And Reality Bites Back
by nailbunny617

In that moment, I could've been whoever I wanted to be. I could have told stories to strangers about my life, making it somehow different and fuller and more exciting. I could have talked about all the things I only wish I was -- like cunning, caring, warm, funny, and brilliant. I could've done that, and after telling those tales, I could've taken what I wanted without asking. It would have been mine; it would have gone without saying, my night ending with a body writhing in time with mine.

I could have, but I didn't. Instead I did what I always do; I sat there quietly at the bar and watched everyone else interact.

I'd see her, sometimes, when she wasn't there. In a smile. In the flick of hair. In angry, flashing eyes and bitter smiles. I'd catch a glimpse and stare and eventually she'd disappear, she'd fade into the reality I'd escaped for a second.

The choice had always been mine, just like that night, to talk or stay silent -- I always choose silence. It extended to my entire life. I found company, solace, and understanding in the dead of night, with blue and red strobe lights flicking restlessly at the dark. The graveyard shift was invented for souls like me.

There was something that always struck me about books, about movies, about music. So much passion and feeling and honesty and much. So much everything. When I open a book, I become so immersed that I sometimes forget who I am. The pictures, the people, and the scenery I see in my mind are much more real than the real world ever is.

Or that was how it worked until I met her.

Suddenly a life where people had used words like genius, words like awkward, and words like shy seemed discordant. Not enough. I used to take pride in my abilities, in my talents, but none of it seemed to matter anymore.

And my world started to look even bleaker without my primary escape. Running away between the crisp pages of a novel no longer seemed like the right thing to do. Allowing myself into another world, into another person was no longer enough.

She haunted me.

She haunted me and I ran. In fact, I was so good at running away that I forgot who I was -- hell, I'd been doing it all my life. I ran away from Tamales Bay and my mother. I ran away from San Francisco. I ran away from Hank. I ran away from Eddie's unsolved murder case. I was fragile enough that I thought I'd break from the slightest pressure, so I sought comfort in places where I knew no one would think to find me. Lesbian bars. Places where no one cared who you were outside the doors as long as you were honest while inside them. I finally found my honesty, there in the pounding music. In a place saturated with hormones and beer, I figured out who I am. I guess some part of me had known it all along.

It sounds so existential and angst-ridden and cliché, but it's true. I always hated those poser artsy types, filling themselves with fake blackness and despair just to fit in and seem edgy and mysterious. I'd never needed to pose, my life had always contained more than its fair share of pain. Secretly, I hate all those people who need to invent tragedy in their lives just to feel better about themselves.

But I didn't go there to think about that. About the past. I went to lose myself for a while and sometimes even think about the future. The future where I knew I was gay. Am gay. Whatever.

I'd always sought a connection, a feeling, a state of mind with another person. Where things just clicked and you knew that everything would be okay because you'd finally found a place where you fit perfectly. I'd never found it. I was beginning to realize I'd looked for it in all the wrong places.

I stared hard into my beer, feeling the edges of my consciousness loosen and begin to float. I could never really lose control, not fully and truly, but I had to try. I thought maybe if I drank enough, that I'd find myself doing something irreparable. Something that I couldn't just explain away or cover up with a cough drop. I was crying out for help, for someone to notice me. For her to notice me.

Each case, each travesty, each tragedy had chipped away at my humanity. At my sense of self, however precarious it was. At my sanity, even. I didn't know how to separate myself from the case, from the anger, from the indignation. I didn't know if I wanted to. I didn't know if I should.

Everyone always compared me to Grissom. Don't they realize that I have ears? Do they think that I don't know it? A little part of me cringed every time I heard it whispered...saw the knowing glances when I'd say or do something particularly Grissom-like. He and I are not the most socially proficient souls on the face of the earth...hell, who am I kidding, I fucking suck with people. But that's about as far as I'd go with the comparison. He approaches everything coldly, through science, weeding out any emotions. I couldn't ever manage that. I couldn't ever imagine wanting to.

So I guzzled another beer and tried to ignore the woman with the strawberry blonde hair whose laugh was all wrong. It wasn't her. It would never be her. I closed my eyes and tried not to think about her smile.

And I tried not to think about anything at all when I got into my car and drove, knowing I was way over the limit. I was a little past caring. When the cop pulled me over, I thought I'd gotten my wish -- finally something people had to notice. When Grissom suspended me, saying softly that he wouldn't tell anyone what it was about, I knew I'd managed to save something I wasn't sure I wanted to.

I woke up the next afternoon hung-over and spent the day staring out the window into the brightness as if the pain in my head would change everything. Make it better somehow. Make her love me back. Make her look at me, really look.

It's been a week since Gil put me on leave, and I still drink myself into oblivion. I really don't know why I do it anymore. It used to make sense with all those lies I told myself -- just like my life used to make sense. I guess I've lied to myself for so long that I forgot the truth. I look at the bottle in my hands and sigh.

Sometimes...well, sometimes I hate Catherine Willows.


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