Episode 8: The Barn Burner
The seventh story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by David Nett.
The Barn Burner
This is the weakest story of the book, but ironically, some of my best lines are in this one. This was also my first foray into more of a normal mainstream fiction theme. Its a short one, but there is some gold in there.
The Barn Burner
I watched her drive away. The anger sifted off my head in rises of steam. The room was frigid and the tension was palpable. I walked back to the bar and took a bottle of bad plastic bottled whiskey. I had a barnburner planned. The twelve pack of Budweiser in the fridge was calling to me.
I whipped open the freezer and pulled out ice cubes, relishing in the ample cold pouring from it. I dropped the ice cubes in a glass, splashed in the whiskey and downed it; barely a sheen on the cubes before the alcohol was gone.
“That Bitch.” Not properly directed anger; It could have been towards the woman who cut me off in traffic earlier, but no, I was talking of her. My angel. My love. “That Bitch.”
I know my brain when in a state of anger. Moral consciousness is absent, leaving only pure rage. The fire that burns in my head is penultimate only to the passion that fills my heart. I have plenty of both. I sometimes believe these are the only attributes I do have, fire and passion, and I ponder of the social aspects of such drive. I wonder why girls keep coming to me.
I don’t see beauty in the mirror, I see scorched constitution, I see a boy who is so unsure of himself that when girls approach it’s an all or nothing deal; a forged contract. Alcohol disarming their tractor beams, leading them astray…into my arms. This humble self discord leaves naught for the imagination. If girls make the first move I must accept, it may be my last opportunity to find real love, but that’s not the real reason is it? I desire to be desired. A kiss…the fire that drives my passion.
Discord permeated my skull, I knew what I was doing and at the same time I didn’t. I relished the anger and frustration; it gave me solace, but yet I felt that discordant beat in my heart that told me I loved her. She came to me. She loved me. That had to mean something.
It means cold exhaust wafting into your lungs, while you watch her drive away; a lump in your throat.
“What the fuck!” Anger instills prevalence to monosyllabic words, only adding a second syllable for emphasis. “Fucking bitch!”
I start to pace, aimlessly, with purpose only to walk. To blow steam, the anger has risen so high that I can’t even think.
What’s she thinking? How can she drive away so calmly and serenely? I’d like to think of her sitting there with her bug eyed glasses blocking the tears billowing at the edges of her lids, but she feels no despair. That would only be too great, too auspicious a thought. No, she’s zoned out looking at the road but not seeing it, planning her next PETA meeting. Sure, she can be ethical towards animals, but when it comes to a man she says she loves, she’ll fuck the nearest living thing.
Carbon life, trite but true. Think about the person in front of you one day. Think about being inside of her. Being behind her eyes, feeling the frailty and deficient form that constitutes the human body. Knowing in actuality there is nothing better about her. She’s made of the same material, she’s as easily hurt as you. Flesh is flesh.
Or better yet think of her as a baby. A small child suckling at her mother’s teat. Totally innocent, devoid of any malignant imposition that will enable the brain to formulate evil…and replicate it. This child is what she was; still, what she is, flesh is flesh after all.
This line of thinking should be enough to get me out of my slump, to forget, but by the time it formulates I had already had three swigs of whiskey. Bad timing I guess.
“Fucking bitch!” I was still stretching for emphasis.
I was lucky because I hadn’t broken anything yet. This tends to be a predisposition of mine. It’s either that or punching walls; however I prefer to retain the use of my hands.
I accept the fact that I have defects in character; I just don’t think that other people should. Throwing things seems like a perfectly succinct thing for a cuckold to do, doesn’t it?
“Fucking drove away!” I still tasted the exhaust. Bland and burning. It tasted like rejection.
I threw back by head and poured what was remaining in the can down my throat, crushing it in the process. I stumbled a step back and threw it at the wall. A cacophony of clatter about as abrasive as a couple of dice rolling across a table. Great fucking effect.
I stopped myself, anger abating, when I realized just how ridiculous that looked; like a horrible B actor trying his best for the Oscar. I hope to God no one’s looking in the windows.
Heavy scented air filled the bar. I see her enter; thigh high dress with jeans on underneath. Why the hell do I find that sexy? There was a cool breeze blowing behind her, gently tossing her hair about her head. She was wearing a unbuttoned blue petticoat and there’s a streetlight shining behind her, haloing her head in soft warm light.
“Goddamn.” The guy next to me whipped his head around, drunken eyes wavering in their sockets, I wasn’t sure if he was looking at me or the bartender.
“Thas right goddamn it!” He spit as much as he slurred. “Whas it take to fucking drink ‘round here?”
He put his hand on my shoulder, a gesture of friendship, of companionable fortitude in the face of a packed bar. I smiled gently and pushed it off, nodding and looking back for the bartender intently. She had sidled up beside me at the bar and I didn’t even notice.
Looking back I realize there was only one possible entrance for her. The bar was busy and the person that was sitting on the stool next to me had gotten up to take a leak and when she sat down I could feel her there; as if she were giving off radiation.
My mouth was suddenly dry, her auburn hair ruffled from the wind and her cheeks rosy, not from makeup, but from the cold night air. Her lips were full and red, not overtly, but with a slight sheen that enabled the light to reflect and show their full plumpness.
I took a deep drink of whatever I was drinking, hoping the quaff would alleviate my inhibitions. Liquid courage. I tried to lean my body ever so slightly so as to turn more towards her, get her attention. Only I made a slight miscalculation, the stool I was on was precariously balancing on the edge of a step and by moving so briskly I managed to plunge the stool off the edge, in turn plummeting myself off the stool and onto the hardwood floor of the bar. Excellent first move.
“Shit!” The parameters of intelligence only encompass times of mental inaction. It’s very hard to say anything intelligent when you’re drunk and falling off a stool in front of someone who takes your breath away.
She was on me before I knew I hit the ground. I felt her soft hand press up against my cheek, a gesture of concern. I opened my eyes into clear deep pools. Hazel with a tint of the sky swirled in. Kind eyes, with only a hint of smile around the edges. She knew I was embarrassed, but she didn’t take advantage.
“Are you ok?” Breathy diction with smooth intonation. Sexy.
“Umm…” Fear and anger work the same way. In the throws of either only one syllable will emerge.
“Is that a yes?” Her smile revealed itself and her hand moved from my cheek around the back of my head. I felt her finger nails sweetly scratch through my hair. I used all my nerve not to reach up and hold her against me, to feel her heart beating close to mine, to smell her lavender scented hair and strawberry breath. To keep that comfort completely encompassed in that embrace, that memory. Instead I slowly stood up.
“Wow, that wasn’t embarrassing or anything.” I could feel my ears burning, I envisioned my cheeks turning scarlet, especially where the memory of her hand still lingered.
The whiskey bottle is half gone and there are four empty beer cans lying in front of me. I didn’t spend the time to right them when they fell over. They all seemed to fall over. It doesn’t matter which way I put them on the table. Defective all of them. Why the fuck cant I get anything to stay upright? Do I have to slam a fucking pole through them and pound it into the table? And, yes, by the way I realize how ridiculous this sounds; being angry at the fucking beer cans, but where else should my anger lead me? I don’t want to think about her. I don’t want to think about her betrayal.
I long for solace so I look to a giant painting of an old ship I have on the wall. It was something my grandmother gave me, and with it came an insatiable wanderlust. I remember a deep longing to be on that ship as a child, to ride along with the sailors and pirates. Never to be held down in one place, never having to worry about paying bills. Just you, a couple of other stall-worthy men and the open sea. Nothing to fear but death. I feel peace when I look at this painting; there are worlds outside of my own. Outside of this beautiful-tortuous relationship, a place where I can be at peace.
I’m pulled back from my wonderment by the sound of a can falling over.
“Fucking Bitch!” I’m not sure if I’m talking about her or the can. Hell, at this point I don’t think it matters. She’s ruined my life and I’m in hell. Not only did she cuckold me, but she left of her own will! I didn’t even boot her out the door!
I reach into the cabinet and grab the shotgun, lay it against the couch and head back to the fridge for another beer. Funny they call it a barnburner. I would like that, yes. Burn down that fucking barn.
She held my hand the entire night. The warm compress of her palm against mine, with only slight dampness of impending sweat. I felt comfortable, conjoined, as if I were stronger with her attached to me, even if we were only connected through our hands.
I saw nervousness in her feet first. On the drive back to her house I could see them jittering, as if moving to a silent beat. The talk was light and pointless, about the movie we just saw. Never-ending story. We were both ignoring the fact that she balled her eyes out when the horse was dragged into the swamp. I could see the embarrassment in her eyes, deep and ingrained.
She had a purple coat on that night, matching the sunset. I’d look at her image framed by the orange-purple light and she was perfect. Her cheeks were slightly rosy, reminiscent of the first time we met, and her eyes were soft from the tears that watered them earlier. She had wiped away her makeup during the movie with my handkerchief and it gave her an ethereal glow; a natural soft face with all the colors of the sunset giving a dramatic backdrop. She smiled when I looked at her. Coy and shy all at the same time. I intimate she thought it was because I was attempting to ascertain her forlorn demeanor. In actuality, it was because in that exact moment, with the dying sun lighting her up, putting fire in her hair, emphasizing the tenderness in her gaze; the color of her jacket framing her petite body against the fading of the light, she looked like an angel. Her hand was the only thing to give me illusion of reality. That warm damp compress and the more intently I stared at her, the tighter the grip became.
I felt a surge of energy float up from my hand, through my arm and into my heart, following the blood stream; flowing through my vesicles. It was as if she was giving me an infectious disease. I could feel it surge through my body, a levity, a lightheadedness, a surge of joy; my heart entered my throat and made my tongue stick into place. The only words I could manage to convey my feelings came at her doorstep when I dropped her off.
I looked at the barn behind her house. I smiled at her.
My mouth hung open for a moment after I spoke the words, as if I were going to say more, but when nothing came I smiled again.
She, however, didn’t answer, just jumped at me and hugged me with fierceness; like she was trying to squeeze me in half, destroy my body and hold onto my soul. My heart leaped again and she felt it, the loud thump against her breast caused an echoing rhythm in her…and she hugged tighter.
She moved her head from my neck; I could hear and feel her intake of breath. I looked into her eyes and watched as she bit her lower lip, eager, eyes provoking.
I lost reason. I lost lucidity. I lost hope. Her lips touched mine and I forgot how to live my life alone.
I gazed down into the barrel of the shotgun. She had a cute little name for him. A pet name. She called him the Italian Stallion. Too fucking cute for words. He wasn’t even Italian.
Two thirds of the bottle was gone and two more beers. I had a vague recollection of what the problem was, but at that point I pretty much only felt anger.
“Sherb fook, haarry prick.”
Flailing blindly around the room, the only thing keeping me alive is the fact that I didn’t load the shotgun, though I’m not entirely sure if I could load it at this level of drunkenness.
I know at some point I tried to fire it. I think I blacked out. I think I’m pissed. I think I need to burn her barn. That beloved fucking barn where all her indiscretions took place. That fucking barn, where she made a cuckold of me. That fucking barn was where all the damage came from. Fuck the barn.
I had planned a barnburner tonight, but now that phrase took on a whole new meaning for me. Fuck her, and fuck that barn.
The shotgun dropped from my hand with a perfunctory thud, and I made my way to my garage and grabbed my spare tank of gas, that just so happened to be resting snuggly against the back hatch of my Jeep. Fucking divine providence.
I was watching football at the time it happened. Ignorant to the indiscretion, the blind cheating that was about to be unloaded on me.
“Baby, I need to talk to you.”
I felt a hand on my shoulder, warm and soothing. A surge of warmth flew through me, straight to my heart, brightening my disposition. I turned and looked into her azure-hazel eyes, tendrils of color weaving into one another giving them a slight marble touch. There was consternation in her expression; her mouth turned down into a purse. My thoughts turned black with the quintessential quote: “Uh, oh!”
“What’s wrong baby?” I reached behind me with my right arm and caressed her forearm, hoping to coax fortuitousness. “Come over and sit down.”
“No, I’d rather stand.” It was a quick answer; I knew I was in trouble.
She didn’t answer at first; she just sighed and walked around in front of me, in front of the TV. She was indicating I was to give her my full attention.
“I don’t know…”
I grew impatient with her game. “Babe, I know you like to be coy, but just say what’s on your mind. We’ll get through whatever.”
“No I don’t think so.”
My heart dropped and skipped a beat. Not this talk, not with her. Please God not with her.
“I’m leaving.” She stopped as if I would say something in response; as if I could respond. “I’ve…found something, someone.” She was quick to correct herself.
I think I tried to speak. I tried to come up with something intelligent to say. I wanted to be Humphrey Bogart, instead I said:
“It’s been in the barn, only a few times, but I can’t go ba…I mean it’s unlike anything…”
I stayed silent a second time, Then the nausea hit and I ran for the toilet. I retched three times. It was a horrible feeling, there was nothing in my stomach, but it was clenching like vice grip. I heard her in the hall behind me.
“I know its coming as a surprise. It was for me too, but it’s just so damn good.”
I retched harder. I could feel my intestines moving upward.
“What’s his name?” I managed between retches. I reached up to the toilet tank cover trying to raise myself, the horrible clenching of my stomach slowly subsiding.
“Paulo. He’s beautiful and exotic. He’s fromAndalusia. He’s just so…I mean we have this connectedness…I just cant go back. He’s just such a beautiful man.”
My stomach retched, but I didn’t throw up. I shat myself and I screamed more than I thought possible. She left in a hurry. I thought of the drink in the kitchen. I had to plan a barnburner; as much as I could drink. I would have to stay up all night. I had a barn to burn, and with any luck it would be occupied.
Episode 2: Carol-Ann and the Nothing Man
The second story from Sean McBride’s published short story collection, A View of the Edge of the World. This episode is produced by Ed Robinson and read by Rick Robinson and Valerie Rachelle.
Carol-Ann and the Nothing Man
He knew Carol-Ann was outside and it terrified him. He sat in his little hotel room staring blankly at his computer screen. He had spent months, in intervals, sitting in hotel rooms trying to finish his masterpiece and Carol-Ann hated it. She always grilled at him about it. “Why do you have to go out? What’s wrong with writing at home? What do you do? Do you sleep there?”
The last question always baffled him because she always asked it. Granted there were times when he left the hotel room to come home and sleep in the same bed, but most times he slept there. The real reason she asked was because her jealousy had overtaken her. Carol-Ann was normally very level headed, so much so that people often thought she was on medication. She would sit and listen while someone would pander her style, or criticize her paintings. She would purse her lips slightly and nod, accepting and cordial. But when it came to her man, she would loose it. She never told him the real reason because she knew she was being ridiculous, but whenever he went away she could see him sitting there in that depressing little hotel room (in her mind it was always dark and dirty; there was always only one light in the room, always stains on the walls, and always some cheap girl in a tiny pleather skirt.), with a guilty and sullen look upon his face, while some hooker sucked his dick.
She had called him twenty minutes before telling him she was coming. He was in the same position as he always was; slumped over the laptop, with one hand on his cheek and the other scratching his head, a look of consternation on his face. He came to the hotel to write. His initial reasoning seemed to make sense to him. It was full of rhythm and superstition and it worked.
He was on the biggest tour of his career. His first book was called “Bird’s Release.” It was a story from the perspective of a boy with autism and it told of his struggles to be understood. It was pure schlock, but people loved it. The SF Chronicle said he “caught the breadth and possibility of life” and Newsweek said it was “pertinent and intelligent. A must read for anyone with a soul.” He saw it for what it really was; gimmicky and trite. He felt like a sell out, as if he didn’t know how to create so he followed formulas. His second book, “The Correct Ideal for a Failing Marriage” was a mirror to his life. This time the Chronicle said he was “Genius” and Newsweek said he was a “Rock Star Philip Roth.” The narrator of the book was a disillusioned Basketball coach who spent long periods away from home…writing in hotels. In the book the couple broke up and got back together on her death bead, years later. In real life the couple ignored their problems and stayed together.
The biggest was the third. He had a large tour inNew Yorktouring 8 stores and he stayed at the Hilton for a week. It was called “The Devastated Sole” and it was about a man traveling from coast to coast trying to understand his meaning in the world. It was about this time he started noticing a common theme entering his writing he hadn’t before.
The time he spent at the Hilton in New Yorkwas the most productive of his life. He began to think his problems came from restlessness and being tied down. He equated this wanderlust with his inability to be happy with his home life. Namely Carol-Ann. After his tour had finished, he thought back to that room where he had the revelation, that place where he had been so productive. He thought about the joy in getting back to the room and pressing that little power button and having that little machine show the extension of his mind which came from his fingers. He thought back to the feeling of the words flowing through his hands, the actual world receding and the fictional one taking over, and he made another reservation. He had no reason to go toNew York, but that room was calling to him. That cold, solitary vestige from life.
Carol-Ann knocked at the door and took a deep breath. She had stayed by him for so long. She stayed with him when he was just a poor wannabe tripping over words in the dictionary. She stayed with him through the initial shock of his first real success. She had stayed with him as his ego shrank and he became scared of the fame. She watched him through a window of his pride as he began to shrink in on himself. She watched him transform from a confident strong handsome man, to a blithering, self loathing, vapid pedant.
She watched him decline as her own abilities escalated. She began painting as a hobby but quickly became serious. She had talent. What some people call “the eye,” she was brilliant at capturing images. The first painting she sold was of a marble countertop interlaced with a stovetop containing two burners. Both the burners had plastic covering them, as if just purchased. Next to the stove top was an empty bottle of ketchup, fallen prone with a small red globule spilling out of the mouth. Carol-Ann called it “battered bride lying on the alter of her missing husband.” She was the bride.
She sold it in a gallery a week after her husband’s first release. He didn’t notice she sold it until a month later.
Carol-Ann’s next sale was featured in Juxtapoze. It was a Candelabra with one burning candle. The wax that slid down transformed into a mustang running with it’s mane swimming in the breeze. She called it “The Great Escape.” Once again she was represented in her painting and once again he didn’t notice for a month. This sale came in between “The Correct Ideal for a Failing Marriage” and “The Devastated Sole” and her husband just didn’t seem to hear when she told him.
She got off the phone with her agent, heart beating and eyes tearing. She went to tell him with an unending grin on her face and she found him in his study, writing. She called to him and said she had just gotten off the phone with her agent. She was going to ask him if he would attend a release party with her because she had just attained clients who were going to pay her to paint…but she never got to. He sat at his computer and lifted his right hand with his index finger pointing up, indicating her to wait. His eyes never left the screen. He brought his hand back to the keyboard and took a deep breath that said “Don’t ever fucking do that again” and went back to writing.
He started going to hotels to write after that. He wrote every day.
She forgave him though. She had so much love to give and so much need for belonging, for acceptance. She had never felt ostracism before. Carol-Ann had a good life; a good relationship with her family and never a shortage of money (though to be fair there was never an excess of money either). She had two relationships in her life and they both ended mutually and quickly and with little hardship. So when she realized she was having trouble with her husband she ignored the symptoms and internalized her anger and despair. The only time she let her spirit free was in her painting. It was such a cathartic release for her to express her inner longing through the abstract characters she painted, because in her real life, the life in which he shared, she repressed her true feelings in fear that he would leave her. She had become complacent and agreeable and forgot what life was like before he was in it. So she would dream of leaving and live vicariously through her not-quite-real counterparts.
While Carol-Ann slowly released her inner longings he moved from hotel room to hotel room. He initially got the same hotel room, that room at the Hilton which was so productive for him, but it soon wore off. There was something missing, something since the last time he was there. In his ignorance he couldn’t tell that he missed Carol-Ann. She would rub his shoulders when he sat hunched over the screen for too long. She would cook him dinner while he stared at the wall; stretching his mind for what his next chapter would hold. She made love to him when he ignored her needs all day long. He just continued to move from room to room and from city to city, gradually getting farther and farther from Carol-Ann.
To fulfill the void of companionship he started calling sex lines. Sometimes he would just call to talk about his problems or a particular plot problem, sometimes he masturbated to their sensual coos. It never dawned on him to call Carol-Ann and it never dawned on him that if he did, she might think it odd; as if he were only calling because he had a problem. Or maybe it did dawn on him, because he knew that the only time he called her was when he had a problem. He justified his jejune behavior by arguing semantics; he wasn’t actually penetrating anyone, so he wasn’t actually cheating.
He went from hotel to hotel in his search for that lost feeling of creativity, but every hotel room, every mile which separated him from Carol-Ann seemed to deplete his desire. He was in the midst of his fourth novel, the one he started in the Hilton those few years back, as he awaited her arrival. The book was the chronicle of a woman scorned. She was married to a man who neither paid attention to her, nor cared what she did. He loved her dearly, but he didn’t know how to show it and thus separated himself with the trapping of his art.
He only wrote what he experienced though and after the years of writing the book, it was only then that he realized he was writing about his own relationship. In his book the main character was tired of the life they were living. She never saw her husband and when she did he was cold, distant. She tried to fill her time with crocheting and other disingenuous tasks while swallowing her dissatisfaction. The woman (whom he hadn’t named yet…after six hundred manuscript pages) sat at her mirror one day and saw the first vestiges of age, a slight crow’s feet around her eyes and smile lines surrounding her mouth, and behind her in the room was nothing but emptiness and a small sliver of light shining from the window to the door. She took another look at her aging face and the clear lighted pathway to the door and she made a decision: there will be no more lonely nights. It was at this moment when he finally thought of a name for his heroine. He would name her Angelica, for the nearly spiritual imagery of the light showing her way to freedom and for the celestial patience of his wife Carol-Ann.
When Carol-Ann knocked on the door the man realized his mistake. Carol-Ann had seen the sliver of light, she had been shown the door and she was here to tell him she was leaving. When she knocked, he quickly got up and stood blocking the door, mute.
“I’m leaving you.” She looked at him expectantly. She wanted him to say something. She wanted him to tell her not to leave. She wanted him to tell her he loved her. She wanted him to laugh in her face and take her in his arms and kiss her. He said nothing.
“I’m tired, and I don’t like being lonely all the time.” He was terrified. His throat was so dry he felt like is was going to crack. He wanted to take her in his arms. He wanted to caress her face and kiss her newly forming tears. He wanted to tell her he would never leave her again. He wanted to tell her he loved her. He said nothing.
“I know you don’t care. I don’t know why I waited this long. I guess I was just hoping. You’re free now.” She stood there for a moment, then gave a little frustrated hop. He said nothing.
She turned and walked down the hallway. He raised his hand to her back, imploring her to stay, he wanted to speak, but nothing would come. He thought she would turn back. He thought she would give him one last chance, but Carol-Ann had made up her mind. He had no love for her. He showed that. He said nothing.
He watched her leave the hotel hallway and walk out into the blinding sun. He didn’t let his arm fall. His throat croaked, but he didn’t say anything.
His arm fell and his mouth closed and he sagged on the door jam when he heard a squealing of tires from down the hallway. He had heard the sound many times before and it always made him cringe. It was one of those sounds that was always followed by a crunch indicative of crumbling plastic and twisted metal. Before he knew what he was doing he ran down the hallway. He hit the doorway at stride, splashing out into the bright noonday sun. The light blinded him for a moment, time only enough for him to dream he was somewhere else. To dream he was waking next to Carol-Ann in bed from a terrible nightmare. When his eyes focused he saw her lying on the ground, surrounded by a pool of blood and half-way under a beat down Ford Taurus.
He had no recollection of it, but he ran to her and cradled her in his arms. Flashes of “The Correct Ideal for a Failing Marriage” flashed through his head and he looked down into her eyes. He said nothing.
“Who are you?” Carol-Ann’s brain had been jostled by the impact of the car, damaging her Temporal Cortex and erasing her ability to remember who he was. He took it to mean that even now, in her death throes she had not forgiven him. She didn’t want him around.
She was just happy to have someone hold her, finally getting the intimate contact her relationship had lost.
As he lay there with her body as she slowly slipped off, he thought back to the last thing he wrote:
The most amazing thing about her is her ability to see past my bad habits. She can ignore my imperfections and treat me like a man, while I deal with what I have to. It wasn’t until she came to the door when I realized how much I loved her. She came to tell me she was leaving and I loved her more than I ever had. Ever. In that moment I knew all I had to do was tell her those few words and everything would be ok. Everything would be as it should. All I had to do was say those three words…
“I love you Carol-Ann…”
I wrote this story while staying in a Stockton, CA hotel. I’d been there for two days, training for a promotion, when the idea of a man who needs to get away and write came to me. It was amazing to me how easy it was, no distractions, nobody to ask me questions or ask me to go out to a bar; I could just sit there and write. It was liberating.
But then again I understood that with anything it had to fade after a while, and the most preeminent thing to fade if you don’t nurture it is a relationship. Carol-Ann is the protagonist in the story, she has her dream and she wont let anyone get in the way of that dream, whereas the Nothing Man is just that, he can never get beyond his self absorption, which turns to self loathing, because he sees the relationship deteriorating and with it his hold on his reality and it terrifies him. However despite his fear and reservations, he thinks the money and the fame will bring him the happiness he needs, so he strives for it, only to be left on the outside looking in at what a better life could mean. In the end Carol-Ann was the only thing that actually mattered, but he ignored that for so long that he lost her and the only thing he could look back upon is a series of hotel rooms and memories of a computer screen.