April 26 (part two)
I don’t go for her or for his dad or for Kate or for Decca. I go for me. Maybe because I know, somehow, what I’ll find. And maybe because I know whatever I find will be my fault. After all, it’s because of me he had to leave his closet. I was the one who pushed him out by talking to my parents and betraying his trust. He never would have left if it hadn’t been for me. Besides, I tell myself, Finch would want me to be the one to come.
I call my parents to tell them I’ll be home in a while, that I’ve got something to do, and then I hang up on my dad, even as he’s asking me a question, and drive. I drive faster than I normally do, and I remember the way without looking at the map. I am scarily, eerily calm, as if someone else is doing the driving. I keep the music off. This is how focused I am on getting there.
“If that blue could stay for ever; if that hole could remain for ever.”
There was nothing to make him last.
The first thing I see is Little B*****d, parked on the side of the road, right wheels, front and back, on the embankment. I pull up behind it and turn off the engine. I sit there.
I can drive away right now. If I drive away, Theodore Finch is still somewhere in the world, living and wandering, even if it’s without me. My fingers are on the ignition key.
I get out of the car, and the sun is too warm for April in Indiana. The sky is blue, after nothing but gray for the past few months except for that first warm day. I leave my jacket behind.
I walk past the NO TRESPASSING signs and the house that sits off the road and up a driveway. I climb up the embankment and go down the hill to the wide, round pool of blue water, ringed by trees. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it the first time—the water is as blue as his eyes.
The place is deserted and peaceful. So deserted and peaceful that I almost turn around and go back to the car.
But then I see them.
His clothes, on the bank, folded neatly and stacked, collared shirt on top of jeans on top of leather jacket on top of black boots. It’s like a greatest hits of his closet. Only there. On the bank.
For a long time, I don’t move. Because if I stand here like this, Finch is still somewhere.
Then: I kneel beside the stack of clothes and lay my hand on them, as if by doing so I can learn where he is and how long ago he came. The clothes are warm from the sun. I find his phone tucked into one of the boots, but it’s completely dead. In the other boot, his nerd glasses and car keys. Inside the leather jacket, I find our map, folded as neatly as the clothes. Without thinking, I put it in my bag.
“Marco,” I whisper.
Then: I stand.
“Marco,” I say louder.
I pull off my shoes and coat and set my keys and phone beside the neat stack of Finch’s clothing. I climb onto the rock ledge and dive into the water, and it knocks the breath out of me because it’s cold, not warm. I tread circles, head up, until I can breathe. And then I take a breath and go under, where the water is strangely clear.
I go as deep as I can, heading straight for the bottom. The water feels darker the deeper I go, and too soon I have to push up to the surface and fill my lungs. I dive again and again, going as deep as I dare before running out of breath. I swim from one end of the hole to the other, back and forth. I come up and then go down again. Each time, I can stay a little longer, but not as long as Finch, who can hold his breath for minutes.
Because at some point, I know: he’s gone. He’s not somewhere. He’s nowhere.
Even after I know, I dive and swim and dive and swim, up and down and back and forth, until finally, when I can’t do it anymore, I crawl up onto the bank, exhausted, lungs heaving, hands shaking.
As I dial 9-1-1, I think: He’s not nowhere. He’s not dead. He just found that other world.
The sheriff for Vigo County arrives with the fire department and an ambulance. I sit on the bank wrapped in a blanket someone has given me, and I think about Finch and Sir Patrick Moore and black holes and blue holes and bottomless bodies of water and exploding stars and event horizons, and a place so dark that light can’t get out once it’s in.
Now these strangers are here and milling around, and they must be the ones who own this property and this house. They have children, and the woman is covering their eyes and shooing them away, telling them to get on back in there and don’t come out, whatever you do, not till she says so. Her husband says, “G*****n kids,” and he doesn’t mean his, he means kids in general, kids like Finch and me.
Men are diving over and over, three or four of them—they all look the same. I want to tell them not to bother, they’re not going to find anything, he’s not there. If anyone can make it to another world, it’s Theodore Finch.
Even when they bring the body up, swollen and bloated and blue, I think: That’s not him. That’s someone else. This swollen, bloated, blue thing with the dead, dead skin is not anyone I know or recognize. I tell them so. They ask me if I feel strong enough to identify him, and I say, “That’s not him. That is a swollen, bloated, dead, dead blue thing, and I can’t identify it because I’ve never seen it before.” I turn my head away.
The sheriff crouches down beside me. “We’re going to need to call his parents.”
He is asking for the number, but I say, “I’ll do it. She was the one who asked me to come. She wanted me to find him. I’ll call.”
But that’s not him, don’t you see? People like Theodore Finch don’t die. He’s just wandering.
I call the line his family never uses. His mother answers on the first ring, as if she’s been sitting right there waiting. For some reason, this makes me mad and I want to slam the phone off and throw it into the water.
“Hello?” she says. “Hello?” There’s something shrill and hopeful and terrified in her voice. “Oh God. Hello?!”
“Mrs. Finch? It’s Violet. I found him. He was where I thought he would be. I’m so sorry.” My voice sounds as if it’s underwater or coming from the next county. I am pinching the inside of my arm, making little red marks, because I suddenly can’t feel anything.
His mother lets out a sound I’ve never heard before, low and guttural and terrible. Once again, I want to throw the phone into the water so it will stop, but instead I keep saying “I’m sorry” over and over and over, like a recording, until the sheriff pries the phone from my hand.
As he talks, I lie back against the ground, the blanket wrapped around me, and say to the sky, “May your eye go to the Sun, To the wind your soul.… You are all the colors in one, at full brightness.”