couldn’t engage with his.
She missed his smile. The looks he’d shoot her. He could express so much sometimes with those looks. He looked at her like he’d known her his entire lifetime, so casually. She loved it. And then, there were the times he could make himself look like such an unabashed dork.
She missed sharing things with him. She wanted to tell him things about her day. Sometimes she made mental lists of all the things she wanted to tell him in their next conversation. All the stupid one-liners and comments that had popped into her head that only he would appreciate; all the silly little incidents that could only happen to her; if she had spotted someone famous; the triumphs, that she was a better surgeon since he’d last seen her. She wanted to have him know that it really seemed as though she was going somewhere.
She wanted to bitch about her life to him. She wanted to complain about her friends. Everything that was bothering her about them that day. He never really cared much for his other girlfriends complaining too much about their lives. She supposed they came off too trivial, too shallow, too neurotic. He listened to her anyway. He was sympathetic. He even reacted.
That’s why she made the list. She made the list even when she knew that it would never happen. They would never have that next conversation.
It bothered her to talk about him with others, even those with whom she could confide with on any other thing. The tone would change. They would respond in a way that she did not care for. That she did not want to deal with. It was this unintentional tone of sympathy mixed with an uncomfortable, underlying what’s her deal?
Abby once suggested that she go to Louisiana. As did Archie. As did Greg. But, something always stopped her. Something always seemed off about her, after everything, disrupting what he must have been able to salvage of his life. He was much too good for her. Not down there at her level. Not for her. Not deserving of whatever more grief she was capable of giving him. He didn’t need that. He really
didn’t need that. She couldn’t quite blame him for moving on, even if she could not quite muster the fortitude to do it herself. Sometimes she thought she never would. That the most she would ever hope for was to be reminded of him. Forevermore, be haunted.