Why do these little episodes always seem to start the same way?
No sad story ever starts with the main character sitting at home watching a movie, or sitting in a restaurant or something. No, they always start in some seedy Georgetown bar, with the escaping protagonist slumped over a cocktail glass and trying to decide whether to have another.
That's where I am. So you know this story will be tragic.
Well, not that tragic. No one has died. No one has dumped my ass in an incredibly horrendous public breakup. And I haven't been fired or anything. Then why do I feel like I want to sink to the bottom of this glass and just disappear?
The last few months have really been a special sort of hell. And Toby my tenacious, fearless, crunchy-outside-yet-with-a-chewy-nougat-center boss, who normally at least tolerates me set it all rolling. With his lovely little drop-in. I remember thinking at the time that it wasn't a Tobylike thing to do, if only because of the political damage, never mind my feelings. It's strange to think that after so long there are things I don't know about Toby. By God, that made us all look like idiots. President included.
And then, speaking of idiots; there's my father. Couldn't be happy with what he had, so he had to stab us all in the back while smiling that dumb, happy-go-lucky smile that I seem to have inherited. The thought makes me want to vomit. He's not my dad anymore; he's some stranger who used to live in our house. He sure as hell doesn't live there anymore.
I dismally lift my hand as I order another drink, whatever I'm drinking. The latest football game has started, and the bartender moves a hand toward the battered remote control. I'm trying to drink and tell myself why I should give a flying crap about football when she walks in the door.
Here's another thing that seems like it's out of a Philip Marlowe novel. C.J. Cregg isn't exactly the sort of woman that you would send on a rescue mission, but there she is; my earthly angel in a battered trenchcoat. It's even foggy outside, for Godsakes. My life has become a film noir.
"Hey." She sees me and sidles up to the bar.
"Thought I'd find you here."
"Bet you did." Don't say it, C.J., don't say it, I plead silently. I know what she wants to say; I've always been able to read her face like this week's Sporting News.
Damn it all, she says it anyway. Not in words, but in tone, which is infinitely worse. "Sam, you just haven't been... *yourself* lately," she says, choosing her words with maddening care.
My voice is icy as I finish the thought. "No, C.J., I haven't been falling back on the *old habit,*" I say. "Though you could hardly blame me."
"Sam..." She's obviously surprised by my curtness, though I don't understand why. She's seen Toby leave me out of the loop. She's seen my father tell me that my entire happy childhood was a lie. She's so intuitive; why does this throw her?
Like always, it's as if she can read my thoughts. "I'm worried about you," she says, putting a hand on my arm. Everyone knows she has a past with Toby, but Our Past is a closely guarded secret.
Even though I'm secretly touched by her concern, the larger part of me wants to hate her. "I'll be fine, C.J. I told you. I've already got a mother."
I'm trying to make her mad; I'm trying to hurt her. A part of me feels guilty. She's just trying to help. But she's also trying to run my life, tell me what to do... God, she looks beautiful. I really, really have got to stop this crush. It's existed since the time we fought over Laurie. But right now I just want her to leave me alone.
She stares at me, not boring into my head but her eyes never leave mine. "Sam," she says evenly, trying to keep her emotional balance, "No one else knows about those pills in L.A. yet. And they won't. Unless I think they should."
"C.J., I "
"I'm worried about you, Sam!" she explodes. "You're not telling anyone what's wrong, and God knows there's something wrong!"
I'm silent for a bit before my voice escapes. "You know damn well what's wrong, C.J. And it has nothing to do with the pills. If I had some trust, it wouldn't have even crossed my mind."
She pounces; I've forgotten how quick she is. Why did I forget? "So it *has* crossed your mind!"
"Of course it has," I point out acidly. "It's the sort of thing that doesn't just curl up and die."
"I know that." She sighed. "Just... please, Sam. Let me help you."
I rise, I've had enough. She's making sense but I'm just not ready to hear it. "C.J., unless you can make Toby see me as a man and not a punching bag, there's not much you can do." I make to leave, then spin back. "And C.J. "
She, of course, knows what I'm going to say. "I won't tell anyone about the Habit," she says, eyes fraught with concern. "Unless I have to, I won't "
"You don't," I say, more forcefully than necessary. "So see you tomorrow." I stride out of there, brain churning. God, will these memories never stop haunting me?