This is the penultimate chapter of Too Much Rain. This chapter features a very tense heart to heart between John and Paul.
WARNINGS: THIS IS FICTION, AND IT IS SLASH/RELATED.
Hope you enjoy.
Paul returned home from Marc’s office feeling much worse than he had felt before. This reminded Paul of how frequently being in therapy had been painful. Somehow, with the passage of time, he had forgotten that bit. But then, Paul generally had a hard time consciously recalling bad memories. He buried them very deep. Why he had convinced himself that he could walk in and spill his problem to Marc and find a quick fix, Paul didn’t know. His own past experience had shown him otherwise. Sometimes it wasn’t a good thing to be a glass half full type of person. He really had no idea where to go from here, other than to push it all back down and try to ignore it, and maybe after a time, the raw edge of it would wear down.
“Paul? Is that you?” John called from what appeared to be the kitchen. A moment later he materialized in the sitting room, just as Paul entered it. “You’re back a bit late. Did you have a double session?” John asked hopefully.
“No, I drove around a bit after,” Paul responded honestly.
“Oh, it was that kind of session, was it?” John asked sympathetically.
Paul nodded distractedly, and looked around him as if he wasn’t sure what to do next. John noticed this and was concerned. He had enjoyed his session with Fiona very much, but Paul had obviously not enjoyed his session. John wanted to try Fiona’s suggestion about talking it through with Paul, and maybe this was the right time, with Paul looking so miserable and vulnerable.
“Come in to the kitchen with me,” John coaxed, “and I’ll make you a nice cuppa while I make dinner.”
Paul followed obediently, because he couldn’t think of anything else to do. He had been glad that John had solved that problem for him. He plopped down at the kitchen table while John made the tea.
“So, can you tell me anything about the session?” John asked with pretended indifference, as he focused on the teapot.
“Not really,” Paul said. “Except it didn’t help. It made me feel worse.” John’s lack of intensity had given Paul a sense of security, and so he had been more open than he might otherwise have been.
John was relieved that at least Paul didn’t give him a bullshit answer. He seemed willing to engage at least a little bit on the subject. “Therapy is often like that when you’re first tackling a problem,” John commented. “Been there, done that.” He was letting the tea seep now, and moved over with it and settled it on the table with the other tea paraphernalia, and then sat down across from Paul. A few moments went by and Paul didn’t add any further commentary, so John knew he had to push a little harder.
“I had an interesting session today with Fiona,” John offered.
Paul smiled at him vaguely as a way to encourage him to explain.
“I told her that I was afraid that you’re angry with me, or hurt in some way, but that you’re hiding it.” John said it and let it sit there. He watched Paul’s face carefully throughout, and noticed a little wince and then the bland face take over. Yup, he thought to himself, Paul was either angry or hurt. No question about it. Paul didn’t speak. He appeared to be frozen. John poured the two cups of tea, and even doctored one the way he knew Paul liked it, and then shoved the cup across the table to Paul. Paul looked at it as if it were a space alien for a few moments, but then he picked it up, elbows on the table, and cradled it in his two hands. John asked, “You don’t have a comment about what I just said?”
Paul was uncomfortable as hell. He felt like this was a no-win situation. If he lied, John would know it and get mad and keep picking at him. If he obfuscated and minimized, John would suspect it wasn’t honest, and start obsessing over it. If he told the truth, John would have a meltdown and who the hell knew what would happen then! There was no good option for him in that moment. He decided to try to sidestep the issue. He cleared his throat and said, in what he hoped was an objective tone of voice, “What did Fiona have to say about that?”
So that’s how he’s going to avoid it, John thought. He knew there would be some kind of avoidance tactic employed, at least at first. John decided not to fight it. Gently, gently, he remembered Fiona saying. “She tested me on this, questioned whether I was confabulating or projecting. In the end I convinced her that this is a real possibility - that something happened when we were in that hospital room with George, something I did wrong, and that you really haven’t been yourself since.”
Paul had listened with interest, but his face didn’t reflect that interest. He looked only mildly attentive. He said nothing.
John tried not to sigh out loud or lose his temper. He had never been a patient person, but he had made great strides in trying to become more patient in the last several years. He continued, “She wondered if you were just having a hard time accepting George’s death.”
George’s death! Paul thought. What a great way to avoid the real conversation! His next thought was to feel guilty for having the previous thought. Not fair to George, because after all Paul was terribly sad about George’s death, and it was a hard thing to process. And maybe Fiona was right! Maybe he had transferred his anger at fate over George’s death to anger at John. But Paul didn’t think so. He remembered the feeling of anger building up in him in that hospital room each time John had opened his mouth. Finally, Paul said, “I don’t know why I am feeling this way, John. I guess I thought that Marc would tell me what it was and then it would be fixed. I guess that’s why I feel worse now, because I’ve suddenly remembered therapy isn’t like that.”
John felt glad that Paul hadn’t totally blown off his concerns. He said, “Therapy is a lot of hard and painful work.”
“I just don’t think I have it in me any more, to go through all that.” Paul had almost forgotten that he was not supposed to talk so openly with John. He was being lulled into a sense of security. Whether it was false remained to be seen.
John was disappointed to hear Paul say this, because Paul really did need to talk to someone neutral to help him through his deeply buried feelings. But John knew he couldn’t tell Paul he should go to therapy. Paul was so fucking stubborn and independent that if you told him he had to do A, he’d do the exact opposite - Z - even if he had been originally inclined to do A anyway. He decided an oblique approach was called for. “I was thinking you might be glad to have someone neutral to talk to about me,” John said cautiously. “But, if that is not what you want, will you at least talk to me about what is going on in your head?”
Paul squirmed in his chair a little. This day was turning out to be a major bummer. Well, he might as well get all the misery out at once, he thought. He said haltingly, “I am sometimes nervous about telling you how I feel.”
John said, “I see that. But Fiona made me promise to behave myself.” He gave Paul one of his patented silly close-mouthed grins, which did make Paul smile in response.
“It’s just that maybe a bloke has an angry feeling towards someone, but it isn’t everything he feels about that person. He has all sorts of other positive feelings about that person. The bad stuff is only a part of what he feels, but the person hearing it immediately assumes the angry feeling is the only feeling, and is hurt by it, or gets angry or defensive.” Paul stopped to watch John’s face to see if he’d gotten his point through.
John had to stop himself from laughing out loud. What a fucking roundabout way to say, ‘John, you’re too fucking sensitive. I can’t say the tiniest little critique about you without you melting down.’ John loved how Paul had tried to depersonalize it all by talking about some other ‘bloke’ having those bad feelings! However, he schooled his face to show no amusement, and he said, “I hear what you’re saying. You’re saying you don’t want to hurt my feelings, and you don’t want me to leap to conclusions about our entire relationship based on this one particular problem.”
Paul looked at John in open shock. Never had he expected such a succinct and rational comment coming out of John’s mouth! He pulled himself back from his moment of surprise and said, “Yes, that’s exactly what I meant.”
“Look, I know I’ve led you on a merry chase. I’m no walk in the park to live with; I know that. I’m sure that most of our friends think you’re a bloody saint to put up with me. You’re the only person in my whole life who ever thought I was worth going through all the shit I put them through to be my friend. I realize I am lucky that you do think I’m worth it.” This was a long and heartfelt speech, and John was surprised he’d had the wherewithal and courage to speak it.
Paul’s eyes teared up a little. John had so little self-esteem really. His parents really fucked him up, but John had done an amazing job in the last twenty years trying to distance himself from the patterns of behavior that had been so destructive to John himself and the people who loved him. Paul said seriously, “There was never a question in my mind - not ever - that you weren’t or aren’t worth it. Of course you are. Otherwise I would not be here.”
John felt tears backing up in his throat now, too. “What can I do to help you? Just tell me what it is. We’ve always been able to fix what’s wrong between us, haven’t we? Or have I been fooling myself?” The tears escaped and ran down his face.
Reflexively, Paul reached over across the table and grabbed John’s hand. He didn’t want to hurt John, or make him cry. “It’s so stupid, John, really. It’s embarrassing for me to even mention, because it was all so long ago. I should have moved past it. In fact, I thought I had. But when we were in that hospital room...” Paul ran out of words. He couldn’t go on.
John felt calmer now. At least it wasn’t something bad that he had done recently. “When we were in that hospital room...what?” John prompted.
“It seemed like we all reverted to our Beatles selves. Like we were in the sixties.” Paul said.
John smiled with affection. “There was a bit of that, wasn’t there? I immediately became bossy. Did that bother you?”
“Not the bossy part so much, no.” Suddenly Paul felt really silly. How could he explain what it was without looking like a pouting teenager? Because that was where this pain came from - it was the pain a teenager feels when he is belittled or rejected by his peer group. Did that feeling ever leave a person? Or did it scar a person forever? Paul gulped and then added with a smile, “I think you’re kind of cute when you’re bossy.”
John laughed. “Do you want me to boss you around more?” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
“Hell no! You mainly bossed the others around. I don’t like being bossed around myself.”
“You don’t say!” John joked. “So, if it’s not my bossiness, what is it?”
Paul took a deep breath and then exhaled. “We’ve talked about it a bit before - years ago - and I thought I dealt with it in my therapy with Marc. But apparently it’s still there.”
“Is it a fucking mystery? Don’t I get to know what it is?” John asked jocularly.
“It’s just that when we were in the hospital, the way you talked to and about me in front of the others brought back how often you spoke to and about me in front of others like that in the past.” There. He’d said it. Paul looked up nervously to see John’s body language. John did not appear to be angry or hurt. He just looked confused.
“Can you help me out here? I don’t recall having this conversation before,” John explained.
Paul was a little frustrated, but not surprised. How like John to have glossed over and forgotten any kind of criticism that didn’t jibe with his own memories. But, since John was being so mature about it, Paul decided he would not let this upset him. He said, “It often felt to me, as I felt again in that hospital room, that in front of other people you had this need to make yourself look bigger by making me look smaller.”
Oh yeah, John thought. I remember this issue now! He felt tremendous relief pulse through him because he knew how to fix this problem! If he’d known that Paul was still bothered by that, he would have fixed it much sooner. But he wanted to make sure he and Paul were on the same page first. “Can you tell me what I said specifically when we were in the hospital room that triggered those old feelings?”
Paul thought this interaction was nowhere near as bad as he had worried it would be. “It’s that whole, ‘Paul here is so uncool and enthusiastic; he sees everything through rosy glasses, while the rest of us three - we’re cool and with it. He’s always lagging somewhere behind, and we have to drag him with us for his own sake’ thing. It wasn’t true about me then, and it isn’t true about me now. I resented being treated like the clueless chaperone in the group - as if I weren’t really a part of the rest of you.” Paul stopped and took a breath. He hadn’t expected to get so wound up!
John had never had this explained to him adequately before, but as Paul spoke John had begun to understand what Paul meant. It was a surprise to him, though, because he had expected something a little bit different. “I thought it was the whole Allen Klein thing.”
“That was part of the same thing only worse! The three of you were going to put me in my place because you knew better, and I was out of control. You know - you didn’t give two shits about the business until Yoko stuck her nose in. All those months I struggled alone with it, no support, and the three of you criticizing all my mistakes, but not offering ideas or help. That was all part of the same thing. I’m the drudge in the group, nose to the grindstone. Not really a rock ‘n roll person. ‘We tolerate him because he gets the job done, but he’s not really like us. We’re the cool ones.’ It fucking pisses me off!” Paul’s voice had grown louder and more emphatic as his memories flooded through him.
John was amazed at the outspoken anger coming out of Paul. It had so rarely happened in all the decades they had known each other. And somehow he had never actually understood how much that attitude had hurt Paul. He’d just thought it was a way they took the mickey out of him because he was so perfect and had such a big ego that he needed the mickey taken out every once in a while. John said, “Well, I see that you are angry about it. But we were just teasing you, like we teased Ringo about his height, or his nose, and we teased George about being so much younger. And you lot gave me grief about my glasses, I seem to remember.”
Paul felt the euphoria that had accompanied his unleashing of the poison melt away. John was saying that what he - and it had been primarily John, not so much the others, although they had willingly played along - had done was no big deal. Just razzing. But Paul knew it had gone deeper than that. John didn’t want Paul to be accepted as cool on his own, because John felt it was his prerogative to be the leader of the group, it’s only real star, and it’s coolest member. Any kind of competition in that direction would excite his insecurities. Paul felt himself closing up again.
John saw this immediately and cursed himself. He quickly said, “I see that it really hurt you. I didn’t know. But I never actually thought you weren’t cool. I always admired that you didn’t give a damn what others thought about you. I thought that was the coolest thing of all.”
That pissed Paul off. “Maybe you didn’t ‘think’ it, John, but you said it repeatedly. Not just in our daily lives, but also in interviews: ‘Paul is always 2 years behind us, Paul was the worst actor, Paul is the ‘prettiest’ one’ - I mean - did you think I would enjoy being called ‘pretty’? No - you knew I hated it. You always knew I hated it, and that is why you would use that word, like you did in that egregious song you wrote about me. You said these things and other things like them in interviews with me sitting right there with you! I felt put down, and had to pretend like it didn’t bother me. Everyone laughing at me and me having to pretend this didn’t hurt. And of course, when we broke up you did it again, only much worse! And because you had spent years depicting me this way in the press, the whole fucking rock establishment believed you, and suddenly I was this lightweight no-talent who didn’t have a clue. It took me years to establish some kind of credibility of my own, and in many people’s eyes I never have done.”
John was shocked into silence. Paul’s anger was alive and surrounding him. It was overwhelming. He didn’t know where to start in answering this accusation, because whatever he might say Paul would take as minimizing. Instead, John knew that he had to speak from his heart.
“Paul, I always adored you. Always. I know I had a crazy way of showing it. When I get hurt I strike out. The more a person can hurt me, the harder I will strike back. That’s why I treated you the worst - because you meant the most to me! I’ve tried really hard to stop that behavior. I think I have! When the four of us were together that day, I guess I subconsciously slipped back into the old pattern, but every thing I ever said about you for my entire life, bad or good, you have to believe me that inside it came from a place of love. Maybe thwarted love, or broken love, but it was love.” John spoke passionately.
Paul heard him out, and again tears threatened. He was stuck in this nightmare of a conversation now, so he might as well try to finish it. “I guess I can’t get out of my mind those things you said about me to Stu and his arty friends those first two times we went to Hamburg.”
“Fucking Hamburg now?” John cried. How far back did Paul’s rage go?
“I’ll shut up now, if you want me to,” Paul said shortly. He hadn’t wanted to talk about this in the first place, so he wasn’t going to accept the guilt John was trying to shove on to him.
John caught his breath and forced himself to calm down. Gently, gently. “No, I want you to tell me everything. All of it.”
Paul watched John’s face for any ‘tell’ that John was about to explode. He saw nothing there to concern him. He asked, “Okay. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?”
“That huge blow up we had, yeah, but I thought that was only during our second trip to Hamburg?”
Paul said, “I didn’t do anything about how you treated me the first time we went. I didn’t have enough self-esteem, I guess, or maybe I feared losing my spot in the band, so I kept all that shit to myself. But when it started happening again the second time, well, then I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.”
John never allowed himself to think about those awful few weeks in the summer of 1961 when he thought he had lost Paul forever. It had been his own damn fault, but even so, John had internalized it as another abandonment, and had held it against Paul for years. In fact, now that Paul had brought the subject up, John was feeling the resentment still! Maybe that time in Hamburg was the moment they swallowed the poison pill? It didn’t seem likely to John because just a few months later they had become lovers, and were closer than ever before. But that summer in 1961...
Paul was talking again. He couldn’t seem to stop himself, now that he had started. “You always put me down in front of other people, ever since we met. But it didn’t really bother me until what happened in Hamburg. That’s when I found out what you really felt about me, as opposed to what I thought you felt about me. It was a rude awakening.”
“God, Paul, I was always drunk when I’d sit around talking with that German art crowd. I was talking big about myself, and showing off. I wanted to fit in with them...”
“And I was a hindrance to you fitting in because they didn’t like me and thought I was a phony.” Paul said this very flatly. “You had to throw me under the bus to win their approval. And so that is what you did.”
John stared at Paul for a moment, about to deny it, but then he acknowledged the awful truth - those art students and Stu had all felt superior to Paul. They had felt he wasn’t genuine, he was too ‘nice’ - meaning uncool, and showing his enthusiasm too much. He was a mere musician, a journeyman. Not an artist like Stu and John. But John suspected that the real reason they didn’t like Paul was because Paul demanded that Stu needed to shape up or ship out of the band and was vocal about it. Those German kids all thought Stu walked on water, and because Paul was on Stu’s case about his bass playing, they all took Stu’s side. And John had quickly found out that if he wanted to hang around with that art crowd, he’d have to act as though Paul was not a friend so much as a band mate: a convenient business arrangement, just a music partner. Now, John could see for the first time how that must have felt to Paul - there he was, a teenager in a foreign country, surrounded by people who disliked him, and by friends who would not speak up for him. He said, “I’m sorry, Paul.”
“I knew you were sorry at the time, I mean, after I walked out, but it didn’t change what I heard you say about me to the others. I could never really get that out of my mind.” Paul’s face looked sad and vulnerable.
John responded, “Do you still think I believed that crap? You had to know I didn’t believe that crap!”
“I knew no such thing. I have come to accept that you no longer think that way about me, but I do believe it is what you thought during our first partnership - that I was necessary to bring in screaming girls, but my taste in music wasn’t the best, and you had to keep me under control in that way. I know you believed that about me. How many times did you tell me my songs weren’t good enough for the Beatles? I know how many times, because I kept score - 11 times! And each of those times you refused to record them. We gave them to others and they had hits with them! You threw Yesterday out! And do you know how many times I refused to record your songs? The only time I didn’t help you was with She Said, She Said, and I hadn’t said I wouldn’t record it, I was thinking we were still working on it, and you went into the studio behind my back and worked with George on it! In other words - I never told you your songs weren’t good enough.”
John had forgotten all about dinner. It was now 7 p.m. and they had been arguing for a good 45 minutes. He was emotionally on tender hooks, and his brain was frazzled. He felt himself shaking. Shivering inside again. This was really bad. This was a real can of worms. And for all these years Paul had these ugly feelings bottled up inside him while John had thought they had worked it all out! It was fucking terrifying, is what it was. He didn’t know what to say except,
“You still don’t trust me at all, do you?”
Paul stopped himself from his reflexive response, which was to deny that he distrusted John. But why go through the horribleness of this argument if he didn’t answer the question truthfully? “It isn’t true that I don’t trust you ‘at all.’ I trust you on many levels. But there is this niggling doubt I have about, well, if you could cast me aside in favor of other more interesting people so easily, it must mean that you think I am not the best you could do. I have so often felt like your second choice or your third choice. It is a feeling I have had many times, and I don’t blame it so much on your lack of constancy, John, but on this fear I have that you really do believe that I am a disappointingly uncool, mundane and uninteresting person: ‘A pretty face’, to quote you. After all, that is basically what you told others about me.”
John’s tears were drying on his face, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still stunned into a terrified silence. He finally found the courage to say, “I can’t blame you for thinking that. If you had treated me the way I treated you back then, I would never have trusted you again. But I was mentally ill, you know? Undiagnosed, untreated. I did self-sabotaging things all the time, and the worst self-sabotaging things I ever did were the crappy things I said about you to other people. You were the last person on earth that I wanted to lose.”
“So if you didn’t want to lose me, why did you disrespect me so much?” Paul asked. He had never been able to make that compute.
“I guess I believed that you would understand - you would still be there for me, no matter what shitty thing I did. I worried about losing Stu’s friendship, or being rejected by that art crowd, but I didn’t think I would ever lose your friendship. It was just...” John stopped in frustration trying to think of the right words. “It was just that you were like a solid rock to me. The weather would rage around us, and I would cling to you, and when the weather left, you would still be standing there, strong and firm. And you would have protected me.”
Paul was touched by John’s imagery, but he wasn’t 100% sure that this wasn’t a 20/20 hindsight thing. He said softly, “I always thought you could treat me so cavalierly because it didn’t matter to you if I should get fed up and walk away. And, even more, I believe you thought I was so in need of your friendship and so under your thrall that I would put up with it, no matter what. So in other words, you felt no need to sugarcoat things for me. I would have to take you or leave you as you were, and you weren’t going to make compromises to keep me happy. Meanwhile, for other people - Stu, Brian, Allen Klein, Yoko... For them you would change your opinions, your hairstyles, your lifestyle, your dreams of the future...your everything.” Paul paused for a moment to find a better way to express what he feared: “It seems to me that you feel as though you are good enough the way you are for me, and so you don’t need to go to any special trouble. That’s one way of saying it. From my perspective it felt like, John doesn’t think I’m special enough to take extra trouble for, or to compromise for. I have to meet John more than halfway all the time, or I can move on. And it wouldn’t make that much difference to him if I did.”
“Do you still feel that way Paul? Do you still believe I don’t think you’re special? That I won’t compromise?” John was deeply hurt. He felt he had come a long way in meeting Paul halfway in the last several years. Hell! He’d lived in that painful three-way situation with Linda for years to accommodate Paul! He wouldn’t have done that for anyone else!
Paul said, “No, I don’t think you’re like that anymore, although not too long ago we were going through that whole Brad thing, and before that the Nigel thing. Each time that happened, it just reopened all those old wounds. Each time it happened, I guess I found it harder to trust than I did the time before.”
“Have I hurt you so much and so many times that you can’t ever put it behind you?” John asked plaintively. His heart was pounding like crazy. He was terrified.
“I thought I had put it behind me, John. I didn’t realize that it was still in there, lurking.” Paul smiled a little at the word ‘lurking.’ “I guess part of my thinking is, it’s hard to believe - based on the way you treated me - that you could love me as much as you say you do.”
John was amazed at that statement. “What?” He cried.
“Maybe I can understand why you might want to be around more interesting people than me. Maybe I am a bit boring.” Paul’s voice was almost a whisper now.
John was shaking his head back and forth as Paul finished his statement. “No! No! No!” he declared. “You’re the most interesting person I’ve ever known. You never bore me! If they took everyone else away from me, and I had to live in a world with just you alone, I would be perfectly happy. In fact, maybe I would be happier than I am now, because then I wouldn’t have to share you with others. But if they took you away from me and I could have everyone else in the world, it wouldn’t be enough for me! I would be lost and alone.”
Paul was a bit taken aback by the fiery passion in John’s voice and visage. “Then why did you say those things about me? Why were you always running off with other people?”
John’s face was in his hands, but in response to Paul’s questions he removed his hands and said what he knew he should have said a million times over the years, but had never had the ego or courage to say: “I couldn’t ever have you the way I wanted you. I told you about how your Dad was always hovering over you. He sensed what I wanted from you, even then, I think, and it was like you were fucking Rapunzel in the tower, and I was constantly trying to come up with unsuccessful schemes to get you out of there. And many times you sympathized more with your father’s feelings and needs than you did mine. I get - now - why this was, but at the time I’d never had a father figure. I didn’t understand it. And Stu was my age and he didn’t have all those alligators in moats around him. And I was attracted to the art world. I have always have been. When I was younger I hadn’t accepted yet that I had limitations in that department, whereas I was much stronger in music and writing. So, part of that whole Hamburg-Stu-art crowd thing was about me clinging to this pipedream that I could be a great artist. I loved that whole living in a Paris garret thing - or at least in theory I did. In reality, probably couldn’t have cut it.”
Paul listened intently to John’s every word. He didn’t want to miss a single one. How desperately he wanted to accept John’s statements as the whole truth. How much he wanted to integrate the truth of it into his being so that he could stop being tormented by those old feelings of loss and rejection. He said, “And Brian? What was that all about?” Paul already knew the answer to that question, although John had always denied it.
John looked up guiltily. “You were so fucking talented and beautiful, Paul. You were an obvious star on your own. I was afraid of two things - one, that you would decide to go off on your own and leave me behind, and two, that you would outshine me in our group, and that other people would think of you as the leader and the star in the band. So, Brian was all about maintaining my leadership role in the band. That’s what it was about.”
Paul was amazed that John had finally admitted this. He’d always known that competition was an aspect of their relationship back in those days. It meant a lot to Paul that John had admitted it.
“There was another reason for Brian, though,” John said, upon reflection.
Paul’s eyebrows went up in a query.
“It also helped convince you that I was the real star, if someone like Brian could see me as the leader. It would reduce the likelihood you would feel confident enough to go off on your own - which was my other great fear.” John looked ashamed. “I realize it doesn’t put me in a very good light, but I was threading this needle where I wanted to remain the top dog, but I didn’t want to lose you. I wanted both things.”
“I thought you were just a searcher - a junkie for new people, new places, new opinions, new lifestyles... And there I was, pretty content with where I lived, comfortable with my own people, places, opinions and lifestyle. I must have seemed very boring to you.”
“As I said, Paul, you were my rock. You still are. That is by far the most important thing to me. You’re always there for me, calm and steady.”
Paul chuckled, “Except when I’m not.”
John chuckled too.
But Paul added, “I guess I also feel that I am more than that - I’m an artist too. I’m a creative. Just because my lifestyle is stable doesn’t mean that I’m a plodder. But I’m always made to feel like I’m a plodder.”
“By me? You believe I think you’re a plodder?” John asked, incredulously. “I mean, why would I want to be a lifetime creative partner with a fucking plodder?”
“No, I guess you know the truth about me. But you wanted everyone else to think that is what I was, and so that is what I became. To this day, that is how I’m usually depicted in the narrative of our partnership.”
“It was my fucking insecurity at work. You just seemed so huge to me - it’s a bit like having Jesse Owens for a running partner! I’m like Owens' less talented professional running partner trying to hobble Owens in order to at least end up in a tie, you know? In my mind, I wasn’t making you look small. I didn’t think that was possible! I was trying to make me look bigger so that I could look at least as big as you.”
Paul was shaking his head at John’s logic. The trouble was, Paul felt it a very credible thing for John to believe. John did have crazy thoughts like these. He suddenly began to feel more like himself again. More grounded. Things didn’t seem to be swirling around his head taking swipes at him anymore. He again reached his hand across the table, and grasped John’s hand. He said,
“I started out by saying that these bad feelings I had were only part of what I feel for you. You have to know that what I feel for you is overwhelmingly positive. Why would I have chosen you if I didn’t? As long as we’re being corny songwriters, let me put it this way: You may be with me because I am your rock. But maybe I’m with you because you’re the wind beneath my wings.” Paul laughed at his joke, and John laughed too.
“We’re a fucking pair, aren’t we?” John asked. “It is fucking amazing that somehow we have managed to stick together.”
“Two huge egos in one tiny relationship,” Paul acknowledged. “Two flowers each wanting the other to be the gardener.”
“Well, we take turns with the gardening now,” John pointed out. “That is one thing we have figured out about our relationship. We have to take turns.” He paused for an awkward moment and then asked, “So, are you still gonna hold all that crap against me? I know it was terrible, but I can’t turn back the clock and undo it.”
Paul was smiling, and there was a sense of peace around him that John hadn’t seen in a long time: or maybe even ever! Paul said, “I’m glad you persuaded me to talk about it. It seems like such a small thing to resolve, once you pull it out and start untangling the threads. I’m realizing that what I resented was not that we had this history, but that you never before acknowledged to me that you had done it, or made me understand why you did it. Now you have acknowledged it, and you have explained it to me in a way that I understand, so I don’t think the resentment is there anymore. I think t’s gone.”
John’s face broke into a relieved smile. It had been so terrifying, and it had looked so bad, just 30 minutes earlier. And now - the storm had passed, and there was his rock sitting there: still strong and firm.
“I’m starving,” John announced.