Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Two Section Thirteen: The Seance
Part Two: Two Years Later (Continued)
6 – The Séance
Twenty one years after Phillip Verlierer left the mansion, he was buzzed through the gates by the guards and made the long winding trip to the main house. “The old homestead looks the same”, he thought to himself, but if anything it looked bigger than he remembered, as if he had downsized it in his imagination as a way to deal with one more thing he didn’t much want to remember. Phil had been sober for two weeks and he could feel himself returning, the fog over his brain lifting and a return to whomever he really was. It wasn’t just the cessation of alcohol, but the response to hope, maybe a dream of a hope, as though the past 20 years were a trip not taken.
Phillip had forgotten what wealth looked like, how it smelt, the trees and grass, the winding roads, the swimming pool and second house if he took a left, another pool, tennis courts, a football field nobody used, a three floor and basement garage where some two dozen cars rusted in silence. He looked in the mirror and rubbed his chin, no stumble, checked his suit, no stain, his eyes were clear and his hand didn’t shake and he was nervous, very nervous.
The man didn’t hate anything as much as he hated himself but he thought he could make an exception in Hannah’s case. Between his mother dying, his father abandoning him, and Hannah throwing him away, Philip had an extended sense of distrust, the only person he trusted was himself and after his murder of a harmless black teenager, he didn’t much trust himself either. And here he was going into a place to re-discover himself with rich people’s hocus pocus bullshit.
He waited like Maria at the start of the Sound Of Music, though not quite as intimated since this was a place he’d lived in for five years. “It is like a time machine”, he thought as he waited for the family to show,. And then, without his slightest bidding, another thought came to him, “I need a drink”. He opened the door to the bar room and walked in, “Seems like old times,” he sung to himself, and walked behind the bar, picked out a glass, threw in a couple of pieces of ice and clicked them together, looked longingly at the whiskey, and went to take it, a pretend grab, a make believe before moving to the seltzer water and half heartedly spraying some in the glass and giving it a significant swirl, “Making dreams come true, doing things we used to do…” He looked up and a young blonde girl hair in jeans and a top, her hair in a scrunchy, was studying him. “Is that all you want?” she asked, with a knowing smile.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Looks like you know your way around.”
“I used to live here.”
“Before I was born,” she replied and walked into the room.
“You are Michelle.” Phillip said.
Phillip was going to say something like “You look like your father,” but he stopped himself. Though any idea he might have had about Michelle being his daughter evaporated. It was not that she resembled Jagger as such, the lips were full enough but the face was prettier than a female Jagger implies, but the expression was very much like Mick, the way she put her hand on her hip, the directness and questioning stare.
“I know who you are, you’re the talk of the family: the prodigal son returns, and all that. After running away back he rides to save us all, or something. That’s not how Mom tells it but I know it is what she is thinking.”
Phillip felt distinctly uncomfortable. There was a friction in the room and Phillip, who did observation as a living, wasn’t sure where it was coming from. The girl didn’t know him, why didn’t she much like him, that bothered him and then something else, he liked her. In a world of phoniness, she was direct and confident. He sat at the piano and finger picked “Seems Like Old Times”. Michelle sat next to him and told him to move up, she was tall, reached his nose and sitting down they slouched in a similar position, and shared the melody, she took the bottom, he took the top and they played in silence before Michelle said “Mom will be down soon”, Phillip didn’t answer, just followed her lead.
Michelle appreciated the quiet, most people spoke too when they first met her. She was too young, too pretty, too self-aware and had a semi-intentional air of indifference towards them, that made people who didn’t know her uneasy. Phillip didn’t feel uneasy around people he didn’t know, between the police and his P.I. work he was used to confrontation. It came with the territory, people’s coolness didn’t upset him.
“Do you know ‘Shine A Light’?” She asked.
“Yeah, my Mom was a huge Stones fan.” Phil replied. “ She was like a Stonehead, followed them on tour. She’d tell me stories about the band. And then she got married and that was that.”
“There’s a lot of them.” Michelle replied and began playing the song and Phil added color, took the background of the songs, not showy just quietly like a bed she could lie on. “I love Exile On Main Street” she said.
“That was my favorite as well”, he nodded.
“Yeah”, they played together in a piano loop, not pushing and not rushing. “Mom is always late” she said. And then, “I know a lot about you, you know”.”
“Not much to know.”
“I saw you once during a traffic jam”
“You recognized me?”
“I told you.”
“I guess that’s normal.”
“I guess. You could have come and searched me out, you know.”
“Actually, Michelle, I couldn’t have, and anyway what was there to be worried about?”
“You don’t know, Phil? I could’ve used an adult, a dad. It would have made a difference and I thought it could’ve been you and it wasn’t, so I had to do it myself.”
This huge wave of sadness came over Phil, like he had been so wrecked by grief for so long he had missed something but he wasn’t sure what that something was. “It’s no excuse, but my own teenage years were beyond hell, Michelle. I don’t know what I would have done if you had asked for my help and I know there is no way for you to have known this, but then or now, I would have done anything I could and a few things I couldn’t.”
“Mom isn’t being a jerk, she is nervous.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I’m being a jerk.”
“I used to.. “ Michelle thought for a moment, she didn’t know this guy, why say anything to him but she couldn’t stop herself, it is like she found the father figure Mick didn’t even know about and Ian wasn’t at all, there was something about Phillip’s stoical visage, playing the same notes over and over again, just the way she might want her daddy to be, not anything but a protective presence and she felt she could cry so easily, cry for that young girl she had been. “I used to pretend you were my daddy… silly, I know.”
It seemed to Phillip like a time for his life to have some meaning larger than himself now, first Mick and Susan and now Michelle, and it a couple of minutes Hannah , maybe there was something deep inside him that kept him alive when he wanted to die so very much. Year after after of loneliness –so weird that this young girl saw him as a potential father figure… if she only knew.
“You wouldn’t want me as a father if you knew…”
“it is 2023 Phil, I know.”
They sat in silence playing the oddly plaintiff melody line again and again, finally Phillip asked “So, what do you make of all this?”
“Well, you’re here aren’t you?”
“More or less but..”
“I know, look for me there aren’t too many possibilities here. Either Mom is lying, and she isn’t lying, she isn’t that good an actress. Or she is telling the truth and crazy or telling the truth and not crazy. Either way, she is my Mom and I support her and to be honest, she isn’t like a spooky weirdo like you see on television, I sort of believe there is something going on, though for you…” She began to play the death march and Phillip couldn’t stop himself, he started to laugh and laugh, as though 20 years had brought him here, to a moment of a strange humor with this odd girl who, under difference circumstances, he could well have raised as though she was his daughter. “She’s right,” he thought to himself. “Whether mine or not, she was my responsibility. I am sorry now.” And still he laughed and so did Michelle, they laughed off the years and were laughing still as Mike wandered in and for some reason Phil and Michelle jumped apart, as though they had been caught doing something they really shouldn’t. Also as though a spell had been broken, Michelle felt disturbed, as though she had been interrupted on the midst of something very serious . She frowned, “Phil, this is my boyfriend Mike.”
Phil appraised him quickly, a good looking kid with full hair and a lush face, he looked sexually ripe and Phil seemed to forget him as he looked at him. Mike was worse, “a cop” he thought and mentally shrugged him off. They were like two prize fighters who didn’t consider the other a worthy opponent. Michelle moved to the sofa, Mike poured himself a scotch and coke and sat down next to her. Mike put his hand on her leg and Michelle moved away suddenly shy. They sat in silence, strangers again, the spell broken and when Hannah finally came in, she saw what she had expected to see.
Hannah wasn’t particularly sexually interested in Phillip again, but at the age of 50, she expected men to still find her attractive. “If Phillip thinks he is gonna meet some lunatic he is greatly mistaken,” she said to her reflection, putting on a tight skirt and a cream colored top. It had taken her three hours and a lot of thought to chose such a plain outfit. As she tried on one thing after another she pushed her mind to remember what it was Phil liked in women, in her, and slowly she remembered: he hated ostentation, he liked to understand what he was doing and why he was doing it. So after hours she chose cream on black, her hair down, minimal make up and when she walked through the doors she was happy to note Phillips tiny glance of interest. She went to shake his hand but whatever magic her attractiveness held wore off quickly. In the exact same room where she had ripped him apart, she wouldn’t be able to put him together. “This isn’t gonna be about us at,” she nodded to herself. “He hasn’t even thought of forgiving me” And then almost at the exact same time, “not that I care”.
Phillip stood up. “Well, I’m here. What do you want?”
“You grew old, Phillip” she replied, “What happened to you?”
“My wife threw me out without a penny and when I needed her most she told the press I was dangerous and violent.”
“No, I wasn’t. You told me you were pregnant with another man’s child and then threw me out and I did nothing. Ever.”
“You might have…”
“Then? No. Now, I am not so sure.”
“This is getting good” Mike whispered to Michelle but she didn’t hear him.
“Can’t you let it drop, it doesn’t matter now.”
“I wonder if you’re right. I wonder if your actions didn’t matter at all.”
“Let’s keep to the business at hand.”
“Don’t ask questions if you don’t wanna here the answers.”
“Just stop it, Phillip. Stop it, now.” This was going to be more difficult than Hannah had thought, and she wasn’t sure she could pull it off. Apparently the years hadn’t mellowed him any but it was Michelle who saved it.
“Phil, please, for me. Let’s just see what happens. For me. It’s clear to me Mom didn’t do the right thing by you and ruined what could have been a very important relationship in my life, and it is equally clear your fall isn’t Mom’s fault. You should have handled it and you could have handled your responsibility to me and to Mom, instead you hid from life and we have all paid for your weakness. None of us know what is going on here, we don’t even know if it is mass hypnosis. If we are all in the process of losing our minds but it just doesn’t matter one way or the other because for better or worse it has brought us together and I am not going to have any one ruin it. Now, sit down and let’s figure out what if anything Mick Jagger wants from us.”
And like magic Phil calmed down, Hannah could see his face relax, all the tension gone. As though it was time now to become some type of family, whatever the reason, however it happened, it was time to see this through. “What do we do now?” Phillip asked and Ed replied, “We do nothing. With Hannah it is like calling someone on your cell.”
“I will be calling my Great Great Grandmother Dolly Buchwald, I always start with her but there is no mumbo jumbo or any of that stuff. I don’t know why but she is the one to get in touch with me. She never wants to talk to my mom.”
“Or me, either.” Michelle added. “Though she likes Mike.”
“It is weird, Hannah changes entirely, almost physically she transform herself.” Mike explained. At first he had believed it was Hannah’s way of coming on to him but it really wasn’t. He’d read up on it and now thought she had multiple personalities and discussed it with Michelle, who considered it besides the point except now it wasn’t.
Dolly was a good choice for a cell phone to the next world, though she died youngish, 58 years old in Poland, where she was shot in the back running away from the authorities, she had always been more like the mother Janet than the daughter Hannah. Sexuallly interested and rebellious, well-educated and stubborn, and very pretty. If she had lived she’d have spent the rest of the war in the Joy Division.
Mike got another whiskey and soda and sat back down, reaching for Michelle’s hand and the room went silent and Hannah closed her eyes and then opened them and said “Hello Phillip, how are you? I knew you would be here.” It wasn’t Hannah’s voice and the accent was like something out of an old movie, one part Yiddish mama one part Slav with a twist in its tail. “So finally we are all together” Janet said. ”This has never happened before, it is so exciting. Like your world tilting on irs axis and nobody knows what to expect but it is being watched so carefully. I am happy to be so directly involved in it. I am happy you were chosen. It is going to be one of the greatest experiments and I feel like a teacher with a star pupil who has aced every single test. For Hannah to be chosen, with or without Michelle, is very exciting for her. Not many people have the power, so many charlatans you know, hocus pocus and boo. And now this is the meeting of the Aftermath on earth. It never happens, there is always this divide yet here we all are. I am, well, speechless….?”