He'd only been gone two seconds, but the room got brighter when they were together, as if they were two elements that became brilliant in proximity. At Sam's clumsy efforts to carry the vacuum, Grace smiled a new smile that I thought only he ever got, and he shot her a withering look full of the sort of subtext you could only get from a lot of conversations whispered after dark.It made me think of Isabel, back at her house. We didn't have what Sam and Grace had. We weren't even close to having it. I didn't think what we had could get to this, even if you gave it a thousand years.
I was trying to decide if you still had free will as a wolf. If I was a terrible person for planning to drug my girlfriend and drag her back to my house to keep in the basement.
While I pressed the tissue to my face, Beck said, “Can I tell you something? There are a lot of empty boxes in your head, Sam.”I looked at him, quizzical. Again, it was a strange enough concept to hold my attention.“There are a lot of empty boxes in there, and you can put things in them.” Beck handed me another tissue for the other side of my face.My trust of Beck at that point was not yet complete; I remember thinking that he was making a very bad joke that I wasn’t getting. My voice sounded wary, even to me. “What kinds of things?”“Sad things,” Beck said. “Do you have a lot of sad things in your head?”“No,” I said.Beck sucked in his lower lip and released it slowly. “Well, I do.”This was shocking. I didn’t ask a question, but I tilted toward him.“And these things would make me cry,” Beck continued. “They used to make me cry all day long.”I remembered thinking this was probably a lie. I could not imagine Beck crying. He was a rock. Even then, his fingers braced against the floor, he looked poised, sure, immutable.“You don’t believe me? Ask Ulrik. He had to deal with it,” Beck said. “And so you know what I did with those sad things? I put them in boxes. I put the sad things in the boxes in my head, and I closed them up and I put tape on them and I stacked them up in the corner and threw a blanket over them.”“Brain tape?” I suggested, with a little smirk. I was eight, after all.Beck smiled, a weird private smile that, at the time, I didn’t understand. Now I knew it was relief at eliciting a joke from me, no matter how pitiful the joke was. “Yes, brain tape. And a brain blanket over the top. Now I don’t have to look at those sad things anymore. I could open those boxes sometime, I guess, if I wanted to, but mostly I just leave them sealed up.”“How did you use the brain tape?”“You have to imagine it. Imagine putting those sad things in the boxes and imagine taping it up with the brain tape. And imagine pushing them into the side of your brain, where you won’t trip over them when you’re thinking normally, and then toss a blanket over the top. Do you have sad things, Sam?”I could see the dusty corner of my brain where the boxes sat. They were all wardrobe boxes, because those were the most interesting sort of boxes — tall enough to make houses with — and there were rolls and rolls of brain tape stacked on top. There were razors lying beside them, waiting to cut the boxes and me back open.“Mom,” I whispered.I wasn’t looking at Beck, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw him swallow.“What else?” he asked, barely loud enough for me to hear. “The water,” I said. I closed my eyes. I could see it, right there, and I had to force out the next word. “My …” My fingers were on my scars.Beck reached out a hand toward my shoulder, hesitant. When I didn’t move away, he put an arm around my back and I leaned against his chest, feeling small and eight and broken.“Me,” I said.
I didn’t know how I could live with that knowledge, without it eating me up, without it poisoning every happy memory I had of growing up. Without it ruining everything Beck and I had.I didn’t understand how someone could be both God and the devil. How the same person could destroy you and save you. When everything I was, good and bad, was knotted with threads of his making, how was I supposed to know whether to love or hate him?
I settled on the floor and whispered to Sam, “I want you to listen to me, if you can.” I leaned the side of my face against his ruff and remembered the golden wood he had shown me so long ago. I remembered the way the yellow leaves, the color of Sam’s eyes, fluttered and twisted, crashing butterflies, on their way to the ground. The slender white trunks of the birches, creamy and smooth as human skin. I remembered Sam standing in the middle of the wood, his arms stretched out, a dark, solid form in the dream of the trees. His coming to me, me punching his chest, the soft kiss. I remembered every kiss we’d ever had, and I remembered every time I’d curled in his human arms. I remembered the soft warmth of his breath on the back of my neck while we slept.I remembered Sam.
I missed the sound of her shuffling her homework while I listened to music on her bed. I missed the cold of her feet against my legs when she climbed into bed.I missed the shape of her shadow where it fell across the page of my book. I missed the smell of her hair and the sound of her breath and my Rilke on her nightstand and her wet towel thrown over the back of her desk chair. It felt like I should be sated after having a whole day with her, but it just made me miss her more.
Without turning on the light, I went to my bed and lay down, my arm thrown across the mattress, my hand aching because Grace wasn't underneath it
I fell for her in summer, my lovely summer girl,From summer she is made, my lovely summer girl,I’d love to spend a winter with my lovely summer girl,But I’m never warm enough for my lovely summer girl,It’s summer when she smiles, I’m laughing like a child,It’s the summer of our lives; we’ll contain it for a whileShe holds the heat, the breeze of summer in the circle of her handI’d be happy with this summer if it’s all we ever had.
If I only have ten minutes, Sam, this is what I want to say. You're not the best of us. You're more than that. You're better than all of us. If I only have ten minutes, I would tell you to go out there and live. I'd say...please take your guitar and sing your songs to as many people as you can. Please fold a thousand more of those damn birds of yours. Please kiss that girl a million times.