ImageChapter Four

It’s dark when I open my eyes, and for a moment I struggle to remember where I am: at home, in my bed, in my own room. It was that way a lot after I tried to off myself, where I’d wake up and for a moment forget about everything, forget about all that emotion that seemed to float just beyond where I could touch it. Forget about that look in Mother’s eyes, or the way my brother avoided me and wouldn’t talk to me, and forget the fact that my dad had been the one to find me, the one who called 911. All of that disappears in that instant between awake and sleep, consciousness and dreaming. A flash of light in the corner of my room catches my eye, and I realize I’m not alone.

“What are you doing here?” I can just make out Jimmy’s form in my desk chair. He’s slouched, playing with that St. Christopher’s medal he always wears around his neck. Which is a good thing, because St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, and Jimmy for sure is on a long strange trip, with me as his girlfriend. He moves his fingers to make the medal reflect the street light outside my window, then flicks the lightbeam around the room with a twist of hand. He aims it to the top of my bookcase and illuminates my Buffy the Vampire DVD collection and on the faces of my pewter ballet trophy figures. The chiseled dancers’ features stare blankly down on us.

“Hey, sleepyhead,” Jimmy says, coming over to me. He folds back the bright pink and green Anthropologie Hothouse Floral comforter on my bed and climbs in beside me and hugs me, and I melt into him the way I always do. He smells so good I can barely stand it. I just want to curl up next to him and stay that way, mushed together for days. But Mother doesn’t even want him in my room, let alone for an eternity sleep over. It’s hard to pull myself away from him. He sits me up and turns on the lamp beside my bed.

“You’re all rumply,” he says. “You look so damn cute.”

“What time is it?” I ask.

“7:30, Friday night. No homework, and .  .  . date night.”

I grin up at him and he tousles my hair. My insides are singing with happiness because he’s here.

“How long have you been in my room?”

“You’re hard to find, Jess. I’ve looked everywhere for you, then I remembered the nap thing, how you like to nap in the late afternoon. So I snuck in and just chilled, watching you sleep. You look like a princess lying there. The sunlight covered you at sunset. You were glowing. It was really cool.”

At first I can’t believe Jimmy was watching me sleep, but then I picture myself watching him sleep and I realize I could do it endlessly so I get it.

Jimmy kisses me and I wonder if my breath stinks as bad as I think it does but he doesn’t seem to mind. I don’t even know if my mother and brother are home so I’m a little distracted. This would look so bad if we got walked in on, like it was planned and not just some innocent thing. As we kiss, I wish we didn’t have to go through the motions of him climbing back out my window, going to the front door, and waiting for me to get ready for my “date” for the sake of my family. I wish it could just be us, with no distractions, nothing to take us away from that feeling I get when I’m with Jimmy. But now my creepy brother is making noises in the hall and we know our time is limited. Jimmy kisses me once more and climbs out my window onto the carport roof. I snap on the light and hurriedly throw on something not-too-filthy to wear and brush my teeth, because I suspect my date will be arriving any minute. Don’t want to make him wait.

Everyone at the party ignores me, which is a good thing, because for awhile they used to just talk about me behind my back. I would look over and see them pointing and whispering about me as if I couldn’t see what they were doing. At least this ignoring thing is a more decent way to dis me. I just follow Jimmy around as he socializes from one end of the large garage rec room to the other. I sip Vanilla Coke® from a red plastic cup and breathe into it to quell the stink of beer and cigarettes, happy when Jimmy puts his arm around me and squeezes me in the rear. I’m wearing my lowest jeans, a bunch of tank tops layered into a rainbow of colors at my hips (the underneath ones are the dirtiest), and my black Converse while the rest of them are mini-skirted and high-heeled. Again, who are these people? Screw them: I’m his, they like him, so they have to deal with me. Tough shit if they have a problem with that.

After the third conversation about that touchdown last month at the homecoming game, I’m bored. I want Jimmy all to myself, in the back seat of his car. Listening to music and kissing him, maybe more. I start rubbing his lower back, and he loses the thread of his conversation as he talks. I like being able to control him while he’s with me with just a touch.

“See you guys later,” Jimmy says with a wink and we leave the jocks and cheerleaders and the stupid party behind. As we walk down the driveway toward the street, the cool night air fills my lungs and we’re free. Ourselves again.

“Let’s take a drive,” Jimmy says as we walk toward his ghetto convertible. I laugh as he picks me up and lifts me over the broken passenger door through the window and settles me into the front seat, something I secretly love. It’s so gentlemanly, forget the women’s movement. Soon we’re zipping up the dark canyon roads out past the mansions to the vacant area where everyone parks and parties on Friday nights. It’s crowded already, duh. But we find a spot sort of away from the others and Jimmy puts on my favorite oldie Avril Lavigne CD. It’s times like this when I can really be myself, free of that other crap that’s always messing with my life: the family-in-crisis shit that we use to identify ourselves to the world. I don’t want to be that anymore. Can’t my family see, it’s over? We can be okay if they’d just let go and move on.

We sit together and look at the lights of Los Angeles below us, a dizzying glowing grid squashed by an infinite stripe of black (the Pacific), topped by mottled gray (the nighttime clouded sky on the horizon). Jimmy gets out and arranges the rag top so it can be put down. He loves his ’65 Dodge Coronet that his dad gave him for his sixteenth birthday . . . sometimes I think of it as his other girlfriend. He finds a striped blanket in his trunk and hops back in the front seat, covering us and breathing into his cold hands. He puts his hands under my shirts to warm them and starts kissing me. I lean into him and our lips mosh for awhile. We break away, hot and restless, but it always comes to this point. I want to have sex with him, but not here. Not yet. Not at some lame Lover’s Lane overlooking the whole city in suburbia. And I know I shouldn’t anyway. Michael has pretty much assured me that if I start having a “more adult relationship” with Jimmy than I’m ready for in my “weakened psychological state” that it might “hinder my emotional growth and recovery.” Whatever, Michael. I just want to have fun, but how I can have a good time with words like that hanging over my head? Jimmy sifts through the CDs using his key chain light, trying to act as if he’s not annoyed with the lack of action.

“Did you enjoy the party?” he asks mildly, hooking up his iPod to the car speakers. Throbbing dubstep fills the air.

“At least they weren’t talking about me behind my back this time,” I say, turning down the music.

“They probably did after we left, but don’t sweat it Jess. I’m here.” Jimmy puts his arm around me again. His hands start to wander toward my crotch.

“You’re probably right,” I say, leaning against him, and I put his hand on my thigh and hold it still. I think suddenly about The Granddaughter. What’s up with that? Here’s the most amazing guy, the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my whole life, and some weird-ass-looking alien freak from the future is telling me not to date him anymore? I don’t think so.

“The weirdest thing happened to me last night,” I say gamely.

“Hmmmm?” He’s wriggling his fingers under my shirts again.

“I had this dream, only I swear it wasn’t a dream . . . it was just like it really happened. This woman from the future visited me and said she was . . . my offspring, like my great-great-great-quadmillion-drillion granddaughter and that I was a . . . a genetic marker and that, like, the fate of all evolution of the human species was in my hands. That I was the key to it. Genetically.”

Jimmy laughs and pulls me in tighter. “That’s what I love about you, Jess. You’re completely whacked, but in a really cool way.”

I’m a little offended but in a way relieved that he doesn’t take The Granddaughter seriously. If he did, then I’d eventually probably tell him what she said about him, that he was the end of the genetic future. A no-no boy. Jimmy Becker, Hollywood High’s senior class Best Athlete, A.K.A. The End of Civilization As We Know It.

I snuggle closer to Jimmy, glad to drop it and just hang out.