Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paper Towns - Chapter 9

We bought dish towels at a 7-Eleven on I-Drive and tried our best to wash the slime and stink from the
moat off our clothes and skin, and I filled the gas tank to where it had been before we drove the circumference
of Orlando. The Chrysler’s seats were going to be a little bit wet when Mom drove to work, but
I held out hope that she wouldn’t notice, since she was pretty oblivious. My parents generally believed
that I was the most well-adjusted and not-likely-to-break-into-SeaWorld person on the planet, since my
psychological well-being was proof of their professional talents.
I took my time going home, avoiding interstates in favor of back roads. Margo and I were listening to
the radio, trying to figure out what station had been playing “Stars Fell on Alabama,” but then she turned
it down and said, “All in all, I think it was a success.”
“Absolutely,” I said, although by now I was already wondering what tomorrow would be like. Would
she show up by the band room before school to hang out? Eat lunch with me and Ben? “I do wonder if it
will be different tomorrow,” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. “Me, too.” She left it hanging in the air, and then said, “Hey, speaking of tomorrow,
as thanks for your hard work and dedication on this remarkable evening, I would like to give you a small
gift.” She dug around beneath her feet and then produced the digital camera. “Take it,” she said. “And use
the Power of the Tiny Winky wisely.”
I laughed and put the camera in my pocket. “I’ll download the pic when we get home and then give
it back to you at school?” I asked. I still wanted her to say, Yes, at school, where things will be different,
where I will be your friend in public, and also decidedly single, but she just said, “Yeah, or whenever.”
It was 5:42 when I turned into Jefferson Park. We drove down Jefferson Drive to Jefferson Court and
then turned onto our road, Jefferson Way. I killed the headlights one last time and idled up my driveway.
I didn’t know what to say, and Margo wasn’t saying anything. We filled a 7-Eleven bag with trash, trying
to make the Chrysler look and feel as if the past six hours had not happened. In another bag, she gave
me the remnants of the Vaseline, the spray paint, and the last full Mountain Dew. My brain raced with
With a bag in each hand, I paused for a moment outside the van, staring at her. “Well, it was a helluva
night,” I said finally.
“Come here,” she said, and I took a step forward. She hugged me, and the bags made it hard to hug
her back, but if I dropped them I might wake someone. I could feel her on her tiptoes and then her mouth
was right up against my ear and she said, very clearly, “I. Will. Miss. Hanging. Out. With. You.”
“You don’t have to,” I answered aloud. I tried to hide my disappointment. “If you don’t like them anymore,”
I said, “just hang out with me. My friends are actually, like, nice.”
Her lips were so close to me that I could feel her smile. “I’m afraid it’s not possible,” she whispered.
She let go then, but kept looking at me, taking step after step backward. She raised her eyebrows finally,
and smiled, and I believed the smile. I watched her climb up a tree and then lift herself onto the roof
outside of her second-floor bedroom window. She jimmied her window open and crawled inside.
I walked through my unlocked front door, tiptoed through the kitchen to my bedroom, peeled off my
jeans, threw them into a corner of the closet back near the window screen, downloaded the picture of
Jase, and got into bed, my mind booming with the things I would say to her at school.


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