It’s February. Which is another way of saying that it is brutally, unreasonably cold. In fact, it’s so cold that I’m perpetually obsessed with how cold it is.
In Drawing, Dill lets me wear his fingerless gloves. They’re too big and make me feel like an imaginary creature with very small hands. Which I like, because every imaginary thing is more fun than actual reality. Especially in winter.
He leans his elbows on our table and says, so casually it sounds fake, “Hey, me and Greg and Vee are going to a movie tonight. You want to come?”
And when I look back at him too long, it’s because I’m considering all the things I like best—the blue of his eyes, the width of his shoulders, how he never talks down to me, never treats me like I’m stupid. He drew my picture like I was a doll-version of myself, but so what? He’s interesting and fun. Handsome. Dependable. (Actual, when everyone else is just hypothetical.)
“Sure,” I say, wiggling the gloves so they flop like puppets.
“Cool. I’ll pick you up.”
We’re in the middle of the Self-Portrait unit and everyone has mirrors, but mine is broken into jagged shards. Every day, I arrange the pieces in order on the tabletop, matching them up to a map of pencil marks. It’s easier to think of my face as a series of individual features. Mouth, cheek, forehead. One dark, furtive eye. I don’t know why I decided to do it this way except that otherwise, everything starts to seem too complicated.
I don’t even ask what movie we’re seeing.
“Are you crazy?” said Catherine after lunch. “The last thing you need is to start dating him again. And anyway—” She cut her eyes significantly at Jane.
“What do I care?” Jane said.
“I’m not dating him,” I said. “It’s just a movie.”
“Yeah, and then another one and then—oh, great.” Catherine rolled her eyes grandly. “Now here’s your other helpless victim.”
Brody had broken off from his friends and was heading straight for us. He looked like several adjectives, but helpless wasn’t one of them.
“You want this?” he asked, coming in very close and grabbing his crotch.
I stood looking up at him. Sometimes, at the strangest moments, I can tell that my expression is inscrutable.
He lifted his shirt and pulled a Coke out of the gap behind his belt buckle. “It’s still cold. So, you want it?”
“Maybe,” I said, tilting my head. “It hasn’t got cooties on it or anything, does it?”
He cracked the can open, took a drink and handed it to me. “Now it does.”
I smiled at him, sly, coy, demure, pick-a-word. It was easy. He kissed me lightly on the forehead and walked away.
Jane gave me a dubious look, but didn’t comment.
Catherine said it was disgusting. She said it was repulsive. She said he wants to have sex with me. But I don’t even know what combination of those things is true.
“You’re not going to drink that, are you?” she said as we watched him go. “It’s contaminated.”
I just shrugged. It seemed a shame to waste it. He was right, it was still cold.
Passing over the wisdom of drinking from the same can as someone who makes out with a lot of girls, we need to address a more serious concern. (Even more serious, I mean.)