Porter texted me at 7:30 pm that night, his tone sounded a lot more concerned now than when he’d texted me earlier about hanging out with Hilana.
I have something to tell you. He started.
What is it? Did I do something? I asked concerned that his parents had somehow changed his mind or knew who I was and forbid him to talk to me or something.
No, of course not. My parents told me I was adopted. That might have been part of the reason they didn’t let you come over because they didn’t want you to be in the middle of all that. He answers.
How do you feel about that? I ask.
I don’t know. It’s weird, I guess. Everyone’s always said how much I look like them and I guess it’s just weird to find out we’re not actually related. He answers.
Do you know anything about your biological parents? Who they are? Where they are? I question.
No, they said I was left with a name tag at an adoption center when I was one. No identity, no details, nothing really. Who I am is one big mystery. He replies.
It’s not any weirder than me. I reply.
After living in the same building as him for almost three months it was weird not to be able to just go downstairs to see him.
Hilana wants to meet you and listen to you perform. He continues, changing the subject.
So, I’m best friend-approved now? I joke.
I imagine him laughing quietly.
I miss you. He texts next.
So, do I. You wouldn’t believe how quiet it is here without you, physically more so than anything. I answer.
You’re coming with me at Christmas, I can’t leave you alone for two weeks, I probably can’t live without you for two weeks. He continues.
I'll come as long as your parents are fine with it, do they know? I reply.
I haven’t told them yet. Are you sure you want to? He asks.
I hesitate, would it be easier to fake being his friend for two weeks or tell the truth that I liked Porter? I knew the answer or which one would be better as long as they didn’t have any reservations about who I was but I was still scared. Then again, they had accepted Porter and all his flaws but when it’s not your own child it can be very different.
I lay in my bed thinking about it. My phone vibrates on my chest. I pick it up.
I’m sure they’ll love you, Ryker. I told them how nice you were and accepting. He continues.
I wish I could kiss him now.
You can do it. I answer.
You’re sure? He asks.
Yes. I answer this time.
Okay. Good night, Ryker. I miss you xoxo. He replies.
Good night xo. I finish.
I set the phone down on my nightstand and stare up at the roof.
I got up then and took a walk around campus, it was so quiet with everyone gone. I looked up at the bright, white, grey, and yellow moon in the sky flanked by tiny twinkling stars. I lay down in the middle of the grass in the cool night air and watch them for a while before I feel the first snowflake fall and land on my cheek. I sit up with a start and see the water droplets covering the grass around me from where the snow landed and melted.
I stood up as the snowfall got heavier and watched it fall around me. I wondered if it was snowing wherever Porter was and if he could see it. Eventually, it got a little too cold for my liking and I walked back to my dorm room to go to bed at 9:40 pm.
I watched the moon from my dorm room window for a while before I fell asleep. It was amazing how two people a hundred miles apart could see the same thing, I guess that was why the moon made some people feel connected to the people they loved. You could look up and see it and know that they can also see it.
The next morning, I woke up at 9:00 am, had breakfast, and went to the music room to play the piano to distract myself. I started with “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors.
Momma, come here, approach, appear. Daddy, I’m alone cause this house don’t feel like home. If you love me, don’t let go. Oh, if you love me, don’t let go. Hold, hold on, hold onto me cause I’m a little unsteady, a little unsteady.
I could hear Mr. Yaw’s life song migrate into the background. Soon the door slid open and he took a seat beside the piano.
“How are you doing?” he said.
I look down at the piano keys and then back up at Mr. Yaw’s blue eyes that stood out against his dark hair.
“Fine,” I reply.
“You miss Porter, don’t you?” he replies.
I look back down at the piano keys but nod eventually.
“I like him,” I confess. “I told him a few months ago, it’s weird to be here without him now even after spending so many holidays here alone.”
“He’ll be back next week, until then you and I can play together,” he replies giving a sweet smile.
He moves over to the drum set in the room. “How about we play “Recover” instead? It’s a little more upbeat,” he continues.
“I didn’t know you could play the drums,” I reply.
He winks picking up the drum sticks I start on the piano.
I will recover, I’ll be okay. I will recover, I’m gonna own my pain. I will recover today.
Then he jumps in with the drums.
How did I get here? Chasing black cars, on, a-bright-lights on and on again.
We speed up as we hit the chorus.
There’s gotta be a cure, yeah, there’s gotta be a cure. Sirens and emotion are emergency. I hear silence where my voice should be. But I will recover.
My fingers move across the keys as his drum sticks beat across the drums. Then he goes into “Hey Child”. I stop playing and just listen to him, the power in his voice and the drums.
Brother’s got a baby on the way now. I hope that you’ll meet him some day. I hope he don’t make the same mistakes we made and when I look at him in the eyes, I say: Hey child. Hey child. We were born wild. Let your neon lights, keep shining bright, oh.
I smiled, Mr. Yaw looked like he enjoyed playing the drums more so than the piano or orchestra that he normally taught. I guess drums weren’t a normal instrument to learn through school. Drums were very expressive, you moved your arms and feet together to make a beat. He stopped after he finished the song and looked over at me. I smiled.
I heard a trumpet sound coming. I recognized the life song. Coach Gerald. He slid open the music room door and popped his head in.
“I heard the drums, you playing again, Ryū?” he asks.
Coach Gerald had been my gym teacher back in ninth and tenth grade when it was still mandatory to take gym, I use to like listening to his trumpet life song as I ran laps, but I hadn’t taken a class of his in two years almost now.
I didn’t know Mr. Yaw’s first name was Ryū, either.
“Just keeping Ryker here company,” he replies setting the drum sticks down and standing up.
“It’s almost lunchtime, do you want to get lunch with me?” Coach Gerald asks, he seems nervous slightly.
“Sure,” Mr. Yaw replies smiling. “You’ll be okay by yourself here, right, Ryker?”
“Of course, see you later, Mr. Yaw,” I reply.
They left and I started playing “Landslide” by The Chicks. Eventually, I got hungry and wandered off campus to find somewhere to eat. I ended up back at the café Porter had taken me to on the night we snuck out on months ago before the ground was covered in snow.
I walked in, there still weren’t many people here even during what would be considered rush hour in a normal restaurant. I saw Alice waiting tables again, her death song sounded much the same. Slightly louder than everybody else’s but not overbearing. I took a seat at a table made for two and looked over the menu.
I still truly wondered if I could prevent death if I warned a person. It wasn’t like I could see into the future and predict the way or when they were going to die. I just knew her death was sooner than normal for someone her age.
She came over to me eventually to take my order. I ordered a coke and a burger. I ate while watching her considering what she’d think if I tried to warn her. She like everyone else would probably think I was crazy. I paid and tipped her and left. I walked around the town of Blue Hill. When I used to live in the city with my father and Ezra I used to find the streets loud and overwhelmed with songs from people and I would often wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to just walk to school and back but here with less than 1,000 people, spread out, it wasn’t so bad.
I ended up at a graveyard which was deathly quiet aside from a slow, quiet violin song playing. I spotted an older woman among the headstones. She had a hunched back, wearing a purple shawl and a straw hat with flowers weaved into the mid-section of the hat. She had an old fashion wooden cane and white hair.
My power was a double-edged sword. Too many people made my ears hurt but the silence of the dead was saddening. I didn’t need to know any of the people in this graveyard to tell you that. I guess that was why I liked listening to Porter’s heartbeat without a song in the background. Silent but alive at the same time. Graveyards were a beautiful thing for honoring the dead, those who had lived and were now gone. Many of the flowers and graves were covered in last night’s snow. The trees were shedding their leaves on top of the snow now instead onto the ground to blend in with the grass, they would stand out in their bright and dull colors on the snow.
It reminded me of the graveyard where my mother was buried. I hadn’t been there in years again since I was sent here to Copper Cove. For everything, she’d said, believed, or done, I still loved her, missed her. The same goes for my father, I remember listening to his death song whispering in the background after my mother’s death and wondering when I was going to lose him or Ezra.
Much of that week was spent inside my own head. It wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Porter continued to text me about his parents and hanging out with Hilana. On the 28th, the day before Porter got back I was in the music room by myself when Mr. Yaw appeared again. I’d seen him sporadically throughout the week mostly with Coach Gerald as he was the only other teacher on campus.
They seemed close. I didn’t know much about Mr. Yaw other than what he had told us, that he moved he when he was fourteen from Japan and went to Yale and moved here after to teach, I don’t know if he had a family, most of the teaches here didn’t or they had family in the town so they could live off-campus and still work. But Mr. Yaw and Coach Gerald’s families lived elsewhere I’m pretty sure.
“You ready to see Porter tomorrow?” he questions.
“Yeah, I can’t wait,” I reply beaming excitedly.
“Mr. Yaw, do you have a family?” I question nervously worried it’s a little too personal for school.
“No, well my parents live in Idaho if that’s what you’re asking,” he continues. “But it’s not, is it?”
I shake my head slowly.
“Moving to America as a teen who grew up in Japan was…jarring. This country was very different and the people were different. The language was different, the culture. One thing was the same the way people looked at me. My eyes, most people had dark eyes in Japan, being the only kid with light-colored eyes, people thought I was weird. Here it was because of my complexion and dark hair that they found my eyes weird. My accent made me hard to understand in the beginning, too. I learned what was tolerated in Japan was a little more accepted here. But I still didn’t think I’d meet anyone. There was a reason I wasn’t surprised when you came out to me, Ryker. I struggle with my own issues throughout the years. I don’t think I was prepared when I met Tom Gerald ten years ago. I don’t think I knew what I wanted or if I was ready. But he was patient. I’m glad he let me find myself,” he continued quietly.
“Do your parents know?” I ask.
“No,” he replies shaking his head. “They keep asking me when I’m going to meet a girl and settle down but I’m happy with him. He knows who I am and he accepts me. If I tell my parents the truth everything falls apart.”
So, there was something between him and Coach Gerald.
“What matters is that you’re happy, right?” I reply.
He smiles and nods, “That’s right, kid.”
“It’s late, you should get a good night rest so you can enjoy your time with Porter tomorrow before school starts up again on Monday,” he replies.
“You’re right,” I reply smiling and closing the lid on the piano.
“See you on Monday, Ryker,” he replies as we walk to the door of the music room together he goes off towards teacher housing and I go in the other direction to the boy’s dorm.
“Good night Mr. Yaw,” I reply.
I make my way across to the other half of the school to the staircase nearest to the boy’s dorm. It was dark since it was 8:00 pm, the floorboards creaked. I opened the door that had a glowing exit sign above it to the stairs. The staircase was dark with only the moonlight reflecting off the snow outside to light it up. I made my way down the stairs, when I made it to the bottom I was grabbed and pushed into a wall by someone.
The breath was knocked out of my lungs. Once I was pinned against the wall I looked up and saw Julian’s piercing blue eyes glaring at me.
What was he doing here? He wasn’t supposed to be back until tomorrow like everyone else.
“Yes?” I shuttered out.
“Do you think Porter actually likes you, freak?” he questions. “Maybe, he just feels sorry for you. Poor little, Ryker, all alone. He’ll break up with you before you graduate, eventually, he’ll forget about you. As for Maya, I’ll get her back. I’m irresistible. They pity you, you freak. You’re mental, you’re going to end up in an institution. Just like the rest of the crazies,” he mocks.
He pushes me off the wall to the ground. I land on my side. He kicks me in the back and then kneels down beside me. My glasses and noise-canceling headphones are on the ground, luckily, they’re intact. He winds his fist back and punches me in the face, tomorrow it’ll be bruised and a black eye.
I roll over away from him.
“Stay away, freak,” he warns before he walks out the door towards the boy’s dorm.
I don’t want to get up or even go near the boy’s dorm out of fear he’ll do worse or more but I can’t stay or sleep here. I pick up my things. I enter the boys' dorm from the farthest exit he could have gone in and run up the stairs and lock myself in my room. I sit against the back of it beginning to cry which makes my eyes hurt worse because I want to wipe the tears away.
I take my sweater off and go into the bathroom to look at the eye. It looks fine now but twelve hours from now it won’t be. Why did he have to come back early? I changed into my shorts and shirt and got into bed with my headphones wanted to disappear into the void and never come out.
I knew what he said about Porter wasn’t true but what if it was? I had just started to trust him and Maya, I ignored my phone when it started vibrating, it was probably Porter texting me but I just couldn’t. I lay in bed until I fell asleep under the moonlight.