Chapter 2: Open Door Policy
It was a few weeks after that. Marigold and I didn’t really talk about the trip much. I mean, she talked about it. I listened. I’d smile and nod and if I didn’t think I could get away with not saying anything else I’d try to kiss her.
Marigold didn’t always like to be kissed, because, well, I don’t know. Girls. But it could usually distract her.
I spent a lot of time over at her house. I know in movies and TV shows you always see a lot of stuff about dads being really protective of their daughters. You know, they know what boys are after and all of that, but Marigold’s dad wasn’t like that. He really seemed to like me. In fact, the hardest part about going over there was extricating myself from her dad’s little chit chats so I could go up to Marigold’s room and hang out.
There was a “door open” rule when I was over. Whatever.
She had been hounding me to talk to her about Marlo/Plato. By this time, Marlo had been caught on TV rounding up a bunch of burglars in Philadelphia and a reporter had managed to push a mic in the face of one of the six guys that were picked up that day.
“The flying saucer was talking to us man, I swear. Like about ethics. Like the *BEEP* spaceship thought it was Plato or some *BEEP*.”
It’s how Plato got his name. The reporter asked if he could tell her audience anything about the flying saucer that had captured them. The quote must have been played everywhere on Earth 500 times by now.
Anyway, that’s when people started referring to the flying saucer as Plato. I told Marlo that this was great, because he had a superhero name now.
On the day in question, the day I’m thinking of right now, I’m over at Marigold’s house. It’s starting to get a little bit cooler and if she doesn’t have any other particular reason to wear anything else then what Marigold wears is jeans and a hoodie. So that was what she was wearing. A Pitt State hoodie and she’s lying on her bed and doing her Algebra II and I’m supposed to lie down next to her and work on my Calculus, but she is not really all that interested in doing homework.
“I am kind of freaking out for Marlo,” she says.
“Why’s that?” I ask, though I didn’t really want to know.
“I kind of think he is going crazy.”
“He’s not going crazy.”
“I think he is.”
“He’s always been this way.”
“He hasn’t thought he was two different people before.”
“He just says that.”
Marigold put down her pen and looked at me until I quit pretending to look at my problem set and started to look at her. We both kept our bedrooms really neat, but she had a lot more stuff. She had like every medal or ribbon she’d ever won at anything neatly arranged on this big pin board and she had all these photos from things she had done with her different friends pinned all over the walls. At camp. At birthdays. At the lake. At band practice. At the stadium. At the roller rink.
They were basically the same picture, over and over, with different backgrounds.
“Seriously, Grover. Your best friend is like… freaking out.”
I looked around her room. When I think about it, it shows that I’m a lot less involved than she is. I don’t have medals and stuff for things I’ve won. I play Soccer. That’s all I do.
You can play Soccer all through Middle School but you can’t play it when you get to high school because the school district doesn’t want to put money into Soccer. They probably think Soccer leads to things like National Healthcare. I don’t know.
Plus I was never on a winning team.
I said, “He’s not going to stop turning into Plato. It’s too awesome.”
“I don’t think you think about Marlo. I think you only think about Plato.”
“Marlo didn’t really have anything to live for before … you know...”
“Why do you have to whisper about it so much?”
“Just... what are you trying to say?”
“You aren’t listening anyway. See?”
“I’m listening. What are you worried about?”
“Never mind. Forget it.”
“What is it?”
“I told you.”
“You think that Marlo’s, umm... confusion, is like... schizo?
“Why do you have to ... you just … Forget it.”
“Worry about Marlo a little bit, okay?”
“Is this conversation about Marlo?”
“Seriously, you are pissing me off so bad right now let’s ... But yeah... it’s about Marlo.”
“Why can’t he talk to you?”
“He does talk to me, okay?”
“Well, yeah, exactly. See?” I don’t know what that sounds like to you but it should sound like the kind of thing that someone follows up with by saying that it was every bit as bad as it sounded.
She said, “We both have homework.”
I looked back at my Calculus problems. I couldn’t study. Calculus will never hold a boy’s attention like a girlfriend. If I sound like I was being a giant dick, you have to understand: why were we talking about this in her house?
She had a little brother. A snoopy, awful little brother.
“I’m going to go get some pop. You want some?”
She left. She was gone for quite a while and I laid there on my stomach and thought about what we had talked about and tried to think about integers and integrals. I could see what the problem was and I could see that I was being a bit of a jerk but at the same time it wasn’t safe for us to be talking about this here. If we were going to talk about it, we should have been outside, you know?
There is some really depressed part of me that looks back on this conversation as the beginning of the end. I guess you already knew that, since this is still basically the beginning of the book and all. Right.
She came back with two Dr. Peppers. Like I said, it took her a while but when she came back she seemed like she’d chilled out, but she said, “Let’s take a study break.”
“OK, what do you want to do?”
“Hang out? I’ll put on some music.”
It was always a little painful for me when Marigold put on music. She was a Matchbox 20 kind of girl. So I closed up my homework and put hers back the way she liked it. She had a separate folder for each class. Finished homework went in one side and the stuff she was working on went on the other side, on top of her notes from the class. I had asked her once what she did when her folders started to get too full at mid-semester. “I move the finished homework out and into the file folder in my locker after each exam. Duh.”
She put on some CD. I only recognized it from some party we’d been to. I sat up on her bed, with my back against the wall and she laid her head down on my lap. She slid an arm back behind my back, and with her other arm at her side I was acutely aware of her breasts rising up and down in front of me there.
I mean, she was wearing a hoodie, which is the least hot shirt a girl can wear, but it doesn’t really matter when they are this close to you. You have to put your hand somewhere, so you put it on her stomach and your arm is kind of brushing them there and you sit there and talk to her, but all you are really thinking about is what the inside of your forearm can kind of feel.
That’s what that’s like.
She asked, “So what is it that you and Marlo talk about when you’re talking about him turning into Plato?”
“Could you be a little more...? I don’t know... don’t say it right out.”
“Fine. What do you talk about when you talk about it?”
“I try to stay really focused on the business side of it, you know. Keep him focused on priorities.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like... Like he needs to have a reason to... you know... to make that move.”
“Like he already needs to know what he is going to do before he does it?”
“Yeah. I try to keep him from just... looking. That’s dangerous.”
“So what kind of stuff?”
“I can’t really talk about that.”
“Because it’s Marlo’s business.”
“I already know.”
“You know who he is. You don’t know what he’s doing.”
“C’mon. What does it matter?”
I thought to myself that I didn’t know how much it mattered but she already knew more than she should so every little bit more that she knew felt pretty dangerous to me. That’s what I thought. But I didn’t say it.
“Look, all we really know... we know he needs to keep his eyes out.”
“What’s he looking for?”
“It doesn’t matter. He hasn’t found it.”
“What is it?”
“Did you know that Philadelphia has like 9 times more burglaries than any other city in the country?”
“You’re changing the subject. You’re changing the subject really awkwardly.”
“How would I manage to pull out a fact that random if it had nothing to do with what we were talking about?”
“Is Marlo looking for burglars?”
“He’s looking for big, big outliers. Things that are really out of whack.”
“Because that’s a sign that something is at work there that shouldn’t be there.”
“Let’s drop it. We don’t know, anyway.”
“You really don’t know?”
“You’re freaking me out.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this, then? Because, here’s the thing: we actually shouldn’t talk about this.”
The easiest people to lie to are the ones closest to you. Remember that. Your advantage with people close to you is that they all think they can spot it when you’re lying. Because they “know” you. Which makes them way more gullible.
She said, “Marlo needs you to look after him.”
“Do you want me to blow him?” I asked.
“You make it sound really gay.”
“Gross. Marlo is really really alone, and he trusts you. And he’s flipping out.”
“He is not flipping out.”
She rolled her eyes. I could feel her getting mad again.
“All he ever wants to talk about is girls,” I said.
“Wow, Grover. Shocker. I’m shocked.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing. Whatever. Listen, forget it. Let’s do our homework okay?”
I didn’t know what else to say but sitting there with her lying in my lap like that made me want to touch her more. Door-open policy. But I leaned down and gave her a kiss.
Her brother walked by the room at that moment and said, “You guys are gross.” It sorta looked like he had been watching all along.
Whether or not he actually had been would worry the hell out of me for the next week or so.