CPA Muse Award Winner
Posted on May 23rd, 2001 by Tommy Spark
Tommy Spark watched as the last shards of shattered glass were transported off the rug and properly disposed of. He almost longed for the days when people still used brooms, picturing himself engaged in the very physical act of sweeping away his anger. Perhaps then the reality of his situation would finally set in. Will was gone. Will was not coming back. Furthermore, he had left by choice.
Giraffes had held sentimental value for Tommy for quite some time. When he was five years old, Tommy’s mother had taken him to live in a large, lavishly furnished home overlooking the bay. As a child, the house’s extremely high ceilings had seemed especially dwarfing. Entering the house for the first time, Tommy had said to himself, “Wow! You could fit a giraffe in here.” And so Billy, Tommy’s imaginary pet giraffe, was born. Billy was Tommy’s best friend, accompanying him on all his adventures throughout the year and a half they had lived in the house by the bay. Eventually, Tommy’s mother grew tired of the home and moved on to her next novelty — a restored townhouse on Russian Hill. Tommy was forced to bid Billy adieu — but never forgot all his pet giraffe had meant to him.
During one of Will and Tommy’s first nights together, as they lay intertwined between the sheets of Tommy’s double bed, Will sat back, looked at Tommy and said, “We’re shaped the exact same way — tall, thin — we’re like two perfectly matched giraffes.” It was the sort of coincidence that Tommy, in all his highly romanticized notions of relationships, lived for. Tommy shared the Billy story with Will — and on Tommy’s 23rd birthday, Will gave him a glass statue of two interlocking giraffes.The statue had sat in a
place of prominence in Tommy’s living room for the entire 3 and a half years he and Will had shared this apartment.
That afternoon, as Will had walked out the door for what would probably be the last time, Tommy had lifted the giraffe statue and flung it across the room, watching with intermingled fury, desperation and release as it shattered. He knew that destroying the statue was the most melodramatic cliche imaginable — yet nothing could keep him from doing it. He couldn’t let Will be the only one in control, the only one deciding the fate of their relationship. Demolishing the statue at least gave him some sense of power,
however false. His flare for the dramatic he blamed on his mother’s influence.
“Establishing comm link,” a computerized voice said, and, as if on cue, his mother’s face suddenly appeared on the screen across the room.
“Darling, are you there? I have simply divine news!”
Tommy didn’t need to turn his head to picture his mother’s overstated expressions, her theatrical movements. Alexandra Spark was a lounge singer at a club in the Castro revival district. Her act, “Spark after Dark,” had become increasingly popular amongst Starfleet Academy cadets. As a cadet at the Medical academy, Tommy had avoided divulging his relationship with the well known diva.
“Darling, if you get this communique in time, meet me tonight at La Bome. There’s someone I want you to meet. Bring William, if you can. You know how much I adore him!”
Tommy tried to shut himself off from the flood of emotion Will’s name evoked.
“Ta ta, darling.”
With that, the comm link closed and his mother disappeared.
Tommy loved his mother dearly, but at times he had very little patience with her self obsession, her constant attention grabbing antics. Her presence could become suffocating, and Tommy welcomed the distance his posting on the Atlantis would place between them.
The Atlantis — Tommy’s first Starfleet assignment. In just days, he’d be leaving San Francisco on the U.S.S. Zapata, on a course to rendezvous w/ his new ship. It was a dream he’d had since childhood — to get out of the city and see the Universe. I was not an uncommon dream, but it had been his dream. In recent times, he had always intended for Will to by his side, accompanying him on his voyages. Will, a writer, could come aboard as a civilian and spend his days working. Tommy would come home nightly to a loving and supportive companion, someone with whom to share his daily struggles and adventures as a Starfleet officer. It would be a marriage meant for the stars. Tommy had trouble envisioning this perfect picture without Will in it. Did he truly have the strength to do this alone?
He heard the familiar chirp that meant a visitor was right outside his door.
The doors swished open and Tommy turned to see the comforting sight of Jenni Randall, his best friend and confidante.
“I thought maybe you could use some ice cream,” she said…
Jenni Randall and Tommy Spark had been best friends since childhood, when Jenni and her parents had lived not far from the house Tommy and his mother had shared by the bay. As neighbors, Tommy and Jenni had played together daily. When Tommy was not with Billy, he was with Jenni. Eventually, they had attended school together and dated briefly, before Tommy came to the conclusion that he had very little sexual attraction toward women. Through it all, their friendship had not only survived, but thrived. Though their career paths seemed to be taking them in different directions — Tommy into Starfleet, Jenni into the restaurant business — Tommy had no doubt they would stay connected.
“I thought you could use some ice cream,” she said.
Before he knew it, Tommy had collapsed in her arms.
“Will sent me a communique — he told me you might need me,” she said.
Tommy felt his spirits lift slightly. At least Will still cared–“He left me,” Tommy said, pushing back tears. “He left me.”
Tommy wanted to tell Jenni everything, to sit back and let his best friend comfort and guide him — but did he truly have the energy to explain all that had happened over the course of the afternoon?
“Sit down,” Jenni said, as if sensing his ambivalence. “Relax.”
Tommy did as he was told.
“One pint, Bovinity Divinity,” Jenni said, approaching the replicator. “With two spoons.”
Quickly, the ice cream container materialized, along with two spoons.
“Is that the one with the cows?” Tommy asked.
It was a vintage ice cream flavor, originally manufactured by Ben and Jerry’s, a long defunct ice cream company from the late 20th century. The flavor consisted of a swirled mixture of milk chocolate and white chocolate ice cream with dark fudge and white fudge cows. Jenni had somehow discovered the flavor amidst her various culinary studies, and insisted upon programming it into Tommy and Will’s replicator. It had come in handy the many times
Tommy had consoled Jenni after a breakup with one of her many deadbeat boyfriends. Tommy felt a twang of guilt, suddenly realizing he had always thought of himself as being above Jenni’s usual position, too stable and secure to ever need relationship counseling.
“So,” Jenni said, sitting down and handing him a spoon, “Are you ready to tell me what happened?”
Tommy tried to collect himself and his thoughts.
“I was at Starfleet all day, discussing the details of my Atlantis posting with Admiral Swirsky. When I came home, Will was in the living room — with suitcases. I asked him what was going on, and– and–”
Jenni took Tommy’s hand and looked at him warmly. “And?”
“It was awful”…
“I need to tell you –” Will said, avoiding eye contact, “I can’t come aboard Atlantis with you.”
“Why? You mean because of the novel?” Tommy said, faltering. “Because I thought we had agreed that you could finish it aboard the ship. All your research is done — unless there’s some reason you need to be here to have it published — you can come aboard the ship later — I’ll wait for you. It’ll be a fantastic reunion–”
“It’s not the novel. It’s — It’s everything.”
Tommy felt a sinking feeling. “Everything?”
“This — us — I’ve been trying and trying to make it work for me. You have to believe that. I’ve loved you–”
“Of course you do. And we’ll always be together.”
“No!” Will turned away. “No… we can’t be. Tommy, you’re marvelous. But don’t you see? That’s just it. I’m not good enough for you. This vision you have of us as the perfect married couple, this vision you have of me — it just isn’t the reality. I’m shit, Tommy. And you deserve better. You deserve someone who can make your dream come true.”
“But — but I don’t want someone else. I want you. I love you.”
“But what if I don’t love you?”
Tommy could feel his heart exploding. “But you just said — I mean you just told me–”
“I know what I said. But the truth is — I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know who I am anymore. That’s why I need to take some time for myself — to concentrate on myself again. To work on my writing –”
“You can work on you writing with me!” Tommy paused, unsure what to say next. He had always assumed Will had been more himself with Tommy, assumed that he completed Will as much as Will completed him. “Are you saying everything we had was a lie?”
Will breathed in. “Well…. yes, to a certain extent. Tommy, you’re a romantic. You want to think that we’ve been building this wonderful life together –”
“Well haven’t we?”
“No! You have. You’ve been building this wonderful life for us. And for a while, I was perfectly happy just being along for the ride. But I can’t keep denying reality. I’m chickenshit. I’m terrified of spending my life with anyone, let alone you.”
Tommy felt powerless, terrified —
“I can’t get on that ship with you tomorrow. I– I have to go now. It’s been one heckuva ride.”
Tommy racked his brain, trying to come up with some way to make him stay–
“You’re magnificent,” Will said, touching Tommy’s shoulder. Tommy wanted to grab him, to hold him in place and never let him go. “Someday you’ll find someone. Someone who’s perfect for you.”
With that, Will grabbed his suitcases and walked out the door. Enraged, and without thinking, Tommy grabbed the glass giraffe statue and flung it across the room…
“I’m sorry,” Jenni said, holding him. “Will’s right. You deserve better.”
“Three and a half years,” Tommy said, fighting back tears. “Three and a half years. I don’t understand how he can just throw it all away.”
“Maybe he never had it to begin with–”
“No! He said he loved me. He said it. He said I was marvelous.”
Jenni was silent.
“I just don’t understand. How can he still love me and not want to be with me?”
“Maybe he’s right,” she said. “Maybe he doesn’t know what love is.”
“I can’t get on that ship tomorrow without him — I can’t do this alone.” Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in his head — a glimmer of hope — “I have to find him. I have to talk to him. There’s still time to work things out.”
“Listen to me,” Jenni said, grabbing her friend’s arm. “You have to get on that ship tomorrow. And you have to do it without Will.”
“No! I’m going to find him. I have to –”
Tommy wriggled free, sprinting past her and out the swishing door.
“No!” she called, running after. “Tommy, wait!”….
Tommy Spark collapsed onto the plush couch in the hotel lobby, out of breath. It was the last possible hotel in San Francisco. Tommy had already tried every possible friend and relative. Will was nowhere to be found. Furthermore, it was becoming increasingly obvious that he didn’t want to be found.
The hotel’s doors swished open and in walked Jenni Randall.
“Finally, she said. “I catch up with you.”
“How’d you find me?” he asked.
“I’ve only been tailing you all over the city since we left your apartment.” Exhausted, she moved to the sofa and sat next to him.
A moment of loaded silence passed between the friends.
“It’s over, isn’t it?” Tommy finally said. “He’s not coming back.”
Jenni shook her head.
“I can’t believe I was so incredibly stupid. How could I not see he was capable of doing this to me?”
“Love blinds, I guess.”
“Sorry — I know that was a massive cliche.” She paused. “The truth is, we idealize people, you and I. Maybe that’s why we’re friends. We find someone who makes us happy, and then we convince ourselves they’re perfect in every possible way. Then, when they inevitably disappoint us by not actually being the image of them we’ve created, it hurts us beyond all recognition.”
“How could I have gone so long without realizing that Will wasn’t who I thought he was?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe he’s closer to being that person than he thinks he is. In any case, you don’t want to be with someone who isn’t ready to be with you. Trust me.”
Tommy felt himself letting loose for the first time. Tears rolled down his cheeks. “I feel lost, Jenni. I feel so lost. I don’t know what to do.”
Jenni wrapped her arm around her friend. “You’re going to get on board that ship tomorrow, and you’re going to be the best Starfleet officer you can possibly be.”
“Alone,” he said. “I’m going to be alone.”
“You’re going to be with a fabulous crew full of fabulous people who are going to respect, befriend and adore you. How could they not? You’re going to spend your life having wonderful adventures…seeking out new life and new civilizations…Boldly going where no one has gone before.”
“But is that what I want!?” Tommy cried. “Is that what I really want? Starfleet was a dream. I childhood dream. Everything, for the last three and a half years has been about Will.”
Jenni smiled. “Childhood dreams are the most powerful kind — they never quite leave you alone.”
Tommy smiled. “You know why I chose medical? I thought it would be wonderfully romantic to help people — to save people’s lives.” He laughed. “You know what else? I used to hate blood. It terrified me. For some reason, it never occurred to me that as a medical officer, I would be dealing with blood on a daily basis. But I’ve dealt with it.”
“And it doesn’t really bother me anymore.”
“Neither will Will, after a while,” Jenni said. “You’ll learn to be completely happy without him.”
“I hope so. I certainly hope so.”
Jenni took Tommy’s hands in her own. “I know so. I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t. Tommy, you’re one of the strongest people I know.”
They were silent. After a while, Tommy rose to his feet, and Jenni followed him out through the hotel’s swishing doors.
“So,” Jenni asked, “You ready to go?”
Tommy looked upward, toward the stars. “As ready as I’ll ever be.”