Roger & Jim
Or, What Happened While Kat Took Out the Trash.
Note: This is not a deleted scene in the sense that it was once in the book, and then was removed. Instead, this gives you a peek into what happened "off camera." Make sure you've got appropriate protective gear before you read this scene—angst levels are high and rising.
“What’s going on?” The door had opened while we were arguing. Jim stood in the doorway, his blond hair mussed. He’d put on pajama pants, and the effect was very boyish and very cute. Roger, seeing him, pushed off the wall.
“I gotta talk to you.”
Jim’s nose scrunched up as the smell of alcohol hit. He sighed, resigned, and stepped back. “Come on,” he said, gesturing inside without looking at Roger. “I’ll get you some water. Just be quiet, okay? Mom’ll flip if she sees this.”
“Jim,” I started as Roger pushed past me into the apartment.
Jim shrugged. He looked so thin in his tee shirt, and really young. We watched as Roger stumbled past the couch and made a beeline for Jim’s room. “I’m a big boy, Kat. I can handle him. See you in a bit, yeah?”
The message was very clear. I nodded and picked up the trash bag.
“Be careful,” I said, flicking my eyes towards my brother.
“Too late,” Jim muttered and closed the door.
Like most stories, Roger and Jim’s was filled with misunderstandings and insecurities and just plain asshole-ness. What’s that quote? “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Whether or not they had true love is debatable. The never running smooth part, on the other hand, is spot on.
That night—the night that changed everything—Roger skipped out on Harpoon Fridays. He was sitting in Joey the Lacrosse Captain’s living room, Joey’s parents having gone to Italy for the week. Half the lacrosse team and a few of the cheerleaders (some stereotypes do persist) were sprawled on expensive leather furniture, throwing cans of Pabst onto the floor and passing a bottle of Jack around like soda. The same dumb jock that scared the crap out of me earlier that day pulled out a joint. Soon that made the rounds, too.
Roger was laughing next to Joey, enjoying a temporary spot of favoritism on the team after a particularly good practice. They started out bashing the teachers, but soon the conversation turned to ‘freaks at school’ and Roger, while growing quiet, continued to laugh along. That changed when Dumb Jock brought out my name.
“Your sister’s kinda strange, Roger,” Dumb Jock said. “Hot though.”
Roger bristled, but stayed quiet.
“Not his fault he’s twins with a weirdo,” Joey defended him. He patted Roger on the arm, very much like a gang leader dealing with a loyal dog. That’s how these things worked in our school—give a guy an ounce of power, and suddenly he’s a freaking Mafia Don.
“We don’t diss family here.”
Case in point.
“Sorry,” Dumb Jock muttered, and flashed Roger a glare.
For his part, Roger looked relieved if still uncomfortable. But he took the joint that was passed to him, and was mid puff when Joey spoke again.
“That fag she’s friends with, though, he’s fair game. Fucking queer.” Joey took a large swallow of Jack, waiting till everyone stopped laughing.
“I hear he’ll do your homework for you if you flash him your nuts,” Joey went on. One of the cheerleaders tittered appreciatively. “Let him suck you off, and he’ll write you a goddamn research paper.”
Eyes turned to Roger. He had a look of comical surprise on his face, like he was shocked he’d spoken, too.
“What’s that?” Joey asked. His hand shot out, grabbed Roger’s shoulder in a hard grip. “Not defending the fag, Roger. I didn’t hear that.”
Roger shook Joey off and stumbled to his feet.
“I gotta go,” Roger muttered. Joey gestured, and Dumb Jock stood.
“We’re not out of booze yet,” Joey said. “And we have more to talk about. Stay.”
“No,” Roger said. He stepped over an outraged blond, and Dumb Jock got in his way.
“You gonna go home to your girlfriend?”
Roger shoved him aside, his face heating up with confusion as much as embarrassment. He was not one to leave Joey’s parties, or go against Joey. Not after he’d spent so long trying to fit in.
Drunk, pissed, Dumb Jock threw a punch. He nailed Roger in the eye but Roger has always been pretty unmovable; he punched the jock back, laid him flat on his ass, and took off at a stumbling, clumsy run. Down the elevator, out the posh entrance of Joey’s parent’s apartment building. The subway was down the street; he hopped a turnstile when the entrance was empty, then jumped into the first train he could catch.
From there Roger’s memory was a little hazy; that’s what happens when you’re blitzed out of your mind. Somehow he got on the downtown subway. He got into Brooklyn okay but got off a few stops too soon. The wind sobered him just a little, enough to break through his drunken fugue. Lacking his usual inhibitions, and heady with a strange sense of personal freedom he had never really felt before, Roger made his way to Jim’s apartment.
I wish it had gone better after that. I also wish I’d known the whole story that night, before I blew up in Roger’s face on the stairwell. We could have saved a lot of angst. With what was coming, it would have been nice to have something positive to look back on. Instead…well.
You’ll remember that at this point I’d gone out to the alleyway. This is what happened while Clara was giving me the spooky psychic lecture.
Jim, not knowing what had happened at Joey’s, sent Roger into his room to wait while he grabbed a glass of water. He had to pause in the kitchen, count to ten to center himself.
“Jim?” Roger called out drunkenly.
“Shut up,” Jim hissed back. He walked quickly back into his room and shut the door before Roger could wake up Mrs. Corboy. Roger was sitting dazed on Jim’s bed. He took the glass of water Jim offered him and stared at it, before setting it on the floor beside the bed. They were quiet for a few minutes, Jim’s arms folded so tightly he was cutting off circulation in his elbows.
“I’m surprised to see you,” Jim eventually said, tone deceptively light. He looked everywhere but at Roger. “I thought you were hanging out with those lacrosse guys tonight.”
“I was,” Roger slurred. “But then…I left.”
Jim’s expressive eyebrows raised.
Roger said nothing. Shoulders slumped, he leaned forward on his legs, and ran a hand over his face. “I dunno, exactly,” he said. He laughed, the sound unhappy. “I just…”
Jim has always been the softer of the two of us. He went over and sank down on the bed next to Roger, bumping their shoulders together.
“C’mon, Roger,” Jim said. “You can talk to me. That hasn’t changed.”
And that’s when Roger shocked Jim by actually starting to talk. Really talk, for the first time in a long time. He spoke about our mom, and how he could never get along with dad, and how very much he missed Jim.
Then he reached out, grabbed Jim's face, and kissed him.
They were both taken by surprise. It was one of those mid-sentence, no warning things. But Jim…well. Here’s the part that really broke Jim’s heart, later.
He pushed Roger away. Worse, he got angry.
“You can’t just do that,” Jim spat, struggling to keep his voice low. He pushed to his feet, and the move was like cold water on them both. “You can’t just… you’ve been so fucking mean, Roger. You’ve treated me like I didn’t mean anything to you, like I was…I was…invisible. You are just un-fucking-believable, you know that?”
“Would you just listen—”
“No, no I fucking won’t. Kat was right. I don’t have to deal with your crap.” Jim walked over to his door, held it open. “Get out.”
“Jim, I’m fucking trying to apologize,” Roger said, getting angry now, too. Jim lost it a bit there. He shoved Roger hard in the chest. It got the message across.
I came back just in time to see the aftermath.
I found Jim in his room. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, toying with the controller for his game cube. There was a glass upturned in a pool of water next to the bedpost and his blond hair was mussed. My heart sank.
“Hey,” I said from the doorway. He didn’t look at me.
“Did Roger leave?” Jim asked. His voice was hard, almost robotic.
“Yeah,” I said softly. “Are you…”
“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Jim cut me off. “I’m tired. Can we just go to sleep?”
I took in his slumped shoulders, the way he was staring at the floor. “Sure.”
“I’ll get the couch ready,” he muttered, and pushed past me into the living room. I picked up the glass from the floor, wincing at the cold water, and followed.
Copyright © Hannah Kollef 2012