After days of exchanging little more than daily pleasantries usually reserved for mere acquaintances and grunts of acknowledgement, I finally decided to sit Finn down and dive in. we can’t spend the rest of our lives not talking about what’s really going on.
Dinner is unusually dull and awkward. Lila attempts to include Finn and I in the jokes and stories David tells, obvious to any negativity around him, but I’m half-listening, waiting for Finn to finish eating so we can leave. Finally, with the type of sigh that’s become all too familiar to my ears, Finn sets his fork down and pushes back his tray. Only slightly aware that David is in the middle of describing yet another holographic game, I quickly say, “Well, see you guys later,” grab Finn’s hand and make for the door.
“Uh, we’ll take your trays, I guess,” David says to our quickly departing backs.
“Great, thanks!” I shout without looking back.
It is a mark of how much Finn has changed that he doesn’t question our abrupt leave or our destination. Of course another explanation could be that after over ten years together – five of them spent going to the Deck a few times a week – he knows exactly what I’m up to.
Banking on the second explanation for Finn’s silence, I lead him to the secondary entrance to the Deck, yank it open, and march over to our usual spot. The color on the tile has been worn from years of our pacing, sitting, and standing in the same five foot space along the outside wall.
Standing facing him I finally and sharply break the silence. “So, are you going to tell me what’s been going on with you lately?”
Finn stands in a posture of defeat and refuses to meet my eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he mumbles to his feet.
“Oh, you don’t? You don’t know what I’m talking about?” I’m inches from him now and practically shouting. When he still has nothing to say I reach up to shove his left shoulder. “What? Are you still moping around because your job’s hard?” It’s harsh I know, but I’m desperate enough for a glimpse of the old Finn, the Finn I know, that I’ll try anything.
It works. “Yeah, Grayson,” he shouts back at me. “I’m moping around because my job is hard. I’m a pouty baby hoping my perfect pair will notice and take pity on me. My life revolves around getting your attention.”
For a moment I am caught off guard and even thrown back a few paces by his rage. Internally grateful for any kind of emotional expression, I step toward him again. “I never said it was, Finn. I just want to know why you don’t feel like you can talk things out with me. I mean, have you talked to anyone?”
I’m calmer now, but Finn is just getting started. He asks loudly, with bitterness and defeat in his voice, “Since when has talking helped anything, Grayson? Talking to you about the stuff I see every day, dragging out how it all makes me feel so we can – what? Analyze it together? It just makes it harder to forget and after seeing almost everyone in the Commonwealth on their very worst days, that is all I want to do. Forget.”
He’s pacing now and although I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten I’m there, his mind and eyes are focused elsewhere. I wait for him to continue, scared now that if I interrupt he’ll never start up again.
“You think I should talk about how I feel? Talk about how I’m the only guy on Auxiliary who seems to have trouble coping with things? Who should I talk to? You? You don’t get it, with your Office job on the Screens all day. David? All he wants to talk about is holographic games and how great it is to be in Covenant – I’m telling you, he’s told me stuff about his relationship with Lila nobody outside the two of them should ever hear.”
My eyebrows raise at the mention of Lila and David’s private life, but I stay quiet.
“Then there’s Lila herself,” Finn continues, “who’d never believe anything could exist in this world that isn’t pretty or useful. Yeah, like I could burst her bubble. And my dad? Oh, my dad is the worst person to talk to. Because I tried, you know. I thought, ‘Surely my old man will listen to me and sympathize. Surely my own dad will have some answers.’ But you know what he said when I told him I was struggling? ‘Buck up!’ Yeah, that’s right. ‘Just get through it! Focus on the positives!’ Yeah, easy for you to say, dad. Your life is full of positives. What do you have to ‘get through?’ What do you do all day while I’m holding together the Commonwealth? Sit in front of the Screens watching nothing happen? Go for a walk or two around the Deck? Chat with a Shield-Helper? At least I’m doing something with my life. I may be miserable but at least I’m making a difference.” Finn scoffs. “’Focus on the positive.’ Yeah, easy for him to say. His job is a piece of cake.”
Finn stops pacing and looks over at me as if daring me to say something. When I don’t, he walks out the door and I just watch him go.
“Well, I wanted him to talk,” I say quietly to myself.