|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I’m good at hiding. I think it’s what I’m best at. If you’re going to believe anything I say, I think you have to know that. I’m very good at hiding. I don’t just mean hide-and-seek, going in a closet or something. That’s just one kind of hiding. Real hiding happens when everybody can see you, but they don’t notice you. That’s the real thing. To do that, you have to be really aware of other people. You have to kind of get to know what sort of people they are to be sure they don’t ever look at you, or notice you. It’s kind of hard to understand. Of course, I find it easy to understand, because I’ve been hiding all my life. In one way or another. It all started when playing games as a little kid. I loved the weird sense of being totally alone behind a bush while whoever I was playing with was out there creeping around trying to find me. I loved watching them look. I felt so safe and protected, like the whole world had gone away, and I thought I never really wanted to be found. But I no longer need a bush or a closet or a box or some obvious place—what everybody calls a hiding place. I feel I can hide anywhere, even when I’m standing right next to you. There was a kid in my class who said the teacher always called on him when he didn’t know the answer. This was, like, the fourth grade. He was this kid who always sat in class leaning back in his chair really far like it might fall, and sometimes he scratched himself or even picked his nose like nobody else was even around, and these were of course the moments the teacher always chose to single him out. But he didn’t think she called on him because of that stuff, or because he was sort of overweight and had a big fan of frizzy red hair and was definitely the most noticeable kid in class anyways. She did it, he claimed, to embarrass him and show that he was stupid and just sort of blind to the world, and he thought she got a big kick out of doing it, like it was some sort of game for her. How she treated him was pretty mean, I’ll admit that, but that wasn’t what I told him. I said to him, “Well, there’re two ways to deal with that. Study, or learn to hide.” “Hide?” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do that.” We were in the cafeteria while we talked, eating lunch, and even then he was leaning back really far in his chair—I can’t remember whether he was picking his nose or not. But I do remember he rolled his eyes and said I was a little nuts. I couldn’t agree with that, so I went on to ask him if he knew why the teacher never called on me, whether I knew the answer or not. “No,” he said. So I told him. I said I watched her. I always paid attention to her, even if I wasn’t looking straight at her. She never saw me drifted off like a sitting duck, waiting to be picked on. She never really saw me at all. I never got so comfortable that anybody would ever think I was blind to the world, but always stayed really well aware of it, and I would sit so still and watch her so calmly that she never noticed me and never thought of singling me out for anything. I just wasn’t there. For her, at least. A better example is something I did three months ago—actually just a little less than three months ago; I mean the end of last May. It happened at this funeral, and it’s a perfect example of how I can sometimes walk around and never be seen by anybody. Now, I call that hiding because I can definitely be seen if I want to. But I usually don’t want to. The truth is, I never even meant to go to the funeral at all. I didn’t, really. I certainly wasn’t invited or anything. The thing is that I’d been walking around—it was a Sunday and this was almost three months ago, like I said, and I really never had anything much to do on Sundays anyways, especially right then after school had let out for summer. I guess I wasn’t feeling too good at the time. My girlfriend had just broken up with me. You get the idea. So I was out just sort of wandering, telling myself I was not headed anywhere, when I found myself trudging up the hill from my house, passing this intersection at the top of it, and crossing the street into the next neighborhood, which is, like, the pretty wealthy area, where all the houses are big, and where my girlfriend—my ex-girlfriend—lives. All I can say is that I never really consciously thought about it or meant to do it, but pretty soon I was hiding in the bushes across the street from her house. It’s not like I expected to see her or anything, but I stayed in the bushes awhile, just thinking about her, and other stuff, too, but mainly her, and that’s when she came out of the house. Laura didn’t look like herself. That’s her name, by the way—Laura. She looked older. Serious and somber. Like a real young woman, not a girl anymore at all. She looked different than I’d ever seen her. For one thing, she had on this very sheer black dress that went down to her knees. It shone really brightly against the green grass of her lawn. She didn’t usually wear such stuff. Her hair, which fell to her shoulders and is dark brown, shone too, just like the dress. She had a little shawl around her shoulders, black as well. And she had on black shoes with pretty high heels. She looked beautiful, as usual. Except her face. Her face looked terrible. I don’t mean she wasn’t pretty anymore. She was always pretty. But she felt sad. I could tell. More than sad. She felt terrible. I could see it. Something awful had happened. I didn’t know what. Her mother was there with her. She also wore black. Not Laura’s dad—he was off somewhere on business, probably; he always was. Her brother, Jack, was there, though. Big guy. Football. Stanford, I think. He didn’t wear black. I seem to remember he didn’t wear any black at all. They stood there a moment, close together, in front of the very green lawn in front of their house, in relief, almost, because of all the black they had on—except of course for Jack. None of them said anything. It was like they needed to take a moment, or hadn’t quite made up their minds about something. Then they all piled into their car, which was parked on the street, and headed off down the road, with their headlights turned on, even though it was daytime. I watched the car drive away. But it didn’t feel right just to stand there. I had to know why she looked like that. So I came out of the bushes and followed them. Well, I don’t know if followed is the right word. Let’s just say I walked in the same direction they drove, because it isn’t like I could keep up with the car or anything. It was out of sight pretty quickly. But other cars came by, with their headlights on too. I knew what that meant. The cars were driving to a funeral. So every time I saw another car with its headlights on, I just kept walking, and it turned out all I had to do was walk straight about a mile and down a big hill to York Road, which separates the rich area from people who are really pretty poor, but there are businesses and stuff on the street, because York Road is a big wide street in my city, with plenty of businesses and gas stations. And a funeral parlor. When I got to York I stood on the corner. Passing traffic blew up clouds of gritty dust from the street. I spotted Laura’s car parked on the side street beside the funeral parlor, which was on the corner right across from me. Her car was easy to spot because it was long and black, and everything else was a junker. All I did was sort of dart across the street, between buses and cars because the traffic was pretty heavy there, always is. I just slipped through, and I’m sure nobody really saw me. When I was across, I went up the side street and crouched between Laura’s car and this beat-up Toyota behind it. I waited a minute, listening, and when it seemed everything was settled inside the funeral home, I went around front. The window was crowded with flowers. I looked through. I saw a bunch of people with the usual sort of attitudes. I knew the deal; I’d been to a couple funerals before. Some of the people were crying, a couple women, especially. Most were just standing around. It was a closed coffin—I could see that when the crowd parted. I didn’t see Laura; she was buried in the crowd. There were more flowers everywhere and the room was white. Two men in suits came out front and started smoking cigarettes. I turned and acted like I was waiting for a bus, standing behind this pretty thick telephone pole next to the bus-stop sign. I seriously thought the men didn’t see me. I’m actually sure they didn’t. But I could hear them pretty clearly, despite the rush of the traffic, because I stood so close. They talked about what was going on. The actual funeral had been at a church up the road. Just family. This was for everybody else. A kid had died. He’d killed himself. I listened very closely as they talked, and one of them said he’d ridden his skateboard under a bus, on purpose. People had seen him do it. It was some kid I probably didn’t know. Some prep school kid Laura must have known; she knows lots of kids. Hell. I can think of a lot of ways to die, but that’s the last way I’d choose. The people started coming out, carrying flowers to their cars. They were all leaving. I was going to leave too. But the men had mentioned where the burial was going to be. I knew the place, and it wasn’t too far. I didn’t really want to go. I mean, this was private, and I’d seen those women in there crying, really crying. But I had to see her again. Just once more. So when the bus came I got on it and rode a few miles. I got off in this neighborhood near downtown, a sort of rough area full of dirty row houses. Rough neighborhoods don’t bother me. You walk with your face down, but you always look everywhere. You cross the street if anybody up ahead looks at all threatening. So as not to get stranded, you stay out of alleys and never cross a bridge alone on foot—you find another way around. It’s really no problem for me. I walked until I got to this stone wall, and I went up some stairs. I saw the cars parked in a long line on a gravel road winding through the grass. I saw Laura’s car. They were already there. I stood back for a while, watching. The graveyard was huge, that old famous one on Greenmount Avenue; it’s got this big stone church with a really high black steeple. The trees were thick in places, and very green. The grass was very green too. Everything was really quiet and still; all I heard was the traffic away in the street and crows cawing. I walked from tree to tree. The tombstones slid past me, the old marble like dirty chalk, the names and dates filled with soot. I didn’t read them. I watched the burial, coming closer and closer to it. I came up behind the crowd. They all wore pretty fancy clothes. But then again there were guys like Jack in just jeans and a button-down. I was dressed okay. Nobody noticed me. I didn’t bump anybody. I slid ahead until I was standing two feet behind Laura. I knew it was her, even though she was wearing a veil. I thought only married women were supposed to do that. I mean widows. But she wore one. Her shoulders were beautiful, bare under the straps of her dress and below the veil. I smelled the freshness of her hair. She was sobbing horribly, and shaking. Her mom and Jack and a few other people were standing around her. Her mom didn’t seem to know what to do; if anything, she looked embarrassed, her face sort of stricken, and her eyes, too. I could see that from the side of her face as she nervously looked around. But Jack at least patted Laura’s back. I wanted to touch her. I wanted to reach out and put my hand on her arm and tell her I was there. But I didn’t. What good would it have done? She didn’t love me anymore, she’d told me. Nothing I did would make her feel any better. I started walking backwards, slowly. I’d seen her. That was enough. I didn’t know why she was crying. Maybe it was a boy I didn’t know about. She’d never told me much about her other friends. Maybe she loved him. I didn’t mind. He was dead. I felt bad for her. I walked backwards until I was out of the crowd. Somebody was saying a few words, but I didn’t listen—it was just a man’s voice, sharp in the stillness. They were lowering the coffin into the grave when I turned and walked out of the cemetery. Nobody had seen me. They’d have needed a picture to know I was there. Now, that’s hiding. Real hiding.