When I wake up, it’s to the early morning of a pleasant night spent rested and dreaming. I remember the train, and some scattered thoughts of jumping the night before. Adam is concerned, above me. The sheets beneath me are wet. In pieces, the night returns like the memories of Ebenezer Scrooge. My hair streams from the river. Adam’s clothes are still damp. His eyes are blank and hollow and rimmed red. There’s a yellow stain between his fingers and he smells.
“Evelyn,” he says in a breath. “Say something. How are you feeling?”
My head pounds slightly and I try to remember what I’m here for at all. My throat is thick. My hands tremble.
Broke my spine.
Spent the night in the Mnemosyne.
“I...tried to kill myself.”
Adam sinks down heavy, his eyes not on me. He puts his head in his hands.
“Evelyn, why? God, why?” He whispers at the audacity of my sin. “Evie, what were you thinking?”
“I saw a light,” I whisper back. “I was trying to get to it. It was home...you were there. Clyde was. I’m sorry.”
He turns, his face set into confusion.
His expression is one which tells me I’ve just informed him of his cancer or his dead mother. Shocked, hurt. A toy of the universe.
“I...I jumped. Because...we only live one life and I was at the Watchtower?” My voice raises girlish to a question. “It was like I was supposed to. I don’t know.”
Adam rubs his eyes and sighs, shuddering. While he doesn’t face me, I start to cry. Within him, William recedes into the workroom, and I’m left in the war room with his young boy, Evelyn, playing Go Fish while he scowls at me.
Evelyn’s long hair is tucked behind his ears. His knees are scabbed and his eyes are bright and luminous with a boy’s skepticism; one still gullible and intact. His eyes are violet-blue and remind me of Arieh’s. His hair is the non-descript sand of Adam’s curls. He rubs the side of his nose with a bony finger and frowns.
“Go fish,” I tell him, and he frowns deeper. He sits Indian-style on a pallet in the mud and when he looks at me, I know there are boys on whom the world the relies to do impossible tasks like never grow up and never stop believing in the constancy of faith. He looks hungry. I ask him when he last ate and Adam drops his hands from his eyes in the bedroom, where I’m wet from the river.
“Evie,” he says.
I can tell he wants to scold me, or even say something helpful to make me feel less in trouble, but on the floor with his Evelyn within him, the skinny boy wipes his brow off with the length of his forearm and smiles from the corner of his mouth.
Boys seem like such alien creatures to me, with strange and angular movements that betray the every thought of their intellect in a way that I as a girl have learned to hide. Every self-conscious nuance of my physical self was ground down to some passably smooth and sheen finish to make me less weird, less noticeable, and less alive. The boys I know and the boys I’ve had all live without this astute lathing from themselves or others and, in moments seen or unseen, beautifully pick their noses without a thought to whom might be watching.
“I did that one time, too,” he answers me, his teeth biting his lip at the conclusion of his sentence so they look over-sized and comical.
“You did what?” I ask him, my voice softly maternal and patient.
“Jumped off a roof,” he says, his eyes downcast. His smile persists as if he’s daring me to gasp in the horror he knows I feel, to show some sense of girlish repulsion at his animal nature. I do and say nothing, holding fast to the steady beat of his heart that I can feel all around me.
In our bedroom, Adam considers his words.
“When?” I ask both he and the boy that he houses in his eyes. He doesn’t answer, but his Evelyn does, in the sounds of his sneakers hitting dry the rotten wood of the floor, and I follow him, down the long, long hallway of his dreams.
“Evie,” Adam whispers. “Where are you going?”
But I follow him inside, to a place perhaps he forgets or chooses to not remember, that his Evelyn keeps safe.
“You did, too,” I tell him, and his eyes narrow at the betrayal of this information, done by himself. “When?”
He sighs long and steadies himself in his chair as I race the boy of him to some dark place inside, and he feels our exhaustion and adrenaline after a long night of believing I was dead.
Evelyn calls a low whistle into the night. Boys learn the codes of distant communication, across species, before they learn how to drive a car or kiss a girl. Every boy can growl like a dog. Every boy can whistle like a train.
I find Evelyn in a school, curled into the hollow of a fallen tree. The shadows of a dim cafeteria are dusted lightly with the shimmering motions of parents in business attire. He curls onto his stomach, his legs painted with dirt and grime, his bare feet calloused and bleeding, blood smeared on his cheeks in customary dragon paganism.
In the cafeteria, the parents talk softly and erupt into loud laughter in intervals he may almost be able to time. Adam’s knees strike hard the crumbling wood as he moves them to sharp points to clutch to his chest, and he cries when his eyes fall on his older, handsome self, talking to me closely, soft in a red dress.
“I’m lost, Evie,” he murmurs to me, and from the doorway I pad to him on rough feet, my animal self following the smell of his tears on the rain-scented bark of the tree. I curl into him and remember with him against my fur that when Adam is Evelyn, he wants me to be Evelyn, too. That he is in a place where what feels good is sameness.
Linoleum the color of dexterity clip short the ticking of my nails to him.
“Hi, Evie,” I tell him, and he kisses me behind the ears.
“Hi, Evie,” he replies.
The tenderness of the moment unfolds around us in the swelling sense of the air and the soft-swallowed hesitation at the back of my throat that makes it feel velvet and longing. I’m an animal, wrapped tight in the arms of a boy. He scratches under my chin, and I drape my tail over his thighs.
“Yeah?” he answers.
“Why’d you hurt yourself?”
Saul skulks through the offhand rubbish punctuating the warehouse of a British new wave music video, the lines from the tracking pulling the tangles of his hair to violet points on the horizon. His jacket is crouched on his shoulders like the waiting mood of arrogance he shrugs them with. The music of his teenage angst reverberates flat and slapped against the corners of the screen, and he takes a paintbrush from a wide and rusting paint can to trace on gray brick a single word in heavy black paint.
He paints it out; he paints the wall; until he’s floating in a free and black space, blank of all interruption, the blackness of his certainty that he is surrounded with the fate of himself. In the black room, he waits, and I rush with impunity down the New Jersey turnpike, fixed to the back of an angel and trying to forget as every obstacle is removed from between me and the terminal velocity of my understanding. Here we are, Adam. Here’s your prison, with your bricks to count, and here’s my freedom, stretching as far as the Lincoln tunnel. Hold my hand, please.