“I know there’s more in there, probably years of s**t you’ve been smiling away and keeping down.”
She pounds and pounds and then suddenly covers her face. “You don’t know how it is. It’s like I’ve got this angry little person inside me, and I can feel him trying to get out. He’s running out of room because he’s growing bigger and bigger, and so he starts rising up, into my lungs, chest, throat, and I just push him right back down. I don’t want him to come out. I can’t let him out.”
“Because I hate him, because he’s not me, but he’s in there and he won’t leave me alone, and all I can think is that I want to go up to someone, anyone, and just knock them into space because I’m angry at all of them.”
“So don’t tell me. Break something. Smash something. Throw something. Or scream. Just get it out of you.” I yell again. I yell and yell. Then I pick up a rock and smash it into the wall that surrounds the hole.
I hand her a rock and she stands, palm up, like she’s not sure what to do. I take the rock from her and hurl it against the wall, then hand her another. Now she’s hurling them at the wall and shouting and stomping, and she looks like a crazy person. We jump up and down the banks and storm around smashing things, and then she turns on me, all of a sudden, and says, “What are we, anyway? What exactly is going on here?”
It’s at that moment that I can’t help myself, even though she is furious, even though she maybe hates me right now. I pull her in and kiss her the way I’ve always wanted to kiss her, a lot more R-rated than PG-13. I can feel her tense at first, not wanting to kiss me back, and the thought of it breaks my heart. Before I can pull away, I feel her bend and then melt into me as I melt into her under the warm Indiana sun. And she’s still here, and she isn’t going anywhere, and it will be okay. I am carried off. We yield to this slow flood.… In and out, we are swept;… we cannot step outside its sinuous, its hesitating, its abrupt, its perfectly encircling walls.
And then I push her away.
“What the hell, Finch?” She is wet and angry and staring at me with large gray-green eyes.
“You deserve better. I can’t promise you I’ll stay around, not because I don’t want to. It’s hard to explain. I’m a fuckup. I’m broken, and no one can fix it. I’ve tried. I’m still trying. I can’t love anyone because it’s not fair to anyone who loves me back. I’ll never hurt you, not like I want to hurt Roamer. But I can’t promise I won’t pick you apart, piece by piece, until you’re in a thousand pieces, just like me. You should know what you’re getting into before getting involved.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, we’re already involved, Finch. And in case you haven’t noticed, I’m broken too.” Then she says, “Where did you get the scar? The real story this time.”
“The real story’s boring. My dad gets in these black moods. Like, the blackest black. Like, no moon, no stars, storm’s coming black. I used to be a lot smaller than I am now. I used to not know how to get out of the way.” These are just some of the things I never wanted to say to her. “I wish I could promise you perfect days and sunshine, but I’m never going to be Ryan Cross.”
“If there’s one thing I know, it’s that no one can promise anything. And I don’t want Ryan Cross. Let me worry about what I want.” And then she kisses me. It’s the kind of kiss that makes me lose track of everything, and so it may be hours or minutes by the time we break apart.
She says, “By the way? Ryan Cross is a kleptomaniac. He steals stuff for fun. And not even things he wants, but everything. His room looks like one of those rooms on Hoarders. Just in case you thought he was perfect.”
“Ultraviolet Remarkey-able, I think I love you.”
So that she doesn’t feel she has to say it back, I kiss her again, and wonder if I dare do anything else, go any further, because I don’t want to ruin this moment. And then, because I’m now the one thinking too much, and because she is different from all other girls and because I really, really don’t want to screw this up, I concentrate on kissing her on the banks of the Blue Hole, in the sunshine, and I let that be enough.
The day of
Around three o’clock the air turns cool again, and we drive to his house to shower and get warm. His house is empty because everyone comes and goes as they please. He grabs waters from the fridge, and a bag of pretzels, and I follow him upstairs, still damp and shivering.
His bedroom is blue now—walls, ceiling, floor—and all the furniture has been moved to one corner so that the room is divided in two. There’s less clutter, no more wall of notes and words. All that blue makes me feel like I’m inside a swimming pool, like I’m back at the Blue Hole.
I shower first, standing under the hot water, trying to get warm. When I come out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, Finch has music playing on the old turntable.
Unlike his swim in the Blue Hole, his shower lasts no more than a minute. Before I’m dressed, he reappears, towel around his waist, and says, “You never asked me what I was doing up on that ledge.” He stands, open and ready to tell me anything, but for some reason I’m not sure I want to know.
“What were you doing up on that ledge?” It comes out a whisper.
“The same thing you were. I wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to imagine jumping off it. I wanted to leave all the s**t behind. But when I did start to imagine it, I didn’t like what it looked like. And then I saw you.”
He takes my hand and spins me out and then in so I’m tucked against him, and we sway, and rock a little, but mostly stand still, pressed together, my heart pounding because if I tilt my head back, just like this, he will kiss me like he’s doing now. I can feel his lips curving up at the corners, smiling. I open my eyes at the moment he opens his, and his blue-blue eyes are shining so fierce and bright that they’re nearly black. The damp hair is falling across his forehead, and he rests his head against mine. And then I realize his towel is lying on the floor and he’s naked.
I lay my fingers against his neck, long enough to feel his pulse, which feels just like my own—racing and feverish.
“We don’t have to.”
And then I close my eyes as my own towel drops and the song comes to an end. I still hear it after we are in the bed and under the sheets and other songs are playing.