The Sweet Satisfaction of Knowing the Answer: 2

by Miss Kitty E

Sean is on the freeway, going nowhere- literally going nowhere -traffic is at a dead stop. It's rush hour, anyway, but from the look of things, there's been an accident. The access roads are choked with people exiting, he has no idea which lane he should favor, and so he just sits. He and the engine idle, and he imagines leaving the keys in the ignition, getting out of the car and running.

He smiles bitterly at the thought, running past the impotent sports cars and SUVs, for all their potential speed, he could outrun them all now. He imagines running down and off the highway, where he'd change direction suddenly, and do something unthinkable, he would run perpendicular to the highway. Through neighborhoods he didn't know existed, past people he'd never known he was ignoring, and then out into the nothingness of the California desert. Just thinking about it is enough to ease the frustration of being so utterly still.

Eventually, his cell phone rings, a name showing up on the read out that it hadn't shown in a while.

He smiles despite himself, but answers the phone like he'd been expecting the call all afternoon. "Hey Elijah."

"I'm in an airport and I'm very bored," Elijah announces importantly.

"Heading home?"

"Yup," he says. "Well, back to New York, actually. We wrapped three days ago."

For a moment Sean finds himself without something to say. "All in all a good experience?"

"Mmhmm," Elijah says, a bit noncommittal. "Playing second fiddle to Mr. Metrosexual everyday was real nice. I mean, it leads you to appreciate the little things. For instance, I don't have to get my eyebrows waxed because I already look like a girl."

Sean laughs, "Well, what about de Paul?"

"He's as good a director as people say he is," Elijah admits. "But every time I needed to talk to him, he'd be too busy wanking off about how damn artful everything was." Sean laughs without meaning to. "All day long, wank, wank, wank. 'Action!' wank, wank, 'Cut!' wank, wank, wank. I was sure he was going to start chafing at some point, but he just kept on going."

Sean laughs and Elijah's deadpan delivery dissolves into giggles.

Eventually Elijah sighs and tells Sean, "Anyway, you should avoid him." Sean has to roll his eyes at that, young and up and coming directors do not mention Sean for their next project. Which is fine really, he's a legacy and has the old liners behind him most of the time. He says none of this, and Elijah introduces a new topic of conversation. "How's your mom, Sean?"

"Better," he says, immediately. "Yours?"

"Just fine, of course." Elijah does not press.

Sean tries to think of something to say, but he knows so little about Elijah's life right now, it's hard to know where to begin. "And Hannah?" he tries.


The silence after that strikes Sean as out of place. "Are you alright?"

The phone goes quiet for a second, and Elijah puffs a tired breath across the receiver. "Yeah, it's just- I guess I'm feeling a bit torn in two. Having your cake and eating it, too. 'S not easy. I've got friends in both places now, New York in LA." He laughs softly to himself, "What would be perfect, you know, is if we all just found a place in the middle."

"I'm not moving to Kansas, Elijah."

He laughs, "No, I didn't think you would." He laughs again, "It isn't anything big. I just want to go to New York and see my friends, but be able to see you, too, and everyone else I love."

Sean sees himself in doing just that, in New York, seeing Elijah, and he is surprised by how fiercely he wants it. He thinks of himself three thousand miles away from Los Angeles, knowing that so much would be the same there, traffic, and polluted air, and consumerism, but it would be different and that would be a start. In his mind's eye, he sees Elijah's face tipped slightly up at him, and smiling, and wants that, too.

The obligatory reasons why he can't have what he wants that Sean is usually so good at finding do not come to him. He is not filming, though he will be in a month. His current project is decidedly not coming together nicely. He has been home with his family consistently for several months. Elijah is clearly heading for a lull in his schedule if he's bothering to return home.

"Hey Elijah?" Sean asks suddenly. "What would you do if I came to visit you in a week?"

"Really?" Elijah's voice briefly hits a high pitch of excitement, and then quickly calms itself. "Well, I'd probably close up shop and hide out till you were gone." He breaks out into another giggle and Sean laughs with him.

"Oh okay. So I won't bother then?"

"Yeah, that'd probably be best."

"Okay," Sean should hang up now so that the joke is complete, but he lingers, smiling. "I can't wait," he admits.

"Me, too." Elijah's voice lifts a little, "God, it's been too long."

Sean makes a noise of agreement, it has been a long time. Almost a year and that is too long a time.

They're quiet again, but Sean is happy with it. His mind rushes ahead of him and starts finding the opening in his schedule, starts booking the midmorning flights.

"Well, get on it, Sean!" Elijah says suddenly. "I'm expecting you now, and I won't be disappointed."

"Okay, okay. I'll get the tickets bought and get back to you on the details, alright?" He smiles again, broadly. "I'll see you soon."

"You will. Bye, Sean."

Sean puts the cell phone back in his car's cup holder, and continues to sit in traffic, now with a smile on his face. He and his car are inert, but his mind is full of movement, and travel. He makes it home at long last after being routed off the stupid highway for two exits and then back on to get around an accident between two SUVs and an entirely crushed sedan. Sean does not let his mind wander away from his pleasant plans.

When he opens the door, Lizzy comes running up. He picks her up, and asks as if quite shocked, "What's this? A monkey in the house?"

She laughs and shouts, "No!"

The last of the tension, the kicked feeling in his chest breaks apart at the sound of his daughter's laughter. "A kitten, then? A giraffe? A little goldfish?"

To each of these she replies, giggling, "No!"

Sean's heart briefly tips its face up to sunny optimism. Briefly, he feels that he is a good friend, a good father, and- when Christine comes into the front room, smiling broadly at them -a good husband.

"A hippopotamus then?" he continues questioning his daughter. "A blue bird? A puppy dog?"

Lizzy kicks her feet as he starts to tickle her with his free hand. "No, no, no!"

"Well, what are you then?"

"I'm a girl, Daddy!" she insists.

"Oh!" he says as if suddenly recognizing his daughter. He sets her down, "Well alright, run along."

With a final impish giggle she did, returning to whatever activity she'd left forgotten.

Christine comes up and kisses him, "You're in a good mood." She steps back to let him walk further in to the front room, but he pulls her back for another quick kiss.

She laughs, pushing him away playfully. "You must have good news, then?" Sean knows she is talking about the meeting he has just come home from. He had almost entirely forgotten it until now.

Sean shrugs off his blazer and folds it over his arm. "Not good news, not bad news. Middle of the road news."

"But you've got a good feeling?" she persists.

In truth, he doesn't, and he wonders why it is so important to her. Perhaps she is dreading being married to someone that peaked at thirty-one and didn't even know it. But that's a bit unfair, he realizes, when only an hour ago getting some financial backing was just as important to him. His mind is elsewhere.

"We'll see," he tells her. He toes off his shoes, using it as an excuse to break her gaze. "I talked to Elijah on the way home, actually. About visiting him."

Christine raised her eyebrows, "Oh?"

"Yeah, I was thinking of going to in that one open week, around the 25th."

She nods, seeming to have nothing to say for or against the idea. Her silence cuts into Sean's good mood, but asking her about it would be a mistake he's made too many times in this marriage.

"I'm going to go upstairs and take all this stuff off." He usually likes the feel of a business suit, but this one is rumpled from sitting in the car so long.

"Dinner's at six, if you plan on lying down."


Sean manages to hold onto his good mood for most of the evening. So glad to be content, he dwells on the feeling of it, rather than the reason. He puts Lizzy to bed, and checks to see that Ali is doing her homework. He goes downstairs and finds his wife standing straight-backed at the kitchen sink doing the dishes.

He comes up behind her and slips his arms around her waist. Sean is a small man, and Christine is only slightly smaller. Yet to see her, from time to time, next to a man of six feet or over, keeps him mindful of how tiny she really is. He finds her small waist in his arms and her sweet smelling hair under his nose immensely endearing.

She laughs softy at him, but keeps on with the dishes, rinsing and setting them aside for the dishwasher. "I'm glad to see you in a better mood," she says.

He feels suddenly guilty for all his melancholy. "I'm sorry."

She turns off the water, leaving a pan to soak, and dries her hands quickly on a dishtowel. "It's okay." She turns in the circle of his arms and Sean kisses her, fumbling to regain his tenuous happiness.

Her mouth yields agreeably under his, but she soon breaks away to finish up her chore, stooping to load the dishwasher. "Can you tell me what's been bothering you?"

That would be the question of the year, if Sean only knew how to answer it. He pulls a breath in to speak, only to exhale. He doesn't know. He is standing in a good home, with a good family, and a good career and he is not happy. He only knows that all the good things in his life cannot stop him from feeling dissatisfied.

Christine works under his silence for a while, filling the empty air with the clatter of plates, and cups, and silverware. He knows that his silence is aggravating her.

"I don't know," he says, finally.

He can tell by the way she sighs that is not the answer she wants to hear. She doesn't look at him, just stoops and finishes the dishes. "Is it really that bad, Sean? You used to be able to talk to me."

"I'm not holding anything back," he says defensively. If he could put it into words, he would.

"You know that's bullshit."

He spreads his hands helplessly, "I don't know what to say, alright? I haven't gotten it figured out yet."

"Gotten what figured out, Sean?" She looks at him finally, and her eyes search his face, his posture, everything.

He starts to get frustrated, as many times as he has said he doesn't have any answers she has asked a new question. "What to change, I guess. What needs fixing. I don't know what it is yet."

"Change?" she asks, looking almost insulted. "Something needs changing? Tell me, Sean, what exactly do you want to change around here?"

He begins to speak, but stops. He looks around him and sees a life so stable it can't be tipped one way or the other; a life full of soccer tournaments, and play dates, and lunch meetings, and filming schedules. He can also see Christine is still waiting for something concrete, but he can only look back at her.

Realizing he will give her no answer, Christine crosses her arms, rubbing her forehead tiredly. "Why does everything have to be so difficult with you?"

Sean finds himself wondering the same thing.

When Christine goes to bed that night, her back is turned towards him. Sean presses his lips together and starts to feel defeated. He wants desperately to talk to her, but has nothing to say. This rough spell in his life is a good thing, he tells himself. He will figure it out, and be better for it. That which does not kill him can only make him stronger, and Sean is pretty sure that he's not dying.

He isn't the biggest fan of flying actually. He's not afraid of it per se, he's done it too much to really be afraid. He can get on the plane, and fall asleep, read, or work, do any number of normal things, but at times his mind goes off on wild tangents. He remembers being eleven and flying to the East Coast with his mother, how she would always take his hand when they were taking off, or landing. He had asked her about it.

"If we go down this is how I want us to be found, holding hands."

It was probably Sean's first solid encounter with the concept of death, and it left its mark. He can't recall ever being given a good reason to fear for his life on a plane, but he always manages to think about death when flying. He tenses when the plane starts to move. His mind starts to elaborate on the idea of dying in a would-be tragic plane crash. For a moment he thinks quite sincerely on how awful it would be to leave so much unfinished, leaving Christine still angry with him, Elijah still expecting him. There is a morbid part of him that is very satisfied with his imagined melodrama.

The plane has taxied on the runway and is making that strange high-pitched whine of mechanic anticipation. Sean stops imagining his funeral and starts thinking about where he's going. He looks out the window over the generous belly of the CEO sitting beside him, nothing to see but grass and asphalt, which is beginning to blur.

For the first time in his life, he finds himself thrilled at the speed needed to achieve take off. It just goes faster and faster until a hundred tons of metal and two hundred people can be launched into the air. His stomach dips when the plane finally leaves the ground first mere inches than in feet.

Beneath him LA starts to shrink and fade, a sea of orange and gray rooftops, and the occasional sapphire swimming pool, streets full of cars, and air full of their exhaust. It slips further and further away until in the window there is nothing but sky. Sean settles back into his seat and tries to understand why he feels so suddenly happy.

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