Jay Bird (MM)
Introverted, socially awkward Jay Kirkman, known to his Grams as "Jay Bird," is riding the ups-and-downs of youth while living with overbearing parents and dealing with the pressures of being a senior in high school.
A month away from graduation, Jay hopes to flee the small upstate New York town of Milton for a life anywhere but in his dead-end hometown. He wishes for more than he has now: scholarly, eccentric parents, and watching Grams, the closest person to him, slowly dying before his eyes.
His equally withdrawn but edgier best friend Rocco has a hearty appetite for drugs, alcohol, and promiscuous sex. When the law comes knocking, asking questions about a crime Rocco may or may not have committed, he finds himself in big trouble and turns to Jay for help.
Is Jay and Rocco's friendship strong enough to sustain life's tough obstacles as they navigate the highs and lows of growing up together?
Crossing my arms over my chest, I felt my eyes start to close. Like wool being pulled over my eyes, a world of youth and puberty dissolving into the growing darkness that was my life.
The weight of depression metastasized in the fractures of my mind, and I opened my eyes an hour later to somebody rapping on my bedroom window.
"What are you doing here?" I asked Rocco as he climbed through my window, his face flushed and beady with sweat. He dropped onto the floor by the bed, breathing heavily, and pulled himself up against the wall.
"I was out running," he said.
I stared across the room at my R2D2 clock radio sitting on top of my dresser. "At one o' clock in the morning?"
"Nobody bothers me. It's just me and the night."
I fingered sweat from my face. I got out of bed to turn on the boxy fan on the dresser at the other side of the room, more for white noise than cooling off.
"You never answered my question. How did you get up here?" I asked, crawling into bed and digging crust out of the corner of my eye. I had a headache and was nauseous from a burning feeling building inside my stomach.
"I have to confess. I'm Spiderman."
"You can climb buildings?" I wasn't in the mood for games, or lame jokes. My tone was calculating and cold.
"I climbed the rain gutter," he said.
I glanced at him and looked away, shaking my head.
"Why are you in such a shitty mood?" He pulled his legs up to his chest, rocking back and forth. "Would you rather I rang the doorbell?"
"Are you high right now?" I asked.
"Bored is more like it."
"I thought the word bored was never in your vocabulary."
"I think it was a bad time to come over."
He stood and lifted the screen window, sticking his head out into the muggy night, air stagnant and dry and musty. "I'll catch you tomorrow at school."
I yanked on the ends of his trouser pants. He turned to me and I noticed an indescribable sense of sadness in his eyes. "Get back in here and tell me what's wrong."
"You wouldn't be here at this hour if there wasn't something keeping you awake."
He blew out a breath and turned back into the room, adjusted his pants. "I just wanted to see if you were up. I wanted to see you. Is that a problem?"
"No, Rocco, it's not a problem to drop by. But you've got to admit, it's late."
"I know that you're awake working the midnight oil on a homework assignment."
"Not tonight. I've got other things on my mind."
He looked startled, as if I had told him an offensive joke. "Like what?"
"Grams. She isn't doing well. She looks really bad."
"Jay, I don't want to pop your cherry, but she's old. Old people get sick, and eventually they die."
"Lower your voice. I don't want my parents to hear us."
I struggled to keep my eyes open amidst drowsiness and apprehension. I wanted to forget about my teenage problems, drown them in a wet dream about Thor, and spring the information onto my parents tomorrow morning at breakfast that I wanted a boyfriend ASAP.
"I don't think it's age," I said. "I think my Grams is lonely without Gramps." I paused. "It's sad to see people go on living after they lose a loved one, and after being together for so long. My Grams is a basket case. Although I gotta say she's still full of piss and vinegar. The wicked sense of humor she gets from making her caretaker's life miserable tickles her funny bone. She's a funny old lady." I stopped talking and stared at Rocco. "Are you sure you're all right? You look peaked." I reached a hand out to him. "You're sweating, too."
"Maybe you should invest in an air conditioner."
"Can you feel the fan? Do you want me to move it in a different direction?"
"Do you want to lie down in the bed? I can move over."
I caught him looking up at me, a fleeting glance. Doubt boiled behind his eyes.
"It's a yes or no question," I said.
"I've got to get going," he said.