This Carousel

Setting: Post "Eastern Standard Time", Episode #418

Summary: Ditch Day has ended on a dark note for Pacey and as the night wears on he contemplates his present, his future, and how he is going to face Joey after his arrest.

Titles: The lyrics are from the song "Sick Cycle Carousel" by Lifehouse (No Name Face, 2000). Great song, great album, not so great title.

Thanks to Eponine for her hosting generosity, and to Vicki for sharing in the bitterness.

If shame had a face I think it would kind of look like mine.  If it had a home would it be my eyes.

The ride to the station is interminable.  Next to me Drue sits silently - the tension between Doug and I suffocating any of his smart ass remarks.  In the driver’s seat my brother is stone faced, speaking only to respond to calls on his radio.

I’ve been here before - in the backseat of this cruiser, on my way to the police station where my father exerts his authority, my head buzzing from liquor, and my brother the law enforcer refusing to acknowledge me in the rearview mirror.

Somehow, I think it won’t be the last time.

No, I think tonight could very well be the start of the rest of my life.  The glorious beginning to the future that was destined to be mine, the one everyone always envisioned for me: the high school drop-out, the town joke, the drunk, the fuck-up.  God knows I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone.

Would you believe me if I said I'm tired of this.  Well here we go now one more time.

At the station Doug opens the door and waves us out of the car.  I stroll up the steps full of attitude because frankly, it’s all I’ve got left tonight.  Dignity went out the window several hours and at least four shots ago.

Drue shuffles in behind me and as we wait at the counter he whispers, “So what the hell happens next, Witter?”

I give a bitter chuckle and mutter, “Now Deputy Dougie will make us sweat it out here while he calls our parents.  Then he will look at us with enough contempt to make you think he just caught us committing lewd acts on farm animals.”

My brother walks by us and starts talking in hushed tones to the sergeant on-duty.  “Actually, he’ll just look at you that way because he is too ashamed of his little brother to acknowledge my existence at the moment.  Then he’ll throw us in a cell until mommy dearest comes to get you, while my father will let me spend the night here, under the guise of ‘teaching me a lesson’.”

“You’re kidding?” Drue looks over at me.  I just shake my head and watch as Doug goes to his desk and picks up the phone.  “This has happened before?” he asks incredulously.

“Last year.  Spent a romantic Valentine’s Night alone in the drunk tank.  Obviously I didn’t learn a damn thing.”  Drue is silent, and I think I have successfully reinvented myself in his eyes today.  First I drank with him, then he saw me lose it at a sworn officer of the law, and now I’ve got an arrest record.

Respect from Drue freakin’ Valentine.  And I thought I was doing badly before.

Cause I try to climb your steps, I try to chase you down.  I try to see how low I could get down to the ground.

My father does the completely unexpected and doesn’t demand either my head on a platter or my ass in lock-up overnight.  Actually I shouldn’t be surprised at all.  Either of those things would have meant that he still cared enough to make his point, which obviously he doesn’t.

Doug walks me back out to his cruiser to give me a ride to the beach house but the last thing I need right now is more of his silent treatment.  “I’ll walk.” is all I say as I pass by him and start towards home.

“Pacey.” he shouts after me, “Pacey!”

I stop and wait.  He comes up to stand behind me, and I try to keep my temper in check.  If he starts to lecture me now, I swear to god I will spin around and hit him.

“I just wanted to say…” he begins as I feel my body tensing, “I wanted to tell you I’m sorry.”  I turn and look at him but he looks away as he finishes, “For what I said to you at the bar.  It was bad timing, and it hit a nerve - and it was just wrong.  To call you what I did.”

“A moron and a failure?” I say evenly, repeating the words he said to me.  His eyes shift to the ground, and I make a sound somewhere between a cough and a laugh.  “That’s funny, Doug, because if you really believed I wasn’t either of those things - you’d be able to look me in the eye right now.  But you can’t, because you were right the first time.”

I turn and walk into the darkness as he calls after me - “What are you going to tell, Joey?”  which is really a pretty interesting question because not only am I fairly sure I’m not going to say anything about this adventure to my girlfriend, I am nearly convinced I can never face her again after tonight.

Which of course doesn’t stop me from heading straight to her house.

I try to earn my way, I try to taint this mind.  You better believe that I am trying to beat this.

The Potter Bed & Breakfast.  I suggested the idea, I helped to build it, and it is the first place I ever acknowledged that I was in love with my alleged nemesis.  Soon she will be leaving it behind for better and brighter things - ivy covered walls, intellectual greatness, friends in high places, and a future so promising the only thing with the power to stop her will be her own fears.

But the B&B will remain here - like me - waiting for her to grace us with her presence
in-between all her academic achievements and fast sprint to the top.  I imagine it is only a matter of months before I will find myself back here on another lonely night - watching her house and feeling the ache inside that tells me she is gone.  She’ll be far away having fun like she should be, meeting new people who will be the ones to carry her into adulthood, and away from the years we spent growing up together.

And I won’t be there for it.  I don’t deserve to anyway.  In many ways I’ve already added more complications to her life which was already pretty chaotic to start with.  I can’t make more - I can’t tell this beautiful, amazing, woman that I am in love with that I am a failure, that I’m never going to escape this town - and if I do, I’ll just end up somewhere similar doing the exact same thing with my life.

And that is doing nothing worthy of the woman she will become.  I think deep down she knows it, she knows it, and she never says it because she wants more for me and wants to believe that I want more for myself.  I guess in a way I do too.  But when your entire life has been filled with people telling you you’re not going to make it - it is pretty hard to shift gears at 18 and start thinking otherwise.

I really believed what I told her back in the fall, that when she started college I would be right there with her, wherever she was.  At the time I said it to make her feel better about our future.  But I also said it to convince myself.  Who was I kidding that a guy who could barely graduate would actually be able to follow a girl like that to college just to keep their relationship stable.  At least she had the benefit of an alcoholic haze that night which probably made the plan seem at least plausible.  I didn't - and I should have known better.

Through a window I see Bodie go to answer the phone.  She’s probably calling, needing a ride home from the train station.  I should be there, and normally I would be - anxious to see her, eager to kiss her and talk to her and make up for all the time we spent apart today.  But this is no regular day.  Not because this was Ditch Day - the day where I firmly ditched any ideals I had that I was actually going to get through the next few months - hell - the next few years, in one piece.

And on this very special occasion the one person who always comes first is actually the one person I want to see the least.

So where will this end it goes on and on.  Over and over, and over again.  Keeps spinning around I know that it won’t stop till I step down from this for good.

The house is empty when I get home.  Gretchen is probably out on some stupid trip with Dawson, giving him glorified tales of her high school past.  Dawson, whose belief in his imagination is greater than the actual thing - is probably recreating them with her and will later claim them as his own invention.

At the table sits my homework: a paper that is due, a lab report that is late, and the notes for the test that I have tomorrow.  The test I was supposed to be studying for all night long instead of tossing back Jose Cuervo and bluffing poor working stiffs out of their weekly paychecks.

At least when I’m a working stiff I won’t be losing my hard-earned cash to some stupid drunken high school kid.  Too bad card sharking and pool hustling aren’t considered respectable professions.  They seem to be two talents I actually possess.

In the mirror the guy who stares back at me looks sullen and disappointed in himself.  A look I’m growing accustomed to these days.  The phone rings in the house, and I don’t move, as if the caller will be able to sense through the line that I’m actually here.  I want to disappear, be invisible in my own skin.  And I don’t want to talk to anyone.

Especially not Joey.

“Pace? Pacey, it’s me are you home?”  I close my eyes, and I can hear her breathing as she pauses, “if you’re screening - pick up.  Well…maybe you’ve gone to bed.  Anyway - I’m home from New York, it was a good day - well, an interesting day to say the least, but I’ll fill you in on that later.  I just wanted to tell you how much I missed you today, being in the city again reminded me of our day together last summer.”  It’s late so she’s whispering - she sounds so close she could be in my ear the way she’s in my thoughts, in my head.

“So I just wanted to say that - I was thinking about you, and I missed you - oh and I got you a present! Nothing exciting - I saw it and thought of you.  Ok - well…” she pauses again, and I start to think she must know I’m here, staring at the answering machine while she wonders why I’m not reaching out to talk to her.  “I hope you had a good day - so call me, ok? I love you. ‘Night.”

The start of a hangover, combined with the awful sensation of avoiding her, begin setting in at the same time.  I feel lightheaded and stumble to the couch to sit down.  How long can I keep this up?  How long can I stay away from my girlfriend until I figure out what the hell I’m going to do next?  My guess is not long at all.  Because where Joey is concerned, I have pretty much zero control over my emotions.  Loving her, and wanting her, and pleasing her are all part of my senses now.

Yet soon I’m going to have to learn to live without them.  Because soon I’ll be without her.  And ever since I’ve realized that - I’ve been resigned to the fact that everything is slipping through my fingers.  And I can’t stop any of it.

I never thought I’d end up here, never thought I’d be standing where I am.  I guess I kind of thought that it would be easier than this I guess I was wrong, now one more time.

I leave my bike behind a tree shielded from the B&B.  Searching around the porch I find the flower pot where the Potters keep a spare key.  My hands don’t even shake as I slide the key in the lock and slowly twist it to open up the door.

I hardly have it planned in my head, but all I know is I need to tell her in person.  I need her to hear me and understand that I can’t be with her anymore.  She has to see with her own eyes that I believe it, or at least make her think I believe it.  And I need to do it now - to put this entire, wretched, fucked-up day behind me in one awful piece.

I enter her bedroom, and she sits up immediately, “It’s me.” I whisper as the door clicks shut behind me.

“I know.” she whispers back, “You scared me! What’s going on?” she slips out of her bed and comes towards me, I want to back away from her, but I am rooted in place, “Pace?  Are you ok?”  Her voice is soft and concerned and as her hand touches my face I begin to cry.

And then I lose it.  I start talking and can’t stop - I tell her about how lonely it felt at school today.  How it was like a coming attraction to what next year is going to be like with me alone here without her or any of my friends.  I tell her about Drue, about the bar, about being drunk and disorderly and fighting with my brother.  I tell her I was arrested, and my father didn’t even care enough to punish me this time.  I tell her I’m going to fail a big test tomorrow and that I am falling apart, and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

When I stop to take a breath I start to tell her that I’m breaking up with her.  My life is a mess, and it hurts too much to be with her.  She needs time and space and the ability to start thinking about her future, one that can’t possibly include me.  She stands here, in the dark - and waits for me.  And in that moment before I say it, before I say the words that absolutely terrify me - she wraps her arms around my neck and brings my head to rest on her shoulder.

Holding me there she says nothing - no assurances that it is going to be ok, no words to try and make me feel better.  She just holds me and gently rubs my head, my back, the nape of my neck.  It all makes me cry harder and I give in - my arms go around her, and I pull her close, burying myself against her.

I can’t do it.  I should have known that I couldn’t say it, couldn’t let her go.  I can’t even accept it myself.  I feel like I’m still drunk and everything is spinning, and sad, and funny, and dangerous all at the same time.  I let her lead me back to her bed and as we lay down she curls herself around me, her hands still calmly moving over me - smoothing away my pain.

I feel ragged and torn apart inside yet somehow as she holds me, I feel protected.  Everything is changing, it’s all about to change.  The slow, steady slide has begun, and I seem to be doing everything in my power to expedite it.  But right now I will stay here with her and pretend that isn’t true, that everything is fine.

And I know if I can convince myself on this night, I can do it for all the rest of the nights to come.


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