We were outside again, wandering the streets. It was dark. Johnny looked nervous even though he was with me. I guess I wasn't much protection, not like Dally would be. No one fucks with Dally. Unfortunately people fucked with us all the time.

I could see the way Johnny would slide his eyes to the side, the tense set to his shoulders. I knew he was edgy and nervous because I knew him but strangers wouldn't see this. He looked just as tough as the rest of us, with his greased hair and his T-shirt and black sneakers. He looked like he could kick your ass, and he could, if it was one person. But that time in the lot, it was four or five. No one has a chance against four or five.

If he was with anyone else this would be about the time they'd go and have a drink. But not me. I guess I was too much of a kid to drink with. And anyway, Darry wouldn't be too happy if he knew I was drinking. He was much stricter than my father had been.

All the homework I had to do was on my mind, but I wasn't much in the mood for it, to tell you the truth. I wanted to wander around the streets with Johnny, checking out girls, smoking, drinking pepsi's. We stopped at one of the diners in town and got some sodas, and flirted with girls. Well, not me. I wasn't exactly that into girls. But I watched a bunch of girls flirt with Johnny, tugging on his jacket, leaning their heads against his arms and shoulders. He'd shrug away from them and was even more quiet, if that was possible.

"Hey, you hang around with Dallas Winston, don't you?" they said to him, and I had slunk away to the corner since I was basically being ignored.

"Yeah," he said, his head down, but I heard the pride in his answer.

We left after a little while and I kidded him about all the girls hanging all over him. Sometimes girls really liked Johnny. They saw the wounded look in his eyes. They wanted to save him.

"I guess I better go home and do homework," I said, shuffling my feet, "you wanna come?" I knew that sometimes, a lot of times, Johnny wouldn't go home. It was bad at his house. So he shrugged and agreed to come with me. I could do homework with Johnny around. It wasn't a good idea to try it with Two-bit blabbering away.

"Hey, Johnny, hey, Ponyboy," Soda said when we walked in. Darry wasn't home yet. I went to our room to do homework and I heard Johnny rummaging in the fridge. I heard the T.V. blasting in the living room. Johnny never did homework. It was part of the reason he flunked out last year.

I rushed through math but took my time with the English. I always tried to get the deeper meaning out of what we were reading. I thought I could do it, sometimes. I thought I could write shit, maybe. After it was all done, I wrote the paper for next week and read all the history chapters and did a chem lab, I had this low level headache. The light wasn't that great in our room. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples, trying not to think about how I wanted all A's and wanted a scholarship so I could go to college and get out of this hellhole.

"Are you done?" Johnny said, holding a can of Darry's beer and smoking. I looked at the beer can, Darry's usual brand, and wondered how many he's had. From the sober enough way he was talking I figured not many. I didn't care if he drank, I just worried about it a little.

"Yeah, all done," I said, looking at my books stacked neatly on my desk. I watched Johnny take a long swallow of the beer. He sat down on the bed, kicking his heels on the floor.

"Did Soda take off?" I said, and Johnny nodded.

"Yeah, with Sandy,"

I looked at the darkness against the windows and blinked. I was suddenly so tired.

"I'm sick of this," Johnny said suddenly, putting one leg up on the bed. I noticed the fading black eye he had, and I hadn't noticed it before. I didn't need to ask what he was sick of, I knew. It was kind of the same things I was sick of. The socs, the divisions in this city, the way we had nothing and seemingly never would, but he had other things to be sick of. His parents always giving him shit, his mom screaming at him all the time, his father knocking him around every other day. He looked angry and sad at the same time, and he took another swallow of the beer. That beer was all I could smell. It reminded me a little of my dad, and that was a good memory. My dad would only have one or two once in a while, and I remembered that smell, sitting on his lap when I was real little.

"Yeah, me, too," I said. He looked off toward the windows and said in a real quiet voice, "sometimes I wish I could just kill myself,"