"Watch Me"

In the end, we settled on gingerbread and baked brown rice for Karen’s birthday party. Gingerbread because we had woken to a world alive with snow, the windows flailed by frost and moaning with wind, outside the street and sky identical white. The radiators hissed. We hoarded the heat. We looked outside and watched the street, which could have been from any age. We flicked on all the lamps, not to fight the shadows but to deny the glow of the storm. We gravitated to the halos of lamplight. My parents settled on opposite ends of the couch, balancing their laptops, whose screens gave off the same light as the snow. I found myself under the kitchen’s battered steel hanging lamp, a relic from our apartment’s past life as a factory. I wanted to crank the oven to high and eat all the forbidden things. I said I would do the baking myself, and as I beat the butter I imagined kissing Jakey.

I almost burned the rice. It came out shriveled and scattered with dark specks like bugs. Deciding to hope my mom wouldn’t notice the burned bits, I scooped it into a bowl, wrapped it in plastic, and stuck it at the bottom of the bag to bring to Karen’s. Brown rice, salt-free and extra mushy, because it was tradition to bring food that Karen could have eaten.

Five years had passed since Karen died, and Ben kept up the parties for Jakey’s sake. But Jakey had grown a foot and turned gorgeous, Ben had a new girlfriend who looked nothing like Karen, and the birthday party, which began as a chance for old friends to gather and remember, had become a bit of a drag. It ruptured the holidays. Besides, her old friends weren’t all friends with each other anymore. Some of them never had been.

“Karen had a gift for friendship,” my mom had said at the funeral. I think she meant that, looking out at the pews of faces, she could feel only awe, not understanding, at Karen having actually liked all of them.

And so my mom’s solemnity about the whole thing struck me as a pose. Each year, I watched the grownups kiss cheeks and say hello in a way that was meant to say much more. I smiled and refused to let anyone touch me. The year I turned twelve I called the party morbid, and boring, and when my mom didn’t take that as an answer I said I had too much homework. I think she let me stay at home so I wouldn’t ruin everything. The next year I skipped it, too. I hadn’t seen Ben for so long that I could only picture his face as it echoed in Jakey’s and as it appeared, partially cut off but beaming, in the photo of Karen he had used on the funeral announcement and the birthday invitation.

My mom couldn't understand why this year I suddenly wanted to come. Maybe she thought private school was making me nice. I had started at Jakey’s school in the fall.

“What else am I going to do?” I said. “It’s not like I have my own friends to hang out with.” Which was true, even if it wasn’t the reason why I wanted to come. I don’t think she bought it, but she couldn’t have borne admitting I was hiding something.

“We tell each other everything,” my mom liked to brag to her friends. But I couldn’t tell her about Jakey. He went by Jacob now, but Jakey was my privilege. Sometimes he still called me Little. The nicknames were badges from being each other’s first friends. I was terrified that my daydreams about the boy who I used to know like a brother proved that I had a sick mind. I kept my thoughts to myself. 

Our mothers became friends when they made their matching due dates a competition. There were three other women with due dates days away from theirs. They had girl gatherings, all pregnant painters, no husbands allowed. One time, my mom showed me photos. On the outside of the Kodak envelope grinned a family with matching tans and teal swimsuits. Stuffed inside were images from a world in which Jakey and I would never quite belong. In all the photos, our mothers sat side by side cross-legged on the floor, huge with us.

I recognized my mom’s studio. I saw the cast-iron radiator, and the frond of a palm tree that she inherited when an old boyfriend left her. It still lived by the radiator and luxuriated in brain-drying blasts of heat. My mom talked while she watered it. I always wondered what she said, but I never snuck close enough to hear. Getting caught would mean the end of watching.

I saw the corner of one of her wall-sized paintings from back then. The paint was layered so thick it looked like the skating rink before the Zamboni erases a morning of scraping and gliding. Before Karen died, we—she and Jakey, my mom and I—would meet at the rink on Sunday mornings and skate to stale pop ballads. My mom had a few fancy moves, and Jakey and I raced, but only Karen had the kind of grace that made a person watching think of flying.

The cake came out flawless, moist and dark, the fragrance so strong that it flooded my body like an emotion, or like the edge of a headache. The smell mingled with the sense of being warm and safe in the storm. The snow melted as it hit the windowpanes, and outside, the skittish flakes scattered up as well as down onto the empty waiting streets. I shimmied and scraped the cake out of the pan and nestled it into the old cake box. I put on water for tea. Baking makes me picture myself as a mother. I imagined I would be a good one as I pinched powdered sugar and dusted it on like snow.

I knew Jakey wouldn’t be so beautiful if his mother hadn’t died. Sometimes, if I looked at Jakey from the blurry periphery of my eyes, I could see him as I knew him to be, imperfect. He was too thin ever since the growth spurt that had gotten him onto the basketball team. He slouched in his chair. I had heard Mr. Martin talking to him after class about participation. He didn’t say much outside of class, either. One time I watched his circle of friends lounge by the lockers before chapel.  He slouched. They performed for him, and he looked like he was watching them on TV. He kept his beautiful face blank and the less he cared, the more I wanted to make him feel.

His hands proved the rightness of my thinking him special. I first noticed them in math class. He sat by a window, haloed by the outside world. I pretended to look outside to steal glances at him. I probably had a distinct network of muscles in my right arm from hoisting my hand up too often, but Jakey was so reliably silent that his quiet had a presence in the room. If Mr. Martin called on him he might or might not answer.

Instead, he mastered little skills. He would poise a pen between his fingertips, then snap it spinning. Sometimes his hand curled and on the flat top of the fist the pen unwound. Or else the pen would flick around each finger, moving downward like a Jacob’s ladder toy. The wonder was the continuity, the supple lazy endless spin. In a heartbeat, his hands could change from liquid movement to stillness.

We were lucky that Mr. Martin was clueless. We all began to imitate Jakey. Any other teacher would have noticed pens falling or flying across the room, the clatter of their downfall, the occasional grace of spinning. Jakey didn’t really notice, either. He saw our jerky attempts but showed as little interest as I might give a children’s cartoon. He didn’t act flattered or annoyed at our imitations. He didn’t offer to teach us. He didn’t even laugh when Riva Zimmerman’s pen flew out the window.

And so, on the last day before winter break, I couldn’t quite believe it when I felt his hand slip into mine as the crowd of us shuffled out into the cold for a fire drill. He didn’t look at me. I felt the warmth of his hand and the throb of a pulse as his wrist touched my wrist. Then the throng moved forward and his hand slipped away. He was carried ahead like a person carried out to sea. 

“You’re not wearing that,” my mom said amid the rush of getting out the door. My dad was already waiting for us in the cold. While we ran around remembering keys, scarves, hats, chapstick, lipstick, the cake, the rice, he announced that he was heading down to dig out the car and see if it would start. He was always trying to prove that the family lateness was our fault, not his. Trailing bootlaces, half swallowed by a sweater still bunched at the top, I hovered over the sink, hoping to steal one last sip of scalding tea before dumping it.

“What am I not wearing?” I asked. I braved a gulp and burned my tongue. I tugged the sweater straight, then turned on the tap and stuck my tongue in the cold trickle.

 “That dress.” My mom was already halfway to her bedroom. I stuck out my tongue and pulled at it, as if that would take away the pain.  

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked. It was tight enough to make me look like I had a butt. I tugged the dress longer. The stretchy fabric snapped back.

“I have something you can wear,” she said as she returned to her bedroom. I heard her opening drawers. A pair of black velvet pants flew from the bedroom and fell in a heap in the doorway.

“What if I like the dress?” I asked. “I baked your cake. I made the rice.” I could hear the whine in my voice and I hated myself for it. I shut up.

“I can’t argue today,” she said, and that was that.  I pulled on the pants. I looked a mousy forty, not an underdeveloped fourteen.

“Joy!” I said, not so loud that she would hear. Joy was my new word. I had stolen it from Sophie, who had long thin legs and neat teeth and pink lips that curled around the word joy as if it tasted bitter. I had heard that she was with Jakey. Most rumors don’t mean much, though.

The snow had emptied the streets and turned the parked cars into slumbering giants tucked in with snow. Out the shut window I saw white. I spent the drive wondering if I was looking at a sheet of snow frozen onto the glass, or at a view of falling flakes made still and dense by the window fog.

“We won’t know anybody,” my dad said. My mom flicked open the sun visor mirror and began to smooth on lipstick.

“They’re not my friends,” he said.

“They’re hardly my friends,” my mom said, and snapped the lipstick cap back on. “We don’t have to stay long.” She looked at me through the mirror and smiled as if her words were an offering of which she was rather proud.

“Why are we going?” my dad asked. The wipers couldn’t go any faster. At a stoplight my dad opened his door and jostled the ice from the windshield with his sleeve, then tried to pry it clear with his bare hands. “Fucking storm,” he said. The cold wind hurtled into the car like a headrush. My mom hugged herself. We started again at a crawl.

“Is this safe?” my mom asked. Of course my dad took it as a challenge. He lifted one hand off the wheel and rested it on her thigh.

“What a worry wart,” he teased.

Somehow we made it. Jakey’s house didn’t look like Brooklyn. It was yellow painted wood like a house in the suburbs, but it stood on a corner that joined a row of brownstones with the industrial part of Fourth Avenue. The neighborhood wasn’t unsafe, exactly, but Karen always used to find an excuse to come with Jakey and me to the playground.

“I need a break,” she would say. “Come on, before I ruin this painting.” And we’d be off, like she was one of us.

Dark would fall soon, though it was only the early afternoon. The sky still shone smooth as a pall. Already the streetlights cast the sidewalk yellow. A walkway through snow banks had packed down to ice. The cold gnawed at our faces and creaked underfoot as we walked to the house. We stomped toward the moment I had been waiting for.

The front door stood ajar. The entrance was chilly and crowded with boots in sickly snow puddles. Wet socks nestled like small creatures. Chatter trickled in from the living room.

“And you worried no one would come,” my dad said, meaning the boots, meaning that we could’ve stayed at home.

We shed our shoes and opened the door to the living room, smiling, uncertain if smiles were appropriate. The voices swelled. The usual crowd flocked around the long dining table, and between their dresses and jackets and shawls I saw peeks of all the dishes. I looked around fast. He wasn’t there.

Three sides of the house were windows, and the snow glared through, making the white room, which stretched from kitchen to dining room to living room, feel like the inside of a light bulb. By contrast, the furniture felt dark. The whole room looked like Karen. I wondered if they had put up her paintings and pulled out her favorite furniture for the occasion, or if they always lived in the thick of her. Karen’s father was a Broadway producer and she had loved things that looked like props. She had filled the house with the last supper dinner table, the green velvet fainting couch, the Balinese masks leering from the walls and the grandiose orchid on the nonfunctional mantel. She once surprised us on my mom’s birthday with a carful of old friends in costume. They walked into our apartment like a parade. I have photographic proof that even Jakey wore a gauzy dress. Karen lived like she was playing at it. When her doctor warned her against flour and sugar, she and my mom went for a trip to the everything plastic store on Canal, where they bought a stunner of a fake cake. Seven tiers of flounces, flakes like coconut, swoops like frosting’s imitation of a bow. My gingerbread looked nothing so good.

The table was overwhelmed by offerings. To the right, the cakes, the gold-wrapped chocolates, the cheese plates and clafoutis, the teacakes and tarte tatin, the butter smears, the whole baked ham, and green bottles of wine made black by the red inside. And to the left the brown and beige or greyish green, the ghost meal we had made for Karen and placed beside the feast for the living. I took three cookies from a nearly bare platter to make room for the gingerbread. No one had noticed me yet. I let myself be greedy. 

“Women over fifty tend to disappear,” a woman with long white hair was telling a man with hair just as long and tied into a pony tail. “I should know. I said I was forty-nine until my son was in his thirties.” I reached between them to stab a slice of ham, which looked so pink and moist that I took two more. I stuffed a slice whole into my mouth and rubbed my burnt tongue along the salty flesh.

“Hey,” I heard. I turned around, and there was Jakey. The way he looked wasn’t fair.

“Hi,” I tried to say without opening my mouth. I sounded like the tape-mouthed victims in horror movies. I pointed at my mouth and finished chewing.

“Ham,” I said. His hair stuck up like he hadn’t showered. I held out my heavy plate. “You want some?”

The white haired woman had stopped talking. I noticed eyes shifting our way. It wasn’t me they were staring at.

“Want to sit?” he asked, and walked away before I could answer. The crowd parted for him. I left my plate and followed.

Jakey slouched onto the low end of the fainting sofa. It was tucked into an alcove whose three windows cast a glare harsh enough to keep the area empty. Those grownups not by the table hid in pairs or threes in the room’s shadowed corners, or in circles near the room’s center, beyond the outstretched window light. I sat beside him before realizing that I should have pulled up one of the armchairs. I was too close, and it was hard to keep my balance on the slanted seat. Even the couch conspired to tumble me toward him.

I could see the little movements in his body with every breath, the t-shirt shifting over skin over ribs girding lungs that seemed, with every inhalation, to steal the breath out of me. We squinted at the light and sat in silence. I watched his hands. He watched the storm. The wind howled against the window.

“So,” I said.

He looked at me. It was hard to look away.  I tried to make my mouth move.

“Do you get used to the staring?” I asked. The question surprised me.

He laughed, maybe to ease the tension. “I stare back,” he said. I didn’t know what to say, so I looked at his hands. They lay palms up on his lap, like he was waiting for something to be given or taken. We sat in silence.

“Are you bored?” he finally asked.

Just then the party hushed. I stood up to see. Jakey didn’t bother.

Ben was standing on a chair, his lanky body made more so by the added height.

“Hello!” he cried. For a moment he swayed. His tiny new girlfriend reached up, as if she could help him if he fell. He caught his balance and bowed. Someone clapped. He looked drunk. He waited for a shriek of wind outside to die down before he went on.

“Thank you, all of you, for coming today to remember Karen. My wife, Jacob’s mother,” he said. I looked back at Jakey. He was watching the storm again. “So,” Ben said. “Let’s begin.”

We all knew the ritual. Next we would move the chairs into a circle and share our memories. I moved to help.

“Let’s go upstairs,” Jakey said. He stood up and the sun hit his eyes. I could see all the marks and shades in the green. His eyes looked like Karen’s.

“We’re going,” he said to everyone in the same voice I use to shout goodbye through the house before heading to school.

Ben hadn’t quite clambered down. He stepped slowly to earth and adjusted his sweater to hide the strip of pale stomach that had shown.

“Jacob,” he said. “Come on. Please.”

“Do I have a choice or not?” Jakey asked.

“Right,” Ben said. “Fine. Kids have their own party upstairs.” Kids meant the two of us.

The rest had started hoisting and shifting the chairs. Jakey hurried through the room to a door at the other end, and I pushed through the crowd after him. As the door closed behind us, I remembered that it led to the stairs to the bedrooms. It was dark in the stairwell and I stubbed a toe on the first step, but I didn’t even gasp.

The upstairs smelled like cedar and felt like a tree house, dim and windowless and snug. Jakey turned on a lamp. The ceiling was two slants of dark wood, and the walls were wooden, too. I hadn’t been up there in five years. When Jakey was still shorter than me he bragged he was the only one in our two families who could walk from wall to wall without slouching. A sofa facing an old TV set was positioned directly beneath the seam of the roof, and there Jakey sprawled. I folded myself straight backed and cross-legged beside him, not too close this time. We sat in silence. I was getting used to keeping quiet.

The wind shrieked and the wooden house creaked. I found myself wondering if a storm like this could tear a house apart. Maybe I shivered, because Jakey jumped up, went into his bedroom, and came back carrying a white down blanket.

He draped the blanket over me, tucking it around my feet. He sat beside me and pulled the blanket over him, too. Our knees brushed. His ears blushed hot red and he shifted away. Our tiniest movements expanded in my mind.

“We could watch something,” he finally said.

“Sure, okay,” I said.

He went to the TV and turned it on. The screen filled blue.

“At my house we still have videos from when we were babies,” I said. “We can’t play them anymore though. VHS.”

He ran his finger down a stack of DVDs piled by the screen.

“Have you seen Apocalypse Now?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. I hadn’t, but I knew what it was about.

“Oh. We can watch something else,” he said.

“I don’t mind,” I said.

He shrugged and stuck a DVD in. The screen flickered to black and then became a shore dense with palm trees that waved below a hazy sky. Somewhere a helicopter whirred. The sky looked dreamy. A sound like mosquitoes swelled as the helicopter drifted in and out of view. A guitar began to whine.

“Did your dad fight?” Jakey asked, and shifted closer. I could feel the warmth of his leg near mine. We kept our eyes on the screen.

“Protested,” I said.

“We both have old dads.”

“Yours fought?”

“He wasn’t even hurt, though,” Jakey said.

“This is the end, beautiful friend,” the movie sang. Jakey’s hands hid under the blanket. I tucked my hands under, too, my right hand so close to his that when I shivered we touched.

“This is the end, my only friend, the end,” the movie sang on. In a snatch of courage I tucked my hand into his. We held still together. I felt dizzy with feelings I didn’t know.

On screen, the jungle had become a bedroom sifted with yellow light. Martin Sheen peered out the blinds, shirtless, gleaming. The movie closed in on his handsome face. His blue eyes dilated in the light.

I watched Jakey in my periphery. I imagined his lips soft on mine. All I had to do was lean toward him. I uncrossed my legs and resettled. Now our legs touched.

Somewhere below, the wind rattled a window once, twice.

And beneath the blanket, Jakey’s hand slipped out of mine and brushed my leg. The thick down gave no hint of the slow movement below. He stroked upward, caught at the waistband of my mom’s pants, and nestled between the layers of sweater and t-shirt to touch the skin. I tried to suck in my stomach. I tried to breathe. We kept our eyes on the TV but the screen felt far away.

 “Each time I’d look around the walls moved in a little tighter,” Martin Sheen’s voice rasped.

My right hand lifted to Jakey’s lap. I let the hand rest there.

His thumb brushed lower. My skin burned beneath his touch. I fought the urge to shudder away.

The movie music quickened. The guitar sounded less like a drone and more like cries of pain. The drummer struck at random. Martin Sheen spun around and karate chopped a mirror. He stared at his fist, shocked by the sight of his own blood. He leaned against his bed, naked, his moans mute beneath the soundtrack.

I slipped my hand beneath his jeans, and his smooth hand tucked under my underpants and between my legs and stayed there, not moving, my blood throbbing toward his hand, his blood toward mine. We stayed, and stayed, and I couldn’t have told you how much time passed. A moth in the coat closet gorged itself on the guests’ winter things. A streetlamp flickered and cast the street yellow, then dark. I saw the snow harden to ice. The grownups sat in their circle, and my mom held up the photo we’d chosen, staring at it as she spoke, as if it would disappear if she looked away.

Slowly, Jakey pulled his hand out from under the covers. He froze.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered, and then I saw.

His hand had traced red on the white. His fingers were slick with blood. Red daubed the palm, too. He held the hand slack and stared. Blood caked in the cuticles and clotted dark under the nails. The lines on his knuckles looked etched in red. It had come from me. It must have.

I was late, the last person I knew to get it. I had always imagined it would be grander than this, that I would feel the change, the womanhood settling around me. I had felt nothing, and now Jakey was gingerly rubbing his fingers together, as though testing the texture. He would never want to look at me again. I would change schools, or else I would find a way to avoid him for the next four years.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. I couldn’t look at him. The silence was killing me.

Onscreen, a man with buggy eyes offered Martin Sheen a cigarette and looked away.

Jakey started to laugh. Little at first, like a hiccup, but soon he was shaking with laughter. I laughed to join him, and then relief overflowed into real laughter, helpless laughter, nothing cute about it. The bleeding hand lurched closer and I jerked back, and then we were laughing harder, wheezing, painful laughter, my eyes squinting to make room for the laugh, a feeling like tears until we collapsed quiet. My stomach hurt. The shame started to come back. I got up and turned off the TV.

“I’ve never had it before,” I explained, my back to him.

“It’s okay,” he said. He said it again before I could turn around.

“You won’t tell anybody?” I asked.

“I won’t tell anybody.” He bundled the blanket to his chest.

“Let me take it,” I said. I didn’t want to owe him anything more than I already did, and I worried that the blood would rub onto his clothing, but he had already started down the stairs. I followed.

Dark had fallen, and the room now shone dull. The grownups had reached the last part. They sat with their eyes closed, breathing slow together. They looked like the victims of a fairytale spell. For a long moment Jakey stood there, holding the blanket and staring at his mother’s friends. His face was blank again. I touched his arm and we tiptoed past. My mom’s eyelids quivered. The floors in that house creaked, they must have heard us, but they couldn’t break the ritual. We shut the bathroom door behind us.

 I turned on the hot water and he rubbed his hands beneath. The water drained away pinkish and the blood came off easily. I passed him a towel to dry.

 “Don’t look,” I said. He held the towel over his eyes. The blood really was from me. I bundled toilet paper into my underpants and zipped my pants back up.

“You can look now,” I said.

We heaped the bloody part of the blanket into the sink and held the stains under the tap. The red faded a little, not much. The mirror began to cloud with steam. We shut the tap and stuffed the wet blanket into a hamper in the corner of the bathroom, our bodies sometimes brushing together, and as we punched the fabric down to make it fit we started to giggle again.

“Shh,” he said. The steam made me feel like I was floating.

“Shh,” I said back. I had never seen anyone so beautiful. At that moment I felt I knew him, and I felt known. The weight of the knowledge flooded through me. It could have been my mother who died—I let myself stand on the threshold of the thought, just close enough to summon a rush of painful tenderness toward Jakey. I wanted to watch him forever.

 “Can I show you something?” he asked.

We shouldn’t have gone outside. We should have looked out first and seen the extent of the storm. But instead, we creeped past our parents and their friends, and in the chilly hallway we pulled on all our layers and tied up our boots, and then we entered the wild street. The wind shrieked against us as we opened the door. The air had hardened and the ground had packed to ice. Snow swarmed around us like gnats seeking the tender skin between scarf and coat, sleeve and glove. The heat fled our bodies. I gasped for air. The cold stung my lungs.

Jakey ran forward and slid on the icy sidewalk. He almost fell, windmilled, caught himself, and gave a howling cry into the night. He ran ahead and skidded again. I couldn’t see far through the snow. I blinked away the frost as he rounded the corner.

“Wait up!” I called, but the wind stole my voice. I tried to follow and slipped. The ground reeled and then reoriented as I fell to my butt. Gingerly, I felt for the spot. Probably just a bruise, which made the humiliation even worse. I wouldn’t cry. Jakey hadn’t even seen. I brushed off as much of the snow as I could. Panting, wincing at the snow and the pain, I stomped on, trying to drive my feet straight into the ice so that I wouldn’t slide again.

I rounded the corner and caught sight of him.

“Jakey!” I cried, but he was still too far away to hear. The city felt erased. All I could see was the absence of the street signs, the brownstones, the Gingko tree on the corner, the familiar landmarks all gone. My face was starting to ache, and my mom’s pants were nothing to the wind. I felt the first dull pangs of numbness. To keep myself going I imagined him hurt. In my mind, he slipped on the ice and injured himself, and as he bled into the frost, as the pain and the cold conspired to put him to sleep in a snow bank, I found him. I saved him. Don’t stop, I thought. I closed my eyes against the snow and kept walking, leaning hard into the wind.

I opened my eyes and saw his black coat turn the next corner.

“Jakey!” I cried again.

I began to think of what would happen if I lost him. I began to run. Now I let myself slide, clutching at the moldings of half-buried building facades, pulling myself faster and faster forward.

I realized where Jakey was leading me as it loomed into view. The playground. Where else could we have gone?

It had always been run-down, but now my first thought was that it looked like an ice castle. Snow banks had piled at the gate and hid the park from the street. Icy patches of asphalt glittered treacherous in the weak streetlight. Downy snow and speckled frost obscured much of the slide, but where the silver shone through it gleamed. The swing set dripped with bladelike icicles running down from the seats and from the toprail, tiers of icicles so long and dense they formed a wall that stippled green and clear and black. Ice encrusted the chains and the a-frame stand. I didn’t see Jakey until after I had swung open the iron fence and ploughed my way past the playground’s entrance.

He was perched on the swing set’s toprail. His legs dangled and he grinned down at me from twenty feet above the frozen earth. The wind howled, and the ice gleamed, and my heart tried to beat out of my body. At first I didn’t understand what I was seeing.

“Little!” he called. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I couldn’t answer. “I found it like this before everyone came,” he said. “If you could see it up here, the way I see it.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Come up here,” he said.

“Are you crazy?” I asked.

“It’s not so hard. I’ll help you.” He leaned his body against the rail and began to shift toward the side pole.

 “What are you doing?” I asked again.

“Watch me,” he said.

But I didn’t watch. I shut my eyes against the storm. The wind filled my ears. I kept my eyes shut. I’ve spent a long time wondering what would happen if I ever opened my eyes.