New to Dreamers?
|J.B.'s breakfast (sort of).|
J.B. liked his dreams, but he knew he was dreaming and could control them to some extent. He couldn't remember ever choosing the setting, or the theme, but he was seldom disappointed. He had dreamt a movie, complete with opening title sequence and closing credits (he was three quarters of the way down the cast of characters, as himself). That was when he knew his dreams were not like everyone else's.
This one had him eating breakfast at home with his family. He couldn't have been more than nine, and that wasn't a good time for the family. Dad was eating cereal, of course, but there was a seven year span that J.B. would swear his father ate nothing but baby food and cereal. His older brother was finishing off his breakfast with a look on his face that told of his disappointment that blueberry muffins were a breakfast and lunch staple. J.B. didn't mind it that much.
Mom was in a rush to get to work, and she hugged and kissed J.B.'s brother before she left. It wasn't that she neglected J.B. so much that bothered him but that he seemed to have a much less fulfilling champion in his father. It was a boring, depressing dream, and J.B. managed to get it out of the house and to school.
There was Billy Calhoun, his friend and nemesis. Both had older brothers whose feats they strove to match, but Billy was slightly more handsome and had the athletic ability that both of them thought they had. It was a period of time before classes started and the children were allowed to run wild in the converted playground parking lot. And there was something to compete over. But instead of the regular competition, they were about to fight.
J.B. tried to redirect the dream but he and Billy were now surrounded by a circle of mocking children, mocking both of them. Before either threw a punch the dream faded from existence. He knew that other dreams would come and go, but most of those didn't register. Only the rare ones caught his attention.
J.B. was awakened by a ringing telephone. He reached over and grabbed the portable unit before it could ring again. He caught himself before he answered with "what time is it?", thinking of how perfectly cliché that would be for someone with a hangover. Somehow he composed himself, and despite the night's sleep he had managed to get his voice sounded as if he had been up and talking for hours.
"Hello, and what can I do for you?"
A heavy feminine voice filled his head. "I hear you have my boyfriend."
Melissa Brooks. Damn! "You are calling for Jason, then?"
"Only if he is awake. There are plenty of things that you and I could talk about. Face to face if you are willing to drag yourself out of bed."
J.B. grunted a little. "I'm not driving up to Evanston."
"I'm at Nancy's. I just thought we could meet at that insipid little restaurant you ramble on about."
That was actually a good idea. J.B. looked at his alarm clock and saw that it was eight fifteen in the morning. He would have to wake up Jason so the lad could make his eleven o'clock class, but he didn't have to tell him about Melissa. "You know, you're so different from Nancy who would have let me sleep in. But okay."
"Yeah, but Nancy wouldn't have picked up the check like I'm going to."
"Touché." J.B. paused, because it was just occurring to him that they were going to have a serious conversation. "This is important, huh?"
"No," Melissa said. "Not overly, but I think it would be a good if the two of us, who really don't like like one another, could learn to spend some time together not repulsed by the other."
"Who told you?"
"Ha ha, pretty boy. Be there by nine, Jeffery."
And he found himself there at a quarter til. Jason would be on his way back to Chicago, and there was a sense that he could tell that J.B. was going to meet Melissa but that had to be J.B.'s imagination. Sometimes J.B. could just tell things were a certain way. He liked to think that was an individual trait.
She was there. Melissa was, truly, beautiful. But J.B. had never been sexually attracted to her. Intellectually, maybe, but it was easy to dismiss that. Maybe it was that she had gone out with a friend of his and that he had met her as the property of a friend. He simply could not foster the desire others had for her. Jason could and did. What was worse was that Larry obviously held an attraction to her. Let Jason find that hidden in a dream.
"I'm surprised you're early."
"To think I can still surprise you after all these years."
He sat down at the table across from her rather than next to her. J.B. knew he looked like hell, but this was his day off and he was hung over; he sure as hell wasn't going to exert any energy to impress Melissa Brooks. She did not offer him the same courtesy. She wore a comfortable but stylish blouse and expensive pants. They were her's, not Nancy's, do Melissa had made the trip with some preparation. She looked good, and healthy. J.B.'s women could seldom pull that trick off.
"I haven't ordered yet."
"Pick that up from Jason, did you?"
"Why the venom?" She did not look as hurt as she was, but J.B. could tell. He knew the internal pain couldn't really be masked. Let Jason or Freud or Dr. Katz try to figure out why people hurt, but J.B. could see it every time. Damn. Why did she ask that?
"No venom, Miss Brooks." Miss Brooks. Most people thought it sounded cold and distant but it was actually respect. For J.B., it was an apology. "Why don't we get some breakfast-type food and you can tell me what an awful person I am."
She wanted to smile. Her facial muscles tensed to do as much, but she didn't. "Well, Jeffery, if you know what an awful person you, change." She took a sip from her water glass. "That isn't what I wanted to say. Are you happy, Jeff?"
"Why do you call me that?"
"Your name? Sorry, but J.B. is just a little childish to say. I catch myself thinking it, but that is as bad as I want to let it get. So, Jeffery, are you happy? In life, with where you are and where you are going?"
She really was brilliant. Too bad she wouldn't ever follow through on it. "I'm ecstatic. No, I —"
The waitress showed up and J.B. quickly turned his attention to her. "Ready to order and better to eat. I'll have a ham and cheese omelet, side of bacon, and orange juice."
Melissa ordered politely and the waitress disappeared into the kitchen. "You are going to get fat on sausage and bacon. What will all your lovelies think of that?"
"I've already got a healthy gut. And I hope that I have something better to offer them than my stomach."
She lightened. "Your humor?"
"No," J.B. choked out immediately. "You have the best humorist I have ever known, but you turned him sober and somber. I, on the other hand, am a fantastic lover, but even better at portraying the trappings of romance."
"Someone like me would rob you of that."
"You would probably have me go back to school." He could tell by the look on her face that she agreed with his statement. "Okay, so I'd be in Med School and then a doctor. That's a lot of freedom to lose for only gaining debt and unauthoritative responsibility."
"Youth is wasted on the young?"
"There is nothing wrong with what I do for a living. Just because I'm twenty five years old and not a doctor doesn't make me a failure."
"Larry is twenty four and he doesn't own a business."
"Fuck you, Brooks. I didn't come here to have you bust my chops. Maybe its just me." He smiled at her. She was just a friend of a friend, and J.B. had been told that those are the people who could hurt you worst. She wasn't the enemy, though. She was a closer fit in the circle of friends they both ran in, so maybe he should just pay attention.
"So you;re not happy. Just satisfied." She had a certain grace, one that J.B. would like to find in a woman, the kind of grace reserved for kindly mothers and baby sisters. It was another quality that made he so unlike the women he knew. She must have had the grace since childhood and if given the time to think of it, he wouldn't have been able to imagine the awkwardness of her first time.
"Okay, you win. I'd be happy if I had stuck with it. I'd be somewhere in ten years."
"You'll still be somewhere."
"So you'll get your happiness as an MD. What else will it take, Doctor Binghampton?"
Their food arrived at that time and again Melissa was nice to the waitress. She went for a half order of french toast and some fruit. Sometimes she was girlish.
"You making time with her or what?"
"I'm not in the mood."
"I thought she was going to sit right down in your lap and lose herself in your deep brown eyes."
"I'm not a lesbian, Jeff. I know the idea turns you guys on, but I have never been attracted to a woman."
"Shame. I'd watch."
Then you should have been there last night. You could have tried to get Nancy and me together."
"Were you drunk?"
"More than a bit." She didn't want to say it now, but she did. "Nancy wants your body, you know."
J.B. looked up from his food to her with puppy dog eyes. "I've been told...by your man." The look sold it. She'd let him take a few bites before continuing. She let that be the pattern. He was here to eat after all. "So, if I give it up to Nancy, I get to see the show?"
"I'm not gay. That would be like asking you and Carver to make out so I could get in the mood for Jason." She grinned impishly. "How does that strike you?"
"One in ten. No thanks, and sorry. So what do I do?"
"Stop being an asshole."
"He set his fork down with more force than necessary. "I meant about Nancy."
"So did I. Then just handle it like a mature adult. Go talk to her. She'll be home all day. You don't have to do anything, Jeff. Talk will be enough."
He ate his food in silence and she let him. When the check came she picked it up, handling both it and the tip. She seemed happy enough to do it, but J.B. felt guilty about it. She was ready to leave before him.
"I've never had a girlfriend I didn't cheat on."
She eyed him warily. "This current one?"
"Just try to last the day."