“Do you ever wonder how it would feel?” He was looking over the edge of the rooftop, frowning down at the asphalt and the spotted concrete and the zombie people. Bee’s eyes were saucers; glazed over from the blunt, they trembled and shook and considered Caden with a profound urgency, and for a moment Caden felt that the scrawny boy really understood, that he finally saw through his delusions of the existence of humanity, past the faux smiles on the faces of those zombie people mulling aimlessly about thirty stories below.
Then, with a vapid shake of his head, Bee offered a pale hand. He hesitated for a second, then took it; the boy’s fingers were warm against his own and felt like the color yellow: soft and questioning and pristine. “Why are you so sad?”
But it wasn’t a question—it was a challenge. He was doing that thing with his eyes again, how they’d look at Caden—really look, and gently peel him apart piece by piece until they found exactly what it was they were looking for, found the ghosts and the demons lurking inside each cell, each fiber that made Caden Caden. Bee looked and dared him to lie with such overt confidence, as if saying I see you.
Why was he so sad? A bitter laugh seeped from his lips and he shrugged, glared down at the sidewalk, imaging how he might look spread across the faded grey. Why was he so sad? Why was he so sad?
Why was he so sad? Why was he so sad? Why was he so sad? The more he thought about it, the more cryptic the question was. He didn’t know why he was sad—in fact, he wasn’t sure if he was sad, or angry, or upset or anything. He didn’t feel anything, just a numbness that invaded what was supposed to have been his heart but had long since died and morphed into something insidious, black, and horribly deformed. His heart wasn’t human anymore and neither was he.
Bee squeezed his hand, and suddenly he was back on the rooftop. The evening had developed into a clear, warm night; from up here they could see the stars and the skyline, the mountains lined up neatly along the horizon. Lined up like solders, like a war, like death, like jumping, like landing—no, splatting—no, no, like, like…
“I’m not scared.” Caden dared, tugging Bee backwards, away from the ledge. He complied without protest, humming absent-mindedly as he followed the other back down the creaky staircase through the murky stairwell, past the furniture draped in dusty white sheets, past the portraits of old men frozen in a state of utter depression.
A few days later Bee asked again: “Why are you so sad?”
This wasn’t satisfactory. “You are.” Bee leaned in close to Caden’s face, placing two slight fingers beneath the man’s chin to keep their faces level as he carefully inspected, analyzed. “Okay.” He said suddenly, reeling back and plopping ungracefully on the bed. “Why are you so happy?”
“Because…I have you?” And it was a question. They’d ever established anything before, and he was suddenly very curious. He wanted to know.
Bee’s brows collapsed over his eyes and he frowned. “No.”
“I mean, no—besides that.”
Oh. There was not a point in trying to conceal the grin shattering his face; laughter bubbled up from inside and again he shrugged, shaking his head slightly and replying in a light tone, “That’s the only reason. Do I need another?”
“Can I have more than yes or no answers?”
Bee rested his cheek against his pillow, wrapping himself up beneath the blankets. He’d gotten ready for bed ages ago, and had decided on his favorite pair of pajamas tonight: the Winnie-the-Pooh pair, complete with hunny pots and heffalumps galore. Looking like the equivalent of a small child, he brought the blankets around his shoulders, peering to Caden (who hadn’t even taken off his shoes since coming home from Tony’s) with tired eyes. He shook his head. “No.”
With a grunt, he lifted himself up from his chair and crossed the room. He curled up comfortably beside Bee, smoothing out a few strand of unruly hair. “That’s the only reason.” He repeated in a whisper.
“Not good enough.”
“It’s good enough for me.”
“I’m not sad.”
“More things should make you happy. Otherwise, you’re sad.” And then gruffily, “What if I died?”