Rice was alone in his room, and his solitude was total; Cash had been banished to Dylan’s usual spot outside the door, and incidentally, Dylan was nowhere to be found that day. Which was fine. Rice had things to work out, and having other people around wasn’t helping.
He stood in front of his whiteboard. Black bars were printed across it in rows of five, because most often, he used the board to lay out his compositions. But not that day. He could have written symphonies that day, and every one of them would be nothing more than an excuse to put off what was really on his mind.
He wrote a name at the top, above the black bars: he wrote a title.
But what was the body of the work? What was Terrence?
A performer, Rice remembered, and he added that amidst the black bars. Terrence Young, a dancer and a method actor.
He wove the concepts through the black bars, navigating the white space, coating the board in solid black ideas. But those didn’t cover it. They didn’t cover the half of it! Rice slammed down his marker and picked up another one: a pink one. It had come with the pack of six colors, and naturally, it was the one which Rice had used the least. But quite suddenly, he was glad that he hadn’t thrown it out.
Gay, Rice thought, and found a way to express it on the board. Queer, flaming, unashamed homosexual.
But the composition wasn’t complete. Terrence wasn’t complete. Rice cast aside the pink marker and picked up another. He had been right: the black marks on a white background weren’t enough by a long shot. There needed to be grey areas. There needed to be color. There needed to be lines and dots and dashes of every size and shape weaving around each other, just as a dancer weaved through the air, just as an actor danced through their lines. There needed to be all of this. The complete picture was essential. It was mandatory.
Rice set down his last marker and stepped back.
His hands rested on his hips, and his mouth hung open. “Huh.”
He called a pastor. After sketching out the complete framework for a human soul, it seemed like the natural thing to do. There were still gaps in it—things Rice didn’t know, and therefore, couldn’t add to the whiteboard. But on the whiteboard was Terrence. Rice stared at it the entire time he was on the phone.
“No Pastor, it’s not that,” Rice tried to explain. “I like women. I like the idea of having a family someday, even if I have been putting that off for a few too many years. I like God, Pastor.”
The pastor was silent for a moment. The pastor was often silent for a moment. If Rice didn’t know better, he would swear that it was deliberate.
“I believe you, Rice,” the pastor finally spoke. “You’re in church every Sunday, always near the front, always listening closely. Listen closely now: ‘These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.’ John 15:12. Have a nice day Rice. God be with you.”
“And also with you. Thank you, Pastor.”
Rice didn’t set down the phone. He wouldn’t have guessed it even a minute earlier, but as it turned out, he had another call to make. The number wasn’t too difficult to find; he was calling a punk legend, after all.
Ringing. A very, deliberate, silence.
“You’ve got Yote.”
“Hey man. It’s been too long.”
“Rice? Shit dude, what have you been up to? Normally I wouldn’t answer an unknown number, but it said New York, and I just had this crazy feeling. Have you talked to Joey lately?”
Rice stared at the whiteboard. It’s like he doesn’t even remember.
“Hello? This is Rice, right?”
“Yeah Yote, it’s me. And listen, I owe you an apology, and it’s long overdue.”
“What?” Yote said, and he even managed to laugh, as though he actually had forgotten. “I’m going to be playing in New York in two days. We should get together.”
“Of course, yes, but Yote,” Rice said. “I’m sorry that I never accepted you. All of you. You know, the gay thing.”
Silence had a way of attacking at the worst possible moments, and Rice would be struck dead if he was going to let it linger for a third time.
“Are you still there?” he asked.
“Yeah dude,” Yote answered. “And whatever crisis you’re going through, we’ll talk about it when the band and I get to Manhattan. But that’s not for two days, so let me spoil it for you now: you have zero things to apologize for. Maybe it was different from your point of view, but as far as I was concerned, you and everyone else in the punk scene were pretty damn accepting for a bunch of anarchists.”
Rice sighed. “Thanks Yote.”
“No problemo, Fuckwit. Talk to you soon.”
Rice laughed so hard that he was worried he might sprain something. He went down to his hands and knees, too lightheaded to stand, trying to find a position where he could force air into his contracted lungs.
Fuckwit had meant something different back then. But Rice no longer used those kinds of words, and so, he decided that he would have to take Yote’s word for it; maybe no apology was needed after all.
Well, okay: maybe one apology was needed.
He walked out and went to get Cash. Without a word spoken between the two of them, Cash already seemed to know. He followed Rice to the next door down the hall, and together, the two of them waited in silence.
The door opened.
“Hey Rice. Something on your mind?”
“Terry,” Rice said, and that was answer enough. “Ruben is out buying an irresponsible amount of fireworks. Want to come set them off with us?”
© Ray Underscore Thompson, November 2015