A Passage from Luminous Airplanes, or Things As They Were: A Hyperromance
All through the winter that followed the summer of Man and Woman, I dreamed of seeing Yesim naked again, and when spring came I was in an erotic frenzy. I was a year closer to manhood, and I imagined Yesim as having made even more progress toward maturity. What wouldn’t we be able to do, once I had woken her from her enchanted sleep? I’d discovered masturbation that year, and if that was what that felt like, I imagined that lying with Yesim would be something completely unearthly. With strange courage I asked my mothers to send me to Thebes the day after school ended, and to my surprise, they agreed.
“If you want to see your grandparents so badly, of course we’ll send you,” Celeste said, as though it had been my diffidence, and not theirs, which kept me in New York, some years, until the beginning of July.
I got on the Trailways bus triumphantly, and when my grandmother picked me up in Maplecrest (the bus didn’t stop in Thebes), I was so excited that I couldn’t speak. This worried my grandmother, and when we got home she called my mothers. “You sent him too soon!” she said. “He doesn’t want to be here!” I can only imagine what my mothers replied. I wasn’t there: I’d already dropped my bag and run across to the Regenzeits’.
Mrs. Regenzeit was on the phone, but she motioned for me to sit down, opened the refrigerator, took out a bowl of twilight-purple eggplant and set it on the table. “I don’t give one sheet about that,” she said, opened a drawer and handed me a fork. “He should know better than to listen to such stupid things. Yes, goodbye.” She hung up the phone forcefully.
“Is Yesim home?” I asked, my mouth still full.
“Yesim? Yes, she is here. But I don’t think she is alone.”
I climbed the stairs, my stomach light with nervousness, and knocked on Yesim’s door.
“Come in,” Yesim said, and I went in, and found her sitting cross-legged on a pillow, and across from her, seated on a pillow also, a girl with long brown hair which fell across her face as she leaned forward to play an Uno card. “Oh, it’s you,” Yesim said. “I didn’t know you were coming back.” The other girl sat up and parted her hair just a little, revealing a skinny nose and a gleaming brown eye. “This is Matilda,” Yesim said. “She’s my best friend.” Both of them giggled, as if to suggest that they had become best friends by virtue of a long and humorous adventure, over the course of which their other, non-best friends had one by one been killed off.
“Who’s winning?” I asked.
“She is,” Yesim said, as I could have seen for myself from the few cards that remained in Matilda’s hand.
“Can I play?”
Matilda looked at me with horror, as though I were a biology experiment from which she had been excused for ethical reasons.
“Not now,” Yesim said, and with a grunt of satisfaction, played the Wild Draw 4 card.
“You bitch!” Matilda shrieked. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.”
I backed out of her room and pulled the door closed quietly, no longer a prince, only a palace eunuch, dismissed and fearful for his head.
Downstairs, Mrs. Regenzeit beamed at me with full consciousness of what I might be feeling, and asked, “You like that?” Meaning the eggplant. I nodded. “Good. Now listen, I need your help.”
Kerem was in trouble, she told me. Soccer had made him popular and popularity had turned him into a hoodlum. “He used to have good friends, people like you who make good marks in school and read books, but now his friends put safety pins into their pants. One of them has shaved part of his head, not the whole thing, and now Kerem is talking about doing that too.” Mrs. Regenzeit did not know what would be next, whether it would be drugs or crime or what people did when they had hair like that. “We try to talk to him,” she said, “but in his head there is only the terrible music he listens to.”
“Do you want me to talk to him?” I asked.
“No,” Mrs. Regenzeit said. “What could you tell him that we did not say?” She stabbed the air. “I want you to work with him on the computer.” This, Mrs. Regenzeit explained, was their latest and maybe their last hope for Kerem, a computer they had ordered from a catalog, which might get him interested in science and mathematics. The computer came in a kit, the whole family had labored long to assemble it, Mr. Regenzeit had given up many hours of work, and finally they’d hired an engineering student from Rensselaer Polytechnic to finish the job. Now it was working, but would it work? “You’re a good boy,” Mrs. Regenzeit said. “Help him to take an interest in this computer.”
Kerem came downstairs, rubbing his eyes and scowling. In the last nine months he had become skinny and pointed and his curly black hair stood on end with the support of some glistening goo. He looked like Spencer Bartnik, a social pariah in my class at the Nederland School for Boys who was renowned for his frequent and disruptive midclass nosebleeds.
“Good morning, Kerem,” Mrs. Regenzeit said sweetly.
I wanted to ask him a thousand questions. Finally, timidly, I asked if he was going to soccer camp again this summer?
“Football,” Kerem said. “The name of it is football. It’s only Americans who call it soccer.” Unbidden, he explained tome that last August he’d met an English assistant coach named Billy, who had demonstrated to him the superiority of all things English, and, incidentally, turned him on to punk rock. “He got me started on the Pistols, right?”
“If you say so.”
“That wasn’t a real question,” Kerem said. “You just say right, at the end of a sentence, right?”
I didn’t say anything.
“Right,” Kerem said. “Let’s go upstairs.”
England had invaded Kerem’s bedroom, and brought with it disorder and the smell of feet. A big Union Jack hung over his bed, and opposite it a poster of Sid Vicious, who also looked like Spencer Bartnik, and who was, according to the poster, dead. Then full-color photographs of soccer players, or footballers as I was supposed to call them now, razor-cut from imported magazines, ruddy men who seemed to be all tendon, caught in mid-leap, grimacing, as though they were keeping themselves aloft by force of will. The bed was covered with clothes and the remnants of more than one meal. I asked Kerem if that was where he slept. “Naw.” He pointed to a sleeping bag that lay unrolled by the window. “I’m squatting.” He steered me to the desk, where a gray box waited inertly: this was the computer, the last hope for his salvation.
Computers belonged, at that point, more to my imaginary world than to the world I shared with other people. Computers were 2001 and Forbidden Planet; they were big, blinking cabinets, sinister friends who did what you wanted to but couldn’t, like causing the New York subway to trap your enemies in perpetual darkness, or could but didn’t want to, like math homework. They looked nothing like the Heathkit H88 on Kerem’s desk, a gray box like a bulbous TV set, devoid of lights and switches, an appliance that was no more exciting in appearance than my grandmother’s microwave oven, and considerably less exciting than her electric toothbrush, which, with its rocket-ship styling and brightly colored interchangeable heads, its three speeds and warm rechargeable battery, seemed truly to announce the beginning of a new era. But this computer was real.
“Check it out,” Kerem said. He switched the machine on, and on the gray screen, underneath a pennant for Manchester United, green words appeared and vanished, leaving only a prompt,
the beginning of the beginning. The Heathkit H88 was intended more for hobbyists than for recreational users, and came with no software other than a BASIC interpreter and a game, intended to demonstrate the computer’s capabilities, where letters and numbers appeared near the top of the screen and fell slowly downward; you had to type each one on the keyboard before it reached the bottom, or you lost. Kerem played a game, then I played. It was too easy at first, then, as the letters speeded up, it became too hard. Only a machine could have kept up after the third or fourth round.
“It’s stupid,” Kerem admitted, “but look at this.” He typed,
>10 PRINT "FUCK YOU!"
>20 GOTO 10
and an unstoppable column of insult flickered up the screen. That was power. It didn’t matter that it was a tiny, ineffectual kind of power, that would strike no fear into the hearts of my enemies, nor save me from any trouble; all that mattered was that the gray box was in our camp. It did what we wanted without questioning; our power was, in the first instance, power over it. We taught the box new obscenities, and had it shout them over and over at the top of its lungs, until Kerem’s mother called him down to dinner.
I wanted more. By the end of that first day Kerem and I reached an understanding that seemed brilliant to us at the time, although it had disastrous consequences for me later on: I would teach myself to program the computer, and Kerem would take the credit. I wouldn’t have known where to start, but the Heathkit came with a book of programs you could type in to play games, perform calculations, or sort a list of names in alphabetical order. Even the shortest program was many dozens of lines long, and stayed in the computer’s memory only until you switched the power off. If you wanted to run it again after that, you had to retype the whole thing. The work was excruciating, endless, monastic, exalting. If I typed a line wrong, the only way to correct my mistake was to type the entire line again; if I didn’t catch it right away, the Heathkit would bide its time, then ambush me with a syntax error when I tried to run the program. The screen was only tall enough to display twenty lines at a time, which meant that I had to check my work in tiny increments, looking for a typographical error that was sometimes to be found in the book itself.
I worked in Kerem’s room while he slept, twisted up in a torn t-shirt, on a sleeping bag by the window. After a couple of hours he woke up. He looked around the room and sighed, as though the people who were supposed to take care of the décor had once again let him down.
“I fucking hate America,” he said.
“Too bad you live here,” I said, nettled.
“It is too bad, mate. I’m getting out as soon as I can. America is full of racist hicks.”
“Where are you going?”
“They don’t have racists in London?”
“You’d better believe they don’t.” Then, reconsidering, Kerem said, “Or if they do, they get their asses kicked by red-lace skinheads.”
I didn’t believe him, but I couldn’t refute him either. Kerem stalked to the bathroom; I heard him pee, then water in the sink. When he came out, he pulled on the jeans he’d worn the night before and we went downstairs.
“Morning, Mum,” Kerem mumbled, forgetting that he was supposed to have been awake for hours.
“You have a good lesson?” Mrs. Regenzeit asked.
“Really good,” I said.
Kerem agreed that I was making progress. He jogged down the hill, kicking at rocks, dodging the invisible members of the opposing team. I went home. At dinner I listened impatiently as my grandfather read us the news from the Catskill Eagle. Eastern Gas was laying a new main in Ashland; police had chased a group of suspicious youths out of the cemetery; meanwhile the library was selling unwanted books to raise money for its new reading room. I helped my grandmother clear the table and wash up, then I went to the Regenzeits’. Kerem was listening to a tape he’d made off the radio, Dave Stein’s show from WCDB. He paced around his room, looking for something, a sock, a leather wristband.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“None of your business.”
“Did you ever go to the cemetery?”
Kerem glared at me. “Mate,” he muttered, “stick to the box.”
He found what he was looking for and climbed out the window; the rubber cleats of his soccer shoes shushed down the garage roof.
I was afraid that Mrs. Regenzeit would discover our trick, but she never did. She must have wanted badly to believe that the computer was working, that Kerem was working. How she believed! Sometimes, when I came over in the morning, I’d hear her talking on the phone about her son, the whiz kid. All of the signs that she’d read formerly as meaning that Kerem was in trouble now meant that he was a genius. He had messy hair, he wore the same clothes day after day, he didn’t speak much, but on the computer he was something! I think Mrs. Regenzeit believed he was the equal of the young Bobby Fisher, or the boy in Florida who could solve any Rubik’s Cube in a minute flat. I didn’t mind that Kerem’s genius was all my doing, because I got to listen to his music: Minor Threat and Murphy’s Law, the Dead Kennedys, the Circle Jerks, a live Sex Pistols recording that had been copied and recopied until Johnny Rotten’s call to the faithless was practically lost under the hiss of tape. I shared his secret. What was better, what was even better, Kerem passed on to me a portion of the adoration he was getting from his parents. He was the whiz kid, but I was the Wiz. One night he took me with him, down to the steps of the public library, which were broad, deep, and secluded. I met his friends, a boy named Eric with a shock of red hair and protruding ears; a girl named Shelley who had made her skirt by cutting up a sweatshirt and sewing it back together. Kerem introduced me as his mate from New York City, and Shelley and Eric drew long hollow breaths.
“I really want to go there,” Shelley said. “I’ve just got to check out the scene in New York.”
“Lower East Side,” Eric said. “CBGBs, right?”
I thought he meant the SeaBees, the Navy engineers. I wondered if there was a naval training center in lower Manhattan.
“When we come to New York,” Shelley said, “can we stay with you?”
“I can ask,” I said, “but my apartment is pretty small.”
We walked to the Texaco station and stood by the pumps, watching people go in and out of the convenience store. Now and then one of the group would point to a customer and murmur to the others; Known fag. Definite fag. Total fag. Once Shelley approached a couple of men in a low-slung Camaro and persuaded them to buy her cigarettes. She offered me one; I said no but this didn’t change Shelley’s mistaken idea of my status.
“I shouldn’t be smoking either,” she said. “My mom’s really on me to quit.”
We talked about what we would do if the world ended. “Like if there was a nuclear war,” Eric said, “but all the people up in the mountains were OK.”
“We’d still have democracy,” Shelley said. “You can bet the people up here would keep it going.”
“Not bloody likely,” said Kerem. “You wouldn’t have television, so there couldn’t be democracy. You can’t have democracy without television.”
“You could still vote on stuff, though,” Eric said.
“Television and the central bank,” said Kerem, who had ordered some tracts from an ad in the back of one of his football magazines. “Without that, you have anarchy.”
“Anarchy!” My friends knocked their beer cans together.
“What I think is, we would still be together,” Shelley said. “No matter what other people were doing, you know?”
We agreed that we would be anarchists together. Shelley would make our clothes, and Eric would provide our food, because his family had a farm further down the valley, with cows and shit. Kerem would be the leader, because he knew the most about how anarchy was supposed to go. And I, “You’d be, like, my adviser,” Kerem said. “You’d help me plan our takeover.” Because we wouldn’t be content to be isolated anarchists. We’d get other people to join; we’d spread anarchy up and down the valley, and on the far side of the mountains. The apocalypse held no more fear for me that night. I leaned back against the convenience store’s wall and closed my eyes, warm with the knowledge that I wouldn’t ever have to be alone.
“My adviser is falling asleep,” Kerem said. “I better take him home.”
My magnum opus that summer was a game called Adventure. It was at the back of the book of programs that came with the computer, and I avoided it for weeks because it was much, much longer than any of the other programs, a thousand lines or more, an epic of code. It was written more densely than the other programs, also, so that it was hard to figure out what the game was supposed to do. I tried to make sense of the long DATA statements, the multidimensional arrays, the variables marked with unfamiliar signs, the complex string functions, the subroutines, but I kept getting lost; I hoped the Heathkit would understand it better than I did.
For a long time, Adventure did nothing at all. With each line I fixed, a new error manifested itself, more cunning than the last one had been, better at hiding its true nature, or appearing to be in one part of the program while in fact it was in an entirely different part. I was haunted by the thought that someone would turn the computer off before I was finished, or that there would be an accident, Kerem would trip over the power cord, a storm would blow down the lines that led to his house, a generator would fail, Russian missiles would arc over the horizon, civilization would collapse with Adventure still unfinished. I had stomach pains, dark circles under my eyes, and the beginnings of an irreversible stoop. My grandparents worried about me.
“What’s that Turk teaching you now?” my grandfather asked.
“He’s tutoring me in science,” I said.
“So Kerem’s good at science?” asked my grandmother.
“Yeah. He’s a whiz kid.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” my grandmother said. “I heard he was in trouble.”
She let the subject drop, but, and this was my grandmother’s usual strategy, she returned to it days later, hoping to catch me off guard. “You’d know,” she said, looking up from the Sunday newspaper. “How does oxygen become ozone?” Or, as she trimmed bushes in the backyard, “Maybe you can tell me, are these little critters going to turn into butterflies?”
But I had learned something from Kerem. “Unh,” I said, studying the green squiggles that scurried across the underside of a leaf.
My grandmother shook her head. “Go eat something. You look as gray as a grub yourself.”
It must have been late July when I finished Adventure. Something gave, something moved, something opened. Run, I could say, and it would run. Nothing flashed across the screen, no dancing letters, no space invaders, no canary cries or ping-pong pings. Only words.
Entrance to Cave
You are standing outside a dark and gloomy cave.
There is a gold key here.
I had made a world. Not a large world, not even, from any reasonable point of view, an interesting world, but a world nonetheless. Compared to the work of getting the program to run, the adventure of Adventure was absurdly simple. You typed,
and took the key; you went into the gloomy cave and crossed the subterranean river at the ford, you found the sword, surprised the troll, and navigated the maze where all the rooms looked exactly alike. You entered the castle, you read the note, you opened the secret door and found the locked treasure chest. Did you have the gold key? You did, you did! The castle, the maze, the troll, the river and the cave were the whole of my kingdom, but they were, to my mind, like one of the holograms pressed into a tiny button or pin where, as you turn it in your hands, a three-dimensional pattern seems to repeat itself in infinite space. I saw not what was there but what could be there, if only I had written it, a world of rooms where I would be free to wander as I pleased. It was as though the gray box had been working in secret to fulfill my oldest dream about its powers, although, like many dreams, the coming true bore only a metaphorical or tangential relation to the dream itself. Yes, I could know all, do all, create and destroy at my whim, I could make subways and strand my enemies within them, yes, everything, yes, only I would have to do it in the gray box. It was enough.
It was too much to take in. After I had unlocked the treasure chest and won the game twice, I needed to tell someone what I had done. I found Kerem with Shelley and Eric at the gas station.
“My game works!” I said.
“Oh?” Kerem frowned at me, as though he’d expected me to say something completely different. “Yeah, OK, that’s great. Good work.”
“We have to play,” I said, “before the power goes out.”
“Play what?” Shelley asked.
“This game I wrote on the computer,” I said.
“You wrote a computer game? Wow!” Shelley put her head very close to mine and whispered, “We’re a little stoned.”
I nodded gravely, as though Shelley had told me that the three of them had contracted an incurable disease. Their lives had become more serious, suddenly, and also more exciting. They would probably die. But secretly, if their being stoned meant that I got to have Shelley’s breath in my ear, I was all for it. Eric was hopping in tiny circles around the air pump.
“Are you ready?” Shelley asked Kerem.
“Shelley’s brother is having a party,” Kerem said. He must have felt badly that he hadn’t appreciated my game, because he added, “Want to come?”
“We’re going to have a great time,” Shelley said.
“OK,” I said. Consequences were whirling around me in a cloud of great seriousness. If, and if, else if, else. Then. Then. Then.
You are standing at the entrance to a dark and gloomy cave. Ahead of you, in the darkness, there is music.
“You’re OK?” Kerem asks. “Just be cool, and if anything happens that you don’t like, come find me. OK?”
“Let’s go-oo,” Shelley moans.
You follow Kerem and Shelley and Eric into the cave.
You’re in Shelley’s brother’s apartment, on the second floor of an apartment complex at the far end of Thebes, by the storage facility and the graveyard. There are many people here, and you don’t know any of them, although some of their faces are familiar from town. There’s the guy who works at the grocery store, and there’s one of the guys from the ski shop. You associate them so closely with those places that seeing them here is like being in a dream, where heads are pasted on new bodies and one city borrows the name of another. What’s more, everyone in the room is twice your size.
Shelley has gone off to talk to her brother, and Eric is talking to the grocery-store guy. Only Kerem stays with you, and only because he doesn’t know anyone here, any more than you do.
“Let’s get some beers,” he says.
Follow Kerem. You follow him into the kitchen, which is, if anything, even more crowded than the living room. You are pressed by waists, hips. Girls in tall vinyl boots are laughing.
Men are looking at you, they want to know what you are doing here. Kerem opens the refrigerator and gets a can of beer for himself and one for you. It tastes awful, but you hope that if you are seen drinking, people may mistake you for a midget or a late-blooming fifteen-year-old. Kerem says something to you, but everyone is talking at once and you can’t understand him. He waves, he is leaving you, he is gone. You are alone in the forest of giants.
“Hi,” says a girl with vast blond hair. “What’s your name?”
Say your name.
“How old are you?”
“Do you live in Thebes?”
“In New York,” you say.
“Oh, wow, that’s really great!”
You tell the tall girl about New York. She screams, “Mike!” and one of the giants turns around. “I want you to meet my new friend.”
“Hey.” Mike tips his beer toward you.
“Hey,” you say, and tip your beer toward Mike.
“He’s from New York,” the tall girl says.
This is good, Mike no longer looks at you as if you were a pituitary oddity. For all he knows, everyone in New York looks like this. It might be something in the drinking water. Keep people small to make the housing more efficient.
“The big city,” Mike says. “I love it! Wish I got there more often.”
“It’s not very far away,” you say, emboldened. “There’s a bus from Maplecrest. It’s like two and a half hours, and it goes straight to the Port Authority.”
Mike grimaces. You didn’t need to tell him about the bus. You turn to the tall girl, hoping for reassurance. “Do you ever go to the city?” She shrugs as though now she doesn’t know what city you’re talking about. “Or do you mostly stay up here in Thebes?”
You have come to a dead end.
Find Kerem? You look for him in the living room, but there are too many big people; if you go into that crowd you may never come out. You end up perched on the back of a sofa next to a kid with stripes shaved in his hair, who is willing to talk to you about the Dead Kennedys. “I kind of like the lyrics,” you say. “Like, you know, too drunk to fuck? That’s funny.”
The kid looks at you. “Have you ever fucked?”
“No,” you admit. There is a lull in your conversation. “Have you?”
The kid shrugs. “I think so.”
Much later, you’ll understand that this is what Mrs. Regenzeit meant by only part of his head, and you will laugh, and wish you could tell her that there is nothing to fear from the partially shaved. You excuse yourself, you have to pee. You wait on line for the bathroom.
Shelley is here. “Oh my god,” she says, “it’s you!” She takes your hand. “I am so happy to see you.” Her eyes are red. “I just don’t feel like I ever got a chance to know you, and I think you’re probably a really great person.” She tells you how few great people there are in the world, and how her ambition is to own a big farmhouse somewhere in the mountains, and to get them all together, the great people, in a big sleeping loft in the barn, and, like, talk. The bathroom door opens.
“Don’t go away,” Shelley says.
She goes in, she comes out, you go in. You have never peed so quickly in your life. But she’s gone when you come out, and you can’t find her again. The apartment is crowded with strangers, and not one of them wants anything from you at all. What is this game you’re playing? Who wrote the code for it? You wish you were back in Kerem’s room, seated in front of the Heathkit H88, but you aren’t. You go back into the kitchen. Three boys are sitting at the table, taking turns throwing a quarter into a glass of beer. If the quarter goes in, they drink; if it doesn’t go in, they drink. One of them is dangerously overweight and appears to have been dipped in oil. He takes the quarter out of the glass and licks it on both sides.
“You want to play?” he asks.
You understand now that this is a game with no victory conditions. The rooms lead only to other rooms, and there is no treasure in any of them, and no way out of the cave once you have gone in. You aren’t afraid any more, but you can’t remember ever having been as sad as you are now.
You can’t leave that.
Where do you want to go? The kitchen is full of smoke, and there’s no place for you to sit, and you suspect that people are looking at you again, thinking midget thoughts. You find a door that leads out to a balcony. From here you can see the graveyard, the upslope of the ski hill, the stars. A few people Mike’s size are leaning on the railing and talking. They pay no attention to you. You sit on the ground with your back to the wall. You are suddenly very tired. You fall asleep.
Lightning wakes you up. A storm has crossed into the valley; the wind hisses through the trees across the road. Beyond the roof’s overhang, rain falls in sheets. The big people have gone inside, sensibly. The thunder breaks over you, then the lightning, then the thunder again. You would be happy to stay here all night, watching the weather.
Shelley finds you. “Thank God,” she says. “I thought you might have left.” She sits next to you and takes your hand. “I’m so glad Kerem brought you. He’s sweet. Do you think he likes me?”
Shelley rests her head on your shoulder. “It’s just so hard, you know?” She complains that Kerem has been avoiding her; she’s afraid that he drinks too much and smokes too much pot. You aren’t sure you should hear these things, but you’re so grateful that someone, anyone, Shelley! has found you that you will listen to anything.
“You know what I think the problem is, really?” says Shelley.
“Thebes is so small. Kerem needs to be somewhere big, like New York City.” She gives you an unreadable look.
Read it? You can’t. It’s unreadable.
“Do you want to kiss me?” Shelley asks. You would like to, but you don’t know how. Shelley presses her hands to your cheeks, immobilizing your head. Suddenly her tongue is in your mouth. Her eyes are closed; you stare at the smudges where her eye shadow used to be.
“Mmm,” Shelley says, and lets go of your head. “You’re a good kisser.” Compared to what, you wonder. Robots? “Don’t tell Kerem,” she says.
Shelley goes inside. A few minutes later, you go in too. The shiny boy still sits in the kitchen, resting his chins on his hands, staring at a half-full glass of beer.
“Your turn,” he says.
The living room is ruined, human beings will never live here again. Kerem and Shelley are holding hands in the middle of the room.
“Where did you go?” you ask Kerem reproachfully.
“Where did you go?” Kerem asks. “I spent half the night looking for you. I thought one of Mike’s friends had stuffed you in a closet.”
“I think we should sleep here,” Shelley says. “If we go out, we’re going to get soaked.”
“Do you think Mike will let us?” Kerem asks.
You imagine the two of them lying together on the sofa, or on one of the coat-covered beds. You want to prevent them from doing this.
Here’s the prompt: act promptly.
“I’m going home,” you shout. “Come on!”
The wind takes you like a downed leaf, it pushes you down the street, and when you look back, you see that Kerem is running after you. “Punk lives!” he shouts, and he kicks over a newspaper box. Copies of the Catskill Eagle tumble out and are blown away. You run up the hill as fast as you can, the wind very strong at your back, so that it seems as though you’re flying.
When you’re almost home, doubled over and out of breath, Kerem grabs your shoulder and presses you against a soaking tree. “Promise me you won’t tell anyone what you did tonight,” he says.
You promise, you never will.
The next morning you learn that the storm knocked down a power line, and Adventure is gone. It doesn’t matter. You have already won. Did you kiss Shelley? You did, you did!
© 2008-2014 Paul La Farge. All rights reserved.