I write fanfic, but I've been lazy.
Summary: Jack reminisces with the aid of some 1800 and a videotape.
One shot, and Jate all the way, baby. Inspired by the song, ‘Videotape,’ by Radiohead.
He chose the one labeled, “Corozal,” the one with the corner slightly peeled off from wear and tear. Flipping on the tv set, he walked over to the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of 1800, just about half-empty.
The tv called out; the voice belonging to someone he didn’t recognize anymore. He looked down as he poured his glass, furrowing his brow.
The voice again broke through – lilting and carefree, “Smile for me, beautiful.” A high-pitched yelp and a giggle then escaped, and he closed his eyes. Yes, he thought, she was beautiful. With a sigh, he poured himself another glass, and trudged to the couch with the emptying bottle in one hand, his elixir in the other. When he finally looked up, there she was.
“Jack, stop! I haven’t even showered yet!” she squealed. She was wrapped in a white flat sheet, her chestnut hair, wild, yet soft. Taking her palms to her naked shoulders, she demurely cast her eyes down, but the smile was still fixed on her face. Unable to take his eyes off the screen, he looked on pleadingly. What the hell happened? Was it him? Was it another instance in which he proved, once again, to be the man, the fiancé, the husband, who just didn’t have what it took? His eyes misted over as he thought back to his ex-wife’s crushing words, “It’s not about who you are, Jack, it’s about who you’re not.”
“I just wanted to get a couple of minutes in to check the new battery, that’s all…”
“Oh sure, to check the new battery…what’s it gonna be tonight? Check the lens for a smudge?”
“Actually, I was gonna test out the tripod. You know, to see if the bed fits in the frame from the corner there-“
Another yelp, and she falls out of frame as she lunges forward with a swat that always left him chuckling in response. He knew just how to exasperate her, and she knew just what buttons to push with him. All that carried over into their bickering, sometimes to the point of buttons being pushed a little too far and voices layered on top of one another. But time would lead both to glance at each other softly, patiently, and it would silently resolve itself into a heady tangle of grasping arms and pliant lips.
“Woah…” The man in the video laughed. He thought again to how strange his own voice, his own distant laughter sounded to him. It was the tone, a color in his voice he hadn’t used in eight months now; not since the last night she was here, and has never reached that playful timbre since then. Since then, sarcastic, yes. Bitter – definitely. The note left on the coffee table – cryptic and -‘I’m sorry, Jack, but I just can’t. Please understand. .’ It was crumpled up on one corner of the lined, yellow paper, with a dewy stain from either a sweating glass or Kate’s tear smudging the ‘have’ – looking lonely, yet permanent. She’d left the ring on the table, clothes in his closet and her favorite pair of sneakers by the door. He found it suspicious at first, but after a disconnected line, a missing person’s investigation and a distressed conversation with her mother, he resorted to her absence. Her escape. His failure.
“Alright, we’ll be serious now.”
He re-averted his gaze towards the television again, eyes damp and heavy-lidded from the now empty bottle of tequila. His head bobbed a little as if a dangling weight, and he sighed. His former self was now seated next to her on the bed at a somewhat angle of someone trying to hold out the camera from arm’s length, shaking a bit to hold its composure. She leaned in towards him a bit, smiling at him, then at the camera.
“I’m…Jack. And this amazing, stunningly beautiful woman next to me is…?” The man turned, and gently cocked his head towards the camera. He was grinning from ear to ear. She rolled her eyes, her dimples giving away the false exasperation.
“I’m Kate…” She rolled her eyes again, this time towards him. Looking off from the corner of his eye, he too then turned his head, bringing the tip of his nose to hers. She raised her eyebrow at him, smirked and that was all it took. He looked back at the lens and in a faux act of sheepishness, told the camera, “Gotta go.”
In a jilted flash, images of lush palm trees and a mock dirt road jiggled nervously across the screen. But now, Jack was no longer paying attention; his tears making determined paths down the dark shadow of his lower face as he stared imperceptibly at nothing at particular. He quietly sobbed as he’d done for the past fifty times, give or take, watching the same tapes over and over again. And it was always the same, bitter outcome every time. Happiness – now sealed within the fragile confines of the slick, shiny black tape – was and always will be, a relic of the past, unable to find its revival. A distant impression as the events of yesterday after a night of whatever bottle left in his cabinets.
He leaned his head back against the top of the couch, the tears still rolling past his temples. And the videotape played, with its images of sunlit waters creating bluish shadows in the dark room. He slowly drifted off to a deadened sleep with her voice and laughter quietly filling the room like a cruel lullaby.