“Jax . . . are you coming with me tonight?” Jillian yelled from the bathroom, holding a mascara wand in her hand. She had desperately tried to prevent her eyelashes from clumping, but they seemed destined to cake together in a Liza-Minnelli-in-Cabaret kind of way.
“Go without me,” came his muted reply. Jillian suddenly became worried. Jax did not have a mute button on his personality. Something was up.
Still holding the mascara tube, Jillian went to her roommate’s door and knocked “shave-and-a-haircut,” anxiously awaiting his “two bits” in response.
“C’mon, Jax. What’s wrong?”
His bedroom door flew open. Jax appeared, a towel dramatically wrapped around his head, like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. He had on pink mules and his favorite flamingo flannel pajamas.
“Oh honey, you are definitely not ready for your close up,” she remarked.
“Jillian, save your snark. Just go back to the bathroom, make your weird little O-face, and finish putting on your eyelashes.”
“So, you are not going to Dax’s Vax Party with me?”
“Jax, if you don’t go, it won’t be much of a party. You are the party.”
“C’mon, Jax. Who will get karaoke going? You are so good on the mixing board.”
“Jillian, you know 'The Jax Show’ is all just a charade. You know I’d much rather stay home and figure out which one of my personality flaws I can blame my parents for.”
“True, during certain phases of the moon. But I also know, Jax, that you love singing ‘It’s Raining Men’ and doing impressions of all of The Weather Girls—”
“You aren’t listening to me, Jillian. I. am. not. going.” Jax spun on his heels and went back into his room.
But he didn’t shut the door.
Since middle school, Jillian had known this was a sure sign he wanted her to come in.
There he was, sitting crossed legged in a padmasana pose, underneath a very large Diana Ross poster. His eyes were closed.
“Nice lotus pose,” Jillian commented.
“You're getting better at yoga,” she cooed, trying to charm him into talking to her.
“I’ve been practicing very, very hard.”
“Are you sure you aren’t sleeping?”
“No, Jillian. I’m not sleeping. I’m meditating.”
“Jax, you’d short-circuit if you tried meditating.”
“I may have to ask you to leave, darling. You are making my mind wander.”
“Your mind does nothing but wander,” Jillian replied, an edge to her voice. “You would need all of Dorothy’s flying monkeys to collect your thoughts.”
“You. are. mean.”
“I’m not mean. It’s just my clumpy mascara talking.” She peered at herself in Jax’s full length mirror. “I look like the neighborhood alcoholic, yelling at kids setting a bag of dog poop on fire right on her front door stoop.”
Jax covered his mouth, repressing his contagious snickering. True to form, Jillian started laughing, too. After they both wiped tears from their eyes, Jillian took Jax’s face into her hands.
“Now darling—you want to tell me what’s really going on?”
“Are you mad at Dax?” she probed. “You seemed excited about Dax’s Vax Party when we first got his email invitation. I mean, whoever did the animated gif of the syringe going into Judy Garland's arm? They really need to be paid professionally. Dax even arranged for a medical technician to come from CVS. And I hear Dax's made Covid-19 Jell-O shots. Jax, you can’t hate Dax. Dax is adorable.”
“I love Dax. You know that. Shame on you.”
“Is there anyone at the party tonight that you don’t want to see—that you’re mad at for one reason or another?”
“Jillian,” he said in a shocked voice, placing his hand dramatically over his heart. “I’m sure there are numerous people at Dax’s party I can be angry with. You know that. Shame on you.”
“What, then?” She let go of his face and walked over to his extensive closet, complete with color-coded sections. “Let’s put on some high-waisted pleated pants and maybe . . . a sexy scarf tie.” She held up the items for his approval. “Maybe you can rock some mandals?”
Jax gave an exasperated sigh and stood up. “Mandals and pleated pants? What kind of terrorist are you?”
“Just get dressed,” she waved him off. “Dax doesn’t like when his guests arrive late. You remember what happened last time you were late? He sent you flowers with a card saying he was sorry you had died.”
“I can’t go.”
“You can go.”
“The truth is . . .” he paused.
“Go on,” Jillian encouraged him, seeing that he needed to be in touch with the entire spectrum of his feelings.
“The truth is . . . I’m afraid.” He slunk back down on the floor. Jillian and her tube of mascara joined him.
“Why are you scared, Jax?” she asked, putting an arm around him. He put his head on her shoulder.
“I won’t,” Jillian crossed her heart, not really hoping to die. “Just tell me.”
“Okay, Jillian. Here it goes. I don’t want Bill Gates’ microchip rewiring my DNA.”
“I don’t want to become any more magnetic than I already am.”
“Jax, you really need to stay off Reddit.”
Jillian started to sing, rocking Jax back and forth. “Ingonyama nengw' enamabala . . . Ingonyama nengw' enamabala . . .”
“Are you going to Lion King me?”
“Shh, yes. Join in. From the day we arrive on the planet / And, blinking, step into the sun / There's more to see than can ever be seen / More to do than can ever be done.”
“You’re going to make me go to Dax’s Vax party, aren’t you?”
“Shh, yes. Join in. There's far too much to take in here / More to find than can ever be found / But the sun rolling high / Through the sapphire sky / Keeps great and small on the endless round . . .”
“It's the circle of life!” Jax sang, jumping on the bed. Jillian dropped her mascara, jumping on the bed, too, and singing with him. “And it moves us all / Through despair and hope / Through faith and love / 'Til we find our place / On the path unwinding / In the circle / The circle of life!”
“Are you ready to go, Jax?”
“I am, Jillian!”
“Are you ready to pick something fabulous out of that ridiculous closet of yours?”
“I am, Jillian!
“Are you ready to get jabbed in the arm so I never have to wear a facemask ever again?”
“Not really, but I’ll give it a shot—a shot, Jillian!”
“Very punny, Jax! Let’s get going!”
Jax looked at her, fully for the first time. “You aren’t wearing that pantsuit out of this apartment, are you?”
“Yes Jax, I am—and I won’t let you pantsuit-shame me."
“If you wear that, Jillian, I am never going out with you again!