Sandburg knows that I run my senses over him on a daily basis. He thinks it's all to do with the whole Sentinel needing a partner thing, and keeping that partner healthy. Okay, so it gives me some leeway for nagging him. Not that I nag him often - I mean, he's an adult and he's been taking care of himself for a long time now. Longer than he should have, I suspect.
Anyway, he knows. So, when we meet up at the station or back at the loft, he gives me this look which says that he knows I'm doing it right then and there; sometimes in front of everyone - as if they're going to notice. And he lets me just get on with it, checking his breathing, his heart rate, his temperature. Memorising him with every sense, well, except taste. I don't lick him or anything. I know I'm weird, but I'm not that weird.
I haven't told him that I don't really need him to be there; most times I can recreate him with my senses. He goes on about sense memory but doesn't think to apply it to himself. But I apply it.
All I have to do is close my eyes, and I can see him. Tilt my head and I can hear him talking about some obscure anthropological fact that really doesn't make any difference to anyone's life, but he's learned it. And remembers it. Remembers that little known tribe he spent six months with before he got involved in this whole Sentinel thing.
If I inhale, I can smell him. That shampoo and the conditioner he uses to try to keep the tangles out of that hair of his. And that brings me to touch. I've touched his hair. Actually, if I'm honest, I've touched it plenty of times; noogies are a great way to drive him nuts.
So, I remember him. With every sense. Except taste.
Anyway, he thinks it's a Sentinel thing, but it isn't. The whole Sentinel thing just gives me a way to remember him that pictures can't give me. They're flat...one dimensional. But with my senses, he's there, right in front of me. Created from my memory.
You might wonder why I'd need to create him; I mean, I can't get away from the guy. The one time I did manage to get a break, he and Simon followed me to make sure I was okay.
But I know it's temporary. One day, he'll have enough for that dissertation of his. He'll have enough data, enough results from those damned tests. And he'll get itchy feet again.
I saw how much he wanted to go to Borneo - to get back to the footloose life he knew before he got involved in my life and my senses. I was surprised he decided to stay. But one day, he'll go.
Not that it bothers me. I mean, I'm an adult. I've looked after myself for long enough now; it's not like I need him hanging around. For God's sake, the kid's a trouble magnet. Serial killers and psychos seem to have this urge to find him. I swear they do it just to piss me off. Maybe one day I won't get there in time - though, God knows, I'll try.
But even if the psychos and killers don't see him off, or scare him off, he'll leave. That much is inevitable. Everyone leaves, sooner or later.
Jesus, there he is. Even with my back turned and my attention focused on the boats out at sea, I know he's there. The elevator must be out again. Yeah, he's cursing about it - his backpack must be heavy or he had a long day today.
He opens the door and I turn, every sense focussed on him.
"Hey, Jim, the elevator's out again. I thought they fixed it already?" Not waiting for an answer, he drops his backpack and hangs up his coat, then stalks into the kitchen to grab a beer. "And you know what makes it worse?"
He waits and I shake my head.
"I ran into Mrs. Peterson and her dog."
I wince in sympathy. Mrs. Peterson's dog is the bane of the building as he's convinced that everyone's a serial killer in disguise. Pity she wasn't living here when Lash broke in. Dragging my mind away from the past, I wander over to where Sandburg's still complaining about Mrs. Peterson and her refusal to see Snookums as anything but a lapdog in disguise.
Leaning past Sandburg, I put my bottle into the recycling and take the opportunity to inhale, adding another piece to the mosaic of memories I've built up.
"You okay, Jim?"
I smile. He's here for now, and that's all that counts. I'll let tomorrow worry about itself. "Sure, Sandburg. What say we order in instead of cooking?"
He eyes me carefully for a minute and I wonder if I pass the test. Don't let 'em see how much you need them - it'll only make them leave all the sooner.
"Well, I was planning on making Tofu Surprise."
I nearly choke. The only surprise about that dish is that anyone invented the recipe in the first place. "I keep on telling you, Chief; man cannot live by tofu alone."
His eyes narrow even more. "You had Wonder Burger for lunch, didn't you?"
I swear he's got enhanced senses too. And they're all dedicated to detecting fast food. "If you'd met me for lunch like I suggested, you'd know whether I did or didn't." Grabbing the take out menus, I pick out the Thai one. Maybe that'll distract him.
"You did, I know you did. I don't know why you think I don't realise."
Or, maybe not.
"I know, I know! It's your heart and your digestive system, and you've been existing on Wonder Burger for years now." Taking the menu from my hand, he heads for the phone.
"Don't make it sound like that's all I eat."
He turns, the phone in his hand, and grins at me. "I swear, man, if I weren't here? That's all you would eat."
I smile, the ache lessening slightly. If that's all it takes to keep him around, I'll put up with the nagging. "Just order the food, Sandburg. Some of us put in a full day's work chasing criminals, you know."
He snorts with laughter. "Too many Wonder Burgers, man, and you won't be chasing anyone except the donut lady."
"Yeah, yeah, tell it to the Marines." Grabbing another beer, I make for the couch. When the food arrives, we can eat there - yet another house rule that didn't last long.
He orders the food, then puts the phone down, silence reigning for a few seconds, then, "Are you sure you're okay?"
I turn and roll my eyes at him. "Yeah, I'm fine. Now get over here. The game's gonna start."
Snagging his beer on the way over, he settles down next to me and my senses wrap around him, drinking in every aspect of his presence. I know I should resent them for the havoc they've caused in my life, but my senses are also a blessing, in a way.
When he's gone, the memories they give me will be all I'll have left of him.
22nd March 2006.
On to Mosaic 2
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