After that day on the roof, Tutto was never the same.
The most obvious change was that he didn’t stare at people anymore. When Patricia Gullan, a smart girl who excelled everyone in Physics, was twirling her fingers in class, solving problems that involved the right-hand rule, Tutto’s head was down, staring at his own hands as if they weren’t his; in Drama and Literature, when Ms. Wise was grouping her students together to prepare a presentation of a part of Oedipus Tyrannos, Tutto hid himself from the instructor’s view, eventually walking out of class when all the other classmates were busy discussing about their performances.
One gloomy winter Friday, when everyone was done for the week and all went back home, I climbed up to the roof of the school building when I was sure no one was around. I didn’t want to have to spread out dishonest excuses in front of Tutto anymore. The iron doors felt especially heavy that day, and I quickly found out why after I finally pushed them open. Tutto had stacked a pile of incredibly huge stones in front of the doors, and I had no idea how the skinny boy managed to carry these stones up to the roof in the first place.
Tutto Freeman was standing to the left of the doors, leaning against the low brick wall and looking out to the beyond. He didn’t even blink when I called his name, and neither did he respond when I walked up beside him.
I stood there in front of the brick walls, gazing out to the direction where I thought Tutto was staring at, though I was pretty sure I could never see what he was seeing. His face was expressionless, and his eyes dull, as if he hadn’t blinked for so long the colour of his eyes were fading. If his chest wasn’t rising and falling with the slow pattern of his breathing, I would have sworn that he was a standing corpse.
After staring out at the setting sun for some time, until I felt dazed by the bright red light of dusk, I turned to face Tutto.
“Tutto.” I started, but then I hesitated. He wasn’t going to answer me, I knew that. But was his soul attached to his body and the real world enough to even listen to me?
I licked my upper lip, suddenly thirsty. “I’m sorry.” I stared at him, studying him, seeing if he had heard what I said. We were standing less than a foot apart, and the school was so empty there was only the sound of the chilly winter wind. It wasn’t possible for him to not hear me, unless he had gone deaf.
Nevertheless, the tall boy didn’t move a muscle. The wind blew his light amber hair over his eyes, but he didn’t care. Apparently he wasn’t looking at anything physical. He was staring at an inner image, as if he were dreaming with his eyes open.
When the last golden ray disappeared behind the tall buildings far away, I cleared my throat and tried again.
“I know you’re angry at me.”
“I know I was acting like a jerk.”
“I know everything I did was wrong. But I don’t know one thing.” I ran a hand through my short, dark hair. I wasn’t used to awkward situations like this.
“I don’t know what I can do to make things right.”
I stopped, and studied the boy once more. His expression hadn’t changed, but his eyes were closed now. The moon was shining down from right above our heads, and under the milky moonlight, Tutto’s pale complexion seemed to glow silver. I felt as if I were watching someone transform into a ghost. I wondered if wandering souls were actually detached human beings who had trailed so far away from the real world they simply drifted off, falling apart into specks of molecular particles and travelling between our world and the world of their own fantasies.
I sighed and leaned my back to the brick wall, looking at my large runners. “I don’t know how I can be friends with you, and also maintain my friendship with the others.” This was something so honest I wondered if I had imagined saying it. I glanced at the boy beside me, who still hadn’t twitched a hair.
I took a deep breath, as a bungee jumper would when looking at the valley below, and continued. “I don’t want my friends to think different of me. They think I’m the popular guy, who would never sneak up to this roof and secretly make friends with…” My voice trailed off when I realized I didn’t know what how to refer to Tutto. Should I call him “Zombie-Boy?” Or should I say “people that are less popular?” Anything I said would have insulted him. Maybe being honest isn’t always the best policy.
“Anyway, they would start to think I’m weird. And I’m scared of that. I’m scared of being excluded again.” I bit my lower lip. I was talking way more than I expected, and I didn’t know what my conclusion would be.
“But of course you’re already thinking I’m weird, right?” I laughed slightly, but when Tutto didn’t join in, I stopped abruptly. An extremely uncomfortable silence fell upon us. I was now counting the amount of dirt patches that stained my shoes. Tutto was still standing beside me motionlessly, his eyes closed and his mind already wandering around who-knows-where. The chilly wind was gaining strength, and each blow was like a flying snowball, hitting me in the face and leaving painful red specks that would eventually turn into rashes. Somewhere up in the night sky, an invisible crow cawed aggressively, its cry so angry it seemed to fill up the entire atmosphere above.
I turned over and leaned against the brick wall, as Tutto was doing. I had just discovered that there were seventeen dirt patches on my left shoe, and fifteen on my right. The uneasiness between Tutto Freeman and I was so intense it felt strong enough to crack the wall we were leaning on.
“Are you really gonna go on and not talk to anyone at all?” I was facing him, looking sternly at him. His silence was starting to irritate me.
Tutto’s breathing was light and slow, as if he were sleeping. With his eyes closed and his face so emotionless, I wouldn’t doubt if he really were. But I knew he was still there, shut up inside the tall pile of flesh and bones, unwilling to move or respond to anything. He was listening to me talking. He would let me say whatever I had to say, but he would never open his mouth and say something back again. He wouldn’t be singing and dancing and telling me the stories his father had told him anymore. He had protected me as his angel. He had put his faith in me as a friend. But he was hurt by me as well. He was hurt so badly that he decided to completely lock himself up in his own world. He decided that the world outside was too dangerous and unpredictable, and that it was never a good idea to expose himself to me.
He had trusted me, but I had let him down. And now he had learned not to trust anyone anymore.
“I’m horrible.” I admitted loudly, so that even the stars up above winked at each other, gossiping. “I’m a horrible person who you never should have trusted. Why did you choose to trust me in the first place? I’m nobody to you. If you’re such a psychic, why couldn’t you have sensed that I was someone whose personality consists of nothing but lies? Why couldn’t you have detected my left eye twitching every time I’m forcing out that stupid smile, or trying my best to talk in my so-called buddies’ language, or even when I’m dating with Leona? I’ve never been an honest person, and I know you should be able to know that. In fact, I believe I’m the most dishonest person in the whole universe! I can’t even be true to my own parents. I pretend that I’m their perfect son that they can be so proud of. I pretend to be my sister’s loving big brother, even when it annoys me whenever she comes looking for help with some stupid eight-year-old crap. I pretend that I’m the popular guy who’s always happy to be around people, when all I want is to be left alone. I even pretend that I’m in love with my girlfriend, when I don’t even want to be stuck with someone like her for the rest of my life.”
Tutto’s eyes suddenly shot wide open. He turned his head to face me, frowning at me as if telling me to shut up. I didn’t care.
“Yeah. I don’t love Leona. I don’t think I really even like her at all. I don’t know why I started dating her in the first place.”
Tutto’s lips stretched into a thin line as his eyebrows frowned even more. He seemed to really care about my insulting Leona.
“But why the heck am I telling you all this?” I threw him a frown of my own, showing him that I didn’t give a damn what he thought about what I was saying. “You wouldn’t even believe me because I’m so dishonest I might not even be telling the truth right now. Maybe everything I had just said was all a huge heap of goddamn lies.”
I turned and walked away without even looking at Tutto Freeman. He wouldn’t accept my apology, so I didn’t want to care anymore. So what if our friendship was over? That would make it easier for me to be with my buddies.
It also helped me make a decision about something that had been haunting my head the whole day.
-羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo