The next day is really nothing special, just school, just repetition of the same things again and again.
No one ever calls on Dawson, which is a good thing, because he doesn't know the answers to anything. He just sits and flicks spitballs at people, and occasionally folds dirty notes into paper airplanes and tosses them up in the air.
Whenever people receive either of these things, they turn to glare at me, like it's my fault for not keeping Dawson under control.
It's been like this for twelve years, I get blamed for everything Dawson does or makes me do.
One of his notes must have been especially bad today, because after fifth period, Rebecca Stiles marches over to me, the hellish fury of a girl who's been hit on by Dawson in her eyes. (Dawson's most common pick-up line? "Nice shoes. Wanna fuck?")
Dawson calls her one sweet bunny he'd like to feed a carrot. I call her the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, and now my life is probably going to end on the spot because Dawson is disgusting.
Goddamn, though, it's hard not to picture her naked.
Dawson was getting the weed he hides in a gym shoe out of his locker, but when he sees her coming, he grabs my shoulder tight and whispers a quick 'you're welcome' in my ear.
I elbow him in the stomach, and he sighs.
When Rebecca reaches me, she brandishes a note, shoving it into my face. "What is this, Joshua?"
All I can think is that she used my name. That is literally the only thing running through my mind.
Thank God, Dawson takes control. "Now listen, sugar, I gotta take the fall for this one. That's my note. You are one gorgeous bunny, and I gotta carrot for you. Interested?"
Everything he says seems to sail right by her.
"Hello? Josh? You going to tell me why you said you wanted to…let's see…'roast my boyfriend, drink water from his eyeballs, and'—I can't even repeat the next part," Rebecca says.
"That was Dawson, he just told you it was him!" I say, turning to see where Dawson is. He's already left, probably to go get stoned out in our spot.
"Sometimes I worry about you, Josh. But mostly I just hate your guts."
I bite my arm as she walks away, kicking Dawson's locker and banging my fists against it and screaming into my arm.
People tell me they worry about me all the time, at least if Dawson hasn't pissed them off. I don't know why people would worry, why they would care.
I only have the attacks outside of school, never once had one inside. No one sees them except Dawson. That's one of the only times he's a good friend, in fact. Whenever I have an attack, he's the one holding me and telling me to just breathe, just breathe, that's what everyone says when you're in pain or panicking. Isn't it weird?
They're telling you to do something that your body would make you do if you want to or not.
I've wanted to stop breathing before, but I've never been allowed to.
The bell rings for sixth period, and I'm on the wrong end of the school. I just decide to cut it, I hate math anyway.
Dawson's waiting for me in the Hole.
We have this thing, that wherever we go, whatever school—we have to find a spot. Our spot. No one else can know where it is, and it has to be kind of nice to hang out in.
I remember at one of the middle schools we went to, when Dawson's dad died, we sat in the willow tree, and he just stared out at the suburbs, eyes red and hands shaking. He kind of broke after that.
Anyway, the Hole is basically this spot between the roots of an oak that's big enough for both of us and whatever we need to bring with us.
"I am very, very angry with you," I say, and my voice is strained, because I'm trying not to pummel Dawson.
"You didn't manipulate the situation. You could've gotten hatesex out of that." Dawson doesn't even look up from rolling a joint.
"You're not gonna smoke that in here," I say, trying to smack it out of his hands.
He pulls it out of my reach. "I'm not, huh?"
He shrugs. "Okay."
"In fact, I'm gonna be taking possession of it," I say, making a grab for it.
"Uh, yeah…not happening. But I might share."
"No, it just stinks up the place," I say, pulling my hand back. Dawson grabs it before I can get it back the whole way, though.
He runs a finger over my bite marks, and raises his eyebrows inquisitively. "You really should stop hurting yourself, man."
"You're acting like I cut or something."
"Well…biting and sucking and beating and burning isn't ideal." There's actually worry in Dawson's face, and I can't help but feel a little surge of pleasure at that.
He actually cares.
"Just…don't worry about it," I say, pulling my arm away and scratching at it.
"'Don't worry'? Don't even tell me not to worry. I lost my fucking father because he couldn't stop hurting himself, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna lose you too."
Dawson's raised himself into a crouch, joint falling forgotten onto the dirty ground. He's yelling, and I don't think I've ever seen him like this before.
I watch him blink back tears.
"Hey," I say, I feel awful now, I don't want to make him upset, "I'd never kill myself. I promise."
"That's what he said," Dawson says, and climbs out of the Hole, kicking dirt into my hair.
I watch him go.
I would follow him, but it wouldn't be any use, he'd be back to old Dawson by the time I'd catch up with him. Perverted and unfeeling.
I love the Dawson that actually cares, but I see him so rarely.
He's been planning his massive beginning-of-summer party like a madman, I know he's probably gonna continue getting stuff ready today.
He has to make trips into the city to get most of the stuff he needs, everything except the weed. He grows that himself.
I am not looking forward to this party. At every one of Dawson's things, I always sit in the corner, just zone out and float out of my body, try to imagine what it's like to be Dawson, the life of the party and all.
This will likely be the same.
I have a fleeting thought that Dawson should avoid the sea monster in the pool on Alder. It almost took me out the other day.
That lasts about a microsecond.
Then I decide to smoke his joint.
A/N: All feedback is really, really appreciated.