You're A Good Man, Josh Macon
Written by Paul Orlando Caggegi
Set during season 5.
It was a new beginning. A chance to turn over a new leaf; to see the world through a different set of eyes - the eyes of a college student. And not just any college, I might add, but Stanford. My name is Josh Macon, and I am an English major. I have to
laugh at the sound of those words, excuse me, but they feel so... inflated? loose-fitting? In a way, they are. I graduated from high school just a few months ago, and now I am Josh Macon, English major...
And pizza delivery-boy. An unfortunate side-effect, caused by the need for money. I moved across the country to study here. My parents thought it nuts, you know, with so many good colleges nearby, but this is Stanford, not some cow-poke, yokel hang-out. In retrospect, moving away from home, from everything I was, was the only way I could truly see through new eyes.
So I delivered pizza in my off-hours, then studied at night. I pleasure-read, like, never, and social-life? It's a fairy-tale; something I only saw going on around me. Some of these kids are lucky. Their parents not only paid for their tuition, they sent them money to burn every month, every fortnight, every week.
Actually getting invited to one of those affairs is a pizza-boy pipe-dream. Heh - listen to me: two weeks in this joint, and I'm already spouting war-stories. So much for changing; in high school, my teachers called me the only adolescent forty-year-old. I
could out-depress Mr. Hanover, who was in the throes of a mid-life crisis. I was actually sent to his office one lunch-time to cheer him up.
But I was supposed to be turning over a new leaf, I know. I should have been giving up the old me, throwing out all those old habits. I should have be thankful that nobody knows me here. I could be whoever I want to be. Yeah. In fact, I thought I'd start
right then, with this Lisa chick I was delivering pizza to.
"Hello?" she asked.
"Is there a Lisa here?" I said, trying to play up the tired pizza-boy routine, perhaps get some sympathy.
"Mmm! Pizza!" her friend said, coming to the door and taking the box.
"No... I think you've got the wrong..."
"Lisa, what are you talking about? Don't you want to eat?"
The word ‘prank' pinged softly at the back of my head. At any second I would turn into one of those giant candies with the word, ‘Sucker' on it, just like they did on Bugs Bunny.
"No, I'm sorry, you've got the wrong room," the first girl said, and handed me back the pizza. Then she shut the door.
I stood there long enough to hear her friend say, "Why are you acting this way?"
So much for reinventing myself. I couldn't keep my foot in the door long enough to at least be memorable. It was obviously a prank delivery. Guys at the pizza place had spun stories about them all the time. That was the first one I'd been subject to. It
was the last delivery on my list, so with nothing better to do, I forked out five bucks, gave myself a whopping tip, and went to eat Lisa's pizza alone in my dorm while I worked on my creative writing comp.
I had been a little disappointed to get a room alone. My favorite movie in high school was Threesome, and I dreamed of having Lara Flynn-Boyle move into my dorm room. Alec Baldwin I could do without, though, and I was - and still am - not gay (although I must have heard it from every girl I dated at least once. I even broke up with my previous girlfriend because she just could not believe I was actually straight) and she would fall hopelessly in love with me, even though I was a pizza boy, and where Josh Charles had denied sex, I would ravish her. It would be the most amazing sex in history.
Still, two weeks into first semester, I had a shitty job and no Lara Flynn-Boyle. Not even a Lisa Flynn-Boyle. I sighed and scrunched up the third draft of my short story. My story sucked the big one, and that was being easy on it. You should see me being hard on my work. I bit hard into a fresh slice of pizza and put on another CD. I kneeled for a while, just fiddling with the volume, telling myself I wanted just the right amount of Chris Isaac in the background to keep my thoughts focused on my work. Finally, I rose and made my way slowly back to my desk, stretching out my arms, swinging them, hoping that I could get some blood to move. I sat, rubbed my face, picked up my pen, smoothed the fresh sheet of note-pad before me, and wrote one word: Lisa.
I just happened to see her the next morning, sitting on the library steps. She was reading in a becoming posture: her book was balanced on her right thigh, while her head rested on her left hand. I was going to the library, anyway, so why not remind her of my existence? With each step I took, I thought of a new line to say. By the time I was close enough, I had thought that I would take a few extra steps, double-take, and run back towards her. "Good book?" I asked.
"Huh?" she looked up, curious at first, then her features fell in disappointment. "Yeah."
I was determined not to get the door slammed in my face a second time, so I sat down next to her, and introduced myself. "I'm Josh. You new here, too?"
"Look, what is it about me, sitting here alone, working, that says ‘Hey! Interrupt me!!' I am a student, and I am working, and maybe you don't understand that, but I just want to be left alone - get it?"
No, I didn't, but I left, anyway. So much for turning over a new leaf. I was going to be as hated here as I was back home... and I had only approached one person. I was heading back to my dorm room, but I didn't notice until I was halfway through my composition. When I did notice, however, I was too wrapped that I had actually been writing for half an hour to care that I was in the wrong place.
I managed to get my composition in on time, between two deliveries - neither were pranks, or Earth-shattering encounters. I wasn't too fussed if I didn't make it into the course. My writing was something that I had worked at for a while, now. I had been practicing all through high school - one of the few perks of being the school outcast was a lot of spare time. I had even gotten a couple of short stories published in the local paper. I got paid in parental pride. I was taking creative writing as an elective. The subjects I needed to get into were English Lit and History of Literature. Everything else I chose during the year was pretty much my choice. Unfortunately, I could only afford to take three subjects this semester, and so not getting into
Creative Writing could have been a plus.
But I got in, anyway. I was going to proceed as planned... except who should I see in my class but Lisa. I saw her ignore me in the line of list-checkers. After our last encounter I thought it best to make no impression at all.
College is kind of like high school, only different. I know that makes absolutely no sense, but if you've been, you'll know what I am talking about. For instance, in high school, I wasn't Josh Macon, English Major. Also, my tutor had an air of I couldn't
care less about you attitude, which he dispensed freely at the mob of students who hadn't gotten into his class and were certain that some mistake had been made. I could live without speaking a single word to this man.
"Josh Macon!" he shouted, holding up a collection of familiar looking sheets.
"Here!" I cried back, wondering what he could want with me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lisa paying attention to what was going on.
"I really enjoyed your story, Josh. I was wondering if we could discuss it in class when we start the course."
Lisa was staring at me. It was a stare I was not used to. Was my fly done up? Did I have something hanging out of my nose? I prayed those weren't the reasons, but as one hand went for my crotch and the other to my face, I told the tutor he could if he
My shift at the pizza place was yet to start, and I had just come out of one of my first classes. My tutor for English Lit was a thin, balding guy who loved to talk. Especially over others. "How do you feel about the role models popular modernist fiction presents for our females in today's society?" he'd ask.
"Well, I..." some girl would begin.
"You feel as though you can only become a sinful strumpet, or a cold career-woman, don't you?"
"How do you feel about the dawn of feminist literature?"
"When we get to it, I'm sure you'll agree that it successfully de-constructs the formula set up by a patriarchal history of literature."
...And so on. So I had in front of me a copy of the first book we were to study, open to page three, when Lisa came and sat at my table.
"I have to apologize for thinking you were just a delivery boy, and I was wrong to assume you were hitting on me."
Can't you see I'm working? were the first words to come to mind, but somehow I thought that would be the wrong way to proceed. "I think I know how you could make it up to me," I replied instead, not knowing where I was going with this; not even having a plan.
"Go out with me." I said, wishing I hadn't, but realizing that the words were already out there. I had not choice but to go with it. "I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't trying. I was, but you know, we might just have a good time."
If you could take back moments that were already light-years away by physically contorting your face to draw them back, then you would look like Lisa did then. You'd also understand how futile it was to try in the first place.
She told me she'd think about it. Then she got up and left. And I just realized I still didn't know her real name; I had been calling her ‘Lisa' all along.
Occasionally, I will get rostered on kitchen duty, while some other poor schmo gets stuck doing the dorm rounds. The guy who runs the kitchen is a character, to say the least. He's this big guy who doesn't study, but hangs around the joint because I think
he enjoys to see human suffering. Did I say the guys on the dorm rounds were poor schmos? Bite my tongue.
I was quietly minding my own vegetables, when who should be brought in, but ‘Lisa'. I began feeling creepy. My life was turning into Casablanca, only I didn't own any Gin joints, but of all the food service places, or sit-down cafes, why did she have to come barging into mine, over and over?
"You," she said.
"You," I echoed.
"You two know each other?"
"Well, kinda..." I said, but spoke softly enough to hear that she had replied: "No."
"Yes," she reluctantly admitted.
"Great! Come with me. I'm putting you somewhere else."
"No wait!" I cried, "Leave her with me. I could... ah.. show her the ropes. She'll catch on faster that way."
To people like the boss, time is money, and he could see that my idea would save both. "Okay, though I usually disapprove of people who know each other working together. Just be sure to know that I've got my eye on both of you."
Once he was out of the kitchen, however, she began to talk. "I'm Julia, by the way."
"Great, so I can stop calling you Lisa in my interior monologues."
"Where did you get Lisa from?"
"Josh. Josh Macon, English Major."
James Bond, eat your heart out.
"So what was so great about your short story, Josh Macon, English Major?"
"Are you a writer, also?"
"Trying to be."
"Then you should know that a writer cannot tell you what is so great about his own work: only she who reads it can do that."
James Bond is a dead-beat. I was sure I was losing this girl.
"What do you write about?"
"Well, actually, I haven't written in a long time."
"What did you write about?"
"Might I be able to read some of your... stuff... sometime?"
"If you'll let me find out what's so great about your short story."
I was not only Josh Macon, English Major, I was now Josh Macon: Ladies Man.
She walked with me back to my dorm after work, and I handed her a copy of my short story. She thanked me and left before I even had the chance to offer her some coffee. Not that I had any to offer, really. No biggie. I'd see her at work in a week, and by then she would be able to tell me what she thought of the story. I didn't. I waited all day for her to arrive, thinking that maybe she was just late, or that she was calling in sick. I even waited around outside the place for an hour, just in case she had thought to come by after work and return my story. I finally gave up on the little fantasy of kissing her over a cappuccino down at the library cafe, and went back to my dorm room.
I caught her outside Creative Writing class as we were filing in. "I didn't see you at work, yesterday."
"I know. I quit."
"Don't like the place."
I stopped. I could take a hint. "It's me, isn't it?"
"No!" she looked at me incredulously. "It is so not you, Josh. Believe me, it is not you."
She was either good at the sincerity game, or she just had some kind of hang up about me. I hoped it was the latter, but I knew I shouldn't hope too strong.
"Well, what did you think of my story?"
"We'll be talking about it in class. I'll tell you then."
I forgot. The tutor hadn't mentioned my story in the first tutorial. He had pulled me aside afterwards and told me to prepare something for the second. I hadn't: naturally.
Everyone was seated.
"Has anyone else read mister Macon's short story?"
I saw Julia raise her hand.
"And what did you think?"
"Well... it's a love story, told from the male perspective... about how he wants this girl, but can't have her. I think that kind of story has had its day, don't you?"
My face fell. She was slandering me in public.
"Yes, but I do believe that mister Macon did bring something original to the genre, wouldn't you agree?"
"Setting does not count. Just because Ten Things I Hate About You is set in a high school doesn't change the fact that the story is still The Taming of the Shrew. It doesn't make it any more original, or good."
"Excuse me, but what exactly have you written, lately, Ms. Julia - anything ground-breakingly original?" I found myself saying.
"Now people..." the tutor said, trying to calm us down.
"From what 'fresh' perspective do you make such claims?" I continued.
"From a woman's." she said.
Funny. I never figured Julia a feminist. I never figured she'd hate my story outright, either. I'd figured she'd read it, tell me it was okay, then leave it at that.
"I have nothing new to add, because I haven't had a chance to pick up where I left my writing last, and that was a few years ago. I am taking this class to find out what's new. Apparently: nothing."
I could have continued, but I didn't, so the class fell into an uncomfortable silence, broken only by the tutor's next comment.
"Well, I have here Ms. Salinger's story, and - if you don't mind, Ms Salinger - I'd like to read it."
I watched Julia. She hesitated, then agreed.
The tutor found her story, then began to read. "'What am I going to do with you?' by Julia Salinger. Young love is never easy. I don't know if the writers of popular film have ever been in love, or in one of love's many stages. I once asked myself if it was
possible to be in love with two men at once."
"Alright, a threesome!" some idiot from the side yelled out, sending a murmur of giggles around the class.
"How very Jane Austen of you, Ms. Salinger," the tutor commented, ignoring the idiot.
I should have felt triumph in her public humiliation, after how she slandered my work, but I kind of felt sorry for her, and - sitting behind her - I noticed that I was mirroring her posture, slowly slumping forward and down into my chair. The tutor finished her story, which wasn't bad, I must admit. It was about two guys she'd known and had to choose between them in the cliffhanger. She chose the one named 'Griff' and let the one named 'Jessie' perish, but not without stating that she loved Jessie almost as much, despite her decision, and that she would question her decision for the rest of her days.
But the tutor only used her story to show how she was setting double standards in relation to my work, that while my story might have been the product of a passed genre, hers offered nothing new in respect.
I apologized for the tutor's comments, after class.
"Wasn't your fault." she says, simply. I follow her and ask if what she wrote about was biographical in any way.
"Listen, Josh," she said, stopping and turning to face me, "There's just some stuff you don't know about me. I have a complicated life. I can't explain it, and if I ever wanted to, I don't think you'd be my choice of preference. Okay?"
As I stood there, trying to figure out just what was going on, she opened the door behind her, and I caught a glimpse of a guy without any clothes on. He's looking at me as if to say, "Take a picture, it'll last longer."
"Whoa, Jesus!" I cry, and turn my gaze away, "Who is that?"
Julia puffed her chest out, as if to make a big announcement, then says words I'll never get used to hearing: "My boyfriend."
Okay, My Bad. I should have asked her if she was seeing anyone. Maybe this is what it was all about, why she was acting so... schizophrenic around me. But I couldn't sulk around my dorm room that night, as I had like a billion deliveries to do. It seemed that everybody wanted pizza, all of a sudden.
So I did my rounds, not caring for tips, just wanting them to get their damn food off my hands and get on with their lives. In the moments between walking from the delivery van to the apartments, I thought about Julia, and what I was going to say to her the next time I saw her.
'Why didn't you tell me before?' came readily to mind; as did 'You lied to me' and 'Perhaps I hadn't made my intentions clear enough'. I even had this one crazy vision of me an her in a black and white movie. I was in a Bogart Trenchcoat, and she had her hair all done up 1950's-like, and I was spouting romantic poetics as she cried in that controlled, screen-actress way. 'I love you, sugar. Ain't no man who'll ever love you more. Believe me. Leave that no good hoodster and come with me to Casablanca. It may not be a perfect life, but at least we'll be together.' Yeah, and Ellen Degeneres is getting married to Richard Simmons.
I couldn't sleep, that night. Nor could I force myself to get out of bed and do something - anything. So I waited for the clock on my bedside to hit six. When it did, I got up, got myself a glass of milk from the icebox, and stood to watch the sunrise over
the Stanford campus.
"Why didn't you tell me you had a boyfriend?" I asked, straight out. I saw her studying in the library, and was prepared for another dose of 'what is it about me sitting here studying' but instead got a sympathetic face and invite to sit down.
"No, I want to hear it straight out. You could have told me. You could have mentioned it when I first asked you out. But you didn't. Did you want to embarrass me like that? Is that it? Do you get off by doing this to guys in general?"
"No, it's not like that, Josh, really, it isn't. Essentially, the relationship is over, and I'm having a hard time with it, that's all. I didn't want to say anything because it's... you know."
"No, I don't know."
She sighed and grabbed her head. "Neither do I."
"Fine. Well, when you work it out, you' know how to find me. Lisa."
Did I throw that last bit in to be poetic? No, not really. Somehow, the name slipped out again, accidentally. I still thought her name was Lisa, dammit. But you got to admit, it was pretty cool. If this was a story, I'd get the 'Julia' character to make up with the 'Me' character by calling for a pizza and using Lisa as the name. But it wasn't any story; it was the life of Josh Macon, English Major, and it was not turning out at all as I had hoped.
I stormed out of the library. She called my name a couple of times, but I paid no mind. I needed to get out of there. I jogged down the library steps and decided that the best way to get to where I was going was to cross through the park.
And that's when I saw the Naked Guy - Julia's 'boyfriend' - kissing another girl. Wait, not just any girl, but the friend who'd tried to convince Julia to pretend to be Lisa. My first instinct was to walk over and slug him one, just for Julia - he had no right to do this to her - but two things stopped me. First of all, Julia had said that the relationship was essentially over, and that meant that they were breaking up anyway, so this really didn't matter. The second was that maybe I could tell Julia about this later and speed things up. The sooner she was single, the sooner she might agree to go out with me.
The next time I saw Julia was a couple of days later. She was sitting with the Naked Guy and the Liar. Perhaps this would be the perfect time. I walked by, again practicing what I would say in my head, found that I wasn't prepared when I got there, walked a little further, then doubled back.
Julia," I announced.
"Josh!" she said, surprised to see me. "This is Ned - Ned: Josh."
"Your boyfriend is cheating on you."
"I saw him in the park the other day... kissing..." I pointed to the Liar, "Her."
"What's this all about?" Ned the Naked Guy said.
"You can't treat Julia this way, you son of a bitch!" I said.
"Julia: who is this guy?"
Julia was grabbing her head again.
"I saw you - don't pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about."
"You have a beef with me?"
"She doesn't deserve you, you piece of crap!"
Ned got up. He was a couple of inches taller than me, but I thought I could take him. While he was puffing up to look all scary-like, I shoulder-charged him to the ground. The back of his knee slammed into the couch he had been sitting on, and he flipped. I landed on my back, and Ned landed on top of me. I was trying to clear his face so I could land one great punch - just one - but he was holding my arms at the elbows, trying to clear his own space. He had the first clear shot, and when he punched me, my head rebounded on the floor, causing a double-ringing sound to explode in my head.
I didn't wait for my vision to clear to know that in order to punch me, he had to have let go of one of my arms, but I was so dazed that I didn't know which... so I struck out with both. My right arm was the one that made contact with his stubbly chin, and I heard a satisfying crack.
"Josh!" Julia cried.
"Ned!" the Liar sang.
I felt Ned's bulk lift from me as he was pulled away by the Liar. Julia helped me to my feet. I tried to find ground... but continually missed. Eventually, though, my head cleared, and my senses returned. I wished they hadn't. My nose felt like it was living pain, pulsating on my face, and the entire left of my brow felt like the Hindenburg, waiting to burst into flames.
"I'm alright," I said to Julia, knowing that I had done what I came here to do.
"Are you crazy?" she asked.
I didn't answer, I merely left, back to my dorm; back to my pizza delivery. I no longer wanted to be Josh Macon, English Major, I just wanted to be Josh Macon, now. Josh Macon: Nice Guy. No, wait, that was now impossible, since I could never win Julia Salinger.
Or so I thought, until I finally got a phone call for her. She wanted to take me up on my offer. Asked if I'd like to go see a movie with her. I said yes, but did not know why. Love defies logic - that's my hypothesis. Everything can go bad; a woman can tell you 'no' a thousand times, and just when you think you've got the message, BANG, she says 'yes'. And like the dumb stupid males we are, us guys go for it. Maybe because we're horny, or maybe because we feel as though the bullshit we've just waded through doesn't really matter. Whatever the reason, we get up, and let them slam the door in our face once again.
And that's exactly what she did. We saw this dreadful film about a guy who cuts up a bunch of teenagers with a meat-hook. Outside we started talking about it, and she had this whole rationalization for seeing films like these. "Everything's fake: the blood is just sugar, water and food dye; the acting's fake... even the kisses are fake."
She demonstrated. If she'd wanted to ask me out, then she had wanted me to kiss her tonight. I thought I'd kiss her right then, but she broke into a giggle.
"Do that again, that... kissing thing," I asked, determined to get this right. When she did, I moved in. I got close enough to smell her breath and perfume - spearmint and CK One - but that was all.
"No, Josh... I don't think so."
"Alright, but I thought this was a..."
"Let's go back to my dorm room."
Yes ma'am, whatever you say, ma'am, I am your willing servant, and testosterone be the chain by which to you I am inexorably bound.
Up in her dorm she sat on the bed. She was quivering. I sat next to her and put an arm around her, drawing her close. She was tense... or so I thought until I tried to kiss her again.
"No, Josh... I'm sorry... I..."
"Never mind," I said, trying to break free of the physical attraction that kept me captive in that room. "I know, it's me - I'm rushing things, aren't I?"
"It's not you, it's me," she said. I'd heard those words before. We hadn't even started going out, and she was breaking up with me. "Josh, sit down. I have something to tell you."
So I sat.
"He's seeing... someone else." she said.
She meant Ned. "Julia... I know. That's what I tried to tell you in the library the other day."
"Ned is seeing your room mate... I don't know her name."
She is puzzled... or maybe the news hit her too hard. Maybe she didn't want to be the last to know.
"Oh, hey, it's alright, Julia, really..."
"Oh Jesus, you think that I'm talking about Ned?"
"Well, aren't you?"
She sighs and grabs her head again. She rakes her fingers through her hair and recomposes herself. "No, Josh, it's not Ned. I have got something to tell you and you're not going to like it. I don't think you'll want to kiss me after you know..."
I felt my stomach turn. If she was about to tell me what I thought... "You're not a man... are you?" I asked.
So I listened to her tell me about her short story, the one that the tutor read out in class, and how it was a little auto-biographical. She was married to a guy named Griffin, after choosing him over another, named Justin. She was in love with them both, but Griffin was the one she'd wanted to marry. She had recently separated with him because he'd had an affair with another girl, and she was just getting used to the whole idea of being single again, of getting into the routine of college again.
"Now do you want to kiss me?"
I so wanted to be the nice guy, then. I so wanted to sit on her bed and make love to Julia. I so knew that it's what she wanted right then. But maybe I'm not a nice guy. Maybe I am still a coward. I turned and left, and when I got to the nearest toilet, I
A week later, she started seeing that Ned guy. I delivered a pizza to his crying ex-girlfriend, who took it and slammed the door in my face. I half wanted to knock on the door and offer to comfort her, but what if she turned into another Julia? What if it would all blow up in my face again?