And then I look at her. She raises an eyebrow at me.
I go careering off onto the first exit I see. We roll past the gas station and the fast-food joints and bump across the median into a parking lot. EAST TOWNSHIP PUBLIC LIBRARY, the sign says. I wrench Little B*****d into park and then I get out and walk around to her side.
When I open the door, she says, “What the hell is going on?”
“I can’t wait. I thought I could, but I can’t. Sorry.” I reach across her and unsnap her seat belt, then pull her out so we’re standing face to face in this flat, ugly parking lot next to a dark library, a Chick-fil-A right next door. I can hear the drivethrough cashier on the speaker asking if they want to add fries and a drink.
I brush a loose strand of hair off her cheek. Then I hold her face in my hands and kiss her. I kiss her harder than I mean to, so I ease off a little, but then she’s kissing me back. Her arms are around my neck, and I’m up against her, and she’s against the car, and then I pick her up, and her legs are around me, and I somehow get the back door open, and then I’m laying her down on the blanket that’s there, and I close the doors and yank off my sweater, and she pulls off her shirt, and I say, “You are driving me crazy. You have been driving me crazy for weeks.”
My mouth is on her neck, and she’s making these gasping sounds, and then she says, “Oh my God, where are we?” And she’s laughing, and I’m laughing, and she’s kissing my neck, and my entire body feels like it’s going to f*****g explode, and her skin is smooth and warm, and I run my hand over the curve of her hip as she bites my ear, and then that hand is sliding into the hollow between her stomach and her jeans. She holds on to me tighter, and when I start undoing my belt, she kind of pulls away, and I want to bang my head against the wall of Little B*****d because, s**t. She’s a virgin. I can tell by the pull-away.
She whispers, “I’m sorry.”
“All that time with Ryan?”
“Close, but no.”
I run my fingers up and down her stomach. “Seriously.”
“Why’s it so hard to believe?”
“Because it’s Ryan Cross. I thought girls lost it just by looking at him.”
She slaps my arm and then lays her hand on top of mine and says, “This is the last thing I thought would happen today.”
“You know what I meant.”
I pick up her shirt, hand it to her, pick up my sweater. As I watch her get dressed, I say, “Someday, Ultraviolet,” and she actually looks disappointed.
At home in my room, I am overcome by words. Words for songs. Words of places Violet and I will go before time runs out and I’m asleep again. I can’t stop writing. I don’t want to stop even if I could.
January 31. Method: None. On a scale of one to ten on the how-close-did-I-come scale: zero. Facts: The Euthanasia Coaster doesn’t actually exist. But if it did, it would be a three-minute ride that involves a climb nearly a third of a mile long, up to 1,600 feet, followed by a sheer drop and seven loops. That final descent and series of loops takes sixty seconds, but the 10 G centrifugal force that results from the 223-mile-per-hour loops is what kills you.
And then there is this strange fold in time, and I realize I’m not writing anymore. I’m running. I’m still wearing the black sweater and old blue jeans and sneakers and gloves, and suddenly my feet hurt, and somehow I’ve made it all the way to Centerville, which is the next town over.
I take off my shoes and pull off my hat, and I walk all the way back home because for once I’ve worn myself out. But I feel good—necessary and tired and alive.
Julijonas Urbonas, the man who thought up the Euthanasia Coaster, claims it’s engineered to “humanely—with elegance and euphoria—take the life of a human being.” Those 10 Gs create enough centrifugal force on the body so that the blood rushes down instead of up to the brain, which results in something called cerebral hypoxia, and this is what kills you.
I walk through the black Indiana night, under a ceiling of stars, and think about the phrase “elegance and euphoria,” and how it describes exactly what I feel with Violet.
For once, I don’t want to be anyone but Theodore Finch, the boy she sees. He understands what it is to be elegant and euphoric and a hundred different people, most of them flawed and stupid, part a*****e, part screwup, part freak, a boy who wants to be easy for the folks around him so that he doesn’t worry them and, most of all, easy for himself. A boy who belongs—here in the world, here in his own skin. He is exactly who I want to be and what I want my epitaph to say: The Boy Violet Markey Loves.
Day 30 (and I am awake)
In gym, Charlie Donahue and I stand on the baseball field, way beyond third base. We’ve discovered this is the best place to be if you want to have a conversation. Without even looking, he catches a ball that comes zinging our way and flings it back to home. Every athletic coach at Bartlett High has been trying to recruit him since he first walked through the school doors, but he refuses to be a black stereotype. His extracurriculars are chess, yearbook, and euchre club because, as he says, these are things that will make him stand out on college applications.
Right now, he crosses his arms and frowns at me. “Is it true you almost drowned Roamer?”
“Something like that.”
“Always finish what you start, man.”
“I thought it was a good idea not to get myself incarcerated before I have a chance to get laid again.”
“Getting arrested might actually increase your odds of getting laid.”
“Not the kind of odds I’m looking for.”
“So what’s up with you anyway? Look at you.”
“I wish I could take the credit, but let’s face it, the gym uniform is universally flattering.”
“Cheeky wanker.” He calls me this even though I’m no longer British. Good-bye, Fiona. Good-bye, flat. Good-bye, Abbey Road. “I mean, you’ve been Dirtbag Finch for a while now. Before that, you were Badass Finch for a couple weeks. You’re slipping.”
“Maybe I like Dirtbag Finch.” I adjust the knit cap, and it suddenly hits me—which Finch does Violet like? The thought burns a little, and I can feel my mind latch onto it. Which Finch does she like? What if it’s only a version of the real Finch?
Charlie offers me a cigarette and I shake my head.
“What’s going on with you? Is she your girlfriend?”