I THINK I’M STONED," ROBIN SAYS.
         Scott laughs.
         "No, I really think I’m stoned." Every time he turns his head his thoughts need another moment to follow, as if his mind is having trouble keeping up. They are sitting on a concrete loft in the abandoned aviary at The Bird; Robin imagines that they’re hiding in a spooky, outlying building on a big estate, something in one of those British novels from a hundred years ago. The room is damp and shadowy. Metal bars line the walls below them, and all around lay stacks of cages, their sides bent and smashed by years of vandalism. The roof above them slants to a peak twenty feet above the floor. All of the windows are boarded up except for the one they climbed through after Scott bought the joint from a kid in the parking lot. The place is big enough to echo their conversation, but the air is thick with a dank, animal odor and the marijuana smoke they’ve been exhaling for the past ten minutes. Their feet dangle off the edge of the loft, he looks down past his feet at white, bird shit splotches. The more of Scott’s pot that he smokes, the more Robin considers moving back into the safety of a corner.
         "How do you know when you’re stoned?" Robin asks. "Is it when the way you usually think isn’t the way you’re thinking right now?"
         Scott narrows his eyes at Robin, ruminating. Robin waits, expecting Scott to say something authoritative, and when what seems like ten minutes pass and still no sound comes out of him they both bust out laughing. "That’s so funny," Robin says. "How you didn’t give me an answer, and I was waiting for one. That’s the way everyone in the whole world always seems to me – I ask a question and I don’t get an answer."
         "You can’t be stoned," Scott says. "No one gets stoned the first time they smoke."
         "Did you?" Robin asks.
         "Yes," Scott says, and breaks into laughter again.
        They lie on their backs and stare at the rotting wood beams stretched across the ceiling. Robin is talking, he has been telling Scott everything about the accident, from Jackson baiting him into climbing up the slide, to his father’s explosive anger in the hospital room, to Victoria’s gossipy questions in the car. Scott is tapping his fingers on his stomach – his shirt pulled up from his waist – and the delicate patter of flesh against flesh, repeating itself throughout the story, provides a hypnotic beat beneath Robin’s words. Scott interrupts every now and then to ask a question that only needs a yes or no answer but which sends Robin off into a fresh rush of revelation. When Scott asks, "So Jackson is younger than Ruby?", Robin tells him how Jackson is the only one of the three of them born in New Jersey, how Jackson stopped playing with him and Ruby when they were little, how he still likes Ruby better than Jackson even though she’s been acting so religious lately. When Scott says, "You mean your father never hits you?", Robin explains how his father lets him go off with his mother to the city and never seems to care though Robin knows – he just knows – that his father doesn’t like it. When Scott asks him who Uncle Stan is, Robin tells him about the World Series party, and how he thinks Stan drove his mother to drunkenness, and how Robin was stuck with Larry that night. He takes another hit off the joint and tells Scott about Larry running around naked and wagging his dick at him, and how that bothered him because Larry was the one who was perverted but he wound up making Robin feel that way.
         And then he gets quiet, having reached the stifling moment when he realizes that he’s revealed more than he ever planned. Scott stops his tapping. The skylight on the other side of the roof is darker than when they got here, and it occurs to Robin that he’s ditched more than just gym class. The hours he has spent with Scott lay themselves out like a chain, one link after the other, stretched long against the sky. "I should probably shut up for a while," he says, worried now that Scott has heard too much, that he could not possibly want to spend any more time with him.
         "No, man, it’s cool. I been listening."
         "I probably sound like a big crybaby –"
         "Nah."
         "– or worse."
         "I can tell you’re pretty smart," Scott says. "I knew you were a brain. But I mean you have a way of thinking of things that’s pretty fucking heavy." He rolls over on his stomach and reaches across Robin, who tenses up from the nearness. "Where’s the roach, man? I want to get my money’s worth." His hand brushes the ground at Robin’s side.
         The roach is still pressed between Robin’s fingers, he lifts it into the air with a flourish. "Ta-da."
         Scott lights a match and holds the flame near his face, waiting. Robin understands after a moment what to do: he lifts the roach to Scott’s lips, surprised how steady he holds it, watching the concentration as Scott pulls in the smoke. The end of the joint is a tiny star burning orange, and Scott’s face glows softly behind it.
        Robin thinks Scott will move away from him, but he doesn’t. In the closeness, Robin wonders what it would be like to kiss Scott, and then he hears himself wondering this and stamps out the thought.


----From Chapter 6, "The World of Normal Boys," by K.M. Soehnlein
Copyright 2000, Kensington Books