“Sure. I’m fine. Nothing to see here. I’d be even better, though, if I could talk to you and explain and say I’m sorry and see Violet. Just for a couple minutes, nothing more. Maybe if I could just come in …” All I need is the chance to sit down with them and talk and tell them it’s not as bad as they think, that it’ll never happen again, and they weren’t wrong to trust me.
Over his wife’s shoulder, Mr. Markey frowns at me. “You need to go.”
Just like that, they shut the door, and I am on the step, locked out and alone.
At home, I type in EleanorandViolet.com and get a message: Server not found. I type it again and again, but each time it’s the same thing. She’s gone, gone, gone.
On Facebook, I write: Are you there?
Violet: I’m here.
Me: I came to see you.
Violet: I know. They’re so mad at me.
Me: I told you I break things.
Violet: This wasn’t you—this was us. But it’s my fault. I wasn’t thinking.
Me: I’m lying here wishing I could count us backward to yesterday morning. I want the planets to align again.
Violet: Just give them time.
I write: That’s the only thing I don’t have. And then I erase it.
How to survive quicksand
That night, I move into my walk-in closet, which is warm and cozy, like a cave. I push my hanging clothes to one corner and lay the comforter from my bed on the floor. I set the jug of Mudlavia healing water at the foot and prop Violet’s picture against the wall—a shot of her at the Blue Flash—along with the license plate I took from the scene of the accident. Then I turn off the light. I balance my laptop on my knees and stick a cigarette in my mouth unlit because the air’s too close in here as it is.
This is Finch Survival Boot Camp. I’ve been here before and know the drill like the back of my too-large hand. I will stay in here as long as I need to, as long as it takes.
The MythBusters say there is no way to drown in quicksand, but tell that to the young mother who went to Antigua for her father’s wedding (to wife number two) and was sucked into the beach as she watched the sunset. Or the teenage boys who were swallowed whole by a man-made quicksand pit on the property of an Illinois businessman.
Apparently, to survive quicksand, you should stay perfectly still. It’s only when you panic that you pull yourself under and sink. So maybe if I stay still and follow the Eight Steps to Surviving Quicksand, I’ll get through this.
1. Avoid quicksand. Okay. Too late. Moving on.
2. Bring a large stick when going into quicksand territory. The theory here is that you can use the stick to test the ground in front of you, and even pull yourself out of it if you sink. The problem with this theory is that you don’t always know when you’re entering quicksand territory, not until it’s too late. But I like the idea of preparedness. I figure I’ve just left this step and have gone on to:
3. Drop everything if you find yourself in quicksand. If you’re weighed down by something heavy, you’re apt to get pulled to the bottom faster. You need to shed your shoes and anything you’re carrying. It’s always best to do this when you know ahead of time that you’re going to encounter quicksand (see number 2), so, essentially, if you’re going anywhere that might even possibly have quicksand, go naked. My removal to the closet is part of the dropping everything.
4. Relax. This goes back to the stay-perfectly-still-soyou-don’t-sink adage. Additional fact: if you relax, your body’s buoyancy will cause you to float. In other words, it’s time to be calm and let the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect take over.
5. Breathe deeply. This goes hand in hand with number 4. The trick, apparently, is to keep as much air in your lungs as possible—the more you breathe, the more you float.
6. Get on your back. If you start sinking, you simply fall backward and spread yourself out as far as you can as you try to pull your legs free. Once you’re unrooted, you can inch yourself to solid ground and safety.
7. Take your time. Wild movements only hurt your cause, so move slowly and carefully until you’re free again.
8. Take frequent breaks. Climbing out of quicksand can be a long process, so be sure to take breaks when you feel your breath running out or your body beginning to tire. Keep your head high so that you buy yourself more time.
The week after
I go back to school, expecting everyone to know. I walk through the halls and stand at my locker and sit in class and wait for my teachers and classmates to give me a knowing look or say, “Someone’s not a virgin anymore.” It’s actually kind of disappointing when they don’t.
The only one who figures it out is Brenda. We sit in the cafeteria picking at the burritos some Indiana kitchen worker has attempted to make, and she asks what I did over the weekend. My mouth is full of burrito, and I am trying to decide whether to swallow it or spit it out, which means I don’t answer right away. She says, “Oh my God, you slept with him.”
Lara and the three Brianas stop eating. Fifteen or twenty heads turn in our direction because Brenda has a really loud voice when she wants to. “You know he’ll never say a word to anyone. I mean, he’s a gentleman. Just in case you were wondering.” She pops the tab on her soda and drinks half of it down.
Okay, I’ve been wondering a little. After all, it’s my first time but not his. He’s Finch and I trust him, but you just never know—guys do talk—and even though the Day Of wasn’t slutty, I feel a little slutty, but also kind of grown up.
On our way out of the cafeteria, mostly to change the subject, I tell Brenda about Germ and ask if she’d like to be a part of it.
Her eyes go narrow, like she’s trying to see if I’m joking or not.
“I’m serious. There’s a lot left to figure out, but I know I want Germ to be original.”
Bren throws back her head and laughs, kind of diabolically. “Okay,” she says, catching her breath. “I’m in.”
When I see Finch in U.S. Geography, he looks tired, like he hasn’t slept at all. I sit beside him, across the room from Amanda and Roamer and Ryan, and afterward he pulls me under the stairwell and kisses me like he’s afraid I might disappear. There’s something forbidden about the whole thing that makes the electric currents burn stronger, and I want school to be over forever so we don’t have to come here at all. I tell myself that we can just take off in Little B*****d and head west or east, north or south, till we’ve left Indiana far behind. We’ll wander the country and then the world, just Theodore Finch and me.