Author : Stephen Ira
Owen was standing on the side of a boy’s driveway. They were both smoking long thin joints, which made Owen’s face pink and his eyes telescopic slivers. The other boy, his round face capped by a black beanie, called Owen “precious.” Beyond the driveway, the snowy ground extended blankly for yards.
As Owen smoked, the counting stopped. He couldn’t remember how many steps it had been from the driveway to the snowbank where they stood. He wasn’t really listening to what either one of them said. The round-faced boy kissed him and numbers swelled again, but Owen secured the joint between his fingers, hung on to the round-faced boy.
“Owen,” the boy said. “Owen, precious.” His face was like a moon. And he took Owen’s hand.
Owen said, “I’m graduating soon.” He glanced at his wrist display, where time was marked out in at-a-glance notation that he didn’t have to compute in his brain, compulsively, endlessly. “Going up for the first time. Maybe I’ll bring back a moon rock, sell it and buy us dinner. It’d cover one or two, if we eat cheap. Captain Mann’s cousin showed me some moon rocks. From one of the construction sites. They still got graffiti from the colonial days on them.”
“He used to work there?”
Owen nodded. “Came back down. Said he got kay-” This was funny, so Owen giggled insistently at the snow. “Ka-kay-yak kayak angst. It’s an — a culture bound thing. Yeah, totally.” (Owen wasn’t sure whether he’d ever said “yeah, totally” before.) “It’s this thing. You lose control of where you’re — spatial disorentation and stuff. Indigenous — INuits used to get it in their kayaks. The men, I mean. When they’d go out fi-fi-fishing.” There was something caught in his throat, the air to form a word he needed.
“He say anything about what it was like to be on the moon?” The round-faced boy’s pierced ears stuck out from beneath his hat like flags.
“Yeah. Said it made him all freaked. Looking down at that blue thing that looks — looks like paint some teenager dropped on the floor of an apartment they were painting.” They were painting the apartment for a friend. When Owen closed his eyes, he could see them doing it, one blonde and the other red-headed, climbing up and down walls in faultless scalene triangles, counting every step. “Knowing everything you could ever love was there.”
The counting started again, with such a jolt that Owen said out loud, “Fourteen,” and began to multiply the number by the hour and then by the minute and then by the second, best as he could calculate from his wrist display, and the joint made it impossible not to say it out loud.
“What?” asked the round-faced boy, mystified.
“It’s my age in different ways,” said Owen. “The age I’ll be when I graduate.” Fourteen. “Like Captain Mann’s cousin said, everything you could ever love.” Owen Cadwallader, the easily bored, the numberkeeper, shoved his feet against the snow to mark it.
The round-faced boy put out his boot too, and slowly, in the snow, he wrote out: “Everything that you could ever love is here.” Owen watched him dance out the sentence. He was fat and ungraceful. Owen would have recommended him highly for the Bolshoi ballet.
Inside, the round-faced boy kissed his forehead and stroked his flanks. Blushing red from THC and the redness of mouths, Owen slept in the waterfalls of numbers. With knives they’d shepherded him to graduate to the sky so early. The great trigonometric waterfalls, warm as bathwater for once.