Everything, Everything(15)

by Nicola Yoon

He’s upright again before I can blink.

“What else can you do?”

He rubs his hands together and grins back at me.

One backflip later he sits back down against the wall and closes his eyes.

“So, why outer space first?” he asks.

I shrug. “I want to see the world, I guess.”

“Not what most people mean by that,” he says, smiling.

I nod and close my eyes as well. “Do you ever feel—” I begin, but then the door opens and Carla bustles in to rush him out.

“You didn’t touch, right?” she asks, arms akimbo.

We both open our eyes and stare at each other. All at once I’m hyperaware of his body and mine.

“There was no touching,” Olly confirms, his eyes never leaving my face. Something in his tone makes me blush hard, and heat travels a slow wave across my face and chest.

Spontaneous combustion is a real thing. I’m certain of it.

Diagnosis

Perspectives

Before Carla arrives the next morning I spend exactly thirteen minutes in bed convinced that I am getting sick. It takes her exactly six minutes to un-convince me. She takes my temperature, blood pressure, heart and pulse rates before declaring that I am simply lovesick.

“Classic symptoms,” she says.

“I’m not in love. I can’t be in love.”

“And why not?”

“What would be the point?” I say, throwing my hands up. “Me in love would be like being a food critic with no taste buds. It would be like being a color-blind painter. It would be like—”

“Like skinny-dipping by yourself.”

I have to laugh at that one. “Exactly,” I say. “Pointless.”

“Not pointless,” she says, and looks at me seriously. “Just because you can’t experience everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience anything. Besides, doomed love is a part of life.”

“I’m not in love,” I say again.

“And you’re not sick,” she retorts. “So there’s nothing to worry about.”

For the rest of the morning I’m too distracted to read or do homework. Despite Carla’s reassurances that I’m not getting sick, I find myself paying too close attention to my body and how it feels. Are my fingertips tingling? Do they usually do that? Why can’t I seem to catch my breath? How many somersaults can a stomach do before becoming irreparably knotted? I ask Carla to do an extra check of my vitals, and the results are all normal.

By the afternoon I acknowledge in my head that Carla might be onto something. I might not be in love, but I’m in like. I’m in serious like. I wander the house aimlessly, seeing Olly everywhere. I see him in my kitchen making stacks of toast for dinner. I see him in my living room suffering though Pride and Prejudice with me. I see him in my bedroom, his black-clad body asleep on my white couch.

And it’s not just Olly that I see. I keep picturing myself floating high above earth. From the edge of space I can see the whole world all at once. My eyes don’t have to stop at a wall or at a door. I can see the beginning and the end of time. I can see infinity from there.

For the first time in a long time, I want more than I have.

Wonderland

And it’s the wanting that pulls me back down to earth hard. The wanting scares me. It’s like a weed that spreads slowly, just beneath your notice. Before you know it, it’s pitted your surfaces and darkened your windows.

I send Olly a single e-mail. I’m really busy this weekend, I say. I need to get some sleep, I say. I need to concentrate, I say. I shut down my computer, unplug it, and bury it under a stack of books. Carla raises a single questioning eyebrow at me. I lower two nonanswering eyebrows back at her.

I spend most of Saturday suffering through calculus. Math is my least favorite and worst subject. It’s possible that those two facts are related. By evening I move on to rereading the annotated and illustrated version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I barely notice Carla packing up to leave at the end of the day.

“Did you have an argument?” she asks, nodding at my laptop.

I shake my head no but don’t say anything more.

By Sunday the urge to check my e-mail is acute. I imagine my in-box overflowing with subject-less e-mails from Olly. Is he asking more Fast Five questions? Does he want some company, refuge from his family?

“You’re OK,” Carla says on her way out the door that evening. She kisses my forehead, and I’m a little girl again.

I take Alice to my white couch and settle in. Carla’s right of course. I am OK, but, like Alice, I’m just trying not to get lost. I keeping thinking about the summer I turned eight. I spent so many days with my forehead pressed against my glass window, bruising myself with my futile wanting. At first I just wanted to look out the window. But then I wanted to go outside. And then I wanted to play with the neighborhood kids, to play with all kids everywhere, to be normal for just an afternoon, a day, a lifetime.