Different

“There’s a huge difference between stealing a loaf of bread and maliciously stealing someone’s money.” says Louis.

“There’s also a huge difference between feeling deeply abandoned and betrayed by God and questioning His existence out of a desire to survive…and dating a non-Christian out of heartfelt defiance of God.” says Lem.

“When I dated a non-Christian out of sincere desperation I was stealing bread because I felt abandoned by God for real, intelligent reasons.” says Lacey.

“But legally you shouldn’t have dated him.” says Lem.

“I’d be dead if I hadn’t. Possibly.” says Lacey.

“Literally?” says Lem. “I mean, there’s no bloody way there’s not something wrong with you that Christian haters can sink their narcissistic teeth into. Right? Like…how can they hate you and feel good about it? …Please be empathetic with them. They’re starving for an excuse to feel vindicated and superior, Lacey.”

He laughs.

“I almost got hit by a car. It stopped just inches short of running into my mother and me. And that was after I’d prayed to God to die quickly after my mother died if I was never going to get married and have a family.” Lacey says.

“It was also after some sort of entity or something…or God Himself…offered to kill you.” says Lem.

“Yes.”

“And you declined.” says Louis.

“So you wonder if God really…is somewhat suggesting that your life is…unusual? And you wonder if He genuinely offered to kill you?” asks Scott.

“Yes.”

“And I suppose if your father was born in 1894…and your family really doesn’t love you…and you’ve struggled to make really close friendships…He may have seen the trajectory of your life and recognized its absolute misery? And the genuine hopelessness of it? Considering there’s no way to resurrect the entire Greatest Generation…-“

“Or Silent Generation.” says Michael.

“Or us!” says Lou. “And that’s true regardless of your parentage. You get along with us better.”

“Your family raised you to be…such a misfit.” says Scott, empathetically.

“And if the Illuminati exists…they’ve both adopted you and ruined your life.” says Michael. “They’re both more understanding and more dangerous than most people you’ve met.”

“If they even exist.” says Lacey.

“I doubt they do.” says Scott.

“If they do they’ve been helpful after being extremely unhelpful.” Lacey reflects.

“As long as they don’t go to Hell for conjuring us…” Michael grins. “They’ve made your life livable after making it chaos. And I commend them for that.”

“They’ve rescued you, in a way.” says Louis.

“As long as they don’t go to Hell.” says Lacey.

“Why would they help you?” asks Harold.

“Because they’re not entirely heartless.” Lacey suggests. “They’re just human.”

“And I bet some of them are better than just not heartless.” says Michael.

“They’re cutthroat.” Lacey says opaquely.

Michael nods.

“They’re somewhat like the Asmats, but with a lot of power and money.” says Lacey.

“Which doesn’t prove or disprove that they even exist.” says Michael.

Silence.

“You need to finish your novel.” says Michael.

“I do.”

And Louis watches. He smiles and watches.

“Do you think he’s bisexual?” asks Louis about a man.

“I don’t know, but if I had to guess…I’d guess yes. I might be wrong though.” Lacey says and Louis nods for her to continue. “It’s just that…I think he lacks empathy about certain things. Not the way some people do. I think he’s very sensitive and empathetic in some ways. It’s more that, if he isn’t entirely straight, he gets his needs met by men and maybe doesn’t even realize it. But because he doesn’t experience the same…excruciatingly painful loneliness most straight people experience when they try to be right…I think he assumes it’s easier to be alone than it really is.”

Louis smiles.

“He’s not starving emotionally like some people do…and yet he doesn’t realize that because he can label it as friendship and look the other way on himself or be possibly consciously unaware. …He can whitewash it in his mind because it’s not like he’s being emotionally intimate with a woman.” says Louis.

“If he’s not an at least slightly sleazy person…he might not consciously see it as sexual. To him it’s just…being funny…like it was for my ex-boyfriend.”

“I’m glad he’s not me.” says Michael.

“I feel bad for him, if your guesses are right.” says Louis.

“Why?” asks Lacey.

“Because he’s blind, then. He has no idea what he’s doing. And he’d be missing out on fully growing-up. Because he’d have no reason to. Being a boy with boyfriends his age is acceptable if he remains youthful in a particular way.”

Louis thinks.

Then Louis goes on, “He can be like Jack.”

“Did Jack never grow-up?” asks Lacey.

“He acted grown-up for an audience but he essentially was coddled by Lem and his family. And they made excuses for him constantly. And covered-up his mistakes.” He thinks. “I didn’t hate him. But…” he rests back. “I just found him deplorable in his lack of awareness of other people’s risks and pain.” Louis concludes.

“Like he didn’t see how scary most people’s lives are?” asks Lacey.

“When you don’t have a fervently devoted secret husband met in your teens who would die for you a thousand times over? And one of the wealthiest families in the world heavily invested in making your every waking breath a victory? Yeah! …He cared. But it wasn’t about caring. He just was clueless about other people’s awful lives.” Louis says.

“He was a spoiled brat?” asks Lacey.

Louis laughs.

“I was a spoiled brat.” Louis says. “No. We had that in common. No, it’s more that he didn’t see what we had in common. …He couldn’t relate.”

“But everyone says how brilliant he was at relating to people.” Lacey protests.

Louis looks disturbed. “I found him personally charming. He could make you like him.” He shifts his position. “But he wasn’t likable.” He laughs. “Not as a man. Because it seemed like he had whatever he wanted handed to him. Including love. Boundless love.”

“Some people really are that fortunate though.” says Lacey.

“Yes. They are.” He smiles.

“Were you jealous?” asks Lacey.

“No.” he responds. “I just found him…difficult to genuinely connect with. And I wanted to be able to. We were both Catholic, you know.” He grabs the soles of his shoes. “I just couldn’t understand his mentality on certain things. I’m sorry!”

“I think the conversation you just had with Louis isn’t…acceptable if you and I are together.” says Michael.

Louis laughs in the background.

“Louis is a friend though.” says Lacey.

Michael laughs. Then Michael too lays back against the grass.

“You get what I mean though?” he asks.

“I do, but what was it about that that was too far?” asks Lacey.

“Good question.” says Michael.

Lem wants to add something. “I really wasn’t attracted to men.”

“But you gave Jack your dance card your whole life!” says Lacey.

He laughs. He nods in agreement. “I was a good husband mostly.”

“That bothers her so much more than you understand, Lem.” says Michael.

“Even if I was straight?” asks Lem.

“Doubly so.” says Louis.