Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nothing More Than Feelings

She is alone at the kitchen table later that night as she contemplates her extremely irritating and recalcitrant husband. Lost in thought about what to do next, Sami looks up as she faintly hears something only to see EJ enter the room and walk over to her.

EJ (lightly as he places his hand on the chair across from her): “Turnabout is fair play, eh?”

They stare at each other as his attempt at levity falls flat.

Sami (still angry with him): “Do you really have to do that?”

EJ (gesturing as he sits down): “Have to is such strong phrasing.”

Sami (making the leap): “So you’re ready to apologize.”

EJ (considering): “I would, but you’re not ready to forgive me yet. And I’m not sorry for everything.”

Sami (incredulously): “You’re not serious.”

EJ (raising an eyebrow): “I’m always serious.”

Sami (moving her head): “Why not?”

EJ (leaning back): “Well, I could have been less…abrasive, certainly, but I’m not incorrect, darling. Don’t pretend this is an entirely altruistic endeavor on your part.”

Sami (direct): “It is.”

EJ (evenly): “No, it’s not.”

Sami (imploringly): “Yes, it is. I just want to help you. That’s it. I don’t have any sort of hidden agenda.”

EJ (dryly): “Sure you do. Fix your emotionally broken husband.”

Sami (exasperated): “That’s not hidden!”

EJ (folding his arms): “The fixing, no. The reason, yes. You don’t want to be married to me-you want to be married to some sanitized version of me.”

EJ looks at Sami challengingly.

Sami (frowning slightly): “You’re right. I’m not ready to forgive you.”

EJ (nodding): “I thought so.”

Husband and wife sit in silence for several moments. Surrounded by quiet, Sami studies EJ’s rumpled pajamas and his hair widely sticking up in all directions.

Sami (suddenly wondering): “What are you doing up, EJ?”

EJ (not answering): “I came to see where you were. Seems to be quite the spot for contemplation.”

Sami (still questioning): “But why are you awake?”

He pointedly avoids looking at her.

Sami (sighing loudly): “Oh, EJ…”

EJ (not even trying to avoid the next question): “Not every night.”

Sami (saying it): “But most?”

At EJ’s affirmative nod, Sami sighs again.

Sami (cringing): “Did you at least get a break before they started again?”

EJ (considering as he rubs his face): “Yes, actually I did. Two nights in a row.”

Sami marvels at how little time that actually is.

Sami (not wishing to offend him): “EJ, I thought you were bet-okay. I mean, you seemed to be sleeping fine to me. I haven’t seen you wake up or…do anything.”

EJ (willing to go there): “Act out, you mean. Well, I have been stealing some quality nap time during the day, and I’m used to pushing myself hard. Besides, I knew you wanted me to be better, sweetheart.”

Sami (annoyed yet touched): “So you pretended to be for me?”

EJ (contradicting himself): “No, not exactly. I didn’t want you to worry about me any longer, but I wanted that too. I thought I could make it happen, you know? We already talked once. That-that should have been it.”

Sami (disappointed as well): “I hoped so, too. As far as the bad dreams are concerned, anyway, if not anything else. Is it different from last time?”

EJ (nodding): “Yes, I think so…although I’m not sure. I don’t-”

Realizing that Sami has gotten him to open up again, EJ stops speaking for a moment before smiling sheepishly at her.

EJ (measuring her): “You really are good at this, aren’t you?”

Sami (seriously): “You can’t just suffer in silence, EJ.”

EJ (chuckling in spite of himself): “I could say that’s what I’ve always done, eh?”

Sami (encouragingly): “You’ve already started. I know something. One more thing won’t change anything.”

EJ (sadly): “It already has.”

Sami watches as EJ swallows hard.

Sami (softly): “I’m sorry.”

EJ (disbelieving): “But you’re not. Not really.”

Sami (admitting): “You’re right. I’m not sorry you finally told me something. But I am sorry that I hurt you by what I implied in what I said.”

Sami reaches out and takes EJ’s hand in hers.

Sami (with conviction): “I still admire your strength, EJ. You protect me in so many ways.”

Knowing that she means it, EJ smiles at Sami.

EJ (warmly): “Thank you.”

EJ (still smiling): “And I…think highly of your understanding. Between the stonewalling and the threats, I haven’t been the most helpful patient, have I?”

Sami (smiling back): “I’m not a real therapist, so it evens out.”

Holding hands, EJ and Sami enjoy each other’s company before she continues.

Sami (genuinely interested): “So what was the nightmare about?”

EJ (shaking his head): “I’m serious, Samantha. I don’t want to discuss it.”

Sami (worried): “EJ, you shouldn’t hide this from me.”

EJ (giving her a look): “I already have, darling.”

Sami (making her point): “Which is exactly what I mean. This isn’t good for you.”

EJ (adjusting in his chair): “I don’t want to talk about it. And certainly not when you’re angry with me.”

Sami (insistent): “I still can help you.”

EJ (shaking his head): “No, you can’t.”

EJ (sighing): “Based on before…on last time…”

EJ pauses as he is unwilling to give his memories more reality than they already have by naming their previous conversation.

EJ (very reluctantly): “Samantha, you and I both know that the reason you press me about this when I’m exhausted is because it works. You found me when I was most susceptible to speaking about it because it was fresh in my mind. So I gave in. I wouldn’t have agreed to otherwise. But when I tell you about what happened, I get…I get…”

He frowns.

EJ (unable to find the right word): “Confused.”

Sami (encouragingly): “And that’s perfectly okay. I know how hard this is for you. Even if I didn’t before, I do now. You know I do.”

EJ (trying to make sense of it): “I do. It’s just…I haven’t thought about any of this for a very long time…and I don’t want to think about it either, so when I explain it to you, I have to remember what happened. And after I spend a little time thinking about it, it all comes back, even if it wasn’t there at first. What time of year it was, how old I was, where we were at the time, how Father used to look at me…”

EJ shakes himself slightly before he continues.

EJ (struggling): “And then….and then it’s different. I’m different. And I know that afterwards. But not when it’s happening. Because then I can’t tell. But I know you can.”

EJ looks at Sami intensely, trying to convey the depth of the experience to her.

EJ (explaining as best he can): “Samantha…when I’m…confused…everything makes sense then. More than this does.”

Sami nods as she gets what he means when he involuntarily exchanges one reality for another.

Sami (empathically): “I understand why you feel that way, EJ.”

Noticing the precise phrasing she chose, EJ slumps in his chair.

EJ (looking down): “But you don’t feel that way. Because you know that’s wrong.”

Sami (understandingly): “Feelings aren’t wrong.”

EJ (agreeing): “No, they aren’t. But I also think that it’s right, and that is wrong. And I know that, but I think and feel that way anyway.”

Sami (reassuringly): “It’s not your fault. It’s Stefano’s. He made you into what you were. And you defeated him. You won. You became your own man. You freed yourself.”

EJ (looking up): “Only because I love you, and it could have just as easily gone the other way. It almost did. I’d happily be stealing internal organs for the rest of my life. Because I would be. You saw me earlier today. You know what I am. And I like being this man. Why I’m not sorry for all of it. How could you ever say that’s normal?”

Sami (strongly): “Why are you so insistent that it’s not? I mean, if I had been raised by Stefano, who’s to say that I wouldn’t want to-”

EJ (interrupting her quietly): “Samantha.”

Sami (apologetically): “I’m sorry. This isn’t about me. It’s about you.”

EJ (quietly): “No, I would just rather not think about that. It would not have gone well for you as a Brady or a DiMera.”

After a moment, she realizes that he is completely serious.

Sami (running through possibilities): “What else are you not telling me?”

EJ (honestly): “Almost everything.”

Sami (pleading): “Tell me.”

EJ (firmly): “No. Especially not now.”

Remembering what he is referring to, Sami chuckles.

Sami (yawning suddenly): “I almost forgot I was mad at you.”

EJ (smiling softly): “I know. It’s okay. Go back to bed.”

Sami (tugging on his hand): “Okay. Let’s go.”

EJ (rubbing the back of his neck): “I can’t.”

Sami (patiently): “Yes, you can. You need to sleep, EJ.”

EJ (adamant): “I can’t. Not now.”

Sami (not wanting to leave him alone): “Yes, you can. I’ll help.”

EJ (tilting his head): “No. You don’t want to.”

Sami (downplaying): “I’ll still hold you.”

EJ (miserably): “But not because you want to.”

Sami (unable to take it back): “That doesn’t really matter, does it?”

EJ (the pain reflecting in his eyes): “It matters to me. You meant what you said, my dear.”

Sami (regretfully): “EJ…I’m sorry. I should have never-”

EJ (shrugging it off): “It’s okay. I’ll stay here. You’re barely managing to stay awake. Go to bed.”

Sami glances at the clock on the wall and hesitates for a moment before releasing EJ’s hand.

Sami (kissing him on the cheek as she gets up): “All right, but don’t stay here long. You need to get some rest too. I don’t want you to be here all night. Understand?”

EJ (solemnly): “No sleeping on hard surfaces or hiding under furniture, I promise. Now get going or I will carry you there.”

Knowing that he would make good on his threat, Sami moves to leave the room, glancing back at EJ sitting alone in the kitchen as she does so.

Sami (softly): “Good night.”

EJ (sincerely): “Sweet dreams, sweetheart.”