The problem Lacey has is simple. She’s a Christian and she’s stuck in a life that’s untenable, theoretically, without talking to the dead.
Untenable? Yes. …For whatever reason the men today are so youthful to her. Far too youthful. She can’t relate to them and possibly never has been able to, fully.
“Oh! You read A Separate Peace too?” asked a closeted lesbian at college thinking Lacey’s love for that classic novel was a sign Lacey might relate to her sexually. But no, Lacey found the boys in that novel fascinating in and of themselves. She wished the young men her age were more interesting and human-like like those boys.
“Weren’t they all homosexual?” asks Michael.
“Of course they weren’t.” he says mournfully.
“Maybe it’d be less awful in Great Britain.” muses Lacey.
“Yes, at least future kings still have good heartfelt fights with their brothers like men because they love them there.” says Michael.
“That’s supposed to be evil isn’t it? Or trashy? But…it isn’t. It’s fantastic.” says Lacey. “It made me angry to see that spectacle too. Things still matter, you know.”
Mourning Sound by Grizzly Bear plays.
“It wasn’t ever appropriate to harm me. Just because I’m so unusual. So intelligent and mature…for my age. But…once I turned 25 I was doomed if I didn’t have some warning. And I didn’t.” says Lacey.
“No, you aren’t an argument for pedophilia. But you are yet another argument for pain mattering.” says Michael.
“If you’d lived you would have been 70. That’s so old. But…I’d have loved you. And now you’d be 85. And possibly almost dead. Or dead.” says Lacey.
“And I’m a dream. I’m your absolute ideal.” says Lem. “Should I have been straight.”
“Yes! Very much so.” says Lacey. “But if I’d met Michael…would I have been happy?”
“If I’d pursued you.” posits Michael.
“Would you have?!” wonders Lacey.
“No. I’d have looked at you in your beauty and sensed your loneliness and just walked by you and decided to let you die inside.” says Michael sarcastically.
“Even at 70?” asks Lacey seriously.
“Yes. You’d have been scared of me at first, but in a week or two you’d have been mine.” Then he mentally references the famous artist from the 1950’s who made eyes at her when she was 22.
“But it’s too late now. And yet…I can’t easily love Millennial men. Their minds seem so far away.” says Lacey.
“That’s how I’d have sensed your loneliness.” says Michael. “It’d have felt personal.”
“Gross!” says the Charismatic.
“What’s gross? The thought of a 70 year old falling in love with a 25? What if he was basically still perfect looking and in good health?” asks Lacey.
“Or he aged like me.” says Lem, sadly.
“You were still handsome in your 60’s.” says Lacey to Lem.
“Would you have rather slept with Lem at 61 or me?” asks the Charismatic.
“At what age? Right now, it’s easily Lem. But he’s dead. Long dead…” says Lacey. “You’re very handsome. Truly. But he was just…different.” She thinks. “It’s his bone structure. His mind… Everything.”
“But me… We were talking about me.” says Michael.
Looking sad, “At age 25.” says the Charismatic.
Silver Soul is sung by Joe Jr. to Lacey, with emphasis on the line, “complete illusion.”
“At age 25 I’d have found Lem irresistible. Fascinating. Tragic. …At 25 I’d have found Michael…less attractive at first. But…if he’d pursued me I’d have fallen for him.” says Lacey.
The charismatic looks at Lacey curiously. “Why?!”
Rules by Doja Cat plays. Don’t listen to it.
“Where he at?!” says Lacey belligerently.
“No. It’s not about the money in that way. At all.” says Lacey.
“Is it a joke?” asks Michael.
“What?” asks Lacey.
“The money?” he asks.
“Shake that ass!” says Michael poetically.
“It’s all out of time.” says Lacey. “And our money is stuck in death.”
The song plays.
“It’s supposed to be conquered by Christ.” says Lacey.
“The money?” asks Michael.
“All of it. The part worth saving, anyway.” says Lacey about romantic love.
“That’s the money.” says Michael.
“Exactly. Unless you’re going bankrupt.” says Lacey. “It’s love or you go broke eventually.”
“You go broke either way.” says a bankrupt businessman.
“But you can climb out of Hell somehow if you have actual love.” says Lacey. “Or you die trying.”
“Bingo.” says Joe Jr..
“You blew it.” Lacey says to him. “But did you care anyway?”
“Or did I just see you as Lem?” he asks in the possible language of the dead in Christ.
“Or mine?” asks Michael.
“I might not have realized you’d have loved Michael.” says Joe Jr.. “I wonder why we named our Michael after Lem.”
“Money really is very limited.” says Michael.
Amon laughs. “Music was Satan’s business.”
“Poetry explains it all.” Lacey says to Scott.
“And without God it’s just all spun around. And around. For no meaning.” says Zelda.
Friends by Vacations plays. Lacey cries.
“But it’s difficult to imagine no God.” says Lacey.
“And is that because you are rich or saved?” asks Michael. “What is rich?”
“Exactly. Money is money. It’s nothing else.” says Lacey. “And then you get trapped. Until death. And without love…how do you survive?” She thinks. “I feel so trapped.”
“And if it’s evil to love me then what do you have?” asks Michael.
Day One by Hans Zimmer plays.
Lem grieves. He grieves his blindness.
“Or love me.” says Lem.
“It’s not what I would want. But I’m almost 40. Life goes faster the older you get. If it’s not evil and it’s real…and if I’m not going to Hell…it’s livable for a little while longer.” says Lacey.
“But then you’re just looking forward to death?” asks a perfume hater.
“Millions of people just died of Covid.” says Lacey. “Without love what’s the point of life? And God is love. And love is only God’s. And life is mercifully short.”
“Eighty years is short?” asks a man who worries he’s going to Hell.
“Yes. Very short. And then if God loves us and we accept our salvation it seems the evil illusion ends.” says Lacey. “But it’s terrifying. And so one shouldn’t leave the good womb until God decides it. It’s far too dangerous.”
“You know, you’d have felt the same way. If you’d married Michael. Right now.” says a dead businessman. “You’d be his grieving widow.” He smiles.
“And I’d be wondering about Lem.” says Lacey.
“And grieving the death of Queen Elizabeth II.” says a woman.
“She was a reminder of God’s love. And hope.” says Lacey.
“But you have your kids! And no Michael. But you have your kids and they have a dad who’s alive and young enough to be there for them.” says a Catholic nun.
“True.” says Lacey.
Then suddenly Lacey wonders if that’s a real dead or living nun. And she stands in awe and terror of God.
“I’d see the rest of my life as a cool down of sorts. Like after a good workout.” says Lacey. “If I’d married Michael.”
“Would you have remarried?” asks a reader.
“No. Never.” says Lacey.
“Really?” asks Rocky.
“No. Only Lem or Louis…maybe Hal Loeb could have brought me out of being a widow. Lem, yes. Louis…is Louis. Hal is so beautiful and profound. But…Michael is irreplaceable.” says Lacey.
“I almost think you should just think of yourself as his widow. Poetically. Or something or another. Because for all we know you are in some other universe.” says a perfume hater.
“Well…what about us? And what about the fact that she’s sleeping with ghosts? Or demons.” says the charismatic. He thinks. “I think if you can see them or they can touch you you need to stop thinking of yourself as single, unless you feel convicted that they’re not ghosts but demons.”
“Like you feel lied to? Like…you thought she was available but in reality she’s not? Because we can just swoop in and then you’re toast?” asks Michael.
“Yes! Did you two do that? When I was flirting with her this summer?!” the charismatic asks smiling.
Thirsten Snotgrass sighs.
“Yes! I came on to her.” says Lem.
“So did I.” says Michael.
“Why does God let you do that?” asks the charismatic.
“Because you made her incredibly sad. And she was being attacked and brutally misunderstood in the perfume community. People really can’t comprehend her nowadays. She’s like an old lady perfume. In its context it was sultry. Today it’s seen as masculine and remote. But she’s really very feminine and it’s painful to feel so alone and unwanted on a deep level. …Like the original Miss Dior.” says Michael.
“Or Chamade.” says Lem. “Today it seems cold. Compared to Mon Guerlain. But it’s not. It’s sexy.”
“How is it sexy?” asks Lacey.
“It smells like you. In the shower. On a tropical island.” says Lem. “In the 60’s or 70’s.”
“What does Mon Guerlain smell like?” asks Lacey.
“Candy. Like being on a sugar high. And being young. And feeling good physically. …And having a lot of time and money to waste. And highlights and sparkly lip gloss. And dancing drunk in a club. …And being young…” says Michael.
“That’s not me. My parents never let me live that part of my identity and so I embraced my more dominant identity.” says Lacey.
“So…you don’t identify with your Millennial self all that much at all?” asks a woman reading.
“No. I was never allowed to become part of the Millennial club. I was always seen as too mature.” says Lacey. “I was always attacked actually for being so mature.”
“Did people think you were faking it?” asks the Loudest Perfume Hater.
“Yes! They did. And she was actually trying to fit in not be mature.” says Louis.
“Is this song a joke to y’all?” asks a Cat.
“It’s war.” says Lacey.
She nods in understanding. She understands more than Lacey where the shower in the tropics is.
Lacey finds that fascinating.
“If your father was born in 1894 he still exists, Lacey.” says a nun.
Bad Things plays.
“Was he like Mr. Rooney in Road to Perdition?” asks Thirsten Snotgrass.
“He was old money. His parents were rich. And he was stuffy. …And a far bigger deal than Mr. Rooney.” says Al Capone.
“So you and Joe Jr. were a peace offering in Purgatory?” asks Thirsten.
“If I’m illegitimate.” says Lacey.
“Yes, but what if you are??!?” says Thirsten.
“Was Reta Jewish?” asks an Illuminati member.
“I don’t know.” says Lacey.
“Mary! 28 La Pausa. Death at 28.” says a reader.
“And it all gets spun around until it makes you dizzy. And then you get sick keeping it straight in your head. Like a merciless song that’s played from Hell.” says Zelda.
“All the bizarre connections. All the loops and tangles. All the mystery. All the loss.” says Lacey. “The synchronization of time and space when scientists don’t see ghosts is like being helplessly drowned by gaslight.”
“I tried to make noise last night.” says a ghost. “I hit things and rattled doorknobs that don’t exist.” says the ghost. “At 3 AM!”
“I did the metal cart at 5!” says another ghost.
“It was bizarre. It sounded like a poltergeist.” says Lacey. “I prayed in tongues.”
In Ear Park by Department of Eagles plays.
“He’s right. You’re either mad or in love with a ghost.” says the ghost of a black man to Lacey. “Think about it as if Heaven exists and we’re real. And you’re in a convent. And the dead worry. And you need to get it right.”
“As in, not waste someone’s time.” says Lacey. “But that sounds so much like false hope.”
Lights Are On plays.
“That’s my life.” says Lacey about the lyrics. “It’s the Millennial horror song about my life.”
“The birds at the end of the song and cover art are hilarious.” says Zelda coolly.
“So Joe Jr. was a peace offering?!” asks Mr. Blue.
“Forest green.” says Louis, lighting a cigarette. “Not emerald green.”
A Cat cracks up laughing. She gets a sense from Lacey which side she’s on. Literally or symbolically. Or both.
“I love Africa. …But what of Scott?” asks Lacey.
“It’s Earth. Death marches on.” says a nun.
“They’ll be fine? If that’s the way it is.” says a Mary.
Linger by The Cranberries plays.
“So I fouled-up a peace treaty in Purgatory?” says Mr. Blue.
“More like I did.” says Batgirl III.
The caves come calling. A nun sighs.
“How long did the treaty take to reach?” asks a Cat.
“Twenty years.” says a man?
“It started in the 1960’s.” says Rocky. “How about that allegorically or literally?”
“And what about when Lacey died and…Lem and her met?” asks a singer.
A ghost or demon almost manifests.
“It’s like A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” says the singer.
“And Hamlet combined?” wonders Lacey.
“She was going to espouse the glory of Joe until she died. Admiring him. Always. …But then she broke open her head.” says a dead Irishman.
“And I married her temporarily. And made love to her. And that ended that.” says Elliott.
His mother nods her head in understanding. “Elliott was who she imagined Joe to be both in kindness and psychological complexity.”
“A tall, brilliant pilot. A dashing womanizer with a heart of gold.” says a reader. “Tall, handsome, blue eyes. Deep. Artistic. Manly. Passionate. Aristocratic.”
Louis laughs. “She longed to meet Lem and I and Harold all her youth. Truly. She looked out for us. But of course we never arrived.”
“And someone said she’d marry a fat, bespectacled blond man. And be marvelously happy. But I was dead too, of course. And so was Lem.” says Michael.
“So when did it really happen?” asks a Putin.
Allegro Moderato by Dvorák plays.
“In the 1980’s.” says a nun.
He finds that fascinating.
“When?!” asks a woman.
Impromptu For Piano In G Flat Major by Franz Schubert plays.
Lacey breathes easier.
“1982. 1988. 1989.” says Lacey, tentatively.
“After she was conceived.” says a nun.
“Some things became intractable. And there was no turning back, as they say.” says Louis.
Hold Still by Grizzly Bear plays ironically.
“So if Purgatory is real at all and the Illuminati exists…I was going to fall away from Joe before I was born?” asks Lacey.
“Yes. Because we existed too. And you were going to get exhausted.” says Michael to Lacey. “Joe was at the front. Always. Leading the way. And the way was dark, cloudy, cold, and on the edge of a cliff your whole life. You had to slow down. Or you’d fall to your death. …It was a narrow chance. But…you landed with us when Elliott plucked you off the cliff out of rage. …He’s still mad. …And Joe still doesn’t understand your reluctance to be cool.”
“What’s the point of being popular in Hell?” asks Lacey.
“I agree.” says the ghost who might have made noise at 3 AM.
A Putin laughs.
“It’s extremely exhausting, Joe. Pat and you can go be happy. Okay?” Lacey says closing her eyes for a nap.
Clocks by Coldplay plays. And he totally freaks out realizing her absolute love for them. And her genuine concern for him.
“Have a smashing good time!” says Michael to Joe.
“Leave her be. I’ve got it! Just go ahead and have fun!” says Lem to Joe.
“Time for a nap!!” says Louis.
Harold dances to Elastic Heart.