There are two things that make me absurdly happy about this passage. See if you can guess what they are.
I glanced around the room, not wanting to meet Piper’s concern-filled eyes. An old man was sitting in an easy chair beside the window, wearing a hat. He looked like he had several lucky grandchildren who got told exciting stories and pushed high on the rope swing in the front yard. He was reading a newspaper, half his face obscured by a front page bearing “Girl Eats Apple in Apple Store.” It must have been a slow news day. I was making up a life for this man (his name is Arnold and his wife is named Esther and they have a cat and a piano) when Piper touched my hand.
I almost jumped out of my skin. I have a problem: I don’t like being touched. Admitting it is the first step. I just wasn’t expecting that and it freaked me out a little bit. Piper recoiled at once when I reacted like a spooked horse. His eyes were big. He didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t his fault; I wouldn’t have known what to do with me either. I’m all over the map lately. I’m an absolute nightmare to be around. See what you’ve done to me, you bastard?
“Matt, I-” He paused to swallow. “How are you dealing with all of this?”
“Can we go? Can we just go, please?” My voice was really quiet. Kevin, you know that when you’re in a small space (a restaurant, the school lounge, what have you) and someone beside you is having a juicy conversation, and the harder you try not to listen the more you hear. I didn’t want to be that person, the ‘yes, finally something interesting to eavesdrop on’ for these caffeinated and recycling obsessed people. I needed out of there, and I needed it right then.
“Yeah, yeah, let’s go.” He bussed our mugs as I booked it for the door, needing to taste that cold mist and not be surrounded on every side by… ah, that’s better. Piper joined me on the grey sidewalk, saying, “C’mon,” nodding his head to the side. I followed him down a block, across a street, and then there was this stretch of water in front of us. That was unexpected.
“I’m sorry, I just…”
“Baby, there’s no need to apologize,” Piper instantly reassured me. “I essentially dragged you from the apartment merely an hour ago. Restlessness seems to be our theme. I completely understand.”
“Jesus, this last month has been shit for you, huh?”
“To put it lightly.”
“So, how are you dealing with all this stuff?”
“I ran away to come live with my brother.”
“Pipe, I can’t talk about this anymore or I will run and jump in that kind of dirty looking canal and never come back. And then you’ll have to deal with a very angry roommate. Tell me something happy.”
“Sometimes I pretend that your brother is Ron Weasley.”
I let this sink in for a few seconds before dissolving into a small fit of smiling. “Would that make you Harry Potter?”
“No. Girl please, that kid is obnoxious. I’m just Ron’s hot roommate. But I think it would be cool to live with him, so… yeah. Don’t tell him.”
“You said you wanted something happy, and what’s happier than a British ginger?”
“Not much,” I conceded.