There is an edge of ridiculousness to everything that happens at this age. A studded leather collar is hanging from a shirt you never wash or wear, draped over the zippered edge of a sleeping bag seven feet up. The sleeping bag is hanging over your window, propped up on the curtain rod, so no light will shine through. You sleep, when you get lucky, at 5:00 AM.

This is not as bad as it looks in the mirror.

You haven't been wearing the collar much lately either. He is vegan, she is getting there, you are supposed to be. . .I am supposed to be improving myself. You are really, really supposed to care. But you have been slipping. All the Noam Chomsky is piled under all the Ralph Nader, which is piled under the Stephen King, which is somewhere beneath a printout on the growth and cultivation of cannabis indica. Next to the bathtub is every Michael Crichton novel ever written. If there is a deadlier statement of apathy it is soaked in Bacardi. The Bacardi helps the sleep, but it's been gone for weeks.

Circumstance dealt you a royal flush. You are white, male, eighteen, without real need or care or want. You get sent seven hundred dollars in back paychecks and you are fairly sure you didn't earn them. How you managed not to live up to this one, you are fairly sure you will not find out. There is a Latin word for you, but no one wants to hear the Latin anymore. How ridiculous.

Niky. You look really cute. -he says.

She pulls herself up onto her own counter and crosses her legs, her short hair framing her profile through the window behind her. She looks ridiculously amazing, the beauty a blue aura framed by a yellow that fails to care. You wonder when you first started thinking of her as a "he". Close to when she started calling you "she". But now she is a she - because he is a he, and you are likely to end up there too, in the ghetto of maleness, for the next few hours. She hops down, and squeezes your knee, ruffles your hair. "Let's go."

Niky. You realize that any guy in those glasses is irresistible. -he says.

She sits in the right swing on her front porch, her small Converse tennis shoes crossed in your lap. The laces on her shoes are different colors. Buttons, a front pocket, a necktie, are all printed in 2D on her t-shirt. You can feel the bones through the fabric as you cup her feet, the muscles that separate as they lead up to her toes. You would pluck off her shoes and drag your hands through those ridges if you thought it mattered. You would stroke her calves with the tips of your fingers, but that is ridiculous.

Do you think that there cosmos really cares enough to set you up? White Eighteen Male? You wanted her from the second time you spoke, when you crouched at the side of the couch, when she perched on its arm and nodded silently, whenever, whatever. He'd met her as many times as you and you didn't know a thing. It was never a call to action. You didn't make bids back then. You never asked for phone numbers. You smelled like desperation; anyone could feel the ridges and uneven bumps under your skin, that changed hourly, by the minute when he sat across from you, by the second when her hip pushed against your thigh and you could smell her yellow hair. She called you out, she might have even said your name, but that's what she does, and anyway, the hair is red now. Don't be ridiculous. "Let's go."

Niky. I want my CD back. . .it could be ransom for a date. -he says.

You wanted him for two years, before you knew what it meant to want him, before you knew you could want him. Every boy wanted him and half the girls. There was little that he was not, and he grew stronger every day, then every hour, then every minute. Everyone you were ever with knew him and wanted him and couldn't stop talking about him, which was only fair because neither could you. You were never a secret at all to him. He had two years, and now he knows a lot more than he knew then, and all the want has surged and burst and they all throw themselves at him. Now I have a tongue. Now I can speak. I am one more.

Of course he met her. Ridiculous. Of course they fell in love. Ridiculous. And of course he showed up today and now you are all three on her bed and he is looking into her eyes and they are talking about you. Your right eye has been carried a million miles from your left. Your left hand is a thousand leagues deeper than your right. Your brain is safe in bed, five hours from now, realizing that after you have tasted all the cliches that drip acid on your tongue, your parents do not and will not understand this because they simply never came anywhere close. It doesn't feel as good when it's true.

There are two people who are an exception. I saw both of them tonight. -he says.

You watch them and know them deeper for each other, and want them more. You hear he has one more under his belt, his ex's friend, who could offer nothing until he was free again - and of course it turned out ridiculously well. You hear the bad and the good and lay behind him, clutching his chest, pressed against his back, breathing in his neck, seeing his legs intertwine with hers and you feel the release of something detached into the void. Among nameless things there is jealousy floating away from you, bobbing like a buoy on the line between him and her, somewhere up on the surface where you have forgotten to breathe.

Suddenly you remember that you were in love, not too long ago. He talked to the other, who is not doing well. The other is not your business anymore, and you feel both more concern and more Schadenfreude than you should. How were you two known? Sex-obsessed. Dramatic. Self-contained. Depressed. And these two? Kind. Loving. Sweet. Unbelievable. Ridiculous.

I don't think any of us will ever be much for exclusivity. -he says, and you are in his arms and lost.

He goes and you don't ask when you'll see him again. You talk with her and cross wires. Your courage surges and mixes with desperation, and you begin to forget the fear. If you can make leaps of intuition, then you have intuition, then emotion isn't just a clinical shadow play on a white wall that doesn't change. You are sane. You are ready. Or you are still very scared and too dumb to know.

Hug goodnight.
"Can I kiss you?"
You press your lips against hers, pushing active and warm against a static wall.
"Can I kiss you?"
A smile. "Okay. . .?"
You have had enough prior experience with the kiss that tells you that the other person has no desire to repeat it.
A laugh.
"I felt like giggling."
Pause. Memory.
"I hope that didn't just weird you the fuck out."
"No. I just don't take it too seriously."
Pause. Switchboard dead. Cold.
"I don't know how I'm supposed to take that."
"It doesn't. Weird me out. But I don't. Take it too seriously."
Cold. Reboot.
Oh god jesus you're an idiot.
"No no don'tworryaboutit see you Monday."

You smoke your last joint in the grass half a mile from your house, barefoot, from a candle with a dove descending. Sleeping all day is almost better than the drugs, but it was rather inevitable that you would dream about him. That doesn't keep you from cursing when you wake up, or huddling before the black square framed in the afternoon sunlight. It peeks out from the edges and plays across the walls, but you are fairly certain that your face is still completely dark.

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