“Lem, do you need to just leave?” Lacey asks Lem seriously.
Last night Lacey fell asleep hoping Lem would be in a good mood. Cuddle to fall asleep. But he wasn’t interested. He still feels hurt that she slept with another man. Of course, she didn’t know that she just felt his coldness.
So Louis made out with her instead. But she didn’t anticipate that either. Instead he pretended to be her doctor.
“Oh! You want to make out? I belong to you?” she said in her spirit. So they made out. Briefly.
And now Lem is more hurt.
Old Money by Lana Del Rey plays.
“I think I might have a disorder caused by persistent anemia. It’s become less common over the years. They attribute that to what they assume is ‘better nutrition’ but it’s also a genetic disorder. It commonly affected, slim-built, middle-aged, white woman. …No, if I’m illegitimate I’m eating the same thing. Possibly better than most people. But…my genes are probably wildly different.” says Lacey.
“Does it kill you?!?” asks The Loudest Perfume Hater.
“It could. It’s caused by persistent anemia.” says Lacey. “Actually, I woke up around 3 am worried I was going to have a heart attack. I couldn’t get my heart to stop racing.”
“But then you calmed down. And fell asleep.” says Louis.
“True. And this morning I had a pep talk from my possible dead uncle. He told me to be prepared to die. Just…buck-up and deal with that reality. Because doctors don’t always know. Or catch things in time. …But he’s dead. So…it’s actually quite comforting.” She thinks. “Should that have been him.”
“So you feel like you have growths in your throat?” asks The Loudest Perfume Hater.
“Yes!” says Lacey. “And those sort of growths can be caused by persistent anemia with a particular disease that’s gone out of genetic fashion these days.”
“So you’ve developed dysphagia. And…it might improve with iron intake.” says Louis.
“It does seem to decrease with iron intake. But that might be a coincidence.” says Lacey.
“So you’re still capable of having kids but…you’d not be safe to.” says a Boomer. “If it’s that disease.”
“True.” says Lacey.
“And you’ve always been so fertile.” says The Loudest Perfume Hater.
“Yes.” says Lacey.
“So your body is telling men to back off. To save your life and your unborn child’s life. And your children’s lives?” asks a Boomer.
“If she has that disorder.” says Louis.
“You know one thing I don’t think anyone ever processes is that Jack was possibly gay.” says a living Gen X gay man. He thinks. “Lacey does of course. But…why don’t we?!?”
“Because if you tell someone like Lacey they had a room together and that Lem performed fallatio on Jack…that Jack requested to get so-called release…she logically decides the logical conclusion.” says Louis.
“Why don’t people who read Jack and Lem stories ever realize that that makes Jack gay?!” asks Lacey. “In reality.”
“I agree.” says F. Scott Fitzgerald to Lacey. “It really irritates me too.”
“Because they think Lem was gay.” says the Gen X gay man.
“But whether he was or not…if Jack had consensual sex on his side with him that means Jack Kennedy wasn’t straight. That means Jack Kennedy was gay. Or bisexual at least.” says Lacey.
The gay man tries to figure it out too. “I think they ignore it.”
“But that’s insane.” says Lacey.
The gay man smiles. “No, you’re right. It just makes Jack definitely queer.” He thinks. “There’s not definite proof Lem was ever okay with it really. His psychological makeup is complex and troubling. But Jack…seems literally excited by the idea of gay sex.”
Can You Hear Them Sing? by Cemeteries plays.
“Why is everyone so attached to the idea of Jack being a virile straight man?” asks Lacey. “He was possibly neither.”
“Because that’s what they tried to film. There’s huge flaws. If you look closely enough. …But…just like his weird skin color…his sexuality looked seemingly straight on camera.” says a Sarah.
“True. Why do you believe those lies?” asks Lacey.
“You don’t?!” asks a Boomer.
“No. People in power lie about what they see as physical fitness to seem trustworthy.” says Lacey.
“Would you have suspected he was lying?” asks a Sarah.
“Yes.” says Lacey. “I think I would have.”
“And yet Mr. Blue confused you.” says Sarah.
“Well…what is the lie?!” asks Lacey.
“That he’s normal.” says a Gen X woman.
“What is normal though?” asks Lacey.
Lem looks embarrassed. “I don’t think you understand what they’re trying to say, Lacey.” he says to Lacey.
“Oh alright! What are they saying?” asks Lacey of Lem.
He smiles. Takes a deep breath. Then he bites his upper-lip. “You don’t trust me?”
“I struggle.” she says.
He looks devastated. “Who can you trust? We all have something wrong with us. And Joe Jr. ruined your ability to trust God so easily.”
“Almost none of you. But I accepted that I’m less fortunate than a lot of people in that way in childhood.” says Lacey.
“Even if you have dead family like the Rockefeller’s?” asks The Loudest Perfume Hater.
“Yes.” says someone.
“They lie about his trustworthiness as a human. They make him seem like an emotionally stable, loving man. They make him seem happy. In disturbingly subtle ways.” says Lem. “The timing. The lighting. The clothes. The non-verbal cues you rely on to figure out reality.”
“So…that scene in Mad Men where the schizophrenic thinks men are becoming gay.” says a living actor. “From computers.” He laughs. “Was that actually schizophrenia? Or what?”
“No, they accidentally outed Jack. And the way computers do emasculate men. But it was schizophrenic the way he processed it.” says Zelda Fitzgerald. “No actual ghosts or demons talked to that character. He just spun around his brilliant insights and made a paranoid, dysfunctional…psychotic observation he felt was fact.”
“Lem do you realize why we aren’t all Jack now?” asks Louis.
“Like you, Lacey, Michael? Harold Loeb? You’re not secretly all just Jack?” asks Lem, smiling.
“Lem…we really aren’t.” says Louis.
Lacey is on the edge. Apparently Lem loves her more than he loves anyone. Or ever has loved anyone.
And yet…she can’t let go of Louis, but mostly Michael.
Lem really was devastated when Lacey slept with other men. And last summer ago, after she flirted with Louis unintentionally…but before she had really slept with anyone…Lem was icy cold one night and left her weeping. And then she was crippled by her tears. Had she even flirted? It was accidental and yet Lem was seemingly totally rejecting her. At last someone loved her…albeit dead…and then *poof* it was gone. She felt unseen and almost unspeakably alone.
Then Lem was freaked out. He kept explaining that he was just hurt. And she felt bad so she kept explaining. And then they sort of patched things up. …But she was vulnerable and other men moved in on her.
Colorblind by Counting Crows plays.
The problem in this case is that she wrote all the men into her novel. And she fell in love with Louis first. So every time she edited the novel she would reread the passages about her and Louis. Or her and Elliott. And in her mind she’d imagine the scenes. But…in Lacey’s mind that means…seemingly interacting with ghosts on occasion. She’s become possibly better at telling the difference between something potentially spiritual and something just imagined. But to Lem her written love scenes were…not at all intellectual. To Lacey, as the author, they were endlessly fascinating to study from all angles and she aimed for truth in everything.
So she had to fight to calm herself down because she was struggling to breath she was weeping so hard. Just from Lem’s coldness. And that was when she stopped caring more and more about hurting him.
And yet they both are private people.
But, again, they partially patched things up. However, until the last month, he’s not explained enough…even in all their conversations.
And then latter last summer she met Michael. It was in a moment when she was fighting to convince Lem that she wasn’t a slut. She was resting, watching Tik Tok when she ran across a post about Michael.
There he appeared. Shirtless. And it rarely happens to Lacey but in this case he popped out of the screen as a ghostly voice and introduced himself.
“Would you find me attractive?” he asked her. “Am I your type?”
She felt compelled to respond. She tried to be accurate. She coolly and objectively analyzed him.
“Mm…yes.” she said calm and yet happy to deliver a pleasant verdict.
But then when she looked back at his picture he seduced her spirit. Still she resisted. She did. But…it concerned her. He seemed…controlling. This new ghost, that is. But not in a way she found offensive, necessarily. More like…a very tenacious, aggressive, old-fashioned, masculine leader.
And…Michael seems to understand Lacey. Always outwitting her if he so chooses? Possibly.
“Still, she loves Lem most.” says Michael objectively and kindly. “So…I try.”
“I suppose she does.” Lem admits for the first time ever.
“Yes!! She does. You don’t think that hurts us?!” Louis asks Lem.
“Fine!” yells Lem in response.
Lacey gets a recommendation from a general practitioner to specialists.
“The problem is…Michael is my cuddly teddy bear…but Louis is Louis…and Lem claims he’s the only true cuddly teddy bear.” says Lacey. “Not that I’m a child but I love how warm and cozy these very strong men are.” says Lacey.
“And Harold Loeb lingers.” says Harold Loeb.
“Because Harold Loeb is brilliant. And sees all angles.” says F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“And yet you don’t want to be polyamorous.” says a Boomer to Lacey.
“No. Not at all.” says Lacey.
“Why can’t you let go of Michael? I can tell you love Lem most and it’s your perspective that he’s rejecting you that holds you two back.” asks a Millennial woman.
“It feels like he’s rejecting me even though it also feels like he isn’t.” says Lacey about Lem.
“But why can’t you let go of me?” Michael asks her.
September by Sparky Death Trap plays.
“He’s…so safe. Should he not be a demon. And should he love me. He’s…like waking-up from a dream and being disappointed but then feeling your warm bed and the cool spots…and the way you’ve settled-in perfectly over the hours. He’s…got me figured-out.” She looks up at Lem. “It hurts. Unbearably. Both you and Louis experienced a lot intimacy and closeness. Whether healthy or not. I never have. …And I’ve always wanted to be close to someone I admire too…and be understood and loved for who I really am. And with Michael I can expect him to be two steps ahead of me. …Guiding me…not expecting me to be perfect.” She thinks.
“She is perfect. And then some. But her life in many regards has been repulsive.” says Michael.
“And you can’t let go of Louis why?” asks the woman.
“Because he’s Louis. He helps me. He’s protective. He’s Louis. He’s…rare.” says Lacey.
“And why does Harold linger?” asks the Millennial.
“Because I choose to. And she’s not uptight about it.” says Harold.
“Lem…do you love Lacey?” asks a Catholic priest.
“I wouldn’t have expected to be asked that at this juncture. Not in a million years. …I thought if I died and had a happiness I’d not experienced in life…I would never be in this situation. Clinging to my rage. Like a buffoon.” He laughs at himself and crumbles to the ground against a wall. “OF COURSE I LOVE HER!!!” he yells.
“Why are you so angry?” Lacey asks.
Lem smiles. “I would have been jealous. If we’d lived at the same time. You have no idea.”
Truth Ray by Thom Yorke plays.
“Like you were jealous over Jack?” scoffs Lacey gently, sadly.
“No. Because you actually care.” says Lem. “You care about me. You care about us. You care about everyone. Profoundly. Most of all your kids…but that’s different. And you love Michael. You actually love him.” He thinks. “And Louis. I’ll never be Louis in anyone’s view of me.” He thinks. “Don’t get me started on Harold Loeb. …And your body is my idea of Heaven. Not Jack’s.”
“But I wouldn’t have cheated.” says Lacey. “I doubt retaliation is the same as cheating.”
Lem smiles. “Then why are we even having this conversation?”
“Because you refuse to truly apologize. And Michael is Michael and Louis is Louis…and on and on.” says Lacey.
The song plays.
“Wanna make love?” he asks Lacey, pushing his glasses up his nose. Sitting on the ground. They’re eyes meet.
“Should I?” she asks. “Is that fair? And why are you suggesting it? To trick me and make me look weak and stupid and whorish?”
He gets up, walks down the hall to her room. “No, it’s not a trick.”
He attempts to sleep with her. But she’s too worried it’s not right to continue.
“Lem, I need to tell you no.” she says.
“No, you don’t.” he laughs.
“But what about Michael and Louis?” she says before laying back to close her eyes. She feels suddenly sleepy.
“Mmm. No, you should order dinner soon though.” he says.
Lacey hears a disembodied man giggle.
“There’s nobody above us right now, but it’s an Airbnb upstairs too!” her ex-husband says moments after.
A half an hour earlier she’d been resting when she heard sounds like someone was upstairs. Almost like the sounds of someone coming home. Very definite, totally normal sounding noises.
“No! The lights are all off.” he said.
Lacey wonders if she imagined it? But…it sounded like footsteps. Doors opening. Creaking. Nothing creepy. Just the sounds of someone coming home.
And of course she felt the comforter move. But she was cuddling with a ghost. That’s happened before. And that’s easier to imagine one is imagining.
“Who were you cuddling with?” asks Lem.
“Come on! It was me.” says Lem.
A cross flickers on the television screen on a television show as he says it. They’re staying next to an Episcopalian Church.
“Who was upstairs?” Lacey asks.
“Do you get the sense there were dead Episcopalians upstairs?” asks a man.
Michael grins. Michael laughs.
Lacey please with Michael to have a conversation.
Suddenly Lem starts screaming. Lem can’t stop screaming.
Lacey’s son runs by her room as if he’s being chased.
“Lem just realized he could have actually lost you.” says Michael.
“He still thinks he could.” says Lem.
The Episcopalians told him?
Lacey’s son runs by her room again like he’s being chased.
No she’s not hallucinating.
Her door moves a tiny bit? From across the room. Then the lights flicker slightly.
It doesn’t creep Lacey out. It makes her smile. …As long as they aren’t demons. It’s nice to think there’s an afterlife with Christ and she prayed to God last night when she was scared she was going to have a heart attack for proof.
Lem watches anxiously. More anxiously than she’s ever seen him. He’s finally recovering his ability to think through certain things? It’s as if the emotions he’s claiming are only now meeting the reality she’s been trying to explain.
Michael meets Lacey dressed in pajamas. Shirtless.
They’re alone in a Caribbean house. In a bedroom. It’s temperate but tropical. Sprawled out on separate pieces of furniture, giant fan whirling overhead. Canopy bed ahead.
“What’s wrong?” Michael turns his head and asks her gently.
“Am I really best off with Lem?” she asks him. “I’m going to miss you horribly.”
Michael laughs in 2023.
“Heaven sent you to me, To me, to me?” Michael quotes.
Then he acts as he would have if they’d been on their honeymoon in 1961. Awkward. He shifts in his seat. It was an arranged marriage.
Lacey stares at his profile.
He rubs his eyes and takes off his glasses. Moves his eyebrows up and down and makes a cheesy sexual smirk. Lacey can’t help but grin with him.
And at that Desmond Guinness races out of history and charges into Lem Billings. Right out of a dimly-lit, high ceiling drawing room. He knocks him over.
Lem rolls over on his back, Desmond grabbing at Lem’s feet and legs.
Lem laughs a chic, Mod laugh. “Say, you’re not Joe.” he says to Desmond. He looks shocked. He sits up in terror. Desmond young and a young Joe Kennedy Sr. look similar.
A woman runs in after Desmond. She stops and stares dramatically at Lem on the ground.
“Well…Ireland is lovely.” says Lem, drunk in 1981. Is this literal or poetry? Did Lem get sent by God forward in time when he died?
Lem moves himself backwards to a wall of the drawing-room. And there at a psychologically safe distance he stares at Desmond. Desmond finds it delightful and smiles brightly.
Demond stands and thinks. “Let’s see! …Lem Billings!” he says as if drawing from memory. He points jovially at Lem.
Then Desmond and the woman rush at Lem as if concerned. “Say, you’re not well.” says Desmond.
They escort Lem to a private room.
“We know you’re dead. Do you?” asks Desmond of Lem.
Lem looks horrified.
“Oh no, oh no!” Lem says getting on his feet and racing toward a light and tunnel leading to a meeting with God.
Literal or approximation?
And that was why Lem screamed. Because Lacey’s son ran too…but for fun. With his boyish grin. And that was appropriate. Kids run.
“Why are you running?” Desmond asked Lem.
Lem was already with God. In God’s presence being made aware.
Lacey turns away from Michael. Are they in love enough? Surely this is when their honeymoon will go downhill?
“Why are you here?” Michael asks her seductively in 1961.
“No!!!” Lem screams as Lacey considers how to submit to Michael. In 1961 on the first night of a honeymoon.
Jump Around by House of Pain plays.
“I suppose you’re my husband.” Lacey says to Michael.
He nods. Looks down.
“Do you want to be in love?” he asks her awkwardly.
“We’ve been seeing each other for six months.” she says.
“But we don’t know each other. I’ve never seen you naked…for instance.” he says eyes suddenly aflame.
“My goodness.” says Lacey. She takes a deep breath.
The song plays.
“My goodness?!?” Michael says approaching Lacey. He sounds incredulous.
He gets in her face. Their eyes meet.
Lacey feels a touch on her hand. Twice. Some agile female ghost dances across her living-room past the fireplace to Jump Around. But months later her ex-husband turns out the lights. A woman. Near Lacey’s age? From the future?
Lacey screams in her spirit breaking glass.
“I’m going to make you scream.” says Michael in 1961.
Let Me Blow Ya Mind by Eve plays.
Fast-forward two weeks later. In 1961. Lacey in 2023 knows none of it. By choice…to be loving to Lem.
Servants finish packing their bags. Michael and Lacey sit together silently.
“I don’t love you. I worship you.” Michael says to Lacey.
“That sounds like an honor for only God, my dear. But I’ll say this: You must be close to a perfect man.” says Lacey. “Or are you perfect?”
He laughs. “I’m not perfect.”
“I’m not sure I understand what love is anymore. But as long as I can be around you, I’ll be fine. Just don’t give yourself to anyone but me. …I wonder what I feel. Do I love you? Or do you just let me exist because you’re so kind?” She rises to meet him. “Oh golly, no, I love you.”
“En scene!” says Michael.
“I’m not ready to call us over. I might be someday. Not yet.” says Michael to Lacey.
A light from nowhere flies across the dark living-room like a firefly. In 2023. Past the fireplace.
“Alright!” yells Lem. “Time to go to bed.”
“Not so fast!” says Michael.
“I’m here.” says Lem.
“So what!” says Michael. “Lem, could you make the mistake of thinking it possible and arguably inescapable to worship Lacey?” He thinks. “I could. Are you that stupidly in love with her or is that just me?”
Lem looks pensive.
“Be wise.” says Michael.
“I am.” says Lem.
Michael looks slightly unconvinced.
“We should all seek God.” says Lacey.
Michael agrees. So does Lem. So does Louis.
“I’m here tonight. I’m sorry! That’s just the way it is.” says Lem.
“Is that what’s best?” asks Lacey.
“Yes!” says Lem.