Monday morning, when Tomek should normally pick me up for school, he doesn’t. In two years Tomek has never missed a morning ride without warning me first. So I wait twenty minutes on my porch for sight of a blue Trans-Am that never appears. Then I wait another twenty. I have visions of Tomek in a fiery wreck by the side of the road. Images of Tomek handcuffed over the hood of a police car. Slow-motion thoughts of him launching off an overpass and into space. Everything except the truth, which is that Tomek isn’t coming.
Around us the other kids move in little oscillating circles, fish in a fish tank. It’s mostly guys aside from Lisa, but there are a couple of girls, both in patterned tights and very drunk. One leans over and throws up into a bush. I wonder if technically I’m responsible for that. But if not for me, then they would’ve just gotten their alcohol elsewhere. I mean, who’s really supposed to be the adult here—me or their parents? The thought makes me indignant. Why shouldn’t these kids get drunk and flail around, searching for space of their own? Why shouldn’t they be misfits? After all, they are at the receiving end of the greatest swindle our culture perpetrates. We promise them salvation for being themselves and then punish them for not knowing who they are.
“Well, you are alone,” Marco says. “We all are. Maybe if you were an accountant or a banker, you wouldn’t be. But really, there’s no place more alone than knowing that you’re not alone when you want to be. Try telling that story,” Marco laughs. “You’ll be alone in no time at all.”
And then one day he sat down to a microwaved Stouffers dinner to instead find himself on the house’s wood-veneer floor, staring into the space between the dining table’s legs. There was no pain, not as though the chair had been pulled from under him, but more as if he had simply moved through the chair and come to an abrupt stop. As though he had frozen in a sitting position and the chair, the floor, the house, all of it had rotated a few degrees upwards around some arbitrary celestial axis, stopping seconds short of where it should have been.