The big surprise about the service was that I loved it. I was figuring the memorial service would be boring, but maybe the reception could be a little bit fun if everybody didn’t go around miserable through the whole thing. Everyone from the Outpost would be there. I’ve never been to the Outpost, but everybody at school talks about it. Jamie and a bunch of the others lived there during the war, so they know all the kids there. I thought it could be interesting to meet mutants from other places. So, I thought the reception could be okay but I sure wasn’t looking forward to hearing a couple of hours of people talking about Professor X.
But it was fun! Who knew? The people who did talk about him told some interesting stories and some really funny ones, too. People laughed almost as much as they cried, and the crying didn’t feel all gloomy or anything. It felt appreciative, I guess. Yeah, that’s it. Maybe it comes from doing it a while after he died, but it wasn’t a downer or anything. It was “an appreciation,” just like it said in the program that Mr. Greenfield had written.
I started feeling a little appreciative of Professor X myself, even, like maybe what I saw of him wasn’t all there was. It made me remember that only time Mr. Summers ever said something critical of the Professor to me. It was when I was complaining that he was trying to make me use my powers when I was still trying to learn how not to. He sighed and said he’d talk to the Professor. And then said, “You’re not seeing him at his best, RoseAnn.” No more than that, but I remembered it because it was so unlike him to say anything against Professor X. And now that I was hearing from people who’d known him for years, and stories about things he’d done with the X-Men or the kids, I was starting to feel like his best might have been really something to see.
And then there was the music. Mr. Greenfield said at the reception that it was “standard New York Celebrity Funeral stuff,” but I’ve never been to a New York Celebrity Funeral so I didn’t know. Broadway stars and pop singers and gospel singers. Like it was some sort of show instead of a memorial service. And the lines of people outside the church waiting to get in seemed to think it was a show, too. It was great how we just walked up there and got ushered in without waiting. Still, we all got searched and had to go through metal detectors and that kind of shit, because there were lots of important people there, including the President!
It was pretty funny to watch Logan give the security people a hard time when he set off the metal detector. “What do you have in your pockets?” the guy asked. And he answered by showing that it wasn’t anything in his pockets but in his hands – extending just the middle claw. I almost died laughing. What a stupid question, anyway. Like there’s any room to hide anything in these outfits!
Yeah, that was another fun part. I got to wear an X-Men uniform just like the real team members. All of us kids who’ve been on missions did, and my fixing Cerebro counted as a mission, so that was good for something after all. And it was just so cool to be in the uniform and feel like a real X-Man. And then at the end when we all stood up and lots of people showed off their powers, with Jamie and Angel and Northstar all flying and Logan extending all his claws and holding his hands way up and Storm making lightning and thunder outside loud enough and bright enough that everyone saw and heard it and Iceman juggling icicles and Pyro juggling fireballs. Well, it sure made all the normals in that big church sit up and take notice. It made me feel like I was part of something big and important and I could see why people followed the Professor if that’s how he made them feel.
So the service turned out to be fun when I thought it would be a total bore. And the reception was great, too. Mr. Summers introduced me to lots of people, including the President. And also to Guardian, who’s head of Alpha Flight and he said “Charles always spoke so highly of you, RoseAnn.” Which mostly made me feel good, but also a little shitty for all my bitchy thoughts about him. And Jamie introduced me to all the Outpost kids, and to alumni I didn’t know. “This is my girlfriend, RoseAnn,” he kept saying, and “I want you to meet my girlfriend.” And they all acted like they’d heard stuff – good stuff – about me before we even met.
The reception felt like a real party, like a great big one with lots of people coming from all over. Almost like Dr. Grey’s wedding. Lots of people were running up to each other and hugging and all excited to see each other and smiling and laughing. And then they’d sort of get all serious and say “Oh, but I wish it was under happier circumstances” and then go back to laughing and joking and just being happy to see each other again. And there were all these little kids around, too, because the Outpost has babies and little kids and not just teenagers and also Dr. Radavan’s Hank was there and Mr. Greenfield’s Ezra. I’ve babysat for them both before and they are beyond cute together. They’re even adorable when they’re fighting. They were each going “Mine!” about the one cookie with green icing on a plate of all yellow ones and just seeing who could say it louder. But then Ezra found another one so that stopped before they got mad for real.
It just felt like one big family party or something. And I was part of it. Not bad, especially considering the last time I was hanging out on the Upper West Side it was when I was turning tricks in Riverside Park, not spending my time in a great big church. So, I did get to say “the Professor would have loved this.” And every time I did, whoever I said it to nodded and smiled, so I think it was a good thing. I don’t know if he would have liked it at all, really, but I had a great time.
“Charles would have hated this.” Jean said it to me about mid-way. After the first speeches and during the much-too-glitzy-for-Charles entertainment. We were sitting next to each other, in the front row, Logan to my left and Sasha to her right. She touched my arm to get my attention, then said it in my brain.
“This was your idea,” I thought back.
She smiled, showing she wasn’t complaining about it. And we both thought together, minds touching, about how he’d always avoided this kind of self-aggrandizement when he was alive. Charles Xavier wanted to make things happen his way, wanted the world to move in a direction of safety and tolerance. But he didn’t want to be in the spotlight. Always the man behind the curtain, never the public face. Still, we weren’t doing this for him.
And mostly I think it really was accomplishing what we’d wanted it to. Waiting a while helped, let people work through some of the initial shock and opened them up to a service that was less mourning and more appreciation. Sure, some of it was just too trendy and too New York for words, but even then the words were good ones. Adam had done a wonderful job of summarizing Charles’s life and his life work in the program, as I knew he would. The speeches had been enjoyable, alternately moving and funny. The music was certainly professional, if not exactly what Charles would have chosen. Well, we’d done the traditional hymns at the private funeral. That was for him. This was for the crowd.
And what a crowd it was. Movers and shakers from all sorts of venues where Charles had an influence: government, industry, education. The President himself was there and dignitaries from a number of foreign countries. Plus all of Alpha Flight, the entire Outpost community, and almost everyone who’d ever attended Xavier’s or been affiliated with us in any way. It seemed like every known mutant in the Western Hemisphere was right there in Riverside Church, with the exception of the members of Magneto’s Brotherhood. And sitting right there with non-mutants – those who knew Charles, those who’d been helped by him (a whole section of pews had been cleared to accommodate wheelchairs) and those who were just curious. With plenty more curiosity seekers outside because even that huge space was not big enough for everyone who wanted to attend. It was inspiring. My mind said to Jean’s, “He might be rolling over in his grave, but I’m glad we did it. It’s an important statement we’re making. Thanks for persuading me to do this.” She squeezed my hand.
But near the end I started to have second thoughts on the wisdom of it, or at least on the wisdom of the X-Men being so visible. We’d wanted to impress the crowd, to show we were numerous and powerful and could be counted on. That’s why we were all easily identifiable in uniform, even those who could pass as normal. That’s why we all stood up and those who could demonstrate their powers easily did. Yes, we wanted to impress.
But what kind of impression were we making? There was a kind of low rumble of people murmuring to one another. Logan, whose claws had been extended and held high, retracted them and leaned over to whisper in my ear. “There’s more fear in this room than on a plane about to crash,” he said. “I can smell it.” And I started to wonder if impressing the crowd had been such a good idea after all.
I shouldn’t have reacted. I should have just kept walking and ignored her. But the reception had been such fun and I was having such a good time and I just wasn’t on guard like I should have been. Jamie’s arm was around my shoulders and he was whispering in my ear as we walked out of the church. I wasn’t even thinking. I heard “Tawny!” and I turned around.
Nobody had called me that for months. I didn’t expect anyone ever would again. I’d been feeling like I was RoseAnn and like maybe someday I’d have an X-Men code name, too, but I’d never be Tawny. But as soon as I heard it I turned. Well, that’s what you do when you hear someone call your name and I guess in part of my brain that was still my real name.
It was Crystal, and she was all excited to see me. One of the people outside the church who never made it in, she came bounding up to me in black high-heeled boots and a tiny retro black and white check mini-dress – all 6’2” of her. Reached down to hug me so hard I thought something would break! And she said, “Tawny! Where you been, girl? We’ve all missed you so much. And Nick has been going crazy looking for you.” Shit. Why did I have to look her way? Why did this have to happen? With Jamie right there.
Just as we were leaving the church, Adam Greenfield came over to me with a man I didn’t know. I’d seen him with Northstar and then with Adam at the reception. I’d wondered briefly who he was. Jean-Paul had appeared to be introducing him to Adam. Now Adam wanted to introduce him to me. “I’d like you to meet Rick Kapell,” he said, and we shook hands. Before I could say anything else, Adam added, “I’ve already reiterated with Rick that you are not available for interviews. I just thought you ought to know who he is, since he already knows who you are.”
Logan was standing beside me and his claws came out as soon as Adam offered Kapell’s name. “Beautiful service,” Kapell said, his eyes on Logan although the comment seemed to be addressed to me.
“Thank you,” I’d answered, and excused myself. I wondered what Kapell would say about the service, particularly the X-Men demonstration, in tomorrow’s paper.