The Edge of Being
- Pages: 304 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Nancy Paulsen Books
- ISBN: 9780525517672
An Excerpt From
The Edge of Being
One hundred and eight.
That’s how many miles we’ve driven so far this morning, and it’s been exactly three hours and twenty-two minutes. What with the combination of Satan’s Treadmill to Nowhere, aka Los Angeles traffic (yes, even on a Saturday), and the fact that I don’t drive Oscar more than sixty miles per hour on the freeway—which is making Christopher slowly go bonkers—I’ve done the calculation and realized we will get to San Francisco in approximately eleven days.
I slept all of twelve minutes last night, anticipation fizzing through my veins, hoping our plan would work. I left Mom a note saying I was staying at Charlie’s house for the weekend and taking Rose Tyler with me. Charlie called Aunt Luna this morning to reserve a room and reassured me, after a lengthy discussion with her, that she distinctly remembered Alex Griffin and was the kindest woman they’d ever talked to. So I pocketed my lucky talismans for good measure and Charlie waved us off, saying, “You’ll find what you’ve been looking for, Fig.”
I hope they’re right.
Christopher’s leaning his head against the passenger window, going in and out of consciousness. He woke up grumpy, hungover, and remembering very little of last night, but for the fact we were going to San Francisco. He’s been mostly quiet since we left, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
I wonder what Alex Griffin looks like today, whether Dad will recognize me as instantly as I did them in the photo. I wonder if we’ll run into each other’s arms and never let go, or run away from each other and never look back. If we’ll catch up on lost dreams and create new ones together. If we’ll even care . . .
I even started rehearsing what I’d say, all the questions I could finally ask. Beginning with: Where have you been?
But now I can’t stop thinking this may all be for nothing. Maybe Dad left the city years ago. Maybe Dad died. Or maybe Dad never wanted me in the first place. I was an accident, after all.
I can’t decide what’s worse, finding all the answers or never knowing the truth.
Christopher’s up again. He’s snuggled in his green bomber jacket, wearing the same ripped skinny jeans from last night. I let him borrow one of my T-shirts because his was extra-ripe; it’s so tight on him I’m convinced his muscles might burst through. Rose Tyler’s curled on his lap sound asleep.
We haven’t talked about what happened the other night, how we left my bedroom choked with unspoken feelings and thoughts. How I realized he’s been pushing me away for a few months now, without the actual shove. How it’s been so long since I’ve seen him cry.
And we haven’t taken a road trip together for over a year. So now that he’s awake, and we’re driving safely through a long stretch of flattened fields, I tell him.
“Huh?” He glances over, his usual sparkly gold eyes muted and dull.
“I said I’m happy we’re doing this together. Thanks for coming with me.”
“Oh, babes, totally.” He lifts a strained smile and looks back out the window.
“I mean, we haven’t done something like this in forever.” I laugh. “Remember when we went to the LA County Fair and took a picture together in front of the blue-ribbon jam and that woman in a cow costume photobombed us?”
“Oh yeah.” He chuckles.
“That’s still on my phone when you call me. Good times.” And they were. For some reason, they feel so far away now. “Anyway, I’m glad we’re doing this because, I don’t know, I guess I’ve felt this distance between us for a while and I didn’t even realize—”
“Oh.” He checks his phone. “We have about . . . two hundred and seventy-five more miles to go. Oh boy.”
“No. I mean between us.”
Why do I feel like I’m talking to myself here? “You okay?”
“I’m just tired, is all. I have a headache.” He pulls up his shirt, exposing the hairy trail down his stomach. “First thing when we get to San Francisco—if we ever do—I’m getting a bigger shirt somewhere.”
“Okay . . .”
He squirms in his seat, sighs. “What were you saying, Fig?”
“I don’t know . . . Like, we’ve been together for almost two years now, right? And a lot’s happened between us, I know. And I guess, well, you ever think about that first time we met? I mean, it was wild. For both of us. Remember?”
“Yeah, it was.”
“All those feelings we had inside, you remember? Like we were free-falling in space and—”
“Why are you talking about the first time we met?” He leans his head against the window again. Rose Tyler stretches out and he rubs her belly.
“I mean, look. The point I’m trying to make is this: I’m sorry for getting mad at you at school the other day.”
“When that kid asked for your autograph.”
“You’re still thinking about that?”
“Well, yeah. I can’t stop thinking about what a supreme asshole I was, and I’m sorry for what I—”
“We both were. It’s okay.”
“But what I said was . . . stupid. I was pissed, I guess, and a mess of other things.”
“It’s okay, Isaac.”
“I know you can’t be out—”
“Fig. Not now.”
“It’s not my place to say when or how or to whom you should come out because—”
“That’s none of my business and it’s a very personal decision, obviously, and you need to know I’m sorry.”
“Can we drop this now? Please? I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Sorry. It’s just—”
“You really have no idea what it’s like. None.”
He shifts in his seat, facing me. “And you for sure don’t know what it means to be Black and gay. Hollywood acts like it’s woke, but it’s not. Far from it.”
“I thought things had changed.”
“Not according to my agent. So, can we move on? Please? I just want to have a relaxing time away from everything.” His phone vibrates, but he doesn’t look at it. Instead, he looks out the passenger window, muttering something to himself.
“I’m sorry. You’re right.”
“And please quit saying sorry.”
To stop myself from saying sorry again, I turn on the radio. Static fills the space between us.
Exactly seventeen miles later, I ask softly, “Ever think we’ll have what we once had?” A tear trickles down my cheek, surprising me. I wipe it away without him noticing.
“What’d you say?” he asks, shifting up.
“Can we pull over? I have to pee.”
“I think there’s a rest area up ahead, or a McDonald’s.”
“I have to go now. I also have to get out of this car for a minute or I’m going to rip my eyeballs out.”
“Oh. Okay. Sorry if I—”
“Fig. Seriously. Quit saying sorry. I’m not pissed, okay? Just—why do you always hold on to stuff for so long? It’s not good for you.”
“I’ve moved on from that morning. You should, too. That’s what you wanted to do here, right?”
“It’s bigger than that, though. It’s not as simple as—”
“It is actually. And the way we do that is if we stop talking about things that happened in the past.”
“Fine.” So I shut up and pull over. He starts to open the door and I quick-grab Rose Tyler’s collar. “Christopher!”
“She could’ve . . . never mind. Can you take her out with you?”
“Sure.” He snaps her leash on, and I watch them trot down the shoulder, disappearing behind some rocks.
I stare forward, waiting. Only now realizing how tight I’m gripping the steering wheel. My knuckles throb and pinch together. I shake them loose.
Maybe it’s because we’ve left the safety of home. Maybe we’ve been living on two separate continents in our heads for longer than I thought. Maybe I’ve been so blinded by my search for Dad, I haven’t let myself see what’s been happening in front of me. But it’s clear now that Christopher’s become another fissure in my heart. And I wonder if I’m one of his.
Rose Tyler’s bouncing on the seat again, smiling, panting. Christopher jumps in, closing the door.
“Much better. I needed air,” he says. “Look, I didn’t mean to—It’s all just so—argh—you know?” He tugs his shirt down, pulls up his jeans. “I mean, with school ending and this being our last summer together before college and—”
“You’re going to USC. It’s not that far.”
“I know, but they say things change.” He leans over, kisses my cheek.
“Things don’t have to change that much,” I say under my breath. But he doesn’t hear.
“I was thinking we should go out tonight.” He buckles up. “I found all these amazing bars that sound so—”
“Reminder: We’re not headed to San Francisco to go barhopping.”
“I know. But we’re not allowed to have some fun? We need to go to at least one gay bar in San Francisco, Fig. It’s like sacrilege if we don’t.”
“Maybe.” What he seemingly fails to understand is that this journey to find my dad, in and of itself, is fun for me. Well, it was, anyway.
“There’s this place called the Oasis,” he says, “which is, like, super famous with these awesome drag shows and has been around a while. And, also, I wonder how far that Aunt Loon lady lives from the Castro—that’s the gay mecca of the world, basically.” And on and on he goes, as I pull back onto the highway.
Two hours later, Christopher says, “I gotta pee again.”
“Seriously? We haven’t even gone that far.”
“Fine.” So I pull over in front of what appears to be a cow farm factory—because there are literally thousands of cows mooing and feeding into cow-infinity. “Please hurry, this smell is melting my insides.”
He laughs, opening the door, and all my thoughts come crashing down from the clouds as I watch Rose Tyler dash into the field.
This next moment in history is sponsored by Shout, Panic, and Unrelenting Terror.
Everything is a Technicolor blur. And I am screaming. Oh, am I screaming. The wailing pounds me back into my body, and I am scrambling through (what I hope is) mud, my vocal cords stretched so taut I think a few pluck loose.
I see Rose Tyler disappear like a cartoon cloud and Christopher bolt after her, stumbling a few times as he zigzags through a maze of cows. And he’s gone.
I’m still screaming, my arms flailing through the air, when suddenly the ground is too close to my face and the world spins. I’m rolling down a hill and land face-first in a pile of please-God-let-it-be-mud (it is) splatted into the earth.
That’s when I look up to see a cow tongue that is way too big for this planet. And I shriek. Loud. Really loud. So loud, the cow runs off, slopping more mud in my face. This makes me yell louder.
I scramble up when I hear Christopher shout something at me. I can’t see him. Can’t see anything. I wipe my eyes and follow his voice, waving my arms in all directions.
And in that second, I see a flash of blue. Like a crystalline streak that shoots down from the sky and lands in the form of a person, all wobbly and disoriented, several yards ahead of me.
I run after her/him/huh, still flailing, darting in and out of a stunned cow obstacle course. My brain feels like it’s full of exploding meteorites, my heart might be experiencing a cataclysmic attack, and my legs noodle under me. Until I turn a corner and see a blue-haired person and Christopher crouched down, huddled over something. I stop. I cover my mouth. Then I yell, “Is she dead?”
They both turn.
That’s when I see Rose Tyler’s little pink tongue kissing the stranger, and it may be the first time I actually believe in a Jesus Christ.
I dash over, grabbing the muddy Rose Tyler blob. I can barely make out the blacks of her eyes peeping through, her heart pitter-pattering in my palms. And damned if she’s not smiling, currently the happiest pup on the planet. I squeeze her to my chest. She licks my face in between supersonic pants.
Christopher rubs my back, saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” ad infinitum.
The blue-haired person gazes up at the sky, inhaling deep breaths, like she/he/they need to suck up the clouds to stay alive or something, and says, “Man, that’s some gnarly smell.”
That’s when my senses return, and a putrid stench overtakes me. “Holy God, let’s go” fumbles out of my mouth.
“Agreed. This girl needs to change her shoes,” says the stranger, who I can now see is a white girl
with long, blue-tinted hair floating down her back. She leads the way.
Christopher still holds me, apologizing profusely.
I clutch Rose Tyler and glance at Christopher for the first time. His face is streaked in mud, shirt’s torn in a few places. His jeans might officially be destroyed. He wheezes, shakes. I nudge him and say, “Quit sayin’ sorry. You’re driving me nuts.”
And we look at each other. And smile. And that’s when I finally exhale.
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