Chapter 1: On the Edge
People here know me as Aiden, but that’s not my name. I chose it when I came to this town. Part of my new beginning. That’s one of the advantages of coming to a new place. Nobody knows who you are, so you can be anyone you want. What I wanted to be was organized but laid back, and Aiden sounded like the name of someone who displayed those qualities. Approachable. Safe.
In class I pretty much fade into the background. I try to sit in the middle, but not the exact middle. Maybe a little back. I don’t like people sitting behind me, but if I sit too far back I have a hard time paying attention. That creepy feeling of having someone staring at the back of my head keeps me alert. On edge. And that’s important. Never lose your edge. That’s when things start to fall into chaos and you lose control.
At the gym, nobody knows me, and that’s fine too. I like the idea of coming in each morning like a ghost, working out, then leaving without anybody seeing me. When I walk by, maybe someone notices the momentary change in temperature, and then nothing. I work out to maintain my sanity, and part of keeping my sanity is spending time not being noticed. If I could afford to have decent equipment in my own space that would be great, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. So I wake up early and go to the university gym and try to avoid eye contact with anyone there. In the shower I find a corner and turn my back to everyone and pretend they aren’t there. I turn up the shower as hot as I can stand it. Sometimes a little higher. It feels like I’m burning off a layer of skin and starting with a fresh one. A new person for a new day. The Gravedigger says you have to die to live, and I try to live every day.
When I get back to the apartment Brooke is still asleep. I love watching her lying there with her mind in another world. There’s something so sweet and vulnerable about that. Sometimes I put my face up next to hers and breathe in when she exhales, then breathe out when she inhales. We breathe the same air. I suppose if you did that long enough you could die. Suffocate. But I like the bonding feel of it. Like I’m inside her body, a spirit moving in and out. Sometimes I feel very close to Brooke, but sometimes she’s so stubborn, so independent, and it just drives me crazy. I like things to stay calm, I don’t like it when she fights or argues. It’s such a waste of time. I can’t help but think, we’ve only got so long on this planet, why waste it with arguing. It really puts me in the wrong frame of mind.
Sometimes I climb back into bed with her, but this morning I have an early class and I don’t like to be late. I don’t like other people to be late either, which is another problem Brooke has. I’ve talked to her about it and tried to let her know how I feel about it, which I think is really important in a relationship. You have to let other people know how you feel. Sometimes it’s hard to know how you feel. One trick I’ve learned is to look around at other people and see how they’re reacting to me, and then I figure out what I’m feeling based on that reaction. It took me a long time to learn that. People can be very hard to figure out. They can really get on my nerves, but I try to stay friendly and calm around them. It avoids a lot of problems.
On the way to class I see Van. He lives next door to us so I bump into him all the time on the way to class and back. That’s how I got to know him. After you talk to a person enough times you go from acquaintance to knowing them. And once you know them you can just stop and talk when you see them and it isn’t as weird. They react ok. Van is pretty easy to talk to because he’s completely mundane. He never says anything interesting or challenging so you can just go on autopilot and nod and say “uh huh” when he talks. I do that with Brooke sometimes too but she notices and gets mad. Van either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.
The first time I met him was when I was moving in to my place and he was moving in to his place and we kept passing each other and finally he came up to me and told me he was Evan but everyone calls him Van and I should come over for a beer when we’re done moving our stuff. I said sure but then I blew him off because the idea of trying to come up with things to talk about was a bit overwhelming. But then we’d see each other all the time and he would talk and I would nod and say “uh huh” and so now I’m more comfortable around him. Then Brooke moved in with me second semester and Van became friends with both of us and started coming over and hanging out from time to time. I don’t like that much, but Brooke forgets to argue with me when Van is over because it’s a new person to debate with and I’m off the hook for a while, so I guess it’s not all bad. Still, there’s something about it I don’t like. I see that look in her eye when she looks at him. It’s something I’ll need to address at some point. I don’t want to have to do that, but I know it’s going to happen. Some things are out of your control.
Read the rest, buy the book at Amazon