“You’re such a dork.”
Then she danced with me.
She was the only one who could call me a dork and make me feel like Superman at the same time.
Levi called into school pretending to be my dad, stating that I was out sick. Then fifteen minutes later, he called pretending to be his father, stating that he was going to be missing school due to a family emergency.
“That was a very impressive Midwest accent, Mr. Myers.”
He held an invisible award. “I’d like to thank the Academy.”
“All right, we have about a thirty minute walk to the next town to make it to the train station. Do you think you can handle that?” he asked sheepishly, zipping up two backpacks. “I didn’t really think this all the way through.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ll be okay.”
I didn’t tell him that my back had been hurting lately and that my feet had been swollen, because I was certain he would’ve canceled our secret adventure, and canceling a trip to see Jackson Pollock’s abstract paintings was against the law. Or at least it should have been.
He looked at me warily, so I put on a cheesy grin and changed the subject. “What’s in the backpacks?”
“Oh,” he said, his concern transformed into excitement. “It’s our art kits. I was reading online that all the cool, hip kids take art kits with them to art museums and fall into deep, soulful thoughts.”
“What’s in it?”
“All of the basics. A sketch book, pens and pencils, a water bottle, a dirty magazine for me, a Jane Austen novel for you, and double stuffed Oreos.”
I laughed. “Sounds about right.”
* * *
When we reached the train station I’d already eaten all of my Oreos, and two of Levi’s. He offered me all of them, but I refused, saying I wasn’t greedy. My feet were pounding and I felt as if standing was a task straight from hell. I’d never been so happy to see a train pull up into the station. When we sat on the train I ate the rest of his Oreos.
He laughed at my black teeth.
* * *
At the art museum, I wanted to look at each piece and stay until the museum closed. Then, after it closed, I wanted to sneak back in and sit in front of Jackson Pollock’s paintings and lose myself completely so I could find myself again.
A person who never truly lost themselves could never truly find themselves, either.
Art was everything right and wrong in the world. It understood what words couldn’t say.
“Oxymoron,” Levi said as we sat and gawked in amazement at Pollock’s work of art. “Greyed Rainbow.”
“Maybe it was his favorite word, too.” Pollock’s painting was twisted with mostly black, white, gray, and silver paint, but across the bottom of the canvas were tiny strands of yellows, greens, oranges, blues, and purples. “He hardly used paint brushes. He used sticks and knives and all kinds of different tools for his splattering and dripping paint techniques.”
“I get it now, Art. I get why you love abstract: at first it just looks messy, but then you realize that it is messy, but at the same time it’s not. It’s controlled chaos.”
“Yes.” I nodded. “Yes, yes, yes.”
“That’s what we should do for our final piece. We should do three live abstract paintings in front of the crowd. Each piece will be a different oxymoron. The first one you’ll paint loud and I’ll play the music soft. Second we could do an angry painting, and I’ll play happy. Then we could do love and I’ll play hate. And you could paint using sticks, rocks, and leaves from the woods. Tapping into your own Pollock.”
I turned to him and couldn’t stop smiling.
He didn’t look at me, but he kept staring at Pollock’s work. “I like the way your brain works, Levi.”
“I’ve been thinking about kissing you,” he blurted out, still staring ahead. “I think about kissing you a lot. Then I feel bad that I’m thinking about kissing you because you’re going through some things, and hell, I’m going through some things, and the last thing you need to know is that I’m thinking about kissing you because that’s pointless. It’s so nonsensical, but very, very true, and that’s not all I think about.”
“I think about how you have forty-two freckles across your nose and how I want to kiss every single one forty-two times. I think about how you are the only one who laughs at Mr. Jones’ bad math jokes, and whenever I hear your laugh, I laugh too. I think about how you touch your stomach and smile when nobody’s looking. It’s like it’s your personal secret that the baby makes you happy, and you get to keep that to yourself. I feel bad that I noticed because it seemed like your secret, but I couldn’t help it.”
I swallowed hard and rubbed my arms as he continued.
“I think about how you’re beautiful when you’re sad and it makes me angry when you’re mad. I hate whoever made you untouchable, because if there’s anything I would want to do more than kiss you, it would be to hold you. I like you, Aria. I know I’m not supposed to for certain reasons, but I don’t care. I like you, and I hope that’s okay because I don’t know how to stop. I’m not asking for anything from you. I swear I’m not. Just…take your time, that’s all.”
My heart skipped, twisted, cartwheeled, and cried.
He was quiet before he said, “I hope you liked your birthday gift. Sorry it was late.”