I took a step toward the bed. If the notebook was Noah’s, the law of the universe dictated that I would get caught.
But it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I took another step. Another. Then I reached for the notebook, swallowed my guilt, and began to read.
So begins the unillustrious record of the observations and musings of one Noah Elliot Simon Shaw insofar as they relate to one Mara (middle name as yet unknown, must remedy) Dyer and her purported metamorphosis.
Mara has just left. We have just immolated her grandmother’s doll, which seems to have been (distressingly) stuffed with human hair, as well as a pendant identical to the one I own. Both of us are justifiably disturbed by this development, though it has provided a new avenue of exploration as to why the fuck both of us are so deeply weird.
Also, I kissed her. She liked it.
If there was anyone to speak to, I would have been speechless. I blinked, hard, and then stared at the page, at the words, in his handwriting, just to make sure they were actually there.
They were. And I knew when he’d started writing then. It was after I told him I was afraid of losing control. Of losing myself. After telling him—
That all he could do was watch. My own voice echoed harshly in my ears.
“Tell me what you see. Because I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t or what’s new or different and I can’t trust myself, but I trust you.”
He had closed his eyes. Said my name. And then I said—
“You know what? Don’t tell me, because I might not remember. Write it down, and then maybe someday, if I ever get better, let me read it. Otherwise I’ll change a little bit every day and never know who I was until after I’m gone.”
My throat felt tight. He was writing this for me.
I could stop reading now. Put the notebook back, tell him I found it and admit to reading the beginning. I could tell him I just wanted to check to see who it belonged to and once I saw it was his, stopped reading right away.
But I didn’t. I turned the page.
Ruth informs me that when my father returns home, I’ll be expected to return to school and attend classes without fail. I listen patiently but I can feel myself detach as I see it in exquisite, miserable detail:
I stare listlessly behind the teachers’ heads as I listen to them drone on about things I already know. I cut class and stretch out on a picnic table beneath the tiki monstrosity and lie there, completely still.
A group of girls walks by, peering over the edge of the table. I am envious of chameleons. I open my eyes, squinting, and the girls dart away. They titter and giggle and I hear one of them whisper, “too perfect.” I want to shake them for their ignorance and scream that their Sistine Chapel is filled with cracks.
In my previous life, for it seems that way though it’s barely been a few months, I would flirt, or not, with anyone who seemed remotely interesting on any given day. There’d be one candidate, if I was lucky. Then I would count down the hours and minutes and seconds until another pointless day would finally end.
And then I’d go home. Or go to a new club with Parker or some other asshole who wears a cardigan around his shoulders and pops the collar on his fucking polo. I would stumble out, two gorgeous, faceless girls clutching my waist, the dull thud of soulless house music matching the dull throb in my temples, evident even through the slight haze of ecstasy and alcohol, and I would drink and feel nothing and laugh and feel nothing and stare at my life for the next three, five, twenty years, and loathe it.
The image of it bores me so deeply that I’m willing to die, right now, just to feel something else.
When the words ended, I realized that I was no longer standing; I had backed onto the bed. The notebook, the journal, was spread open against it, and my left hand had covered my mouth. I heard Noah’s voice when I read his thoughts but there was a bitterness to them that I couldn’t ever remember hearing out loud. I turned the page.
The best money can buy is nothing. Nothing on Lukumi or whoever the hell he is, and nothing on Jude. Even the search for his family has proven fruitless; nothing on Claire Lowe or Jude Lowe or parents William and Deborah since the collapse. There was an obituary in the Rhode Island paper with donation instructions and such, but the parents moved after the accident—or incident, I should say. And even with Charles’s PI connections, zero. People can disappear—but not from people like him. It’s as though the longer I reach, the further the truth gets. I hate that there’s nothing more I can do. I’d go to Providence myself, but I don’t want to leave Mara behind.
I might say something when I see her, though at present she seems preoccupied with some psycho at Horizons. I’m not the only one who doesn’t play well with others. Perhaps that’s why we get on so well.
Those were the first words that made me smile. The next ones made it vanish.
I sift through my dead mother’s things. It’s been years since I’ve bothered and I feel empty as I explore the full boxes, mostly brimming with battered, dog-eared, highlighted books. Singer and Ginsberg and Hoffman and Kerouac, philosophy and poetry and radicalism and Beat. The pages are worn, well-read, and I skim through them. I wonder if it’s possible to know someone through the words they loved. There are photographs stuck in some of the books. Mostly people I don’t recognize, but there are a few of her. She looks fierce.
A book that doesn’t seem to belong catches my eye— Le Petit Prince. I open it and a black-and-white picture slips out—her from the back, looking down, holding a blond boy’s hand. My hand, I realize. My hair grew darker as I grew up.
A spot of red bleeds through the picture and spreads, covering her fingers, mine. I hear shouting and screaming and a boy’s voice begging her to come back.
The text ended there and didn’t pick up again until the following page. My throat ached and my fingers were shaking and I shouldn’t be reading this but I couldn’t stop.
I was already annoyed by the Lukumi-fraud situation when I heard some random on Calle Ocho say something vaguely insulting to the girl he was with. I said something profoundly insulting back. I desperately hoped he’d swing.
There is an unparalleled freedom in fighting. I can’t be hurt and so I’m afraid of nothing. They can be, so they’re afraid of everything. That makes it easy, and so I always win.
Mara calls. She’s hopeful for answers but I have none and I don’t want her to know.