The next week passes comparatively uneventfully. Of course, pretty much anything would be uneventful compared to my previous week, but it’s hard to call it completely uneventful when I spend the entire time trying to be the perfect employee for Edgar, the perfect bait for the police, and the perfect detective for myself as I try to figure out what’s going on. I don’t make any headway on that, but I do start to get pretty good at walking around my apartment without touching the floor. If they ever have The Floor is Lava olympics, I’m set, even without balance-related superpowers.
I’m also getting decent at the crutches. The step-swing technique is starting to feel fairly natural, and my underarms have toughened up and stopped bruising. I’ve been timing myself on my rounds, and I’m nearly back to the pace I had when both of my legs were working. And with my car down for the count, I’m getting a decent handle on the schedule of the buses near my house, too. Neither of these things qualify as superpowers, but they are adult powers, which is also a category I’ve been somewhat deficient in. So all told, it’s not a bad week.
That said, when Saturday rolls around, I find myself making excuses about how I’ve had a hard week and I should stay home, avoid stress, and generally not go to the funeral for Jonathan Caraway. It’s far away, it’s starting to rain, my suit is wrinkled, I don’t have a good excuse to be there. That last complaint is actually fairly valid, but I think that despite my attempts to talk myself out of it, I’m going to feel better if I go to the service. Funerals are about closure, and I definitely need some of that. Besides, there’s always a chance that I’ll find something to link Caraway and Lovell together, and that could be invaluable. So I decide that if I’m asked, I’ll just introduce myself as Mr. Everton the guidance counselor, and count on the fact that absolutely no parents know who their kid’s school counselors are.
I get my suit on and swing my way down to the bus stop in the light rain, which naturally picks up the pace as soon as I leave my house. It’s still not too bad, but it’s definitely raining hard enough to make me wish that I could handle an umbrella along with the crutches. It’s theoretically possible, of course, but I know exactly how that goes when I’m involved: at some point, I fumble my grip on the umbrella, drop it, grab for it, drop my crutch while I’m trying to get it, hit the handle so that the umbrella spins back and whacks me in the face, drop my other crutch as I flail the umbrella out of my face, then fall over and land on my umbrella, breaking it. Since my plan is to keep a low profile at the back of the service, I decide that slightly damp is the way to go.
It’s a relief to get on the bus and get out of the rain, though, even if the bus does give me a solid static shock when I touch the doorframe to step up into it. The bus driver chuckles as I shake my hand to clear the tingling in my fingers.
“Yeah, the metal there’ll give people a decent shock if they haven’t been grounded. In winter, sometimes you’ll get a nice blue spark jumping an inch or so just to say hi to someone in a wool hat. You managed a pretty impressive one for such a wet day, though!”
I half-smile at his patter as I pay my fare and settle into a seat, brushing the rain off of myself before it can soak in too far. I spend the rest of the trip practicing my lines in my head. Hi, I’m Mr. Everton, Jonathan’s counselor. Yes, very promising, such a bright future. A terrible shame.
Soon enough, the bus drops me off at the stop nearest the church where the service is being held, and I make my way down the sidewalk. The rain, which had eased up while I was on the bus, starts to strengthen again, as if to hurry me along. The rain clearly has an excellent sense of timing, because I get to the church at the perfect time: everyone’s in the process of taking their seats, so I don’t have to introduce myself, but nothing’s actually started yet, so I don’t look conspicuous coming in late. I slide into a pew in the back, brushing ineffectually at the water on my shoulders, and listen to people express love for the kid I killed.
It hurts to hear. It hurts a lot. But it’s a hurt like pulling out a diseased tooth; somehow, even in the pain, you can feel that this is how the healing starts. As I learn about Jonathan, he becomes a real person in my head, not just some anonymous mutated attacker. I hear about his hobbies, his dreams, his loves and aspirations, and even though it’s terrible that he’s never going to do any of them again, it’s nevertheless great that he once did.
I join Jonathan’s family and friends in celebrating who he was, even as we mourn him. I create an idea of Jonathan inside myself and cherish him, and it helps me let go of resentment I hadn’t even realized I was holding. Yes, something is happening to me, but it’s not only to me. I’m not alone, I’m not the only victim, and I can work to fix this.
I cry a number of times during the service, for Jonathan and Aaron Lovell and myself. When it’s over and people are filing out, I suddenly really want to introduce myself to the Caraways, to let them know that I knew their son and he was important to me. They’re standing near the doors, shaking people’s hands and murmuring thanks as they leave. There’s an informal sort of line sweeping people past, and I’m about four people from the Caraways when I hear the man at the front say, “Mr. Caraway, Mrs. Caraway. I’m Sean, Jonathan’s guidance counselor. He was a wonderful young man. He’ll be missed.”
They thank him with bowed heads, while I quietly slip out of line and slide through the doors as quickly as my crutches can manage. My ears burn hot and cold as I go, and on the way out of the church, the metal of the door delivers a strong shock to my elbow, as if to let me know that my intended lie has not gone unnoticed.
In the dubious shelter of the bus stop, I ask myself how I really thought that was going to turn out, and I have no answer. The rain intensifies, finding its way through cracks and edges of the overhang. It flicks into my eyes and runs down my neck, and I simply wait for the bus and let the universe call me an idiot.