Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You (7 page)

BOOK: Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You
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Built on the first three days of summer vacation between second and third grade. All white. Even Darren's mom recognized what it was, though it was a lot more circular than the real
Millennium Falcon
. Nate took a picture of it and sent it to the website of this guy who posts pictures of things people have built from
Star Wars
, but it never got posted, probably because the guy stopped updating the site around then.


Built near the end of fourth grade. White and red blade. Black and yellow handle. Wound up having to make the blade shorter than he wanted to, because it kept breaking when he swung it. Nate smashed it over Darren's shoulder after Darren accidentally stabbed Nate in the stomach with it harder than he meant to.


Built Thanksgiving weekend of fifth grade. Two small mountain ranges, two peaks on one side, three on the other, with a thin river winding between them. Everything on a 2' x 2' green platform. River blue, mountains black. Two were snow-capped. Some green bushes near the river, plus a yellow animal that was either a small bear or a large beaver. His parents' all-time favorite.


Built Labor Day right before sixth grade. The day before Darren and his mom went with Nate to shop for actual guitars. Nate wanted a red Gibson, but it was about three times as much as he could afford. He bought a tan Ibañez instead. So Darren made him a Gibson out of Legos. Red body, black pick guard, some white dials, and a black neck. The neck had to be shorter than Darren wanted it to be, because it kept breaking. Nate called it “totally sick” and kept it in his room until he went off to school. It's actually still in his room; he just didn't take it with him to college, obviously.


Built in the spring of ninth grade, the night after his parents told him they were getting separated. Just a small white cube with a single black piece near one of the corners. Darren sort of knew it would be the last thing he ever built out of Legos, at least for a long time, maybe even forever, unless he somehow has kids of his own someday. Still sits on his dresser back home.

Things Darren Does with a Particular Book After Putting Away the Legos Bin and Changing into His Outfit for the Concert but Before Showing Up at School


After leaving a note for his dad, Darren was planning to just walk right out the door, only something stops him near the shelf by the stereo. He scans the titles quickly and for some reason grabs
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.


He buries it pretty deep inside, below some papers and folders and a sweatshirt that's been in there for about two weeks now. Then he's out the door and waiting for the bus again.

He gets on the bus and thinks about looking at the book but doesn't. Though he does sort of realize that it might mean something that the book is even in his backpack at all.

He gets off one stop before school and walks half a block to Super Burrito. Orders a vegetarian burrito and a Sprite. Sits down at a table near the back. Looks around to make sure no one is watching and




Which is just of a bunch of perfectly straight rows of slender trees with bright yellow leaves that have started to fall, so the ground is bright yellow too. It's beautiful in a sort of impossible way.


In particular, the picture of the author, who is a middle-aged woman but who looks more like an old boy, and whose expression is kind of friendly and sad and neutral all at the same time, and whose name is somehow Pema Chödrön, even though she's American.


When they call out that his burrito is ready. But then, when he gets back to his table, he




Darren is pretty determined not to actually read it. He's just holding the edge of it with his right thumb (his left hand is busy with the burrito) and flipping through the pages. Maybe he's hoping for a useful summary of his dad or his own situation or the whole entire world to appear to him highlighted in very simple language on page seventy-four or something.

But despite his mostly purposeless flipping, he can't help but read various phrases. Stuff like “we automatically hate them” and “to live fully” and “willing to die” and “save the world” and “a very vulnerable and tender place” and “as human beings” and even one entire sentence: “The student warrior stood on one side and fear stood on the other.”

Darren chews and swallows and lets his eyes pass over fragments of whatever it is this Pema woman has to say. He's not sure he really learns anything in particular by reading it this way, but this one thought comes to him very clearly when he finally


Which is that he's fifteen and sitting all by himself in Super Burrito, having a burrito. With this book. This book that belongs to his gay dad. Which feels like a meaningful thought to him.


And throws out his can and the last third of his burrito, because his appetite isn't all that great right now, and walks the rest of the way to school.

Lies in the Note Darren Left for His Dad

 Mr. Keyes told them they had to come in a half hour early to rehearse a couple of songs some more.

 Edie Ross is going to pick him up and take him back to school.

Members of the North High Jazz Ensemble

 Daniel Waxman, drums

 Edie Ross, piano

 Darren Jacobs, bass

 Chris McMaster, trombone

 Timothy Marx, trombone

 Maggie Block, trumpet

 Kurt Phillips, trumpet

 Asher Lipshitz, alto sax

 Kelly Meyer, alto sax

 Noam Levitsky, tenor sax

 Ariel Berger, tenor sax

 Bella McMutely, baritone sax

Elements That Every Single Caricature Artist in the Entire World Would Focus On in His/Her Drawing of Mr. Keyes

 Thick head of black, almost curly hair

 Round glasses, top half of lenses tinted

 Well-trimmed mustache

Songs Played by the Ensemble during Their Spring Concert


Mr. Keyes snaps them in with some syncopated snapping, his snapping hand up by his head. The crowd isn't that big, but Darren doesn't care. Plus seeing everyone in the ensemble wearing black pants and a white shirt almost makes him happy. Because it really does help everyone focus, something he could tell a couple of minutes earlier just by the way Chris McMaster sprayed lubricant on his trombone and then moved the slide back and forth quickly to see if he sprayed enough.

They open with “Moanin' ” because Maggie always plays an awesome solo on it. And so of course Darren watches her when she solos; everyone does. Only this time, even though he's playing right along with her, he isn't paying much attention to the actual music. Because she looks even better now than she did at rehearsal, and she must know this, which has Darren wondering, why did she wait so long to do whatever she did to her hair? Plus she must be using some new skin cream, because there's barely any acne on her cheeks.

All of which means that she's now actually hot and not just kind of attractive in a weird way.

Not to mention, she's playing extremely well, even for her.


A lot of people wouldn't want to play the bass, because you wind up playing a lot of the same notes over and over. Plus no one pays any attention to you. But Darren doesn't care much about that second part. And as for the first, there's actually something cool about it. Because Darren can just stand there, moving only his fingers, his left hand, and his right foot, which he taps at the exact same rhythm Mr. Keyes snaps them in at, and still be able to think about other stuff.

Only in this case, that other stuff is pretty much just: The guy near the aisle in the fifth row is gay.

And: The guy near the aisle in the fifth row is my dad.


Darren's trying really hard not to keep thinking those thoughts, but it's tough. Especially when his dad is sitting right there smiling at him and looking so damn happy.

Darren tries focusing on Daniel Waxman's foot, which is bouncing up and down on the bass drum pedal. He tries focusing on Ariel Berger and Noam Levitsky soloing back and forth, the two of them almost giggling for some reason.

But nothing works, because Darren can't avoid realizing that he really doesn't want to go to Ann Arbor with his dad tomorrow.

He really, really, really doesn't.


Finally, out of almost nowhere, something gets him to stop worrying about having to go to Ann Arbor with his dad tomorrow. It's that Darren is stupid for telling Mr. Keyes that he doesn't want to take a real solo at the beginning of “Footprints.” Because he could totally solo as good as most everyone here, except for maybe Maggie, who is totally on fire.

So Darren starts trying to get Mr. Keyes's attention, which is pretty impossible, considering Darren can only use his eyebrows and head for this purpose. Daniel Waxman does take a short drum solo near the end, but it's not long enough for Darren to actually walk over to Mr. Keyes.

As soon as the song ends, Darren quickly puts down his bass and hurries over to Mr. Keyes, who doesn't see Darren until he's right next to him.

“Hey,” Darren sort of whispers, “can I have eight measures?”

Mr. Keyes slowly smiles and nods his head a couple times.

“Thanks,” Darren says, and pretty much runs back to his bass. He lifts up the instrument and puts the strap over his head and onto his neck and shoulder.

And waits for Mr. Keyes to snap him in.


About two notes into his solo, Darren's eyes are closed. Not that he decided to close them. Still, he can feel everyone else's eyes, including Mr. Keyes's, his dad's, and Maggie's, looking at him. Which is kind of cool.

Not to mention, he got off to a really good start by playing these ascending notes that are not the actual ascending notes of the song, and this, combined with everyone's eyes, somehow helps him play even better.

Better in the sense of Darren suddenly doing things he's never done before, like going down near the pickups with about three measures left. He's almost playing the actual opening, but not yet, which he can tell the rest of the ensemble thinks is unbelievably cool. He can picture, without even trying to, Mr. Keyes giving him a big slap on the back after the concert ends.

These last two measures are pretty insane, because Darren both knows and doesn't know exactly how the next few seconds are going to sound, which might mean that part of him knows and part of him doesn't, and that definitely means that every note is somehow exactly the right note, even though he didn't really know it was going to be until he played it.

Right as he ends, the rest of the ensemble jumps in and the crowd goes absolutely bananas. Darren feels what a tightrope walker must feel when he gets to the platform at the other end of the tightrope (if he had just walked on a wire over a pool of alligators and wasn't allowed to breathe the whole time and there were a dozen people waiting on the platform to hug him with all their might the second he arrives because they were worried, truly worried, that he was going to fall off and be eaten alive by the alligators).

Darren opens his eyes. His dad is even happier than before.


Darren experiences the last five minutes of the previous song and the first six minutes of this one in a “holy crap” post-solo fog.

At some point the song ends.

People whistle loudly.

Someone shouts, “Whooooo!”

A number of people scream, “Encore! Encore! Encore!”

Someone, maybe the “Whooooo!” person, shouts, “Yeah!”

The horn players are giving one another high fives.

Edie Ross's baby brother is crying.

Mr. Keyes gives them the signal to bow.

They bow.

People Who Volunteer, in This Order, to Move the Piano Back to the Band Room After the Concert Ends

 Darren Jacobs

 Maggie Block

Interesting Seconds That Pass Both Slow and Fast Immediately After Maggie Accidentally or on Purpose Puts Her Right Hand on Darren's Left Hand Just Before They Finish Pushing the Piano against the Wall

 Kissing, mouths closed

 Kissing, mouths open

 Kissing, with tongue

 Kissing, with tongue, and hugging

 Kissing, with tongue, hugging, and Maggie leaning her chest into Darren

 Kissing, with tongue, hugging, and Maggie leaning her chest into Darren, who takes a half step back until his butt hits the piano

BOOK: Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You
12.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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