Yesterday, Noel came over. Not for long or anything, he just opened the door and let himself in. Surprised me. He usually calls first. He's the sort to arrange these things beforehand, so when he kicked off his shoes, sat on my couch, and said, "Hey," I was too stunned to respond-

Though not for long. I composed myself, replied, "Hey." I was smoking a joint: he took it from me, stole a hit, and then spoke.

"I got kicked out."

"You didn't." Noel's dad, Allan, I've met him a few times. Guy plays favorites, and Noel's his prize. He goes to private school, other two kids are in public. Noel gets anything he asks for, and he doesn't realize it. I mean, Allan treats him a little meaner, stricter- but you can see it's out of love, that inexplicable parent kind. I guess I understand because I got Britta and Liam-

But I'm getting off topic. He shook his head, spat, "He found the weed you sold me, and he said I can't come back in his house if I'm smoking that shit. Something about ruining my life, he doesn't get it. I couldn't do all the stuff he wants me to if I didn't have...have something."

I watched him teeter, grab the joint again, thought to ask as he palmed my upholstery, "Why're you here? Your man out?"

"He's...busy." Noel frowned, and that meant he was busy selling. Noel doesn't mind that I do it, but he gets in a huff over Jamal. Guy deals heavier drugs than I do, but Noel cares about him more. It's in his posture, clenched fists and downcast gaze, tight shoulders and straight mouth. It's in the way he says, "I'm going by there later if he's in," and then takes a longer hit.

"You love him?"

"Why do you think that?"

Thing about Noel is, he thinks I'm dumb. I'm not smart like he is, sure, but I've been around more than him. He can write a dissertation, but I can lay a brick wall. He can tell you about the intricacies of law, but I can tell you how to avoid breaking them in words everyone understands. He can cite a psychology book, but I can apply it without reading a single word-

He twists, settles with force, and I shrug, "I just know you.".

"All right, Ryan." He rolls his eyes, and I'm going to let him stay the night. Feel kind of bad for him.