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Turtles All the Way Down(9)
Author: John Green

“Holmesy has most of the major fears,” Daisy said as she petted Tua. “Anyway, we should get going. I’ve got some babysitting duties to attend to.”

“I’ll give you a ride home,” said Davis.

Davis said he needed to stop by the house, and I was going to wait for him outside, but Daisy shoved me forward so hard I found myself walking alongside him.

Davis pulled open the front door, a massive pane of glass at least ten feet high, and we walked into an enormous marble-floored room. To my left, Noah Pickett lay on a couch, playing a space combat video game on a huge screen. “Noah,” Davis said, “you remember Aza Holmes?”

“’Sup,” he said, without turning away from the game.

Davis darted up a flight of floating marble stairs, leaving me alone with Noah—or so I thought—until a woman I hadn’t seen called out, “That’s a real Picasso.” She was dressed all in white, slicing berries in the gleaming white kitchen.

“Oh, wow,” I said, following her eyes to the painting in question. A man made of wavy lines rode atop a horse made of wavy lines.

“It’s like working in a museum,” she said. I looked at her and thought about Daisy’s observation about uniforms.

“Yeah, it’s a beautiful house,” I said.

“They have a Rauschenberg, too,” she said, “upstairs.” I nodded, although I didn’t know who that was. Mychal would, probably. “You can go and see.” She gestured toward the stairs, so I walked up, but didn’t pause to examine the assemblage of recycled trash at the top of the staircase. Instead, I took a quick look inside the first open door I came to. It seemed to be Davis’s room, immaculately clean, lines still in the carpet from a vacuum cleaner. King-size bed with lots of pillows, and a navy-blue comforter. In a corner of the room, by a wall of windows, a telescope, pointed up toward the sky. Pictures on his desk of his family—all from years ago, when he was little. Framed concert posters on one wall—the Beatles, Thelonious Monk, Otis Redding, Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday. A bookshelf packed with hardcover books, with an entire shelf of comics in plastic sleeves. And on his bedside table, next to a stack of books, the Iron Man.

I picked it up, turned it over in my hands. The plastic was cracked on the back of one leg, revealing a hollow space, but the arms and legs still turned.

“Careful,” he said from behind me. “You’re holding the only physical item I actually love.”

I put the Iron Man down and spun around. “Sorry,” I said.

“Iron Man and I have been through some serious shit together,” he said.

“I have to tell you a secret,” I said. “I’ve always thought Iron Man was kind of the worst.”

Davis smiled. “Well, it was fun while it lasted, Aza, but our friendship has come to an end.” I laughed and followed him down the stairs. “Rosa, can you stay until I get back?”

“Yes, of course,” she said. “I’ve left you some chicken chili and salad for dinner in the fridge.”

“Thanks,” Davis said. “Noah, my man, I’ll be back in twenty minutes, cool?”

“Cool,” Noah said, still in outer space.

As we walked toward Davis’s Cadillac Escalade, which Daisy was leaning against, I asked, “Was that your housekeeper?”

“She’s the house manager. Has been since I was born. She’s like what we have now instead of a parent, kinda.”

“But she doesn’t live with you?”

“No, she leaves every day at six, so not that much like a parent.” Davis unlocked the doors. Daisy got in the backseat and told me to take shotgun. As I walked around the front of the car, I noticed Lyle standing next to his golf cart. He was talking to a man raking up the first fallen leaves of autumn, but staring at Davis and me.

“Just gonna drop these two off,” Davis told him.

“Be safe, boss,” Lyle answered.

Once the car doors were closed, he said, “Everyone is always watching me. It’s exhausting.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

Davis opened his mouth as if to speak, seemed to think better of it, and then, a moment later, continued. “Like, you know how in middle school or whatever you feel like everyone is looking at you all the time and secretly talking about you? It’s like that middle-school feeling, only people really are looking at me and whispering about me.”

“Maybe they think you know where your dad is,” Daisy said.

“Well, I don’t. And I don’t want to.” He said it firmly, unshakably.

“Why not?” Daisy asked.

I was watching Davis as he spoke, and I saw something in his face flicker without quite going out. “At this point, the best thing my dad can do for Noah and me is stay gone. It’s not like he ever took care of us anyway.”

Although only the river separated us, it was a ten-minute, winding drive back to my house because there’s only one bridge in my neighborhood. We were quiet except for my occasional directions. When we at last pulled into my driveway, I asked for his phone and typed my number into it. Daisy got out without saying good-bye, and I was about to do the same, but when I gave him his phone back, Davis took my right hand and turned it over, palm up. “I remember this,” he said, and I followed his eyes down to the Band-Aid covering my fingertip. I pulled my hand away and closed my fingers into a fist.

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

For some reason, I wanted to tell him the truth. “Whether it hurts is kind of irrelevant.”

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