فصل 16

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فصل 16

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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VIOLET

145 days till liberation

He misses the turnoff, goes right over the grassy center to the other side, and climbs back onto the interstate, heading in the opposite direction. At some point, we exit onto a quiet country road.

We take this for a mile or so, and Finch has turned up the music and is singing along. He drums the beat on the steering wheel, and then we turn into this little town that is just a couple blocks long. Finch hunches over the dash and slows down to a crawl. “Do you see any street signs?”

“That one says ‘Church.’ ”

“Good. Brilliant.” He turns and, just a block later, pulls over to the curb and parks. “We’re here.” He’s out of the car and at my door, opening it, offering his hand. We’re walking toward this big old factory building that looks abandoned. I can see something along the wall, stretching for the entire length of it. Finch keeps going and comes to a sudden stop at the far end.

Before I die … it says on what looks like a giant chalkboard. And there below these giant white letters are column after column, line after line, that say Before I die I want to ____. And the blanks have been filled in with different colors of chalk, smudged and half melted from the rain and snow, in all different handwriting.

We walk along reading. Before I die I want to have kids. Live in London. Own a pet giraffe. Skydive. Divide by zero. Play the piano. Speak French. Write a book. Travel to a different planet. Be a better dad than mine was. Feel good about myself. Go to New York City. Know equality. Live.

Finch bumps my arm and hands me a piece of blue chalk.

I say, “There’s no space left.”

“So we make some.”

He writes Before I die I want to and draws a line. He writes it again. Then he writes it a dozen more times. “After we fill these up, we can keep going on the front of the building and down the other side. It’s a good way to figure out just why we’re here.” And I know by “here” he doesn’t mean this sidewalk.

He starts writing: Play guitar like Jimmy Page. Come up with a song that will change the world. Find the Great Manifesto. Count for something. Be the person I’m meant to be and have that be enough. Know what it’s like to have a best friend. Matter.

For a long time, I just stand there reading, and then I write: Stop being afraid. Stop thinking too much. Fill the holes left behind. Drive again. Write. Breathe.

Finch stands over my shoulder. He is so close, I can feel his breath. He leans forward and adds: Before I die I want to know a perfect day. He steps back, reading it over, and steps forward again. And meet Boy Parade. Before I can say anything, he laughs, rubs it out, and replaces it with: And kiss Violet Markey.

I wait for him to erase this too, but he drops the chalk and brushes the dust off his hands, wiping them on his jeans. He gives me a crooked grin, and then he stares at my mouth. I wait for him to make a move. I tell myself, Just let him try. And then I think, I hope he does, and the thought alone sets off the electric currents and sends them shooting through me. I wonder if kissing Finch would be that different from kissing Ryan. I’ve only kissed a handful of boys in my life, and they were pretty much all the same.

He shakes his head. “Not here. Not now.” And then he jogs toward the car. I jog after him, and once we’re inside, and the engine and the music are on, he says, “Before you get any ideas, that doesn’t mean I like you.”

“Why do you keep saying that?”

“Because I see the way you look at me.”

“Oh my God. You are unbelievable.”

He laughs.

Back on the road, my mind is racing. Just because I wanted him to kiss me for, like, one second doesn’t mean I like Theodore Finch. It’s just that it’s been a while since I’ve kissed someone who isn’t Ryan.

In our notebook, I write Before I die I want to … but that’s as far as I get, because all I see is Finch’s line floating on the page: And kiss Violet Markey.

Before Finch takes me home, he drives straight to the Quarry in downtown Bartlett, where they don’t even check our IDs. We walk right in, and the place is crowded and smoky, and the band is loud. Everyone seems to know him, but instead of joining the band onstage, he grabs my hand and we dance. One minute he acts like he’s in a mosh pit and the next we’re doing the tango.

I shout over the noise, “I don’t like you either.” But he just laughs again.

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