I watched a documentary on Manatees once while waiting for Theo at the walk-in clinic – he'd fallen off his long board again. They seem like such docile creatures that you can't help but like them. After all, what could a manatee ever do to make someone hate them? I heard a song once that talked about loving a soap opera actress manatee named Barbara – a pickle sang it, or maybe it was a cucumber. I figure if a manatee can be in a soap opera, it can be in the Pacific Ocean, even though they tend to live in warmer climates. I'd be okay if there were Walruses instead though. I'm good at settling for second best, even if I'm not always happy about it. I'd ask Theo if there are going to be Manatee sightings, but he hasn't spoken to me since we woke up.
I think he either needs some coffee, or he feels awkward – probably both. Waking up with your arm slung over a girl and your face pressed into the crook of her neck can do that to one's pride, I guess. When his eyes snapped open they were this strange blue-y grey colour that I couldn't see very well because he'd jerked away to the other side of Delia faster than a gopher pops back into its hole. I swear his face had gone just as red as when Aunt Ida lectured him about sexual orientations. I won't admit it to him, but I kind of liked it, which is why I'd stared at the ceiling of Delia for almost twenty-one minutes, feeling shivers every time his breath hit my skin. I had that feeling like my insides were doing ancient African hula hoop dances, and then he'd woken up and got all flustered. I hadn't said anything. I think I was too embarrassed and just a little confused.
After that there was a lot of time to think in silence, and, well, I did.
Aunt Ida always complained that no one ever listened to her. It was true, too. That was until she took her shirt off at a feminist rights rally in New Jersey once and earned the front page news headline: Feminists Up the Ante! Ever since then she's used nudity to drive her points across, though I'd hate to see her in a court room. Upping the ante gets me thinking: my revolution of odd numbers isn't really cutting it. If I don't up the ante, no one will join in. That's why Aunt Ida turned to nudity to make headway; people naturally listen because they can't peal their eyes away, like a bad car accident.
I, however, am not turning to nudity.
Theo gives me a strange look as I buckle my seatbelt after a short and silent pit stop. "What are you doing?" he surveys my upside-down position in the seat curiously.
"Upping the ante." I reply with a proud grin, my head resting on the seat.
"Upping the ante on what?"
I shrug. "I've come to the realization that my revolution is a dismal speck in a sea of everyone else's revolutions; so I decided that instead of getting naked and marching around shouting unintelligibly through a megaphone, I'll just do everything backwards."
Theo mutters that he and the rest of the world are very thankful for the lack of nudity. After the events of this morning I have my doubts about the truth of that statement, but I don't say anything.
He seems kind of amused, which is a good sign since he hasn't really spoken in the last three hours and twenty-one minutes. "I'm guessing talking isn't included in this new backwards movement?" he asks dryly.
I blink away the events of this morning and shrug again. "I'm not quick enough. Besides, who's going to listen to a girl who speaks backwards?"
"The same amount of people who care if you do everything the same way, I guess."
"Oh Theo," I 'tsk', "Why aren't you so quick to jump on the bandwagon? I mean, the odd numbers, I can see the flaw in – they're a little uneven and sometimes unlucky –"
"I don't believe in luck."
" – but a backwards movement paired with odd numbers could be the biggest revolution since the free love movement, feminism, and anarchy! Don't you want to be able to say that you started something that great?" I stare at him with wide eyes, intent on his answer.
"Nope." He doesn't even hesitate. Maybe I haven't used the right examples to convince him. After all, what has anarchy really done for anyone lately?
I purse my lips and twist them in disappointment. He really needs to believe in something other than nothing. I decide not to talk to him and read a book starting on the last page. Mr. Blane is so wrong when he says there are no such things as endings. I am reading about the social psychology of racism, though, which has never made sense to me anyway.
I find it so ironic that the general public is so against racism, yet they're always so quick to describe someone as 'that Asian guy' or 'that black chick'. And how come white people don't go around describing someone as 'that white guy'? I think stuff like that only perpetuates racism, but Theo says describing someone never hurt anyone. He's white, so I doubt he fully understands. The book I'm reading says colour differences are ingrained since birth because we're taught to differentiate in order to survive. I don't know how I feel about that. I think it's all Sesame Street's fault.
"It all comes back to pride and fear." I muse aloud. Theo listens but doesn't respond. "If pride and fear were entirely eradicated from the human psyche, this world would be perfect."
Theo doesn't seem so certain. "What about violence?"
"Stems from fear."
"Fear of difference and personal pride."
"Abuse?" He blinks, waiting.
I pause to think about it, but I don't think abuse really stems from pride or fear – maybe it stems from something that stems from fear. "I don't know."
His shoulders slump a little but he doesn't respond. We sit in silence before I hear the squeak-squeak of Delia's windshield wipers; she blinks rather loudly.
"Is it raining?"
"Why don't you sit up properly and see for yourself?"
I quirk an eyebrow. "Why would I blaspheme against my revolution when I can just ask you?"
"Well, Sophie," he says slowly, as if I'm three, "when the officer pulls us over, you can explain to him why the only person who's actually following your revolution is you."
"That's silly," I scoff, "How do you know the officer is a dude? He could just as well be a she, and maybe she is following my revolution."
"You can also tell him or her why your revolution includes sitting with your feet where your head should be." He really is a downer sometimes.
"You're just repressing what you feel is abnormal because the rest of society isn't doing it. If Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton where doing everything backwards you wouldn't be all weirded out."
"They don't need to drive their cars backwards – they get in enough car accidents as it is." He responds irritably, but with a humorous glint.
I laugh and go back to my reading for another nineteen minutes. After reading eleven pages backwards, not only do I feel car sick, but I also have no idea what the book is about. Perhaps my backwards revolution needs to be rethought; it doesn't seem to be in favor of intelligence. At least odd numbers make sense.
Boredom inevitably takes over. I begin tapping my foot on the headrest, then whistling. After whistling for thirty-three seconds, I become curious. "Are we there yet?"
I bite my lip and tap out eleven seconds, glancing around at the cracks in the ceiling. "Now?"
I sigh, loud and drawn out like that curly-headed guy in the movie about Dynamite. "Hm…What about now?"
"Sophie, if you ask me about when we're going to get there one more time, I'm turning around and going back."
"That's silly, Theo. We both know you want to see the ocean just as much as I do."
"So are we there yet?"
He glares at the road ahead, but he's not really even mad…yet. "You wanted the right arm cut off first, right?"
I stare at him, wide-eyed and open-mouthed in mock horror. I can't believe he would have remembered such an obscenely morbid image. Maybe he really is a serial killer. I suppose it's my fault. The right side of his lips curve upward in amusement.
It becomes quiet in Delia again. I sigh.
"Theo, what are we doing after we make it to the Pacific?" I've been wondering it ever since we hit the Californian border, only because there hasn't been too much to think about, unless I want to think about Barbara Manatee (she really is the one for me).
He shrugs but doesn't answer.
I thought originally we'd give the ocean a look-see and then head back home, but recently I've been reconsidering this. Canada isn't looking so bad at the moment. I've always wanted to race dogsleds and live in an igloo. I'd even give up being vegetarian in order to taste moose jerky and bear stew.
Theo rolls his eyes. "Did you even pay attention in Geography?"
"Did you even go?" It's probably a mean barb, but I get like that when he makes me feel stupid.
He shoots me a look that says 'no' and 'shut-up' all at the same time. Delia becomes quiet again except for the fact that she's having to blink harder because of the rain.
We stop at a taco stand off the highway. I'm not too much a fan of tacos, but Theo isn't speaking, and he has that brooding look in his eyes again, so I don't argue. The man running the stand doesn't even look Mexican, which has me worried. He has a white moustache that twists out at the ends, like a sheriff in one of those old spaghetti Western movies, and a cowboy hat. A bleached blue t-shirt is stretched across his large gullet and advertises 'Surfing in Antigua'. I have no idea where that is. The man tells me it's off the coast of Cuba. It's a pretty fantastic shirt if it weren't so cracked and worn out.
"Have you been to Cuba?" I ask, kind of disgusted with how large his stomach is – probably from the amount of tacos he consumes. Instead I scan the scrawled letters on a chalkboard that serves as the menu.
He shakes his head. "Nope. My neighbor bought it at K-Mart."
I don't ask how the shirt happened to go from the neighbor to the man in front of me, or if either of them has ever surfed in their lives. I order a veggie taco. Theo orders a beef burrito with extra cheese. I joke that I'm going to have to sit with the window rolled down for the rest of the trip, but it doesn't even bring a smirk to his lips, just makes Antigua man guffaw really loud.
This is strange, because usually if all else fails, my toilet humour always puts a smirk on Theo's face. He must really be mad at me, and I'm not even sure what I did to deserve his solemn quiet.
With a frown I eat my food in silence, my brows puckering the entire time my mouth is chewing. I kind of wish Nomi was here so I could talk to her. I don't want to talk to Antigua man because he probably stole the shirt he's wearing, and his moustache kind of scares me. At least Nomi would be able to respond to whatever interesting topic I happen to start talking about. Maybe we could have a great conversation about the existential beliefs of elephants in Africa…just to be alliterative and intelligent at the same time. I could explain my revolution of odd numbers, which I'm sure I've already told her about, but it wouldn't exactly be terrible to reiterate my points.
Theo stands up suddenly and throws what's left of his burrito in the trash can before walking towards Delia. It's still kind of spitting rain, but he doesn't seem to notice, just pulls out a cigar and lights it.
My frowning continues as I march towards Delia too and climb on top of her, even though she's kind of wet. Theo doesn't acknowledge me until he's finished inhaling toxins, and even then it's more a glance than a real hard look.
"I'm not getting off this car until you talk to me y'know." I declare stubbornly while crossing my arms across my flat chest.
"I'm talking to you now." He pulls out his keys and audibly sighs. "Happy?" Delia's driver's side door slams. If she had a soul, Delia would be severely bruised I'm sure. I'm glad she doesn't.
I give a frustrated sigh, feeling my clothes soak up more rain as I spin around and lie on my stomach, poking my head down to stare at Theo through the windshield. There are a lot of dried bugs on the windshield, so Theo is kind of obscure, but still visible.
"Look, I don't know what I said to make you so mad, but this is uncharacteristic behavior and I demand you stop now. What are the psycho-analysts going to say when they go to predict your serial killing spree and find an inconsistency? They'll go crazy, that's what. And do you really want to be responsible for that? I don't think so. So quit being such a twit and talk to me!" Logically this speech should work in some way.
The windshield wipers turn on. One of them snags a dred and tugs at briefly before letting go. It's enough to somehow slide me off of the roof and onto the hood of Delia, which is kind of painful. I catch Theo smirking through the windshield and glare at him. Awkwardly I roll off the hood of Delia and take a seat inside of her, folding my arms across my chest and frowning straight ahead.
I'm not very good at frowning for long periods of time. They say it takes ninety-nine muscles to frown and only one to smile, which I don't know if I believe. I wonder if people can develop premature frown lines. After a few minutes of frowning the muscles of my face start twitching and my mouth returns to a neutral flat line.
I turn to the ever silent driver who's concentrating on the wet road ahead. "Is this about this morning? 'Cause if it is –"
"It's not." He answers quickly and in a tone that suggests I drop it. I didn't really want to pick up that topic anyway; it weirds me out a little. "And I forgive you – about the Geography thing; I'm sorry too."
Scenes such as these are few and far between, mostly because we don't usually apologize out loud. We usually just accept that each of us has gotten over it and argue about something new, like how Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky could be both existentialists and Christians at the same time, or for that matter if it's even rationally possible. I'm living proof that you can have it both ways, but Theo likes to argue that I've denigrated Christian beliefs to suit my lifestyle. No, something is definitely strange. I attribute it to the fact that we're California; strange things always happen in California, like plastic surgery.
"You know, when I said we should go to Canada, I wasn't joking." I say instead of asking him if he's ever had plastic surgery. Everybody lies about stuff like that anyway.
He nods. "We'd need passports."
I shrug. "Can't we just tell them we're Americans?" John once told me that Canadian border guards are pretty lackadaisical compared the anal retentive ones at the Mexican border.
The look Theo gives me indicates I should never ask John about border crossing ever again. He probably got his information from Ebay.
I shrug. "We could always try hiding in barrels of grain, or on one of those semis that hold all the cows."
Theo doesn't respond, merely rolls his eyes. The prospect of hiding with smelly cows probably doesn't appeal to him, and since I don't think grain comes in barrels anymore, the cows would be our only option. I suppose we could always hop the fence, but I watched a show with Nomi once on how they have all sorts of night vision cameras that spot that kind of thing all the time.
The sounds of jazz and Delia's window wipers lull me to sleep for an hour or so until we stop at a stop light. That gets my attention. Slowly I become aware that we're in a town – with stop lights.
I'm pretty sure he knows what I'm going to ask, but I ask anyway. "Are we there yet?"
He smirks ever so slightly and shakes his head. "Yeah."
Eureka is not what I expect. It's a fairly small town along the ocean with really old Victorian houses and Chinese tourists walking all over the place with umbrellas. One particular house seems to get a lot of attention. The sign out front says that it's Carson Mansion, but it looks more of a mini-castle to me. I count seven different drive-through coffee booths that look like John's tool shed in my backyard. They're all set up in tourist-y looking places that sit strangely empty. We continue down the road until Theo pulls into an empty park of some kind.
Rain pours down through the infinite black of the sky. I don't think I've ever seen a truly black sky until now. Usually when people exaggerate about the sky being black, they just mean they forgot their bifocals and it was really just a dark blue black, like a bruise Theo got once. He never said how. But this sky, this one doesn't seem to promise to let up any time at all. It has an eternal arsenal from the weather man on the radio who claims it won't stop until tomorrow – maybe. I guess he doesn't want to be run out of town. Theo backs into a parking stall so that Delia's rear window faces the churning waters.
When we get out, we stand there a little awestruck. After all, it's not really what I imagine when I conjure up what the Pacific Ocean should look like. Where's the bright, sunny sky? Where are the bikini-clad supermodels? Where are the ice cream vendors and children and seagulls and surfers with totally gnarly accents? Where's Pamela Anderson?
"Well…" I stare at the white caps and how hard the waves seem to pound the sand. Washed up sea kelp and blobs of jellyfish don't seem as interesting when it's raining. We've come all this way for a rain storm, and I can't even be bothered to find it fascinating because it's ruining my ideal type. I realize the ideal type doesn't exist, but still.
"We could wait a bit – maybe find a motel." Theo suggests, sensing my disappointment.
I don't want to leave. Something pulls at me, and it's not the wind; it's something else entirely, just that feeling again. An idea lodges in my brain and a slow smile spreads. I turn to Theo, who stands on the other side of Delia staring too. He looks at me as I begin pulling off my sweatshirt.
"What are you doing?" he sounds a bit alarmed, but only his eyes really show it.
I grin at him as I unbutton my shorts. "Pretend we're sixty."
"What are you talking about?" He knows exactly what I'm talking about. He remembers his promise on the roof of my garage, but he's afraid.
"Come on, Theo." I yank off my tank top, already feeling exposed in only my underwear and bra. The rain is cold as it hits my skin. "This is the one time in your life where nothing else matters." I fling off my bra with a giant whoop and make a mad dash for the deep blue waves.
I hit the water with a squeal and take a plunge. The Pacific Ocean is also supposed to be warm. For a few moments I stay underwater, listening as the waves swirl the sand, hoping to hear whale songs like that girl in the movie. The rain drops from the sky seem warmer when I get back to the surface just in time to hear a loud splash. Theo has disappeared from the side of Delia. He pops up a few feet away from me and shakes the water from his hair, though it doesn't matter because it's raining.
"Wasn't that exhilarating!?" I shout with a grin, bobbing over a wave. "We should have done this before. No authority, no restrictions, just one hundred percent all natural!" I've always wanted to say that.
Theo looks at me with amusement. "One hundred percent all natural?" So it's a cliché, so what?
"Hey, do you think if we shout loud enough, Japan could hear us?" I bob over a wave so it doesn't hit me in the face.
"Shout in Japanese?"
I make a face. "Do you know any Japanese?"
He shrugs. "No."
My dreads are now weighted down with salt water, which Nomi says is healthy for them. I look up at the dark sky pouring down at me and smile with my arms outstretched.
Suddenly I open my mouth and start shouting. I don't know why. I feel like a warrior, my war cry echoing off the frothy waves. Theo chimes in soon after, but his cries are more animalistic, more primal. His shouts sound tortured and full of bitter emotion. I don't think Japan hears us, but for anyone who can, they probably think we're drowning. I hope the coast guard doesn't come to help the two naked kids flailing and yelling in the water, unless they arrest us; then it would be okay.
As the last of our shouts bounce off the waters, I turn to Theo with a grin.
He doesn't look back or grin, or say anything, just stares out at the dark horizon with burning grey eyes and then closes them. I can't tell if he's really crying because of rain running down his face, but his brows are dipped and his lips are quivering like maybe he is. I don't think I've ever seen Theo cry in my entire life. Sometimes I've seen the traces of tears, but I've never witnessed it in person. He told me when we were eleven that real men aren't supposed to cry because it's "not what real big dudes do."
Slowly I move towards him and touch his shoulder lightly. "Theo, are –"
His eyes suddenly bore into me. "I…I-I think I'm…that I'm in love with you." He blurts with a stutter and runs his fingers through his hair, looking anywhere but at me.
I blink and stare at him, swallowing real slow so I can figure out what he really means. "Like…you think? Or you know?"
His lips are starting to turn kind of blue, like they always do when we happen to dive into large bodies of cold water. Droplets dribble down his face as he suddenly turns very serious, his eyes reminding me of silvery fish. "I know."
My brows dip and I tilt my head as I stare back. "What kind of love?" I don't think that's what I'm supposed to say in this kind of situation, but maybe it's better that way.
"The kind where I kiss you and you kiss me back." He answers quietly, looking at my face like it's a bad math equation.
"Do we have sex?"
The corner of his lips quirk into the smallest trace of a smile. "Only if you want to."
I need more details. I read a book about a man by the name of Lee who created six ways of classifying love. While I've never really been into lists, it makes it really easy to figure love out – as an observer, not a participant. "Well, is it like a friendship Storge kind of love, or a romantic Eros kind of love like Don and Sue, or a lusty Ludic kind of love – like you want to get jiggy or something, because I'd just like to say –"
"Sophie, stop talking for five seconds!" he grabs my head between his hands, but gently.
"Hey," I blink, "you just said an odd –"
He kisses me, but I don't know what kind of adjective to use because I've never been kissed before. I was too busy etching dirty words into bathroom stalls to get in on games like spin the bottle or truth or dare. Boys would have rather stripped me of a soccer ball than my clothes, and Simone, of course, played a big factor too.
Nomi says kisses are supposed to be electric, like lightening bolts prickling all the hairs on your body. I've produced the same effect by licking nine volt batteries, but this is much different.
His lips are kind of wet and soft and squishy, kind of like Jell-O. I can feel his teeth nipping my bottom lip and his tongue too. I have no idea what to do with my lips, so I do what I think I'm supposed to do, or at least…what I've seen in movies. Kissing is definitely not like licking nine volt batteries, because at least you know what to expect. The more I kiss Theo, the more I don't know how to respond, and the more I don't know how to respond, the stronger he kisses me. I like it. It creates this jittery feeling underneath my skin, like an adrenaline rush, but better.
Author's Note: Many many apologies for taking so long with this one. I came up against quite a bit of writer's block and procrastination didn't help I s'pose. In any case I didn't expect this (Theo and Sophie) to happen when I first started, but it makes sense now. Hope it's not too unexpected or unrealistic? Thanks for all your reviews! They've been the proverbial kick in the knickers I needed :)