Jay and I were on my stoop, waiting out the weather. A low heat was suffocating the city and everyone else was inside, hanging off their air conditioners. Mine was broken. Jay’s worked, but his mom was living in their living room and that was even worse than the heat.
The heat made things move so slowly that sometimes I tricked myself into thinking it would be like this forever. School was starting in a week. This year was going to be different. Jay was going into a program for gifted students. We’d been in the same class since kindergarten and now we wouldn’t even be in the same building. There’d been a space between us ever since he’d been accepted, and whenever I tried to close it, it grew or changed shape. Jay acted like it wasn’t there, but Jay was always acting.
I was fanning myself with my hat when my ears began to tingle. A damp breeze showed up and put tension in the air. The heat shifted.
Something was going to happen. Jay glanced at me so I knew he felt it too.
The weather changed so fast it was like someone had just turned the page. The sky grayed and wind was in the thin trees, then it was blowing over trashcans and shaking fences. We laughed and pulled down our hats.
“Finally,” I said.
Jay said, “Let’s go down to the pier,” and we did.
We never went to the pier. It was strange that Jay wanted to go there, even for Jay, who was strange.
The wind pushed us down the street with the trash. It charged us, made us big. By the time we hit the pier, we were jumping off benches and howling.
Fishermen were packing up their Styrofoam coolers and flailing rods. We went all the way to the end and took the bench that looked out on the whole harbor. The water was black, moving in all directions, splashing back and forth.
Jay said, “I wish I had some weed.”
I said, “I wish Kate was here so she could suck my dick.”
Jay said, “You’d be flapping around like that old man’s fishing pole.”
A seagull was bobbing in the air, eyeing a trashcan. He landed on the rim but was pushed back into flight. He hovered, staying in the same place like he was held up by string.
“That’s cool,” I said.
“He’s just floating,” Jay said. “It’s easy.”
“Yeah. You just need to catch the wind.”
“I didn’t know that was easy.”
Jay shrugged. “I can do it.”
“You might be gifted, Jay, but you’re not that gifted.”
He asked what I wanted to bet that he could float.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Pick whatever you feel like losing.”
He stood up and shook out his black t-shirt. He walked to the end of the bench, crouched down and spread his arms. His concentration face was on.
I didn’t want to laugh at him, but I couldn’t help it. “Kiss your Playstation goodbye, asshole.”
He leapt toward me and I winced; he was going to land on me or the concrete. But when I opened my eyes there he was, hanging a few feet above me with a stupid smile.
I jumped up and looked down the pier and at the beach.
“Sucker,” he said, “now I get to bang your sister.”
“What the fuck, man?”
“You know better than to doubt me.”
“What the fuck, Jay? What the fuck?”
“What?” He looked down. “Oh this?”
“Man, come on. You’re fucking flying!”
“I’m floating. I can’t fly.”
“Holy shit,” I said.
Jay drifted back to the ground. He sat on the bench and gestured for me to join him. I didn’t. I paced. The more I moved, the more he enjoyed himself.
“I was always doing it when I was little, late at night, but I thought I was dreaming. I’d wake up floating under my bedroom ceiling.” He talked like there were five hundred people on the pier with us. “Even after I figured out that it was real I thought I had to be sleeping, and that it just happened, that I couldn’t control it.”
The air was still crazy and the salt on my lips stung my whole mouth, but Jay was totally calm.
“This year I started practicing whenever my mom was at the doctor, and after a while I could do it whenever.” He grinned. “This is the first time I’ve done it outside. I was a little worried it wouldn’t happen.”
“How do you do it?”
He shook his head. “Beats me.”
“How, Jay? You have to teach me.”
“I don’t know how I do it.”
“You have to figure it out and you have to teach me. I’m your best friend.”
“I don’t know. Really.”
I wanted to shake him. I was so pissed he’d kept this from me, left me out. “Do it again.”
He groaned, but he stood.
“Are you going to get on the bench?”
“I don’t have to.” He closed his eyes. Then he said, “Wait. I want to see if I can do it with my eyes open.”
”Fine,” I said. “Cool.”
More seagulls arrived to float and stare. The wind picked up.
He wiggled his fingers and pushed his shoulders back. He stared out at the water until his eyes went dead. I did not blink. He lifted off the ground, then leaned forward like Superman. “Sweet,” he said.
I couldn’t believe this was happening even though I knew, I totally knew, that it was. I wanted to laugh so bad. I wanted Jay to laugh. I wanted it to be a joke, a trick. But it wasn’t. He was in the air, right in front of me. “So what did you do?”
“I forgot everything.”
“You just did it!”
“No, that’s how I do it. I forget everything. I clear my head and make it all disappear, even myself. Then I drift until something catches me.” Jay landed and said he’d talk me through it. He stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders.
“Close your eyes, but don’t force them closed, just let them rest.”
I closed my eyes.
“Now push everything in your head away. Your dad, me, school, Kate, whoever else you want to suck you off.” He removed his hands. “Push it as far away as you can.”
“What does that mean, Jay?”
“It means what it means. You wanted to know how I do it and I’m telling you.”
I pushed. I wrestled. I made things evaporate, I drowned them.
Jay spat. “You’re trying too hard.”
I opened my eyes. “Should I jump off the bench?”
“It’s not really about jumping. Try it again.”
I pushed against the wind and against the pier. I pushed against Jay and hated how it felt until I saw him telling everyone about this and all of them laughing. Instead of pushing him away I strangled him.
“Stop breathing so fast,” he said.
I took a deep breath and I lifted my arms. Nothing happened.
“You didn’t empty your head. Come on.”
There was no point. Nothing was going to happen. I was just going to embarrass myself. “I’m gonna head back,” I said.
“Why? Let’s stay out here a little longer.”
“You didn’t even do anything,” Jay said. “Just twenty more minutes.” He was glowing. He was big, bigger than me.
The wind had weakened, but there was something in the air I couldn’t trust, and I wanted to avoid it. “I gotta go.”
“Stay out here a little longer and then we’ll head back together. I’ve got leftover Chinese food.”
“I’m cool,” I said. “You fly home later.”
Jay shook his head. “I can move around a little, but it’s not like I can stop taking the bus.”
“What if you get caught?”
“I won’t get caught,” he said, “Unless I want to.”
“Well, don’t come spying on me. I don’t want to find you jacking off outside my window.”
“Why would I spy on you?” he said. “I wouldn’t do that. Your mom, maybe, but not you.”
There wasn’t one reason for him to spy on me. I didn’t do anything. I wouldn’t spy on me either.
I told him I’d catch him later.
“Tomorrow?” he said.
I wanted to ask why we should hang out. He didn’t even want to talk to me. We weren’t the same anymore. We hadn’t been the same for a while. If he could float, we hadn’t been the same ever.
“I’ll be doing stuff,” I said, “But you can come around if you want.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” I said. I walked down the pier and I didn’t look once to see if he was in the air or on the ground.