Monday Cash missed school. He showed up on Tuesday with a doctor's note. He's hard to miss nowadays. With the height and long grudge-inspired red hair. Same with his outfit. Gun and Roses' t-shirt, torn jeans, dirty high tops, flannel at the waist. Leather on his back. No backpack though. In between first and second period, Jade Marchant is cutting through a thick patch of crowded girls when he feels something take his arm, gently but firmly. And it's Cash, of all fucking people. "Jay, I got this fucking amazing weed--" He begins, squatting to keep close and quiet. "Plus, I have a bottle of unopened vodka and..." He looks around. No one is listening "Smack. Real fucking dope. I know you party." Cash isn't much of one. He avoids social events anyway and he's not a known waste case. "And I think we might have some bad blood?" He has no idea. "So, let's skip and go to the park and get wasted man. Don't make me go alone."
Jade's eyes narrow. That countenance that can look so angelic can turn pure demon so easily. "Yeah, we got bad blood," he says bluntly. But Cash is talking about smack. Jade should be suspicious, and he is, but the promise of smack has him at least willing to say, "Fine, let's skip. But if you're lying to me about the dope, I'll punch you in the fucking dick." At least one need not wonder where one stands with Jade Marchant. There's honesty in his volitility.
Jade can be so petty and mean that Cash, clueless as ever, waves it off. "I'm not lying. I had to go to Phoenix yesterday for some shit and I got hooked up. And I know it's good. Come on." Out of the quiet side doors near the cafeteria and into the senior parking lot. Cash's black Buick stands out. It's clean, fresh wash. And it shines. Inside the car, on the massive backseat and hanging into the floorboards is a big blanket. "There's beer in a cooler down there. I won't drink and drive so help yourself. We're just heading to Rotary." He turns the engine over and Melissa Etheridge is ending one song and starting into, 'I'm the Only One'. Which Cash knows all the words too. He always knows the lyrics.
Jade hesitates, then grabs himself a beer. He holds it below the window, so no one driving by will see he's got it. "Since when do you do smack?" he says. "That's for rolling with the big boys. Are you sure you're ready for that kind of wild ride?" He glances out the window, watching for cop cars so he can steal swallows of beer without getting caught. Not that he'd get in trouble. They'd probably just call Mommy or Daddy.
"No junk, no soul." Cash replies. "Yesterday was just a shitty day and Kurt Cobain does it and he's awesome and it's popular with musician and models, I mean, that Calvin Klein ad with Kate Moss? She looked half dead but people loved it." He pauses to flip his sunglasses down from the visor and at a stop light, he removes a little pink triangle pin from the visor and attaches it to his jacket. "I'm not going to make a whole fucking junk habit. Just something. For the edge. I all edges today."
Jade rolls his eyes and says, "You're not going to start a junk habit. You'll OD within a week. Then we'll have to watch a fucking movie at school about how drugs are bad." He eyes the triangle pin and curls his lip in disgust, looking away again. "People don't do heroin to be popular. They do it because they need to numb out. You don't have any reason to numb out."
"I don't?" Cash says, briefly looking at Jade and meeting his eyes. The eye contact was a mistake, broken to keep his eyes on the road. "I have no need to numb out. Okay. We can make assumptions about one another all day or we can like, be straight with each other. I honestly don't care that much. I'm used to people hating me for one reason or another. I'm an asshole. I have an excuse now but...it's not an excuse. I just...don't want to be in my skin all day long right now. It's defective bag of meat." And Cash sings along with his mixtape, tapping the steering wheel with his thumbs non-stop. But the time they get to the park, he's starting to rock a little but he stops with the car and keeps moving, chewing his lip. Blanket, cooler, an old backpack and sunscreen.
Jade gets out of the car and follows after. "So you get your happily ever after and you've pulled me out of school to talk about how you're the poor unfortunate with the bad life?" he says. "I'm pissed at you because you have no self-control. You get your panties in a wad and just yell out in public if I'm fucking your boyfriend. Like what did I do to get humiliated like that? Then you tell me all about how wonderful it was with him /trying to get me to feel sorry for you/ so you're rubbing /that/ in my face when you know damn well I don't have anyone. Then... and here's the kicker, you tell him you hope he dies of AIDS and he takes you back. Maybe I liked him. Maybe I was thinking of coming out. Maybe I fucking hate you both and hope your dicks fall off."
Cash had moved to the trunk when Jade started up. He stops, drops everything into the trunk and listens. By the end, he looks terribly guilty and when he speaks, his voice is soft and small. "Nothing lasts forever. I'm getting a happy now because who knows what will happen after graduation, right? He might go back to California and I might not have a choice but to work for my Dad." He close the trunk and sits on it. "Fuck, uh...I wasn't trying to rub anything in your face. At that point, I wasn't prepared to let Hector wear me down. I just wanted to help you feel better about relationships with guys but showing you a nice example."
"I don't want need pity from you. I have plenty of it ahead in my life, okay? A-A-And if you like Hector, tell him. Let him make his own choices. He's a big boy. You're yelling at me for things I didn't know and you've known me long enough to know I don't just pick up on things when they are personal to me. Hector wore me down and...we all need to be loved. And after I came home, I didn't get a lot of that. School's all cold shoulders and whispers. After being rejected by someone I trusted, put in handcuffs and involuntarily committed for seventy-two hours. So yeah, I was really, really fucking mean to Hector. Only because I knew how to hurt him. Empathy has a dark side, you know? A-A-And, lastly, Jaden...I would have kicked his ass to the curb for you. I don't care like that. I'm used to being alone in love. It's okay."
After a few quiet moments, "Wait. Back up? What about Amanda in Paris?"
Jade folds his arms over his chest and says in a low tone, "Don't make me say it when you /know/ the truth about it, and if you ever breathe a word about it, I'll never forgive you. There is no Amanda. I made her up so people wouldn't think I was pathetic. I mean it, if you tell anyone, you're dead to me."
He sighs and sits down on the blanket. "I told Hector I hate him, and he said that's fair. He said he'd make it up to me and I told him to see that he did." He shrugs. "I don't even know if I'm ready to think about something like that, and in a few months I'm going to New York anyway."
"I believed you." Cash says, turning red up to his ears. "I believed you about Amanda. I don't know why someone would lie about something so little." Cash is legit confused and his pale brows knit to figure it out. "I'm not going to tell anyone though. I don't tell secrets. And who would I even tell? I lost all my friends after I ran away." He shrugs and looks at the ground, quiet for a moment. "The whole world is mad at me and I was getting used to it. When Hector showed up, it was like the reason my life was a mess was right there. He was so sorry and yeah, it wore me down. I trust him again." Cash is extremely trusting, gullible but fortunately self aware enough to think twice about things that might be shady. "And I shouldn't. He's done nothing to really earn it back but...be nice to me when I didn't deserve it." He plays with a lock of his hair and rocks back and forth, slowly. "And like you said, after graduation, everyone is going out into the wind. I haven't even applied for a school yet. I can't choose if I want to continue on the radio or really put more into my own music."
He shrugs off his jacket and picks up the fanny pack. The cooler is full of beer and pricey vodka. The fanny pack is a junkie's kit. "I have some kinda disorder. Went to Phoenix for my final results. It's not deadly or anything. It just makes me so fucking weird. Now I don't even know if college is right for me. I should be an electrician." He starts going about setting up his needle of dope.
Jade watches, fixated as Cash sets up the needle. "You shouldn't take that stuff," he says. "Don't get addicted to heroin, Cash. Think about what it would do to Ashley, to have to take care of a junkie brother. Think about Hector. That shit ruins everything. So what if you're fucking weird? If you want to go to college, apply to go to college. If you don't, then don't. You've got people who really care about you. Why do you want to do something really dumb like become a junkie? Right after you get something I'd kill to have, you're still feeling sorry for yourself." He gets to his feet. "If you're going to shoot up, I'm going to go back to school."
Cash puts the needle, dope and all the trappings back in the fanny pack, very deliberately. It gets tossed in the trunk he was sitting on. "I'll dispose of it all properly." He sits on the blanket with Jade and then remembers to put sunscreen on his face. This is when the sunglasses come off too. "You invoked Ashley." He explains. "Even though she might move too. Go to college and be awesome there while I'm still laying linoleum." He seems to consider the vodka. He has to drive home at some point. But not right now. He has some plain white cups and pours himself a drink and then passes it to Jade. "But I know that no matter what, Ashley will always be my sister and she will always care. So."
"I've spent my whole life feeling like I was offbeat. Everyone is dancing and it's all so easy to them and I can't figure out the rhythm. Even with a partner. I keep trying to step in but, I fail. I failed when I ran away. I failed you. I failed Spear and James. It's only high school. My uncle says that to me. It doesn't matter in the long game. It just matters now. And it hurts now. And I am always going to be offbeat so...I feel hopeless, okay? Jade...you know you aren't the like, the only sad, miserable kid in the world. There are others and we can help one another.
Jade takes the cup. "If you don't want to fail me, Cash, stop yelling in public about who I'm fucking. Just because you're mad doesn't mean you get to humiliate people. It doesn't give you permission to rub it in their faces that they're fucking alone. And, Christ, don't take it all so hard. It's life. It sucks. Everyone's got their shit. So you're offbeat. So what?"
He shrugs and drinks from the cup, then he says, "I can't even be miserable without it getting co-opted. Look, just let me be unhappy. Don't come at me with all the romance and shit and say 'my life sucks too.' Because that's the kind of thing that's going to piss me off. I never asked for a lecture on how everyone's life sucks. Fuck, I can't even do heroin without someone trying to take that from me, too."
"You just took heroin from me." Cash says, blinking and again, confused. "I mean well, okay? Just.." He throws up his hand. "You remember that. I mean well. I mean the best for you and...everyone. I don't want you to mope and be sad. You have a perfectly good reason to feel however but I /just want to help./" He takes a swig from his cup. "B-But, dude, If wanna mope and be sad, you should fucking let me too. Same god damn courtesy. and I have a f-f-fucking reason too! You think because Hector and I are dating that my life is sunshine and rainbows and Lisa Frank unicorns? No. I'm still--me." He says with real derision. "My whole life is on hold because what I have is kinda...new? Or a new name and rules for an old thing. They want to keep me talking about it. Point is...can we just drink and be miserable queers together instead of fighting because of some guy who will probably bail before the ink is dry on his diploma."
Jade sighs and says, "I don't think your life is sunshine and rainbows and Lisa Frank unicorns. But you do have sunshine and rainbows, and you shouldn't forget about them. If you want to be miserable, fine, be miserable. But you've got something good, and it would be stupid not to enjoy it while it lasts. And since you're so unhappy and your life is so unbearable, I won't tell you my problems anymore. I get it. You got your own shit."
"You are more stupid and more stubborn than me. And I'm a Freeland." Cash says, shifting a bit. He takes a moment, now, to form his words. "There is this thing hanging over my head. It's my brain. It's wired differently. I knew that, always have. But it's hard to hear a professional say, yeah, your brain is very different and that's that. That's one side. The other is...I love Hector and I am trusting him even though he broke my heart in a million pieces. Outside looking in? Yeah, that's nothing to you. But Jaden Marchant, if you learn nothing else from me, learn empathy. Learn empathy. I'm going to stare at the water before I start freaking out." And Cash gets up and walks off. He'll be back. He'll be calm and contrite and full of apologies.