A Record Year for Rainfall, Chapter 7
A Record Year for Rainfall is my second book, originally published in 2011.
Please note that the subject matter in this novel can be pretty graphic.
Reggie Fane wiped his forehead with the hand towel. He stood in a washroom of a gas station three miles away from the speech, the key attached to a small plank of wood sitting on the side of the sink. The mirror was surprisingly clean, and he could see himself almost head to toe. He ran his fingers through his short, back-gliding hair. This morning, he’d woken nervous. He kissed his wife goodbye. He’d shaven. He’d read the Wall Street Journal.
In the gas station, he felt the bald spot that had begun to inch larger in the last year. He hadn’t paid much attention to it until recently, since he’d stepped down during that first, hollow speech. He remembered what he’d said.
“My fellow citizens,” he said. “I’m sorry. We’re all sorry. This is an unfortunate circumstance, and I cannot in good faith continue as your representative.”
He thought about the thing Album had told him, the semi-famous line everyone had said to themselves at least once.
Album, he said “Buddy, to be honest, you didn’t start representing the people of this fine state until you started fucking around.”
Fane didn’t have any problems with his first speech until a few days after when he’d read an article on Yahoo news that dissected it, declaring it a near-duplicate to congressman Hafferty’s resignation speech from 2003. Hafferty had gone through a similar disgraceful fall.
Fane held the bathroom key. It was firm, like it would last forever. He compared poorly.
# # #
Bret woke trying to remember his dreams, if he had dreamed at all. Breathing slow, blinking slow, Bret sat up and got off Album’s couch. He shuffled to the west-facing window, to the view. He yawned. He’d slept in.
He called album but got his voice mail. Album hadn’t come home, or answered his phone. He called Tess but hung up before the first digital ring. Finally, he looked himself in the mirror and decided he should clean the fuck up.
Bret spent the morning cleaning. He bagged all the loose trash. He windexed everything with a reflection. He took the elevator down and grabbed some pledge and a mop from the corner Walgreens. He went back up, pledged, and mopped. Album’s waste was too much to bear. He had to do something about it.
While he waited for the kitchen linoleum to dry, he looked at the 3x5 on the fridge. It was a shot he’d taken on Vancouver on the skyway. It was a picture of a sleeping couple, their bodies swaying with the train, their heads stuck together in the best low-jack cuddle Bret had ever seen. Their hands were full carrying shopping bags and. The woman held tight to a wrapped bouquet of poinsettias. They were so worn out that their heads collapsed on one another. They could wake up but they didn’t want to. All they could muster was their foreheads touching, but it was all they needed.
He’d taken it without their permission. He hadn’t woken them to see if it was okay. He just snapped.
# # #
Album cranked the stereo on his car. He fucking loved this song.
He smoked a thin joint. He wanted what was left of his stash to last all day. Album wasn’t a gambler. He didn’t celebrate prematurely unless he knew for certain what was going to happen. And the only way to do that was to make sure every outcome came out a winner. He had placed a big, grinning official picture of Fane up on the website. Right next to it was Bret’s picture of the former governor. Underneath, the text read: “two nights ago, Reggie Fane came by the headquarters of this site and had a sit down interview with Album Yukes. Although Mr Fane did not allow a tape recorder, he will apparently answer all of your questions at an impromptu press conference later today.”
For half of the day before, album was worried. He’d had the post up all morning, but no other news agencies had reported on the story until Fane himself announced it in a press release. No mention of Album’s site was mentioned on either FOX or CNN.
The fuckers, Album thought at the time. They never credit the bloggers.
# # #
Tess woke with a sleepy grin and a forgetting demeanor. She’d forgotten what had happened the night before. She’d forgotten her dreams. She’d forgotten the weekend job up ahead. She existed, for a pint of seconds, in no place, time, holding no responsibility over anything or anyone. This moment passed and then she remembered everything, which was a much worse moment to face in the morning.
Tess didn’t know how she got himself into these situations, sometimes.
# # #
Jenny slipped through the miles-long mall in Ceasars Palace. Eight stores out of ten were out of any sane persons budget, but it was nice to look at, to sample, to walk away with at least one luxurious item to fold at home among the rest, to know to treat that fabric just a little better, to wash it separately, with the delicates or even by itself. It’s always an extra half hour on laundry day to deal with the few pieces of expensive clothing. It’s an investment in time, not just money. But less and less did Jenny consider time to be much of a currency. She had it in oodles.
Even the stores that would be in any other mall, the fcuk, the Calvin Klein jeans, the browns and fossil, these stores held items most other malls couldn’t afford to stock. The $800 skirts, the $1000 watches were unique to the Caesars mall on this side of the country, let alone the clothing that actually had no price, where the accepted etiquette is to simply not ask before handing over the black plastic.
Jenny was wearing her flat shoes and a flowing, long skirt. Since leaving work, she hadn’t worn any of her professional clothes. She hadn’t charged her blackberry in three days. Her email was going unanswered in longer and longer stretches. She was doing what she considered her version of bumming around, and that included her flats, cute glossy black ballet-style shoes that had collected dust during the upswing in the campaign.
Jenny hazily shopped, viewing item after item, store after store. She picked up a reasonably priced pair of jeans. She almost bought a new pair if sunglasses. She enjoyed, more than anything else, the industrial sized air conditioning, pushing new faux air in her lungs. None of it was real, but none of it mattered.
Jenny browsed through a music store and noticed that they’d begun to sell video games and movies. The number of CDs on racks was dwindling. She leafed through a few of them. Jenny stopped at a Joel Plaskett album, a guy that Bret had raved about seeing live with only 30 other people in Vancouver two years before. As she felt the hard plastic, she felt fir only the third time in her life a consumer sentiment: this product made her miss Bret and his winded ranting of indie pop music. She winced at it, though it might have just been a chill. It was freezing in this mall.
She told Bret to take everything they had. It had worked with the two other boyfriends she’d had. It was simply better in the long run to purge it all. It helped to have no reminders, even if it meant losing something. After a few weeks, she’d be okay. She could touch things they’d shared again, and she could work on creating new memories of the things she wanted to like again. She would watch the same movies she liked in the relationship with her sister, and that movie would become a memory for the two of them. She did the same for music, for television, for pictures.
Jenny decided she would begin this process with Plaskett, because she really liked him and wanted him for herself. She didn’t want Bret to take this one away.
Jenny slipped aimlessly through the mall at Ceasar’s Palace, fulfilling the oft-lame stereotype of shopping whilst an emotionally distant zombie. She hated herself for it. She was just looking at things with no real impetus to buy. First, she had no money with which to buy anything, and for second had nobody to wear anything for. She was out of a job for the first time in her life. Shopping made Jenny lonely, which made her feel somewhat insane. The simple fact of looking at items of clothing made her pregnant with a longing for a month ago, to when she had a boyfriend who hadn’t betrayed her and a still-closeted boss. She found herself missing Bret of all people. She should miss Reggie, but she didn’t. He had never lied to her. He had never been someone he wasn’t.
She knew what had been going on behind shut motel doors in the middle of town. Of course she wished she hadn’t known anything. She knew republicans like Reggie had nothing against gays and were pretty often gay themselves, but kept their images up for the paranoid racist vote. She was fully aware of everything that was planned for the state. Reggie’s entire campaign was going to come true. He had the budget balanced. He was going to pledge money to schools and community centers. He was going to pass several gambling awareness initiatives, which would have aided the cities’ effort in eliminating even more of its sordid past. Most importantly, he was going to rid the city of its underground homeless, the people who lived off the cities’ excess in the canals. It was going to be a bold and brave two years in the seat, but. Nobody came to Vegas to gamble anymore. They came because it was the new Disneyland. He needed to get these initiatives passed. But it would probably never happen now, because Reggie’s entire political legacy would be completely forgotten in favor of one story and one photograph.
Jenny found a Sony store simply because it was there. She perused the mp3 players. She glanced at the digital cameras and remarked on how quickly hers had been made obsolete. She had only bought one last year, and already the new ones got it done twice as well. She wondered what a megapixel was, and decided she didn’t care. She saw the TVs, and saw that four of them were on CNN. One TV had closed captioning, and she saw Reggie’ s name scroll past. And then she saw him, tapping a microphone, smiling, and giving everyone that signature motherfucker eye that she’d taught him on the campaign.
# # #
Fane flicked at his 3x5s, peering at the typed font, instinctively worrying about his pacing, where he’ll take a breath, a beat. He printed the cards out at home the night before. Fane sat twenty feet away from the podium backstage, behind the curtain. The crowd was buzzing. It wasn’t like a rock concert crowd. He’d anticipated a much smaller group of journalists, bloggers, and the people who just like to be present at presentations like this, just in case anything historic happens.
But he could definitely hear them, and if he didn’t know any better he would have to think that as the time for him to speak the crowd bristled and grew monstrously loud. Maybe it was in his head, his ego creating a scene that wasn’t there. The cards in his hands told a much different story than his older cards.
“Sir,” a voice said from behind Fane. “Are you ready?”
“I thought I had another twenty minutes.”
“CNN says they’ll have to cut you off if you go over 15 minutes if we wait until the hour. We’re trying to give you some extra time for questions.”
“Christ, what the hell for?” Fane asked.
“There’s a press conference in Iraq at noon, sir. They have to be live for that one.”
“Fuck,” Fane spit. “All right. You think there’ll be lots of questions?
“I don’t know sir,” the stage manager said. “But if you’re planning on saying what Yukes said you’re going to say, then yeah, you might want to take a few questions.”
“All right. I’ll be right there,” Fane said.
The stage manager gave a nervous high five. “Break a leg sir.”
# # #
Bret sat and thought about the night before, musing the sad notion of ex girlfriend rejection. It was a near-guaranteed transaction, he felt, like taxes. Ex girlfriends were usually pretty susceptible to moments of emotional vulnerability, and Bret often had the good timing to cash in. They were money in the bank. Or were they? Had he always just been lucky? Was Bret just the one unlucky asshole male who couldn’t make it work? Or was it just what Tess said? Was he so broken that everyone could tell, and everyone had given him plenty of distance. Still, he felt embarrassed being turned away from bumping familiar uglies. Whatever the case, Bret had struck out something large, and he felt one of the many emotional bottoms.
At the end of the day, his bedpost mark had been solid. Working a job he couldn’t actually talk about was eerily seductive to the residents of pothead café’s, which was something he didn’t understand but took full advantage of. He chalked it up to the basic attraction of opposites. He wore a suit and couldn’t disclose anything professional, which made it look like he worked for some shadow government organization, some real x-files type, which made him square and the enemy. And there were few things in life more attractive than sleeping with the enemy.
And here in Vegas, well. Being a man with a bevy of cameras and access to one of the most popular celebrity websites around had its apparent advantages. Bret recalled Trice and her protection of her sisters’ pride, and had on many occasions recalled how rare that was. More often than not, he had trouble keeping the attention grabbers out of the shots. He had a drawer at home full of business cards for models and actresses. He had just as many napkins with numbers with no names. Famous by association was high currency in this city. Bret remembered walking by so many well-paid working actors in Vancouver and simply not giving two shits. He rarely saw any display of external affection or devotion from random fans, either. But in Vegas, it was as if celebrities held cures for the plague. How big a difference tax laws made.
But Bret couldn’t have taken advantage of any offers. He was with Tess, and then he was with Jenny, and the whole time he’d been on Album’s orders anyway. What could he have done?
Bret felt sorry for himself, and he felt sorry for feeling sorry for himself, and when that feeling got ridiculous he turned on the television and saw the bright white mug of a man he’d ruined.
# # #
Reggie tapped on the microphone. He’d never actually done that before, but had always wanted to. Like a kid with an unopened Christmas present he didn’t quite understand the shape of. And he felt like a kid, at least twenty years younger. He felt butterflies that come with doing young, foolish things for the first time. He remembered his first kiss, and then the first kiss he actually wanted.
Reggie had given more speeches than he could count, but only three had been about his personal life. The first was over a month ago. It was a typical denial on CNN. The second, a week after, was his confession and resignation speech. It hadn’t been written by him; someone had handed it to him late one evening at his office in a sealed manila envelope. This third speech might be the last time cameras would come around. He knew how reporters worked. This was the last bit of everything he could possible deliver. He owed it to himself more than anything. He’d already apologized to the public, and to his wife, and to his team, even if nobody believed him. But he needed to come clean for himself, and to officially damn the consequences. That’s what Album had told him the night before last. Damn the consequences. The truth was more important than any aftermath. The truth created a new aftermath.
The cameras were fewer in number than last time. The rule of diminishing returns out in full force. Reggie didn’t see Bret anywhere. Was he even press, technically? He didn’t know. Where did bloggers figure into the system? Reggie sort of wanted him present, to bear witness to what he’d wrought. He wanted to illuminate one that he wasn’t the one-note hypocrite Bret knew him for. But Reggie remembered that Album had told him to forget Bret. He wasn’t as important as Reggie made him out to be.
Reggie heard his aid to the right say “whenever you’re ready, we’re ready.” He cleared his throat and began.
“Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming on such short notice. I’m sure you’re all very busy with news more important than mine, so I’ll keep this brief. As I stand before you, I feel more vulnerable than I’ve felt in my entire life. I’ve been truly humbled these last few weeks. I’ve received emails and letters from hundreds, maybe thousands of great Americans and residents of this great state, both in support and in disgust. I’ve read them all. I’ve had a lot of time. They’ve given me great courage, and I want to return the favor. I want to come out today, as myself, for the first time.
You’re probably all wondering what else there is to say. I mean, I was caught. I apologized. I quit. What else is there? I gave you my humiliation, and I had my wife stand by me as I told you how sorry I was for betraying yours and her trust. But I feel like the speech I gave was less about me and more about looking good for the party. I didn’t write it. Did you know that? I used to write all my speeches. I was good at it. And here I was, reading words designated to me. You deserved better from me. The blatant lack of discipline was untoward and disrespectful to my wife and to the great people of this state I swore to represent. The fact is: I should not have been fucking around on my wife. More to the point, I shouldn’t have had a wife in the first place. To jump straight to why I’m here: I am a gay man, and I’ve been living a lie. I am stating this in public, into a microphone, into cameras, because I want it to be a fucking statement.”
Reggie couldn’t have known, but CNN just green-lit fifteen more minutes to the segment.
Reggie kept going. The silent crowd fueled him.
“I felt betrayed by myself. I lived this lie to forward my political career. I was coached very early about keeping it hidden if I didn’t want to get shot. You have to understand, at least a little, about the time. I’ve been in politics since the seventies. When I first ran, I would have been killed. Certainly. I was afraid of being found out, so I got married. That was part of the deal. And don’t read this as saying I don’t care about my wife. She is the love of my life. I respect her dearly, and she deserves far better than me. I can’t lie to her anymore. I can’t put her through this any longer.
“I regret so much. Supporting policies that infringed on the rights of minorities. Stating for the record that homosexuality was a sin. Buying into the belief system of extremists. I hated myself, but I knew I had to keep my career. I know part of this will seem hollow. Oh, he’s only doing this because he got caught, because he lost everything. And you know what? It’s probably true. I would have just kept going on. But the fact is, we’re all going to get caught sooner or later. These bloggers and journalists are getting better everyday. We can’t keep these secrets anymore. It’s a new time. The new normal is that if you’re a closeted man in the public sector, you will be found out. These guys are just too good. They don’t know the same boundaries the old journalists did. They don’t respect your privacy, or your place in society. And you know what? That might be a good thing.”
Reggie knew he was backhandedly complimenting the men who took him down, but that was sort of the point. He considered it the gentleman thing to do.
”These guys are getting really good at their jobs, so maybe it’s time we got really, really good at ours. We were supposed to be public servants, and I see no reason to hide who we are. Besides, it’s 2006. It’s the future, for God’s sake. It’s ridiculous for us to still be wrestling with these trivial pieces of bullshit anthropology. But it’s easy for me to say because I’ve been caught, right. Well, it’s easy to forget what I’ve lost. But I stand before you all a thousand percent more confident as to my own identity than I have my whole life. And that might not sound like any kind of trade, but I gotta say, it’s something. It’s more. Thank you. And hey, who knows. Maybe this can start something. A dialogue, something along those lines. Because it’s about all of us.”