Title: "On December Eighth"
Author: bello-romantic, Kathryn or just me, Kat! :)
Warnings: A little bit of blood and a smidgeon of violence.
Summary: Paul goes through the motions of the eighth day in December the same way he has been for the past twenty nine years.
On December Eighth
Out of all the cars going by, one slows to a halt in front of the building and when the engine cuts out with a final crunch of snow from beneath the tires, Paul rises to his feet. The glossy black limo parked before him is motionless for a few moments and in those minutes where nothing happens, Paul straightens the coat on his shoulders and fidgets with the leather gloves on his hands, a feeling of vague anticipation blossoming in his stomach.
A click from the car door signals its opening and from the vehicle emerges a bespectacled John Lennon, a pair of faded and ripped blue jeans contrasting with his smart, black wool pea-coat paired with an oversized scarf that hangs long. He exhales into the December air and the heat of his breath makes a swirl of fog billow from his little mouth, his thin and impossibly straight nose wrinkling momentarily in distaste – he hates the wintertime. Stuffing his hands into his pockets, he looks past the expectant Paul and shuts his car door with a careless kick of his booted foot.
Paul breaks into a smile at the sight of his friend and he opens his mouth to exclaim, “John!” but nothing comes out. Confused, he tries again but no words issue from his moving mouth. The woman with the unmistakable head of long, unruly black hair comes around the car and passes John in a sprint to the warmth of the lobby. John doesn’t rush after his wife, but walks calmly toward the entrance to the Dakota, eyes never straying to Paul.
Preparing to lift his right foot to take a step forward, Paul finds that his feet are rooted somehow to the spot – unmovable and heavy as lead. With a growing unsettlement, Paul tries to wrench his foot from the pavement, but to no avail. Soundlessly, he shouts, “John! John!” but his vocal cords seem to have disappeared, leaving his throat a barren, hollow column.
Suddenly, a shot tears through the calm of the wintry night and John stumbles, the bullet whizzing over his head. A white wave of shock hits Paul McCartney with the force of a freight train and his face contorts in a horrified scream, his lips forming the word, “JOHN!” with a violent passion. Another bang slices through the air and John falls to the ground, a spray of red accompanying this shot. His blood flies through the air – like scarlet rain – and spatters on the pavement, hitting the concrete at the same time as his body.
Rivulets of tears course down Paul’s cheeks, feeling cold the minute they escape his eyes, the tracks drying in frigid lines on his face. He desperately wills his legs to move – to carry him in front of the bullets so that he can take them – but they remain cemented to the ground, unwilling to budge. Sobbing soundlessly, his body wracking in painful, mute cries, Paul continues to mouth his friend’s name, hoping that each time he tries, his voice will come back. “John, John, John, John, John…” He can feel that if his vocal cords were there – they in his throat – they would be scraping together with the force of his screams and tangling messily with the violence of his sobs. Going to reach out a hand – as if John could take it and he’d pull him to safety – Paul’s fingers hit an invisible wall and he’s stopped short, hand pressed against hard nothingness. Trapped, he can do nothing but pound on his unseen prison as he watches his best friend convulse brutally under the force of the third, the fourth, the fifth shot. “John! No…”
With each roar of the gun, the river of red beneath John Lennon’s fallen body grows and snakes between the cracks in the pavement, flowing out onto the street, mixing with the snow. Paul continues to smash fist after fist against the invisible confines surrounding him, willing his legs to move and trying again and again to give voice to his anguished cries of “John!” Only the tears streaming down his face twisted painfully in utmost agony cannot be stopped – they flow freely and fall with dull splats on the ground. An eerie silence settles over the scene, the atmosphere still ringing with the five shots fired and, for a moment, everything is still – even Paul ceases his struggles when it hits him – really hits him – that John is motionless on the ground, not a single, ragged breath lifting his chest up and down.
“No,” murmurs Paul silently, lips swollen by sobs – his large, wet eyes stare at the listless, bloody figure of his best friend, his John… Every bone in his body feels like it has shattered inside him, the millions of tiny, jagged pieces lying dejectedly inside his shell of a body – everything in Paul is broken, destroyed, irreparable and every muscle in his face screws up in one last, hopeless scream of…
The sound of his voice wakes him and scares his so much that a terrified, strangled cry tears from his mouth, ripping savagely at his lungs – the horror and heartbreak in that one scream bone-chilling. Bolting upright in his bed, a sixty seven year old Paul McCartney trembles violently underneath the sheets, body shivering in cold sweat. For a moment, his mind goes blank and he stares out into the blackness of his room, feeling so, so lost. He draws a ragged breath and, when it catches in his throat, he collapses into pitiful sobs built up in his chest, lowering his head of pale, thinning hair to his bent knees. His wrinkling hands grip the covers to his chest in tight, damp fists still shaking from the memory of the nightmare.
Only his tiny sobs and sniffles are heard in the large, empty room – the small sounds somehow sadder in vast space. His cries feel as if they stem from a place deep inside of him because each time he sobs a spot in his chest close to his heart tugs and it hurts.
Without even glancing at the clock or the calendar, Paul knows that it’s the morning of December eighth. It’s most likely about two o’clock because that’s usually the time he wakes up when he has this dream. He knows that when he falls back to sleep, he’ll see the same thing again and when he wakes up the second time around four o’clock, he’ll have to stumble to the bathroom to vomit into the toilet – he can only take seeing John shot so many times. Mercifully, he won’t fall back to sleep after the second awakening – he knows this after twenty nine years of repetition – and will simply sit in bed until the sun rises, face blank and eyes empty.
Even now, a wave of belated nausea hits Paul and makes him feel slightly dizzy amidst his tears, but he swallows heavily and it passes.
Each year, this day is more or less the same. On each eighth of December since 1980, Paul McCartney eventually gets out of bed and forces himself to eat – cornflakes and tea, just like he used to eat with John in Hamburg. On each eighth of December since 1980, Paul McCartney forces himself not to curse the birth of that horrible, horrible man who pulled the trigger – it’s not what John would have wanted – and resists the blazing desire to burn copies of “The Catcher in the Rye” – he knows for a fact that it was among John’s favorite books. On each eighth of December since 1980, Paul McCartney wishes with all his heart that he had been shot instead of John because he knows that he’s the less important of the two – knows that everyone else knows it, but also knows that no-one would ever dare voice it (cowards). On each eighth of December since 1980, Paul McCartney is reminded of just how much he loved – still loves – John Lennon because the break that split his heart clean in two when he learned of his death still hasn’t healed after all this time; his heart is a mangled, makeshift organ that beats in two pieces nowadays.
Paul knows that John was the glue holding him together – it’s useless to deny it. From the moment he took his first breath, James Paul McCartney needed John Lennon without really knowing it. Paul wandered through his childhood and only when he met John on that hot day in July did he truly start to breathe – Paul had found his reason for living and who would have known that his reason would be a drunken, stumbling mess on the Woolton Fete stage? On that day, Paul felt all of the wandering pieces of him adhere in a startling moment of clarity – aligning all of the different emotions and parts of him that had never made much sense before in his teenage head. Paul wanted to make music and he wanted to make music with John. Paul knows now that without John here, he’s just a bunch of disconnected feelings and thoughts inside a body, but he’s gotten so good at flashing his smile (even though it’s now lined with wrinkles) that no-one can see the difference.
December eighth is one of the few days in the year where Paul likes silence – no tinkering on the piano, no plucking at guitar strings, no playing of records – and it’s one of the few days in the year where he doesn’t try to convince himself that he’s okay.
Because he knows, at two twenty four in the morning as he sobs wretchedly into covers, his sore back hunched over and aging limbs aching – he knows that he’s far from okay because John’s not here.
And he knows that people would have been better off if it had been him instead.