Objective 21

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Chapter 16

Will and I had grabbed our tickets and sprinted to the top of the platform not fifteen seconds before the doors closed. Just barely inside, we felt the train jolt to a start and we stood in the entranceway until we caught our breaths. Then he and I began to move from car to car, looking for two empty seats. It was dusk on a Saturday night, and the LIRR was packed solid.

This plan had been exceptionally last-minute, even for Will. He'd called me about an hour and a half previous and told me that he and Phil had had tickets for a reggae show in upper Manhattan, but Phil wasn't home to go with him.

I could've sworn that Phil had mentioned something about how early he needed to be up at school, and I was pretty sure he’d left for Albany two days after the shrooms incident; I couldn't understand why he would've bought a ticket for a show he knew he couldn't go to. I also couldn’t understand why it'd taken Will two hours before the opening band went on to figure out this near-rocket-science concept: Phil was in Albany, therefore Phil could not attend show.

Still, I opted not to think it through. Will wasn't one of those kids who typically hid things from people, as it took way more energy than he cared to spend. I figured if he was lying, I didn't want to know his reasons behind it.

When he'd phoned me, I had every intention of calling an indefinite rain-check, but he bugged me until I was convinced. He promised me that it would be nowhere near as rough as last time, and he really didn't feel up to a near-death-experience tonight, anyway.

We had to walk all the way to the back of the train before we found a set of empty seats. They were lodged up against the window in a five-seater section. Will and I excused ourselves and squeezed past two small children and a middle-aged man with a Blackberry.

Will sighed contentedly as he sat down. Then he stretched out and put his legs up across my lap. He was seemingly always using my body for support, beginning after I'd been placed next to him for a halftime routine in band; he’d quickly realized how I was just tall enough that his elbow could conveniently rest on top of my head.

"I'm kind of really pumped for this show," he commented. "I don't know why."

"Well, you haven't been to one all summer, right? Since you got your cast on."

"Yeah," Will said. "I guess I really missed going."

When his limbs weren’t wrapped in plaster, Will went to multitudes of shows, probably one or two every week. I used to go with him a lot when we'd first met; I often remembered having to drag myself into school the next morning, dead-tired because we hadn't gotten home from the city until two or three AM. Toward my senior year of high school, though, it didn’t seem like it was worth getting yelled at for passing out in class anymore.

Now that I didn’t have to worry about high school, I wasn’t sure why I'd stopped tagging along so much. I suppose it was a combination of things, like the fact that our musical tastes had started to drift and that Will was becoming more and more impetuous has he got older.

More so than that, though, there was the fact that I'd been crushing on him really hard back then, and I would've done just about anything he asked of me. However, as it became more apparent that Will didn't really have any interest in the matter, I stopped trying so hard. I wasn't as willing to exhaust myself all the time, and I couldn’t be bothered with the stress of getting lost on our way to the venue or going insane with paranoia every time he asked a homeless guy to buy us beer. I still cared about him, as he was my best friend–in all honesty, I figured I'd always have a soft spot for him, too–but I wasn't really willing to bend over backwards anymore.

I suppose, in a way, Will had been part of the inspiration behind my bucket list. As much as he drove me batshit crazy with all the stunts he pulled, I still kind of envied him. He had this aura about him that made other people just relax, and he had this talent of getting away with anything he did, regardless of what it was. He wasn't really afraid of anything at all; while it was half the reason why he seemed so unattainable to me, it was still a remarkable quality, and I marveled at it.

On top of all that, Will had also been the reason why I'd started the objectives in the first place. Writing something down and actually doing it are two entirely different things, and had Will not dragged me to that show and lifted me on top of the crowd that night, I never would have met Macon, and the bucket list might've remained untouched without any slashes through it at all.

Will's mind and my mind had apparently wandered to the same place, as his next statement was, "Speaking of the night I got my cast on, I thought you told me you didn't know that guy you macked on."

"Oh," I said, and I was pulled away from my thoughts and back into the packed train car. "I didn't."

"You brought him to Phil's the other night, didn't you?" he asked. "I mean, I was kind of fucked up, but I thought that's what he said."

The two little kids next to us looked up at the word that, in their vocabulary, was considered taboo. Will didn't seem to notice. My eyes flickered to the man with the Blackberry, but he had headphones in and wasn't paying any attention to the kids; maybe they weren't his.

"I didn't know him back then, is what I meant," I explained. "But we've been hanging out a lot now. I met up with him after the show. He helped me get home that night."

I saw Will's expression go sour for a second, and his mouth turned downward at the corners before he could stop it. I waited for him to say something, but he didn't. His face just neutralized again and he looked out the window.

"He's a cool guy," I added, examining him as I tested the words. "I think you'd like him."

Will shrugged. "I dunno," he said simply.

My eyes narrowed even more skeptically. He felt my stare and, after shifting uncomfortably in the seat, he took his legs off of my lap.

"Why do you dislike him already?" I asked.

"I don't," Will told me. "I don't dislike him."

As I’d mentioned before, Will very rarely found the need to lie; on the few occasions I'd witnessed it, though, he always, always repeated himself. “I'm not. I'm not underage. This is. This is my real license. It's oregano. It's oregano, not weed."

I'd once read in an article somewhere that repetition was the key to lying, and when paired with the phrase "trust me," you could get nearly anyone to believe anything you said. Had I not read that before, I would've given in and dropped it, but that wasn't the case. My expression fell, and I didn't even have to call him out on it. Will could tell I sensed his bullshit, and he jumped head-first into an explanation.

"I just got a bad vibe at the show," he said. "He looked at you like you were a piece of meat or something."

"No he didn't," I countered.

"You sure?" Will asked. "You did smack your head pretty hard, man, and I was standing right there. I did kinda witness the whole thing."

"I'm positive," I told him. "And if he did, he didn't mean to. Macon's not a bad guy." Up until just then, I’d planned on proposing the idea that Will and I stop by Macon’s after the show, as his apartment wasn’t that far from the venue. Now, however, judging by the look on Will’s face, I didn’t think it was such a good plan.

"Alright," Will exhaled. He sunk down lower in the chair and put his legs back up on the seat. Instead of resting them across my lap, though, they sat beside me. "I just don't want him to turn out to be a bastard or something."

The little kids looked up again, and this time, I caught a woman across the isle as she stared Will down. She had four more children beside her (God bless her if she’d popped out all six, and God help us if that were the case, as that probably meant she was a devout Catholic) and I assumed that she hadn't been able to find seven empty seats together, so she found the next best thing–five spots across the isle from two.

I tore my gaze from the woman and looked back over at Will. I didn’t know what his concern was, as during the four years I’d known him, Will had been friends with tons of bastards, but he’d kept them around because they were “worth a few laughs” or “didn’t actually mean anything by it.” Come to think of it, I’d never met a person who rubbed Will the wrong way.

"I mean, he may not turn out to be a bastard," Will continued, catching a glimpse of my expression, "but then again, he might. People are assholes, you know?"

The train came to a stop and the woman gathered her six children and left the car; as relieved as I was that she hadn’t made a scene about it, I highly doubted that Kew Gardens had been her destination, and I felt bad. Still, I had to smirk at Will's cluelessness; he hadn't noticed a thing about that entire situation.

"I'm just looking out for you," Will finished. He reached across the seat and messed up my hair; it stuck up all over the place and I promptly smoothed it down again. "Trust me."

The next stop was Penn Station, and much to my shock, we got off the train and found the venue without any setback at all. Instead of disappearing into the skank pit not two minutes after the show started, as he normally did, Will stuck by my side the whole time. I got home that evening fairly early without any owed debts or mental pictures of bloody limbs, and when I woke up the next morning, my skepticisms about Will's behavior hadn't even outlived the night.

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