|"Same Day, Different Universe"
Disclaimer: Jason Katims, the WB, Melinda Metz and who knows who else owns
these characters, the show, the books, and a whole lot of other stuff. Me , I
just own a homebrew computer with a flaky power supply. No infringement
intended or desired. This is a work of parody/satire.
Summary: Yet another take on what might have happened if someone else had been saved in the Crashdown on September 18, 1999.
Authors Note: There will be a second story in this series with yet a different choice being made, and another variation on the theme.
|Journal of Maria DeLuca
September 23, 1999
My name is Maria DeLuca. You are SO not gonna believe this, but five days ago, I died. Yes, like, DIED. As in worm food. I can just see the new-age funeral my mom would have put on. No, not a funeral - a "celebration" of my life. Yeah, right.
So, like I was saying, today is September 23, and five days ago, I, well, you know...and that's when the REAL weird-fest began.
Journal of Maria DeLuca
Now I'm going back to tell you about that day.
September 18, 1999
Omigosh, the customers are all PMSing on me today. Some trashy redneck guys are over at table 3 going postal over something. Maybe their Sigourney Weavers weren't done enough and they're arguing over who's gonna die of e-coli first. Who knows? And if the usual truckers pulled off 285 and the various townies aren't enough, well we've got the upcoming Crash Festival to deal with, too, you know. Hold on a minute...let me unscrew the top...AHHH, cedar oil has this really great calming effect.
Anyway, we're seeing the first pilgrims arrive here at the Shrine of Roswell. Lourdes, this ain't, but they don't seem to GET IT. You know the type I'm talking about, those UFO nut types like crazy Milton over at the UFO Center...but some of the folks were getting today make Milton look as sane as Carl Sagan. Look at THAT couple. That guy is a complete geeko loser, and the woman with him...that lipstick's gotta go. It's all greeny-black, like my thumb was after I shut it up in the Jetta last June. And that hint of green reminds me of Kyle Valenti's face after a keg party. Sheesh! At least they're Liz's table.
Speaking of Liz, I need to go into the back for a second and get two Uranus Chocolate Malteds for Table 5....Yeah, Uranus. (Of course, even I know you say YUR-unus but let me have the laugh, okay? I need it.) Guess Mr. Parker must've been getting mellow to one of those old Grateful Dead LPs upstairs when he printed up the menus. Oh, well, now who's at the door? More freaky UFO worshippers or unwashed truckers? Just what I need.
Omigosh...Cedar Oil, where is my Cedar Oil when I need it? [Inhaling deeply.] Ani, It's not WORKING! It's NOT WORKING! It's them. Or, rather, it's him. I gotta lead up to this slowly so I don't freak. Liz, my best friend, shell tell you I freak often and audibly. The "them"- I was talking about? The Three Musketeers, I like to call them, if Musketeers could be dressed by Tommy Hilfiger. They're always together. Well, okay, today there are only two of them but you know what I mean.
The first one, that big tall guy, Michael Guerin - he like hardly never comes to school, and when he does, half the time he acts like an ass to the teachers if he doesn't just flat out go to sleep in his seat. He is cute, but his hair reminds me of some of my mother's old boyfriends. Only THEY tended to accent the hair with chains. Not to mention the motorcycles and the tude. Old Mikey over there looks like HE might wear chains, even if he isn't right now. Been there, done that. I am SO over it. This is not your father's Oldsmobile; old Michael over there IS the reincarnation of my mother's worst dates. Cute, but I'm not even gonna.
Then there's Isabel. Isabel Evans. She's not with them today, but she usually is. That is one cold personality, I kid you not. She makes okay grades, I mean, not like Liz or anything, but nothing like mine either. I mean, I take shop, you know? With Isabel, it's like she's got this whole Stephanie Seymour thing going - only she's built more like Marilyn Monroe, with the height of a runway model. And she's blonde. Not Nice-n-Easy blond #12A like me. We have P.E. together so trust me, I know. She's a natural blonde. Enough said. Isabel's almost too beautiful to be beautiful, if you know what I mean? Like, there's gotta be something boring about perfection, right? Wrong. At least 3/4 of the male population of West Roswell High School would do anything to get five minutes in the Eraser Room with her. As if any of them has a dog's chance.
Hah. Now the moment's come; I can't avoid it any longer. Now we come to HIM. Maybe I should even draw it out to H-I-M. That's more like it. Yeah. H -- I --M. He kinda fills a room, you know? Yeah, okay, so it's Isabel's brother, Max Evans. He's got this incredibly glossy and sleek chocolate hair and big, liquidy chocolate eyes - I mean, they could've been color-matched at Sherwin Williams or something. Body like a sculpture by Praxiteles. Surprised I know about Praxiteles? Well, don't be. Ms. Triggett made us take an Art History overview in our Sculpture and Pottery class last year, so I know my Greek statutes. And Max Evans is one.
Except for the straight hair.
I know what he looks like because I saw him working out once in the football players' gym one time - just through the window, of course. And those baggy clothes he wears - it's like he's hiding his light under a bushel. It's kind of endearing, really, not like the raw maleness of a Michael Guerin. Know what I mean? In short, he's absolutely beautiful and every time I see him I have this urge to lick my lips. Stupid, huh? Or is it STUPID? That's why I wear flavored glosses, you know. So I don't get chapped lips from nervousness. Really! And Max doesn't even suffer from his sister's one fault - her perfection. Max Evans is no Ken doll. He has this one flaw - huge, weirdly shaped ears - but I swear to you, they only make him more interesting. When I see his ears I think of carrots - and I want to turn into Bugs Bunny. Ok, so even my use of metaphor is weird. I'm weird. You'll just have to Deal.
Now here's why I need the Cedar Oil, okay? He's walking in with just that little hesitant catch to his steps like he's afraid he doesn't really belong here, won't be accepted here. He has that guilty slouch about the way he moves like I used to have when I used to sneak by Kyle Valenti's house on the way home from school WAY back when I was in the seventh grade. Yeah, okay, I had a huge crush on Kyle back then. Lets just say that's in the past. Long gone. And don't you EVER tell.
See, it's like this. He's walking in here with that shyboy slouch because he's in love with Liz. Comes in here like twice a week, always orders an Alien Blast and slips Tabasco on it when he thinks nobody's looking. See, I told you he was interesting. But I also just told you he's in love with my best friend.
How do I know that? Well, it's those melty chocolate eyes of his - the way he looks at her - and he's ALWAYS looking at her - as if she were his soulmate and if only he could dare to walk up to her, maybe things would be different. But he can't. He knows he can't. That's the feeling I get. Weird, no?
Hold on, Liz is showing the ugly-lipstick couple her famous, patented alien photo. Liz Parker, Honor Student, Love of Max Evans's Life - showing freaky people her freaky photo. Does that strike you as kind of mean, somehow? Nah, it's just - surprising, that's all. "I guess it's okay if I show you this...." she's talking just above a whisper. I swing by her table and give her the eye, just to let her know what she's doing and that I'll rag her later about it.
Just a minute. Gotta swing by those smelly Deliverance rejects again at Table 3. "Refill?" I ask.
"No. Get out of here," one of the Neanderthals growls. I get out of there. "Hmmph."
On my swing back through the tables towards the back, I chance one more look over at the tasty Mr. Evans. Tasty? Did I say "tasty"? Wouldn't I like to know. Anyway, I might as well not have bothered. He's looking at Liz again. Big surprise. And I know what he's thinking.
So...how DO I know what Max Evans is thinking? I mean, I'm not The Amazing Kreskin or anything. Simple. I know what Max Evans is thinking because I'm always looking at him - when I think it's safe. When no one will notice. And I see reflected in his eyes and the way he carries himself that he feels all of the same longings for Liz that I feel...okay, out with it, grrl...for him.
You stop me and say, come on, DeLuca, get real. You're a waitress at the CrashDown Cafe with a single-paren't family. You used to get subsidized lunches when your mom's shop wasn't doing too well. You're a dyed blonde with a funky haircut and too much lip gloss. You wear the female's equivalent to the Dreaded Gold Chain around your neck - a "Maria" necklace - and it isn't even plate, it's just painted surgical steel. Max Evans is a lawyer's son. In fact, I think both of his parents are lawyers. He's gorgeous - and I'm pixie-cute in a weird-girl sort of way. If pixies can be a little over-ripe with pouty lips. He's an Honor Student and I take BOE and shop.
Can you say out-of-my-league? Plus, there's the major problem - he loves Liz. And worst of all, I think Liz is attracted to him too, although she'd never admit it. But I know it and so, I've gotta go tell her. Here goes the patented Maria smile, with a matching twinkle in my eyes, of course.
I catch Liz on the way back to the coffee pots and I know it's time to let her have it about the tourists. And to tell her about Max.
"You are SOOO bad, grrl..." I say, but there's no anger in my voice. Bright and cheery, that's Maria. Here goes...
"...oh, and Max Evans is staring at you again." I'm walking in front of her now and, just for a minute, I can let the fake smile fade.
Here she comes. "No way," she protests. As if ANY guy wouldn't stare at Liz Parker. I mean, except for Isabel Evans and maybe Vicki Delaney, she's by far the prettiest girl in school. She may work at the Crashdown, too, but...her parents own it. Her Grandma Claudia is semi-famous. So Liz's like the town princess or something. I mean, if Liz Parker were to highlight her hair, it'd make the front page. Well, anyway.
We talk about it for a few seconds and I keep my spirits up. Liz Parker is my best friend and I would do ANYTHING for her. And this icky feeling is GONNA pass.
Now she's talking about Kyle. "...I'm going out with Kyle. He's steady and loyal and...he appreciates me."
Lord, does my smile look as fake as it feels? I've gotta come out with one of those patented Mariaisms.
"Sounds like you're describing a poodle," I retort. But that's when things fall apart.
The heat today is monstrous and the waves of it coming through the kitchen window are like the breezes coming out of a Bosch hell-mouth. (Art history again, my dear). Here I am, Maria the STUPID PATSY of ALL TIME, running over to tell my best friend that the guy I secretly love is staring at her. Again. Like I said, STUPID. I feel nauseated and dizzy and I just want to lie down, to get away from this situation of lying to my best friend. But I do it twice a week, at least. Why is it bothering me so bad today? Must be the heat.
Anyway, Liz notices that something's wrong with me. Table 9 is screaming for whatever it is they ordered. Table 9, that's me. Another bunch of quarter-tippers if ever I saw them. And here I stand, wobbling on my feet like I'm gonna faint or something equally stupid.
"Maria, don't worry," she says, I'll take care of Table 9." And she does, neatly and efficiently and delicately. She takes the coffee mugs out of my hand and glides across the room, like it was a runway or something. Like she does everything else.
It's loud as a rave in here as it is but right now, at this particular moment, it sounds like that fight over at table 3 has really heated up. I'd better stop leaning against the counter like some kind of deadwood and take a look.... Maybe I need to call the sheriff...
Gunfire explodes and for just a fraction of a second I smell it. Stuff stinks, you know, smells like blood. Ohmi...
Then there's a crushing blow to my chest and nothing more. Not even a white light.
* * * Max Evans's thoughts * * *
I hear the gunshot before anyone else in the Crashdown.
Helpless as a bird in a cage, I sit and watch Maria DeLuca fall to the ground in her awful aqua uniform, blood wicking up around her chest like a red flower blooming suddenly in one of those time-lapse biology films.
I stand up. I've got to go to her! Then Michael grabs my arm.
"Max, what are you gonna do?" he asks, as if he doesn't know.
Shrugging him off, I walk right past Liz Parker, who's running towards the back counter. I stop her. "Call an ambulance."
I hear all of the reasons why not in my head. Maxwell, you CAN'T. But I have to. I run over to where Maria's lying on the ground. It looks pretty bad. No, it looks worse. She's going to die if I don't do something.
The top half of her, fortunately, is mostly hidden by the drink counter. Fleetingly, I look back and I see Michael holding the curious crowd at bay.
Then there's no more time. I have to look at her...
"You have to look at me, Maria", I whisper as I put my hand over the bullet wound. Her eyes are glazed...she's going fast if not already gone. But if I can make that connection, maybe...maybe I can save her. I go into myself, first, into that part of my brain that inexplicably understands the movement and nature of tiny bits of matter. I feel the energy welling up in the center of my brain, threading down my right arm like water down a straw. Into her. Into Maria.
Then I'm inside her. I can't explain it; I'm just inside her. My spirit into her body. Her spirit. Maria DeLuca, of all people. I nudge as the power slides into her, nudge and feel, somehow, the bullet lodged in her chest. Whatever kind of gun the man used, it hit her with enough force to crack her sternum before it dragged through and dug its way up into the top of her left breast. There it is. I pull and pull but it won't come out. This part should be easy. It's just a bullet, nothing like flesh. Should be so easy...
I feel some more and I sense, as if I were the bullet, the fatty tissue of her breast surrounding it, sealing it off. It's not in her heart. I would have felt that immediately. But there IS something wrong with her heart. As if a voice were calling me, leading me, I direct my attention to the bones at the center of her chest. It's as bad as I feared - her sternum was broken and a fragment of bone has torn into - well, there's this really large vein or artery right by her heart, I don't know which, and that fragment has pretty much ripped it into shreds. No! It's even worse than I thought. Blood,redness, everywhere, suffusing me, sapping away that bright little spark that says "Maria" as loudly as the cheap and cheery necklace she's always wearing.
Pulling a foreign object out of someone's body isn't that hard, you know. Bullet aside. Especially if it's inorganic because the molecules are so different...but this.... healing bones and blood and vessels...
I have to tell you I healed a bird, once. It had a broken wing and it was just going to die if I didn't do something. My mom was videotaping us playing in the yard but I couldn't help it...I had to heal that bird. Something called to me. As Maria is calling to me, now. Maybe it's because she's so like that wounded little bird. I dunno. If I hadn't healed that bird, I couldn't have done this now.
I feel the bone. Under my hand, I call it to me, dissolve it somehow in a way I again can't explain, and then reconstruct it back into her sternum. It's whole, now. But that blood vessel...I push and pull with all the power that flows down my arm, knitting the cells back together as I call the blood that's pooling underneath the bones of her chest, down into her abdominal cavity, to run back into the channel while there's still time. While there's still an opening...
I'm losing her. I'm doing everything I know to do and I'm losing her. The artery has been knit back together; I've reoxygenated and decontaminated the blood and put it in the right place. It's circulating through her now...or it should be. But her heart's not beating. Then I feel something else. Something that calls me deeper in than I've ever gone before, deeper even than Michael and Izzy and I used to go into each other.
Where the fleeting surface thoughts should be, there's nothing. There's just a shadowy sense of that bright, cheery little spark I told you about before that says Maria -- and she's hiding from me.
I look down at my watch. Five seconds have passed. Five seconds. And it feels like five hours, five days, five weeks. I'm so tired. And always in the back of my thoughts, in the periphery of my awareness, there is Liz, standing beside me with stricken eyes, waiting for the ambulance to come, praying that her friend will live. I'm no mind reader but when someone is broadcasting emotion that strongly, I can't help but feel it. Six seconds.
In I go again, forcing myself past the barriers she is putting up, forcing myself down like a scuba-diver, feeling the pressure to GET OUT increasing.
But I have to go down further. I have to reach her. "Maria," I whisper into her mind, "Maria."
And suddenly there she is. It's not like I can grasp her hand and pull her back, but somehow I am touching her, and the sensation is as tactile as stroking the belly of a kitten. Warm and soft and bright. Touch and sight rolled into one - but neither, really. There is a rush of images flipping past in what must be nanoseconds, if the brain can work that quickly, but they seem to run as smooth and rich as a VistaVision movie right into me. But unlike any movie I've ever seen, I'm actually IN it, experiencing it, like the boy in that Arnold Schwarzenegger film my parents took me to years ago.
It's 1989 and I'm at Child Social Services. My mother and father have had a fight and some neighbors called the police. My aunt filed something with the court and now I'm here and all of these doctors are interviewing me, asking me funny questions about does my daddy hit my mommy and does he do things to me that he shouldn't? I don't understand. I just want to go home. All my parents ever do is yell and throw things. They don't hit each other. They don't hit me. They're just loud. And the Rudenbachers called the police because Mr. Rudenbacher works 3-11 and he's dead tired.
I'm here at Child Social Services and because they came in and got me so late, I'm in an old nightgown that has Cabbage Patch Dolls drawn badly on the front. My slippers are worn and, in places, my right toes stick through. It's after midnight but the fluorescent lights are blazing. Looking down at my nightgown and my old shoes, for the first time in my life, I feel ashamed. I know what poor means. I've heard the word "trash" before and I think maybe that when you're poor, some people call you that. I feel sick to my stomach, like Ive eaten something bad. Or swallowed blood, like when you have a really bad cold and your sinuses bleed. Maybe that's what shame feels like. That's what I feel.
But now...I feel someone watching me as I'm sitting out in the hallway waiting for a counselor to come and put me into something they call the girls' ward. I hope that means there's a bed and I can sleep. Maybe it's the counselor watching me to make sure I'm not a bad girl. But it's not the counselor. It's not a woman or even a girl at all. It's a little boy. A little boy with the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen, brown as Hersheys Chocolate and all warm and liquidy-like. Like if I touched them, they would be soft under my finger. But I wouldn't do that. It might hurt him.
"Hello," I whisper, because I have this feeling that the boy shouldn't be wandering around here. Adults never let us just wander around and do what we want; not even my beautiful daddy.
The boy just continues to look at me; he doesn't speak. I don't know why, but he reminds me of my little neighbor Bodie, whose daddy beats him up real bad and he's afraid to tell anybody except me. He's little, only three, and when he comes over, sometimes I hold him and rock with him in the rocking chair while he cries. I ask him to tell Mommy but he won't and I don't know what to do.
But this boy, here, there aren't any brown places or red scratches on him like Bodie gets, so I guess he isn't hurt. Somehow, though, he seems all broken or worn out or something, like my old Tiffany doll. So I pretend he's Bodie - though he's much bigger - and I pull him up onto the bench beside me and hug him until we both start crying. And just like Bodie and me, he knows how to cry without making any noise.
At some point, he reaches over and takes his hand and turns my face towards him. His big brown eyes are right up in my face, but I'm not scared. I know he isn't going to hurt me.
And then he moves his other hand onto the other side of my head and I feel something I don't understand, but it doesn't hurt. It feels good, like petting my cat, Candy. She's what they call a Hemingway cat - she has six toes on each foot. Or my dog, Ralphie. He's just got paws.
We sit like that for a minute and then I feel him pull away. He's still looking at me but were not touching or anything. "Hi," I say again, "my name's 'Ria. Ma-ria. What's yours?"
"Maria," the boy says, barely a whisper, and I know he's not answering my question. I ask him again, "What's your name?"
Slowly, he looks up at me and there's the funniest look on his face, like he's really really scared or something. "I - don't - have -a name," he says, so slowly it's like he's saying the words for the first time. I almost don't understand what words he is saying. Even then I don't understand. How can a boy not have a name?
A boy without a name, I think, and I look down at my shoes. Suddenly, they don't seem so bad anymore, but then I can't see them too well because I am crying for this boy who doesn't have a name.
"You will," I said, and looked up at him, putting that special smile my Mommy likes so much on my face. Then I'm rewarded with the sweetest, happiest smile I've ever seen.
"I will," he said. Then he patted my hand and walked around the corner as silently as he had come.
* (Still Inside)
I reel from the shock of it for a second but then realize I can't let her see my reaction. Was that her memory or my memory - or both? I had buried it somewhere, but now I remember it as if it happened yesterday. Maria DeLuca!
She was the one who taught me what human words were, even if she - or I - didn't know it at the time. I just remember feeling safe with her, safe as I'd never felt since I'd been separated from my sister at Child Services while awaiting placement. I just remember a voice in my head - not in English or in any language I could understand now - telling me that it was okay to touch her, that she would help me understand.
At six years old, Maria had let me into her mind completely. Had I never met her, I doubt if all of the counselors and child psychologists in the world could have made me understand this language, this place I was in, this species. If I hadn't met her that night and then taught Isabel, would we live at Murray Lane today? Would we live with somebody like Hank? Or would they just have locked us up somewhere? I can't imagine what it would have been like. And I know this memory is coming from the very deepest part of Maria - I doubt she even remembers it, even in dreams.
** (Still Inside)
There's a sudden nudge upwards and outwards and now the images are coming faster even subjectively.
I see only glimpses...and this time they are quite plainly mixed in with my own memories. This has never happened before, not even with Iz. Not at the same time.
I see myself as an eight-year-old boy, getting off the bus to attend my first day at real school, even though it'll be third grade. I'm lost and alone for a moment and then Iz comes off the bus behind me. Max and Isabel, now. Max and Isabel Evans. We have a mom and a dad and we live on Murray Lane.
Me at ten, just back from the vacation to Florida, all sunburned, with my skin peeling, walking down the hall to Mr. Fisher's fifth grade class. I should look terrible - I feel terrible - but I know suddenly that I am seeing myself through her eyes - Maria's eyes. I am - can I use the world beautiful? That's how I look in her mind.
Me at thirteen, working out quietly in the gym after the JV players have left, so I don't get beat up or Melvined. My biceps ripple as I pull the weight up. I look like some kind of statue by Praxiteles. I've never looked like that. They weren't - and aren't - so large and so perfect. In fact, I've always worn baggy clothes because I'm ashamed of my body - though I'll never admit that.
Me sometime last summer - but not the last summer that I remember. I am in the part of Maria's mind that daydreams.
Maria and I are on a beach lying on plastic chaises, pushed up right next to each other. I am looking at myself. My body has never looked like this. I'm the normal teenage guy, okay, but I've never felt this surge of desire for - my own body. Then I remember, I'm not myself. I'm Maria.
I'm rubbing oil over my pectoral muscles and down onto my abs and then I'm sitting over myself, leaning down to kiss myself and then my breasts(!) move against my own naked chest and suddenly, I'm looking into chocolate brown eyes and touching my plump lips (that are NOT my own lips) tentatively to my own lips. It is the sweetest kiss I have ever known. Our eyes lock and everything blanks out but us, and what we are doing.
Me as I am now, coming into the Crashdown looking like someone in a Tommy Hilfiger commercial, only I'm slouching and casting secret glances at Liz whenever I think nobody's looking. Beautiful Liz. If only...
** (The Reckoning)
I feel -though it is not my feeling - a short, sharp jolt of sadness, like a Band-Aid stuck to a wound being ripped off, then a soft, sore kind of hurt, like a bruise that's been around for a while but still hurts. Resignation, I guess. And then, finally, a resurgence of the bright, cheery little spirit so like that little bird from seven years ago. And like that little bird when I first tried to help it, this one has a bite, too.
"NO!" I hear in my mind and I know I'm not the one speaking. "Please don't look anymore, Max - please. "
We are in this tight window of space that is not space, face to face although, at the moment, we have no faces. This is Maria, the kooky, take-no-prisoners best friend of the girl I love. Secretly. And all in that one instant I see that she knows my feelings, and I know that the longings I have for Liz, those soul-deep yearnings, she has - for me.
"I know," she says but does not say. "I don't expect you to love me. It's just that I can't bear it that you know how I feel about you. "
"Please," she says, and I know what she is asking for. And it's not the thing I can never give her. It's only - remember the story of Noah and his sons? One of them laughed at his nakedness and the others preserved his dignity in the only way they knew how.
"Please," she repeats, "do like you did before. When we were little. Just this part, just you seeing me - well, naked or whatever this is. But my feelings about you are my feelings and I have to deal with them. I just don't want to know that you know. Does that make sense?"
"So just do what you did before...just take away the weird part. If you don't, I'll never be able to face you again...big ears or not!"
Can a spirit smile? Always one for a parting shot, is Maria. But underneath that bravado and sarcasm, I feel her need and her desperate embarrassment, just as once - ten years ago, she felt my horrible loneliness and bewilderment. And the most incredible thing is that she's not even asking what I'm doing inside her mind. What I'm doing to her body, how I knit muscle and bone and vessel back together. She just - accepts it. I know to a certainty that no one else in Roswell would do this. Of all people, flaky Maria DeLuca. She will never ask. She will never tell.
But she'll always want to know. Just as - she will always want me. As I will always want Liz. So I know what I have to do. Because of the bird. Because of that tacky, cheap necklace and the bright spirit inside. I'd do more if I could - take away the feelings I can never return - but that would be almost like violating her, killing a part of her. Playing God in a way that goes beyond healing a bullet wound.
Besides, she asked me.
|Index | Part 2
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