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Turtles All the Way Down(13)
Author: John Green

“It’s just such an odd response to my fiction. Like, okay, follow the thread of thoughts with me: ‘I really enjoyed this story about Rey and Chewbacca’s romantic adventure scavenging a wrecked Tulgah spaceship on Endor in search of the famed Tulgah patience potion; as a thank-you, I believe I will send the author of that story a photograph of my dick.’ How do you get from A to B, Holmesy?”

“Boys are gross,” I said. “Everyone is gross. People and their gross bodies; it all makes me want to barf.”

“Probably just some loser Kylo stan,” she mumbled. I had no understanding of her fan-fiction language.

“Please can we talk about something else.”

“Fine. During my break at work, I became an expert in wills. So, get this: You can’t actually leave any money to a nonhuman animal when you die, but you can leave all your money to a corporation that exists solely to benefit a nonhuman animal. Basically, the state of Indiana doesn’t consider pets people, but it does consider corporations people. So Pickett’s money would all go to a company that benefits the tuatara. And it turns out you don’t have to leave your kids anything when you die. No matter how rich you are—not a house, not college money, nothing.”

“What happens if their dad goes to prison?”

“They’d get a guardian. Maybe the house manager or a family member or something, and that person would get money to pay the kids’ expenses. If finding fugitives doesn’t work out for me as a career, I might get into guardianship of billionaire children.

“Okay, you start putting together background files on the case and the Pickett family. I’m gonna get the police report and also do my calc homework, because there are only so many hours in a day and I have to spend too many of them at Chuck E. Cheese.”

“How are you going to get a copy of the police report, anyway?”

“Oh, you know. Wiles,” she said.

I happened to be friends with Davis Pickett on Facebook, and while his profile was a long-abandoned ghost town, it did provide me with one of his usernames—dallgoodman, which led to an Instagram.

The Instagram contained no real pictures, only quotes rendered in typewritery fonts with soft-focused, crumpled-paper backgrounds. The first one, posted two years ago, was from Charlotte Brontë. “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

The most recent quote was, “He who doesn’t fear death dies only once,” which I thought was maybe some veiled reference to his father, but I couldn’t unpack it. (For the record, he who does fear death also dies only once, but whatever.)

Scrolling through the quotes, I noticed a few users who consistently liked Davis’s posts, including one, anniebellcheers, whose feed was mostly cheerleading pictures until I scrolled back more than a year and found a series of pictures of her with Davis, featuring a lot of heart emojis.

Their relationship seemed to have started the summer between ninth and tenth grades and lasted a few months. Her Instagram profile had a link to her Twitter, where she was still following a user named nkogneato, which turned out to be Davis’s Twitter handle—I knew because he’d posted a picture of his brother doing a cannonball into their pool.

The nkogneato username led me to a YouTube profile—the user seemed to like mostly basketball highlights and those really long videos where you watch someone play a video game—and then eventually, after scrolling through many pages of search results, to a blog.

At first, I couldn’t tell for sure if the blog was Davis’s. Each post began with a quote and then featured a short little paragraph that was never quite autobiographical enough to place him, like this one:

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.”

—TONI MORRISON

Last night I lay on the frozen ground, staring up at a clear sky only somewhat ruined by light pollution and the fog produced by my own breath—no telescope or anything, just me and the wide-open sky—and I kept thinking about how sky is a singular noun, as if it’s one thing. But the sky isn’t one thing. The sky is everything. And last night, it was enough.

I didn’t know for sure that it was him until I started to notice that many of the quotes from his Instagram feed were also used in the blog, including the Charlotte Brontë one:

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

—CHARLOTTE BRONTË

At the end, when walking was work, we sat on a bench looking down at the river, which was running low, and she told me that beauty was mostly a matter of attention. “The river is beautiful because you are looking at it,” she said.

Another, written the previous November, around the time he and anniebellcheers stopped replying to each other on Twitter:

“By convention hot, by convention cold, by convention color, but in reality atoms and void.”

—DEMOCRITUS

When observation fails to align with a truth, what do you trust—your senses or your truth? The Greeks didn’t even have a word for blue. The color didn’t exist to them. Couldn’t see it without a word for it.

I think about her all the time. My stomach flips when I see her. But is it love, or just something we don’t have a word for?

The next one stopped me cold:

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

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