Jake Lumley knocked on the trailer door, and you opened it, and he looked at you, and he shook his head, and he said, “You seriously slept until just now?” You hate when people are excited about anything while your eyes still have that scrunched-up-face feeling, your just having dragged yourself out of bed. “Dude,” you say, “People call first, then they get invited over. It’s like a thing people do. Before showing up places.” He says, “I called like 5 times!” You snort. “And how many times did I answer…?” He goes, “This is good, though. This thing I have to tell you.” You burp—you are wearing boxers and are only now hit with how chilly it is outside.
Something you are trying to cut back on is letting your misanthropy affect how you treat people who honestly care about you. You smell your armpit and say come in, step aside, and he does as he’s told, like always. You close the door and say, “Give me a moment,” disappear into your room. He goes, “You want coffee?” When you return, the coffee maker is running and you are dressed. You sit on the recliner, he stands in the kitchen nook, preparing two mugs for when the drinks are done. You say, “So what is it?” He finishes pouring the sugar, puts down the canister, eyes you. He says, “Mr. Condon is dead.” You blink, lean back, “The science teacher?” He nods, almost happy, but you know he’s not. He’s just excited. He’s feeling alive right now. You go, “How? Wait, why, what happened?” “That’s what I’m saying. The Sheriff is in a meeting with the governor right now. Why is the governor gonna come down to our shit-kicker town on a fucking Saturday in December?” “Your mom.” He mock laughs on the surface but real laughs underneath it. Jake Lumley, he says, “No, but I’m like, this is either one of the those things that is going to grow to make the Governor look really good, or really, really bad. And I think it’s the latter. And I think I know where it is.” You blink at him again. Marissa Tauper once told you that Jake, stoned, told her that he was in love with you. You think this is probably true, think it is maybe obvious, that she maybe has told this to everybody. Everybody but Jake. You don’t know how much he wants to feel this way about you, but based on a feeling you’ve had before, with others, you imagine it feels good enough that wanting it is beside the point. You say, “Where what is?” He says, “The thing that killed Mr Condon.” You look at the coffee maker, smile, “It takes so long.” You look at him, say, “You have your camera…” He grins. “Yes. We will need it.”
Once you have had your coffee and a glazed donut, your are not that averse to this hike Jake has decided is going to be the most amazing thing that will ever happen to you, at least today. His enthusiasm becomes your enthusiasm, but you leave it to him to show it. He has you marching through the woods behind his Grandfather’s barn, and you follow his lead, a role you are not used to, as he rambles on some story about how he looked out his window last night and saw three men carrying equipment into the woods at about 4 in the morning. Mr Condon was among them. He says, “They have deputies guarding it from the road on the other end. I don’t think it even crossed their minds that you can get in this way. But I think there’s government-type people on their way, so.” He looks at you. “Don’t worry, we’ll get there before they do,” he says. You don’t say anything. You just assume he knows his way around these woods. You say, “What are you taking me to.” He says, “Did you hear that big bang last night?” You go, “Yeah. The sonic boom or whatever?” He flicks his toothpick and says, “Uh, yeah, that. Apparently it was like a meteor or something.” “Bullshit.” “No. I mean, yeah. When the army dudes get here, and the men in black suits get here, we’re gonna start hearing a story about a meteor falling in these woods last night. But it was some…ball thing. Like an egg.” You feel your pockets for your cigarettes. You have them. You feel too ashamed to smoke one while it’s just the two of you. You smirk dumbly at him. You think about how Jake uses his dad’s old radio to listen in on dispatch calls. Jake’s father is dead. You stop walking. You look at him, “Shit, Jake, are we gonna get in trouble being out here?” His smile falters. “I mean…the idea is they’re not gonna see us…” You huff, think about your cigarettes, say, “What the fuck is out here? And who’s gonna protect us from it?” He says, “I don’t know what it is. It’s just some big…thing. It’s like…you ever see an old movie about martians?” You nod, but there’s no way you’ve actually done this. He says, “It’s like one of those…but it’s huge. I saw it. It’s fucking…it’s gonna change everything, how people think about life. It’s gonna change life, ya know?” You feel like, if you could love him back, that none of this stuff would be as exciting to him. It would be a threat to what you had, instead of a way to get it. He wouldn’t want to come out here. He’d want to…stay in bed or something, to relax, to talk about being nervous about the future, because that is the only place you might ever have to live without each other. Things people do when they feel safe. People who feel safe don’t go walking toward the monster. You go, “Dude. I’m sorry.” He blinks at you. “What?” You shrug, shake your head. “I dunno. I’m just sorry I guess.” He nods. “Do you not wanna come? To see?” he says. You look out at the woods, at the trees standing watch over more trees and you pull out your cigarettes and lean against a tree. Start smoking. You say, “Nah, I wanna go.” You do not mean this, but you walk anyway. You wonder how long you can keep up humoring him. Probably not for much longer. A month, two.
You puff your stoge. The shame of the nicotine infusing with your being mixes with the shame of your thoughts. Most of life is this feeling, like proving you’re better than your thoughts. Or something. As long as he’s happy, you think, to wash the other feelings away. As long as he’s happy.