For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Luke 11:10Peter and I ride home from the party in his old El Camino. I stare out the window, listening to the radio, wishing I can sing. I envy people who have such a handy outlet for their emotions.
I turn down the music and say, “I’m thinking about changin’ my major to pre-med.”
“I didn’t know you’re interested in science.” He’s impressed; I hear it in his voice.
“This summer I bought an anatomy book for Matt ... for his birthday. The pictures were gross, but I just kept lookin.’ I got to thinkin’ about all the people I met this summer who were in pre-med or med school.” I rolled down the window. “I kind of fit with them.”
Hot air blows into my face. “I’ve never found a group of friends who were really on my wavelength, if that makes sense.”
“They’re just people," he says. "I’m sure there are similar categories of people in any profession. I don’t know if you should base a career decision on a group of people you met one summer.”
“I don’t know if I’m smart enough, “I say, ignoring his advice. “I made good grades in high school, but my teachers always said that I could make straight A’s if I put my mind to it.”
“There’s a lot to be said for focus.” His eyes never leave the road.
“So you think it’s possible? Do you think I'm capable?”
He glances over at me. “You just have to want it bad enough. It means more to the people who work for it.”
We drive into my neighborhood and pass the elementary school I went to. It sits on the side of the road like a giant memory. “When I was thirteen I used to sneak out of my house in the middle of the night and go up to that school.”
He looks surprised. “You must have been a brave kid.”
“I loved it. I took a blanket and my radio. I laid in the center of the playground looking up at the stars, listenin’ to the music. There was one song I used to love. I sang it so loud—out on the playground. I think it was Christopher Cross.”
“Sing it for me.”
“Are you crazy? I cain’t sing.”
He smiles. “Come on. Everybody can sing.”
I clear my throat and softly sing. “It's not far down to paradise. At least it's not for me. And if the wind is right you can sail away ... And find tranquility. The canvas can do miracles ... just you wait and see. Believe me …”
“Hey, that’s not bad.”
“I remember lying there, thinking that one day I'll just sail away.” I shrug my shoulders and laugh nervously. “That sky and those stars made the universe seemed so big. It should have made me feel small, but it didn’t. It made me feel like a giant, leaning up against the world. Like I was the only one in the world God could see.” I pause, wondering if I made a mistake by mentioning God. “Do you think I’m weird?”
“Not at all. It might not be something the average person thinks about doin’ … you know, goin’ to a schoolyard in the middle of the night. Actually, I think it says somethin’ important about you.”
“Probably means I’m a weirdo.”
“No, you’re special, that’s all.” As he speaks, the words become real and true. We ride in silence for a few minutes, and then he says, “Matt knows that, too.”
The mention of Matt’s name jolts me from my dreamy state. “Apparently not, " I say. "He broke up with me, didn’t he?”
“Trust me, he knows. He’s a genius--a real genius. And he’s a great guy but he’s a little weird. For real.”
“What do you think’s wrong with him?”
“He goes around makin’ all these wise statements but if you watch him, he’s young … emotionally. Sometimes I think he’s talkin’ to himself. I think he remembers everythang he hears and, intellectually, it makes sense … but maybe, emotionally, he’s tryin’ to decide if he believes his own advice.”
He turns the radio back up. Neither of us speak for the next couple of blocks. Then he says, “If you ever figure out how his mind works, I’d appreciate the information.”
His words clot in my ears. Then the chanting begins. Don’t go. Don’t go. You shouldn’t go.
I know I’ll go.
Remember when I said you wouldn't like me? This is the night all that begins--because although there are deep, powerful reasons why we do the destructive things we do, very few people care about all that when they see you making mistake after mistake? They say that no one will love you if you don't love yourself but I beg to differ. Loving someone who's lost is the worst kind of real love, the kind that rips you up and spits you out. The kind that holds a mirror to your gut and forces you to look.
When I get to his apartment, Matt’s porch light shines like a beacon. I knock on the door and wait. When he doesn’t answer, I start peeling the cracked paint from his door.
The door suddenly swings open. I fumble for my balance. “Why are you standin’ so close to the door?” he says, his eyes narrow.
“No reason. What are you doin’?”
“I wanted ... to be with you all night,” I say. “You were starin’ at me.”
His head shakes in denial.
A music teacher in my head reminds me to sing with my diaphragm, but I don’t know how. I remember that Peter said everyone can sing. So I try until it’s painful, my voice carried by some huge breath I manage to call forth, not knowing if it’s right, effective, or anything near what she’s looking for. “Didn’t you read my letter? Cain’t you admit that you were watchin’ me all night?”
“Lookin’ at someone and wantin’ to be with them are two different thangs. You’re interpretin' thangs the way you want ‘em to be.”
“No, I feel it.” My voice is stronger. I’m getting it; my voice is coming from the right place. “I feel a lot a thangs other people don’t. I feel thangs I don’t wanna feel and I know what you …”
“How can you possibly know how I feel? And you think this ability you think you have makes you somethin’ special?” His eyes drill into me and I see a flicker of pain. “You don’t know anything.”
“I think you‘re fuckin’ crazy,” he says with a force that shakes me. The shaking escalates as we smack together with a force that's surprising yet natural. We fall to the floor next to his narrow apartment stairway. There are no gentle caresses or kisses. Instead, we grab and snatch. Tugging at our clothes, we make our way toward the stairs. We move up, step by step, using each other as a tool to climb a ladder we both need. His breath is full and heavy and his eyes wild. I pull his hair, stretching his neck out long and bumpy. His windpipe and vessels trace a path, an open road toward his body. His vulnerability fills me with aggression. Finally reaching the top of the stairs, we make our way toward his bed.
“Don’t,” he says when I try to turn off the light. “I want to see you.”
He stands behind me, bending his knees and pushing them into the back of mine. His palms run along the length of my thighs and hips. Reaching behind me to cup his rough backside, my hands struggle to pull him closer. Then without warning, I spin around. I never looked at a naked man and thought him beautiful until that moment. He lifts me, wrapping my legs around his waist like a mother scooping up her child. We sink onto the heap of sheets and blankets covering the bed. Then I grab his head between my long fingers, forcing him to look at me. “Tell me what this means,” I say.
“Why does it have to mean anythang?”
“Everythang means somethin’. You told me that. You said life is a road. Don’t you believe it?” He stares at me and I feel silly. “I just want to understand.”
“What needs to be explained?”
“Why cain’t you admit that you want me ... really want me? You stared at me all night and now you won’t admit it. You broke up with me but now we’re together, and it means somethin’.” His silence makes me cry but he doesn’t seem to notice. He wanted to keep the light on, but although I’m in front of him, right on top of him, he can’t see me. He kisses the parts of my face where tears rest and, as crazy as it seems, I’m still not sure he realizes they exist.
Music floats through the tiny room, and we move like wild birds in perfect formation. We’re young and freakishly innocent. We exist in a fantastical but painful place bordering adulthood.
I feel inside out. “Matt,” I whisper. “I want to tell you somethin’. It's strange. I don’t know why, but I …” My voice cracks as I force myself to remember. “When I was fifteen, I had an abortion.”
His hands don’t stop exploring. “That was three years ago,” he whispers. “It’s over.” He’s not trying to comfort me, but I’m comforted.
“If it’s over, why do I feel the need to tell you?”
“You don’t need to tell anyone. You just have to move on. You did the best you could at the time and now … it’s already a long time ago.”
I wonder how he’s so sure I did the best I could. He doesn’t know anything about it. The more emotional I become, the more he responds. In the end, we lay together as if we’ve shared something profound, but he didn’t asked me any questions and I didn’t find any answers.
My pain has just begun to surface.
I shiver and he says, “I’ve got what you need.” He jumps up from the bed and moves toward the closet on a mission to care for me.
I close my eyes, feeling beautiful.
He says, “My mom just gave me this today. Moms have a way of knowin’ just what you need, right when you need it. It’s amazing.”
When I open my eyes, he stands godlike at the foot of the bed. The blanket he holds in his outstretched arms hangs between us in a deep red, fluttering wave. In a violent moment, he flings it over me. As it descend upon me like the sick red of my dream, he flips off the light and jumps on the bed as if to imprison me beneath its red, woolen grip.
Read the Chapter 5 next week!
BOUNDARIES is Penelope Przekop's first novel. It's a work of fiction based on true events. Since writing BOUNDARIES, she has completed two other novels. ABERRATIONS was published by Greenleaf Book Group in 2008. CENTERPIECES is currently being considered by several publishers. Penelope is working on her fourth novel, DUST.