It's that kind of night where I think I could scream and scream until my throat felt raw and my lungs about to explode. I shuffle down the street as though my feet are encased in cement slippers. Each time I inhale, the chill of the air seems to sting like lemon juice on a wound. The houses are all boxes of muted light and I can easily imagine all of the families tucked inside, the baby-face children burrowed in their beds while the glassy-eyed parents stare at the television.
There's never anything to do in this town once the sun goes down, so the restlessness mutates into the compulsion to self-destruct. It sounds crazy, but sometimes it's like I can step out of my body. I saw myself guzzling down the booze and popping a few pills and slaying that cluster of loose-lipped burnout boys with the swaying of my hips. I saw myself making one mistake after another. Yet there's nothing I could do to stop it. At first, I'd tried to fight back but it was futile. Instinct and desire completely conquered inhibition. It was like my body had gone into autopilot.
When I get to Dean's house, I'm surprised to see that someone is still awake. All of the windows are cloaked in darkness with the exception of the one in the upper right corner. Like a moth to a flame, I cross the yard and drift over to the light. I assume that this is Dean's bedroom. I can't think of any Ridgefield parents, not counting mine, that would stay up so late. It's like all the adults are machines, pre-programmed to follow a distinct code of etiquette, from greeting enemies in the supermarket to initially refusing a drink in the home of a friend. Before I can think, I find a rock and heave it at the window. A moment of stoned fear makes me crouch and throw my arms over my head. When nothing happens, I scour the ground for another rock. A few seconds later, the window flies open.
"What the-Remy? What the hell?"
Dean sticks his head out the window and then leans over, providing a generous view of his bare chest. I give him a goofy wave.
"You don't know how glad I am that I got the right window," I call. The relief in my voice translates as scratchy stupidity.
"Jesus Christ. Stay right there. I'm coming down. You're gonna wake half the neighborhood," he replies.
Like a turtle retreating into its shell, he yanks his head back inside and then disappears. I sit down on the damp ground and start humming an Iggy Pop song. Maybe it's lightening speed seconds, maybe it's minutes, I don't know. But it seems that the instant I imagine the opening notes to "I Wanna Be Your Dog," Dean is hovering over me. I remember that I'm only wearing black fishnets and an extra long tank-top, so I snap my legs shut. The heels of my clunky motorcycle boots click together and I can't help but laugh. Dean sighs. It reminds me of my father, the way he sometimes sighs, shakes his head and says, Who are you?
"What the hell are you doing?" he asks.
I put a hand to my forehead and shade my eyes, as though the moon is blinding.
"Can I just say that you wear bed head and boxers quite well?" I drawl. I don't like the way my voice sounds, all smoke charred and raspy. Dean grabs my arm and pulls. Woozily, I rise with heavy feet. I feel my body sway for a few seconds.
"Fuck, I hate baby-sitting," he mutters. I rip my arm out of his grip. I throw my shoulders back like a queen and then shove my index finger in his chest, hoping that the nail leaves a puckered red line.
"Oh, fuck you. I'm seventeen."
He steps back, mockingly puts his hands up.
"Oh, excuse me. I forgot. You're enlightened now."
"God, you're such a hard ass. I bet that's the reason you came back. No one at school wanted anything to do with you because you're so fucking uptight."
For a second, I think he might snap. But Dean suppresses the messy abandon of red hot rage for steely disgust.
"You know what? Fuck you, Remy."
He turns around and begins to walk away. Stifling giggles, I trot over and latch onto his arm.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I really am. I didn't mean what I said."
"Go home, Remy."
He yanks his arm out of my grip. I shift from foot to foot, adopting innocence too transparent to be genuine.
"No, Dean, c'mon. Wait."
"Wait for what? Wait for you to stop acting like a crazy bitch? Cause it looks like that's not gonna be any time soon."
"Don't go. Don't go back inside. You know I don't mean it when I say stuff like that," I pout.
"I'm starting to think that you do."
"I don't. I don't mean to say things like that but it's like I can't stop myself."
"You can't use being drunk and stoned as an excuse all the time," Dean warns.
"Oh, ok, Dad," I snap.
"Look, will you just get in the house? I'm not going to stand out here and argue with you until sunup," Dean pleads.
"Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Devlin?" I tease.
Dean groans and starts walking towards the door. I follow, knowing that my clothes reek of smoke and other people's sweat. We're silent as we enter the front hallway. Dean carefully locks the front door and puts a finger to his lips. I feel like we're in a museum after hours, afraid that one fatal slip will trigger the blaring of the alarms. We creep up the stairs, down the hall and into Dean's room. When the lights hit my eyes, I blink a few times. I sprawl out on the bed and cushion my head with my hands. Dean grabs a glass of water on his desk and takes a sip.
"Hey, no boots on the bed," he orders, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
With reluctant effort, I take off the boots and then toss them across the room. I close my eyes and resume my position of relaxed disenchantment. It hits me that if not for the drugs or the alcohol, I'd never have the courage to treat Dean this way.
"You wouldn't happen to have any weed, would you?" I wonder. I open my eyes, masking my desire for his affection with the sudden craving for weed. I try not to focus on Dean's chest.
"Why do you need it, anyway? You're already loopy enough as it is," Dean assesses.
"I don't need it. I want it. And you can never be too high," I reply.
Dean plops down on his desk chair. Swallowing another gulp of water, he starts fiddling with the pencil on his desk. With watchful eyes, he rolls it back and forth, back and forth, using only the tips of his fingers.
"My parents like you, you know."
I let out a strangled croak of a laugh.
"I highly doubt it."
"No, I'm serious. My mother said that she couldn't believe all those rumors about you. They know your family's kind of a mess right now but they still think you're a good kid."
"It's nice to know that I've still got some people fooled," I snort.
Dean flicks the pencil off the desk.
"That's because she never knew you. This whole thing is so fucking phony."
"Oh God, I'm so sick of this whole if you really knew me crap. The only thing we have in common is my dead brother."
Dean's silent for a minute.
"For awhile, I was mad at him too."
I sit up, cross one ankle over another, and then offer a tight-lipped smile.
"Look who's talking crazy now."
"I was. I guess I still am."
"Why would I be mad at him? The only person I'm mad at is the fucking idiot who killed him. Maybe my mother for basically turning into a zombie. And might as well add my father into that mix, too. My mother goes completely bonkers and his response is to act like nothing's wrong. I'm starting to think that I'm the only sane one left," I confess.
Dean snorts, picks up a penny and spins it with an irritated flourish.
"I know we were never the best of friends but c'mon. You can drop the act. You're not impressing me," he urges.
His sea glass eyes follow the penny with hollow interest, his fingers drumming on the desk.
"Are you going to sit there all night?" I wonder.
Dean flicks the penny and it skids off the desk and flops onto the floor.
"I mean, I don't have cooties or anything," I cheekily croon.
Dean rolls his eyes and gets up. He stretches his arms over his head and then shuffles over to the bed. The muscles in his back ripple. I smile although my spine starts to tingle. Dean shakes the bottom of my leg, frowning as though I'm a common bum drooling all over the courthouse steps.
"Move over," he grumbles.
The mattress dips with the addition of his weight. I scoot over, press my body against the wall, aching to feel his skin against my own. But I'm frozen in place while electricity crackles up and down my arms and legs, my teeth gnawing on my bottom lip. Back when I was younger, before I even realized that I had feelings for him, this would be the unexpected fantasy that would flourish in my head at night. All I wanted to do was to know him in this way, to be able to lie next to him, a puzzle piece returned to its rightful spot. Whenever Blake and I fall asleep, I feel like an island. Sometimes I have to put his arm around my waist. Sometimes I just curl into a ball. Most of the time, Blake forgets to close the shades and in the morning, my face feels hot and I howl the moment my eyes are slashed by the sun.
"Tired of playing Bonnie and Clyde tonight?" Dean murmurs.
I roll over. He keeps staring up at the ceiling.
"You could say that."
I study his face. I make it obvious that I'm letting my eyes follow the curves of his features, the flat plane of his forehead, the gentle curve of his eyelids, the downward slope of his nose. I realize that all of the minute details come together to form a face that's far more masculine than Blake's small jaw and dark, theatrical eyebrows. It has to do with the fact that there is nothing vulnerable in his face or the way he carries himself. As the years chipped away at his features, they became more and more pronounced, like a statue hiding in a block of stone. When I'm with Blake, I feel young but when I'm with Dean, I feel like a little girl.
"How did you even get involved with him, anyway?" Dean asks.
"I don't know. I think it was a matter of convenience. I was wandering the halls during a class. I couldn't concentrate so I asked for a bathroom pass. I ended up near the gym and Blake was at the soda machine. He had his hand all the way up the slot, trying to steal a few bottles. I kind of just stood there and watched him. I don't really know why. He finally yanked out a bottle and he turned around and saw me. Hey, I know you, he said. I didn't say anything. I didn't even smile. You want this? I hate Dr. Pepper anyway, he said. I shrugged and he tossed me the bottle. Then we just went our separate ways. I didn't think I'd ever speak to him again. A few days later I was cutting last period to go buy cigarettes with him. And….I guess…I just got used to the routine."
Dean rolls over onto his side. His breath hits my cheeks like warm puffs of wind. His hand reaches over and his fingers trail through my hair. I can see his adam's apple bobble as he swallows. I inhale and then exhale, savoring the jolts of bliss surging from his touch. His lips meet mine and his movements are delicate, endearing displays of hesitation and caution. He cups my chin as though I were made of china.
When he pulls back, he delivers a featherweight peck to the tip of my nose. He brushes his thumb across my bottom lip and I think for once, I don't even want sex, I just want to lay here----and that revelation slams an iron fist into my gut.
When he murmurs, I'm sorry, I don't know why and he won't tell me what he means.