“I’m sorry sister. But I must.”
“No!” she yells as his pale fingers grasp the onyx hilt.
He screams, jerking his hand back as the blade shines orange. The glow grows to a blinding light. The siblings fall back as the light fills the chamber.
The woman struggles, pushing aside her flaming red curls, trying to regain sight. She looks over to the table where her Sword lay moments before.
“You fool. What have you done?” Her red-brown eyes glare at her brother, whose nostrils flare. His own red-brown eyes narrow at the empty wooden top.
He looks over to his sister, unsheathing the sword on his back. “It does not matter. The kingdom will be mine regardless.”
The man launches forward, but the woman’s reflexes are quicker. She grabs the shield next to her bed and pulls it up just in time. A clang reverberates through the chamber as the sword hits shield. She uses the momentum to push against him, and he falls back.
She rushes over to the opposite wall, where several swords hang. She drops the shield and grabs two half-swords. The woman braces just in time as a sword plunges toward her again.
“You child!” she clamors. “Stop this madness.”
But the man continues. Feet twist and shift on the stone floor as swords swing and clash. The man missteps and her foot kicks him in the chest, sending him flying back. He dodges one sword as it swishes past, but the other strikes his shoulder. He groans, his sword falling to the ground. The woman kicks him down again, this time to the floor. The two half-swords play at the crimson hairs of his neck.
“What is this treachery?” Her face shows fury, yet her shaking voice betrays the woman as she looks down at her brother.
“I should be king,” he gutters, his eyes twitching.
The door bursts open and three men barge in, rushing at the woman. More swords collide and combat. Two men fall dead at the woman's feet, but then two more armed men spill into the chamber. She takes down the last of the first three, then braces herself for the newcomers. Just then, her head is jerked back and a sword prickles at her throat.
“Drop your swords sister.”
She fumes, her grip on the swords intensifying. Her brother pulls on her flaming curls again and the blade in his hand begins to sliver at her neck.
She raises her arms and drops the swords.
I wake with a jolt and look frantically around. Pink light begins to pour into my room as the sun begins to rise. My heart is racing, my mind jumbled. A pulsing starts in my head as I struggle to remember what I was dreaming about.
I grab the phone next to my nightstand. 5:17 a.m.
Then I remember, today’s my last day of school.
Oh High School
“Do you remember Ms. Lisa from eight grade math?”
“Yeah, I liked her!” Alisha says. A draft of wind blows through the hot September air, carrying her long, dark hair with it.
“Me too,” I say. “But she totally lied to us.”
“What do ya mean?”
“You know how she used to go on and on about how fantastic high school would be? How it was gonna be the best time of our lives? It was total B.S.”
Alisha gives me a small giggle and I watch how her cheeks dimple. I smile too. My stomach tenses a little.
“Is this about your car getting totaled?” Her brown eyes watch me curiously.
“Yeah, there’s that; and my dad grounding me for it and the SATs coming up. And the fact that I had a ginormous pimple on Monday.” She laughs again. The tension in my stomach loosens a little. “Yeah. Monday, picture day Monday. My very last picture day, which is going in my senior yearbook. Figures.”
I sigh while she laughs some more. I try not to smile too much. The sky is turning a soft purple and the light illuminates her brown eyes, making them sparkle.
“Wait, so you’re grounded?”
“Yeah, my dad was furious about the car. He was like, ‘Mijo, how could you do this?’ But at least he’s letting me drive the old Volkswagen. No air conditioning though.”
“Sounds like Ms. Lisa definitely lied then,” Alisha says, continuing to smile. She scoots closer toward me— she’s almost leaning on me.
“Well, life’s not all horrible.” Her lips are so luscious. “I can get over being grounded.”
“But, if you’re grounded, then what are you doing here?”
I shift uncomfortably on her porch but then brace myself. “I uh, I came to see you.”
Her smile fades and she looks toward her door.
Just do it, I tell myself.
I open my mouth but no words come out. My lips go dry. Just like you’ve been rehearsing for the past four years. I take a deep breath and then blurt out, “I livk yo-ou.”
She leans away from me, her eyebrows raised. She stares at me wordlessly.
I clear my throat and say, “Alisha, I like you. I like you a lot. I have ever since we were in middle school. And it’s just been getting worse every year. You’re the most beautiful girl in the world. And your smile, and your laugh. And everything we’ve been through, I can’t take it anymore. But there it is. I like you. No, I don’t actually. Alisha, I love you.”
She’s going to say it back.
I wait some more.
I watch her carefully, waiting for her reaction, but her expression is blank. The tension is back in my stomach and there’s a huge knot in my throat. She squints her eyes at me, and finally, she opens her mouth to speak.
“I… I’m sorry.”
She stands up and runs inside her house.
I sit there. I feel as if I’m made out of lead. I can’t move, as much as I want to. She… she doesn’t like me? After all this time, she doesn’t like me.
There’s a pain growing inside of me. It grows stronger the longer I sit here. I turn my head toward the sunset and watch as it unavoidably dies.
“Hey Sosa!” I turn to see Bryan leaning against a locker with his minions crowded around him. I roll my eyes and brace myself.
“What d’you want?”
“Listen, Sosa.” He leans off the locker and steps forward. “I just wanted to say that I like you. Wait, no, I love you.”
I feel my face burn as he and his stupid friends burst out in laughter.
“So you’re finally declaring your love for me? I figured it was only a matter of time.” I sneer at them as they stop laughing. Clint, one of his minions, lets out a laugh but stops immediately when Bryan throws him a furious look.
“I’m not in love with you. I’d say you’re a faggot for thinking it, but we all know about you and Alisha.” I feel my face burn even worse as they start laughing again.
I’m at a loss for words though. I clench my fists, but I see a teacher behind him.
“Whatever,” I say. I turn my back to them and walk away.
Their laughs get louder, and I hear Bryan call out, “Loser. Nobody likes you, especially not her.”
I turn back around, this time my fists ready to punch, but then I see Ms. April.
“What did you just call him?” she says. They jump around, then freeze at the sight of her.
I almost smile; instead, I walk away.
“Listen who cares?” Sara says to me.
“I don’t care. I don’t care about anything. Nothing matters anymore.”
I feel the bed lower slightly as Sara sits on it. “Of course things matter, so what if she told her friends about it?”
I sit up and look at my cousin incredulously. “Um, because they’re my friends too? And it’s not just that. She didn’t just tell her friends. She told everybody. The whole school knows. I am now officially in the lowest pool of the social high school hierarchy. But you know what? I don’t even care about that. I’m just…”
I lie back down, curling up. I pull the pillow up to my chest, covering half my face.
Sara gives me a pitying look with a hint of maternal concern. “Mira. She’s not worth it, she’s not worth you. And about this social high school whatever, it shouldn’t matter at all. Listen, you gotta show her she doesn’t matter. Find another girl, show her you moved on.”
I snort into the pillow.
“Who? Nobody likes me.”
“That’s not true!”
“Well yeah, but creepy psych teachers don’t count. You know she told me I look like Dustin Hoffman from the Graduate? Yikes!”
“Eww. Wow, she’s creepy. Okay, so maybe not that. I was also thinking, why don’t you join a sports team?”
I snort through the pillow again, this time louder.
“What about this. Why don’t you try soccer? It’s a sport people consider athletic, but nothing anyone would actually attend the games to. It’ll distract you, and it’ll show people you can be cool.”
I snort yet again, but then I think about it.
“So if you’re bad at it,” Sara continues. “…No one will really know.”
I shuffle in my bed, feeling a slight tinge of hope.
“Yeah, that might work actually.”
I sit back up, giving it some more thought. Then I think of me trying to dribble the ball between my feet. I shiver slightly. Is the word even dribble?
“Who knows, you might even be good at it.”
I’m not sure, but my spirits do lift at the thought of winning a match. I look back at Sara and give her a smile.
“Come on, mi tia’s making tacos sudados,” she says, pulling me off the bed. My smile widens as the aroma fills the room.
“Mr. Sosa, are you paying attention?”
I wasn’t paying attention. It’s been hard to sleep the last two weeks and I’m exhausted.
“I’m disappointed. You’re usually much more attentive. The question was, how did the young boy defeat the evil king?”
The king, the young boy… the story. The one I haven’t quite read yet. “Uh, well Mrs. Kearny, obviously through sheer wits and good luck.”
Sara turns her head toward me and gives me that ‘seriously?’ look.
“Very funny Mr. Sosa. Sheer wits and good luck were not the only things young Emrys needed. And it will certainly not be the case for you during the test either.” The class groans together. This is one of the only times we’re ever slightly united in anything. “ ‘The Last Dragon Wars,’ while not well-known, will certainly be on the test tomorrow, and possibly on the mid-term. Therefore, I suggest you all finish reading it tonight. Young Emrys defeated Lord Vortigern by harnessing the power of the spirits on Samhain, which, coincidentally, was the predecessor of Halloween.”
Samhain, predecessor of Halloween. I try to memorize the information she’s telling us but it’s so hard to listen. When am I going to use this?
Reading it’s going to be difficult. I have my third soccer practice tonight. I somehow managed to make the team last week. We’re finally going to practice goal shooting and coach warned us not to miss it. Practice should be finished before seven. And how long’s the story, fifty pages maybe?
The bell rings. I pack up my books and slouch out.
“That was a clever little answer you gave back there,” I hear Sara say sarcastically behind me. “I thought you’d enjoy the bit about Halloween.”
“What? Oh yeah, that was interesting.”
“You know, it’s actually a good story. You should read it. I think you’d enjoy it.”
“I will… Right after practice.”
“You have practice again? How’s that going?”
I sigh and rub my eyes. “Good actually. It’s exhausting but I’m actually decent at it.”
She chuckles and I shoot her a piercing look but then smile.
“Yeah, I was surprised too. Half of them are way better at it than me. They’re insane. It’s like they have telekinesis over the ball or something. But a lot of them are way worse than me. I guess I gotta thank those Mexican genes in me.”
“I guess so. Well, good luck with that.” She gives me a pitying look again. “Anyways, I have to head off to the library to finish my trig homework. Catch you later primo.”
All of my things fall to the floor. I bumped into someone and my stuff is everywhere. Luckily there is no one in the hallway around to see it except the person I bumped into.
“Sorry, let me help you,” he says as he staggers forward. He has a metal bottle in his hand and judging from the smell emanating from it, it’s alcohol. I’ve seen him around school but I don’t know him. He’s a junior, a good-looking one despite the heavy bags under his eyes. I can’t tell if he’s drunk yet, but he’s able to help me with my stuff without fumbling much.
“No worries, I have to head to practice,” I say to him as I collect the last of my things.
“See ya,” he mumbles, scratching the acne scars on his cheek. He looks down at his old, tattered shoes.
“See ya,” I say, turning in the opposite direction.
Weird guy for sure. I give him one last glance as I run off toward the door. I suppose he’s nice though.
I run down to practice realizing I’m going to be a few minutes late.
“No pain, no gain!” my coach bellows as we run around the track. My insides are burning, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die. Summer seems like it’s never gonna end. The hot October air feels like a sauna, making it hard to breathe. My guts are screaming inside me with exceptional pain. My legs feel like giant lead weights, my neck is getting stiff and my eyes are going blurry. I can't believe there are people out there who actually run for fun. Why would people do this to themselves? Why am I doing this to myself?
We practice goal shooting over and over again, the point being to score at least five goals against the three-year goalkeeper. Chuck is Brazilian, and he has reflexes like nobody’s business. I kick it again and again. I think I kick it over twenty times before coach finally blows his whistle. I’m pretty sure I’ve only made four goals, but I think coach is getting hungry. I can’t tell who's growling louder, coach or his stomach.
Practice is over. It’s much later than I expected and I hurry off the field so I can get home and get started on the story. I don’t really want to Spark Notes this one. I’m running around the northwest corner to my car, when I trip over something, drop my bag, and fall hard on the ground.
Startled, I look around to see what made me trip. There’s someone seated against the wall, barely visible due to the poor lighting in the parking lot. The only source of light is the full moon above us. I strain my eyes to see him in the moonshine. I realize that it’s the guy I bumped into earlier today in the hallway. If he wasn’t before, he’s definitely drunk now, his head lolling off to the side. I get up and dust off my now slightly bloodied hands. I head toward my car.
If he decided to get drunk on a Thursday night, at school of all places, that’s his problem, not mine.
I get inside my car and I’m about to start the ignition when my dreaded conscience starts doing that thing it does. What if no one else finds him. It’s cold, what if he doesn’t wake up. What if his parents get worried and they can’t find him. What if a mountain lion— no, no that wouldn’t happen. It would be a bear, this is Virginia after all, not Utah. What if a bear finds him?
I sigh and reluctantly get out of the car. I walk over to him and realize he’s quite a bit bigger than me. He’s not buff, but he’s not skinny, and he has to be a little over six feet tall. I bend down to raise him up, but he just moans and falls sideways. He reeks of Brandy. Seriously, who gets drunk on a weekday? Where did he even get alcohol from? He has to be fifteen, sixteen at most. Okay, maybe seventeen.
“Hey dude, I need you to—ugh— get up and cooperate please,” I grumble. “I’m trying to help you and I don’t even know why. I mean, seriously, why are you drinking? I should stop talking, I’m running out of breath.”
I manage to get him standing. He turns his head lazily toward me. “Li—Liam?” he whimpers.
“Yup, that’s me and I am so sorry but I have no idea what your name is. Dammit, you're heavy.”
I pull him up by his torso, but he falls down again, his shirt almost ripping. It’s a cool shirt, but I notice it has several moth holes on it. If I try that again, his shirt is sure to rip. I get behind him, place my hands under his armpits and pull him up. It works. I manage to get him standing slightly, and he walks lopsidedly toward the car. This is enough to get him to the door. I have one arm supporting him, and my other hand is feeling around for the door handle. I struggle to open it and drop him. He lands with a loud thud.
“Ouch,” he says rather clearly. He scrambles slightly but then manages to stand up by himself. The fall seems to have at least helped him sober up a bit. I sigh and look at him, feeling a strange mixture of annoyance and pity. He looks at me and says, “I’m okay, I can walk home.”
I grunt and reply, “Sure you can.” I sigh yet again, looking up at his haggard face. “Listen, just get in the car. It’s okay, I’ll drive you home.” I give him a small smile. I grab his arm and force him in. He hesitates for a bit, but then climbs in.
I get back in the car and see him slouched against the door. I bite my lip slightly. I lean over to him, pushing him aside to grab the seatbelt. I pull it over him, lifting his arm to buckle the belt. A strange sensation goes through me as I finish buckling him. I suppose I’ve never really helped anyone like this before.
“Where do you live?” I say as I start pulling out of the school.
He grumbles a bit, sniffs, then says, “On Black Swan Lane. Trailer… seventy-two. Thank you.” He turns to look at me with his bloodshot, baby blue eyes.
“Yeah, it’s no problem. I love driving drunk people around,” I say as I laugh to myself. He doesn’t laugh back, and I purse my lips. I guess he doesn’t like sarcasm. Or maybe he just didn’t hear what I said. “Ahem, just kidding, I guess. Anyway… You can roll your window down, I don’t have air conditioning in this car.” He still doesn’t seem to hear me and a hopeless silence ensues.
“So… I’m sorry, I don’t actually know your name yet. I’ve seen you around a few times though, I think.”
“Tristan. Cool name.” I quickly glance at him.
“Watch out!” he yells throatily as a blinding light appears before us.
I slam on the breaks, unsure of which direction to turn since the light is so bright. No impact comes, but it feels as if cool air passes through us. It’s chilling, penetrating to the bone. Suddenly we’re in the woods and impact comes. I struggle to see what happened, but then everything just goes dark.
I wake up, confused, my head throbbing. I look up at the cracked window and my mangled car against a tree. We hit pretty badly. There’s something hot and sticky on my forehead. I touch it and look at my hand—it’s blood. There’s also a bit of blood on the steering wheel.
I look over at Tristan. He’s unconscious but breathing, no signs of blood. I pull down the sun visor, checking my head in the mirror. It’s just a minor cut. I stick my head out the window. There are trees in every direction. I wonder where the other car went and if they hit anything as well.
I take my seatbelt off, my hand quivering. I open the door and stumble out of the car. A frosty wind hits me and I shiver violently. I look around curiously, cautiously. There is something different in the air. I press my eyes shut, opening them to look again. Trees, just trees. Another gust of wind hits and I realize it might not be my nerves. The streetlights seem to have gone out or something, making it extremely hard to see. The car illuminates part of the forest we’re in. I take my phone out to use the flashlight on it, but as usual, it’s dead.
I keep a flashlight in the glove compartment and another two in the trunk, only because my dad makes me keep them there in case of an emergency. I get back inside the car and push Tristan’s leg out of the way to open the glove compartment. He groans and slowly opens his eyes. He rubs his forehead and looks around, dazed.
“Did— did we crash?”
“Yeah, we hit a tree but not the other car I think. Something’s funny though, I actually don’t see the other car. I hope the driver didn’t just run away. I’m going to check it out.”
“I’ll help.” He puts his finger on the seatbelt button, his fingers struggling to push it down.
I look at him and ask, “Are you—uh— sober enough to?”
“Yeah, I… yeah, I am.” He struggles but finally pushes the red button down. He takes off his seatbelt and effectively opens his door.
“Okay,” I say to him, or myself, it’s hard to tell. I get out and open up the trunk to grab an extra flashlight for him.
I look out into the forest, my flashlight illuminating the thick bark on the tall trees. I look for the road we were just on, but again, I can only see trees. In fact, as I direct the light behind the car, I don’t even see the tire tracks from where we ran off road.
I mention this to Tristan and he says, “Actually there are some tire tracks, but only about a foot of them. It’s like the car was parked and then… and then we went forward a bit and hit the tree.” He looks at me, almost as if he wants me to confirm his theory in case he’s slightly delusional.
I look down at the grass where there is about a foot of tire tracks, but that’s all. He’s right. “Yeah, it’s so weird though. Does it feel colder to you than before?”
“Yeah, it could be the shock though.”
“Maybe. Probably. Well, let’s go in the opposite direction of the car,” I say to him. “We should hit the road that way, and from there we can figure out where the other car went.”
We walk silently, side by side. The darkness is so dense, the only light is the one coming behind us from the car lights. There should be some sort of light from the road in front of us, but there isn’t.
We walk a bit more, and I quickly realize something doesn’t make sense. The trees again. There’s something uncanny about the trees. It sends a shiver down my spine.
The trees are too close together for the car to have gone this far through them. There should also be a road right in front of us, or we should have passed it by now. In fact, when we were driving, we were only a few yards from an intersection. There should be a few roads or even houses that we should have run into or be able to see.
I look nervously at Tristan. We look back in unison at the now distant light of the car. I nudge my head toward it, and we both turn and hastily walk back. I look around for clues. There has to be something to indicate what happened or what’s going on.
“What did you see before we were hit?” I ask him.
A nerve is bulging in his forehead, and he clenches his jaw. It must be hard to think after the alcohol and the crash. “Nothing, just the car that was about to hit us. Well, actually, I don’t remember a car—just a really bright light.”
“I don’t remember a car either. Plus, I was paying attention. I just quickly glanced at you, and suddenly the light appeared. What if…um…”
“What if… it wasn’t a car?” he finishes, his pupils dilating. “What would it have been?”
“I… I can’t think of anything. A UFO?” I joke.
He smiles a little but then stops, looking around frightfully.
I stop, take a deep breath and reason it must have been another car. Yet… I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something wrong with that hypothesis.
Suddenly, everything goes darker. I jump around, holding my flashlight like a gun. It was the car, the lights just went out.
“Do you have your phone on you?” I ask him. “Mine’s dead.”
He pulls out an old flip phone. What the…? Who the hell still has a flip phone?
“It won’t turn on,” he says, pushing his thick finger on the green button.
“Let’s… let’s look around. There has to be something close by. We shouldn’t be far from the school either. It should be about a mile behind us. And there are houses around.”
He grunts, as if unconvinced, but says, “I guess.”
I head in the opposite direction of the car, figuring again, that that’s where the road should be. Tristan follows behind me, breathing heavily. We walk five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Thirty minutes… maybe? I look at my watch: it’s only eight twenty-four.
“I don’t think there’s anything around,” Tristan whispers. It has been so quiet that the sound of his deep voice makes me jump a little. He’s right though. I flash the light around us in a circle. A distant howl sounds in the distance, adding to the already encompassing fear.
“Was that a w…? Never mind.”
“Should we try to find the car again?” he asks.
“I say we keep going forward, going back would only make things worse. We’re bound to hit a house or something soon,” I say to him.
He nods, and we continue walking. We walk for what feels like hours but may only be twenty minutes. Or maybe the other way around. It’s hard to tell. After a while, I flash the light at my watch again—eight twenty-four. I freak out for a second. Then I reason that perhaps it just stopped working, or perhaps that’s too simple an answer. It’s too bizarre, too unreasonable on top of everything else. Why did it have to stop working? Suddenly, my flashlight gives out as well. I let out an exasperated groan and throw the flashlight in who-knows-which direction.
“It’s okay, this one’s still bright,” Tristan says, shaking his own flashlight.
We continue through the trees, his light casting twisted and macabre shadows all around us. I steady my breathing, trying to keep calm, reasoning we’ll find something soon. We keep going for another twenty minutes, his light becoming noticeably dimmer. There’s a rustling in the trees, making my flesh crawl. The wind howls, carrying leaves in curling gusts.
After another fifteen minutes, or an hour, everything goes dark. Tristan’s light is out. Nothing lasts. I should've grabbed the third one. I squint at Tristan through the darkness. We move next to each other, our arms brushing.
The sky seems to decide that we’re suffering enough, and it pulls back a few clouds so that the moon illuminates our path a little bit. Despite it being a crescent moon, it’s big and bright, to which I’m grateful for.
I stop, a half moon? It was a full moon only a few hours ago. I tremble, moving even closer to Tristan. There’s something seriously wrong with everything. I’m positive it was a full moon back at the school. I saw it clear as day, or whatever.
“Did you see the moon earlier tonight?” I ask.
“No, I don’t think so, why?” he grumbles.
“It was a full moon earlier. I noticed it when I tripped over you because it was the only source of light.”
“Okay,” he says.
“Look at the moon!”
His young but lined face shines as he looks up at the crescent moon. “What, are you sure you saw a full moon?”
“Positive! And it’s definitely colder, it was supposed to be really hot tonight, and for the rest of the week. There’s something extremely weird about all this. Also, the trees!”
I look around at the encircling forest.
“There are too many trees for the car to have gone through. It’s like it was picked up and dropped off, and then like you said… it just went a few feet forward until it hit the tree.”
“Yeah, none of this makes sense. Plus where’s the other car? It’s just your car that’s crashed.”
Something suddenly hits me as he says that. Something worse than being lost.
“Oh no. I’m dead.”
“What?” he asks. He stares apprehensively at me.
“Oh no,” I repeat. “I’m so dead.”
“The car, the car. Oh no. My dad’s going to kill me! Kill me! I’ll be grounded for a year. For the rest of my life… He’ll take away the car. He might not even let me do soccer. Oh no, he’s going to kill me. My life is over.”
“Relax. You’re thinking about your dad getting mad right now?”
“Yes. I wrecked the car in what’s barely been a month. He was furious. He’ll be furious! I’m done for.” I sit down on a thick branch, my head between my knees. “Maybe being lost isn’t so bad.”
I can hear him sit down next to me. “You’re really dramatic. But, well, if it makes you feel better: at least your dad cares.”
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t seen my dad in years.” He says it so calmly that I have to look up at him. He’s looking down at his feet, and I’m not sure how to feel. The result is something between awkward and sad.
“What? What happened?”
“He just… he just got up and left my ma, my sis and I one day.” He sighs.
It’s awfully uncomfortable. I’m not sure he realizes how much information he just told me. But I’m not judging him. That sucks. I feel stupid. We’re lost, in who knows where, which could be very dangerous. And here I am. All worried about my dad getting mad. Then he goes and pulls this out on me. I know I should say something, but it’s so awkward. I’m not good at expressing feelings that aren’t anger, disappointment or hunger. All of which I’m kind of feeling at the moment. Yet he just shared something personal, which means I should say something, anything.
“I, uh, I’m sorry that happened to you. No one should have to go through that. That seriously sucks, big time…”
I look at him to see if I’ve done alright.
He shrugs his shoulders and looks wearily at me. “I’m over it, I guess. Anyways, what now?”
I think for a second. “Do you know how to build a fire?”
“I was in cub scouts, but I don’t really remember anything. It can’t be that hard though, can it?”
We gather a pile of sticks— which is hard considering we can barely see anything. Then we hit two rocks together like in the movies. For a second my heart leaps when I see sparks. “Yeah! I think I got something. Aww…”
He chuckles a bit. The stress is so intense that for some reason it makes me chuckle back. It’s a bizarre mixture of anxiety and the need for some sort of relief. He lets out a laugh and so do I. But then we look around, wondering if we’re being too loud.