Chapter Ten

Jesse lay on Badger's bed, staring up at the ceiling. He had just taken a toke off the joint they were passing, and he was waiting for it to kick in. Waiting for his thoughts to settle. Waiting to figure it all out.

He wished he could open his mouth and say something to Badger about everything with his aunt, not to mention all this shit that had just happened with the terrorist attack. But Badger wasn't the kind of guy who talked about stuff like that, he was the kind of guy you played video games with and smoked with.

"Y'know," Jesse mused. "They said that Marilyn Manson got his ribs surgically removed so that he could suck his own dick."

"Wow, man," Badger commented. "That's far out. Would you ever do that?"

Jesse snorted.

"No, man. That's fucked up. Who would want to suck their own dick, anyway? I mean, you end up with a mouth of your own damn…. That's just disgusting." He sat up. "What the hell is wrong with people?"

Badger started to laugh hysterically.

"Hey man… hey man… what if you got offered like… a million dollars to do that…"

Jesse curled up his nose.

"No. Man… Badger. Shit, I've got standards." He took another toke. "A man has got to have goddamned standards."

"Well, Mr. Pinkman, what do you think the answer is?" The words seemed to be floating in mid-air. Maybe they were happening in a separate dimension that only intersected with this one every once in a very long while. Maybe… "Mr. Pinkman?"

Jesse felt someone jab him hard in the spine, and he lifted his head. Deanna appeared to be the one who had poked him, and when he looked the other way, he found Mr. White standing uncomfortably close to him.

"Mr. Pinkman?" Mr. White asked.

"Um," Jesse muttered. Deanna drummed on her notebook. Jesse made another little grunt, wishing she'd stop distracting him from not-answering, until he slowly realized, as he turned to look at her, that she was tapping a very specific part of her notebook. "Uhhh…" He tried to be discreet as he strained to read Deanna's handwriting. "Nitrogen."

"Thank you, Mr. Pinkman. Nitrogen. Thank you for your effort."

Mr. White shot a glance at both of them, before going back to his lecture. When he finally glided to the front of the room, Jesse looked back at Deanna.

"Thanks," he mumbled. She sighed and rolled her eyes, not replying, and returned her gaze to the teacher. Jesse rubbed his hands over his face. He couldn't believe he'd been sleeping in class again. It was so embarrassing, not because he really cared whether he learned anything but because he could feel every eye in the classroom on him, thinking about how useless and worthless he was. He shivered. He shouldn't have stayed out all night, should have at least had the ability to pretend to pay attention. He'd try and get some sleep tonight. This wouldn't happen again. Plus, he didn't need Mr. White calling Aunt Jenny. She had enough to deal with right now without getting burdened with all of Jesse's continuing failures.

Speaking of Aunt Jenny, she wasn't doing very well at all. The doctors' visits multiplied, that was for sure, but Jesse didn't see that they were doing any good. The chemo just seemed to be getting her sick, even as she tried to explain to Jesse that it would help.

"It's just a side effect, Jesse," she explained patiently as he drove her home one day the next week. "You see, it kills the cancer cells but other, similar cells get kind of… caught in the crossfire."

Jesse tilted his head and looked at her.

"Why don't they come up with something that… doesn't do that?"

Even though he knew that Aunt Jenny wasn't like that, he was afraid that she would say it was a stupid question and refuse to answer it. Instead, she smiled sadly.

"Things like that take time, Jesse. Why, everything takes time."

"But people don't always have time," Jesse whispered. What he thought but didn't say was, You don't have time.

That was when he pulled into the driveway and they moved out of the car, silently going back into the house. Once the door closed behind them, Jenny reached out her arms and hugged Jesse.

"Don't worry," she told him kindly. "I'm not scared."

When she let go, Jesse gaped at her.

"How can you not be? I mean… You're… you're… I mean, all of this."

She shrugged.

"You know when your mother and I were growing up, she used to be afraid of going downtown in the city?"

Jesse didn't know, but he nodded anyway.

"She was always worried about getting mugged, or something of the sort. What I used to say was 'If something's going to get me, it's going to get me.'" Jenny looked at Jesse. "If this is going to get me, Jesse, then worrying won't do a single bit of good. It'll just waste time. I'm going to just live my life and be happy instead of worrying and being afraid. It just feels like a better way to live, don't you think?"

Jesse nodded slowly. He didn't know if he necessarily agreed with all of that. He was glad she didn't seem to dwell on it, but just the same he didn't know if he could ever be that unafraid in the face of upcoming death. Hell, if it had been him… He'd have fallen apart. He'd have stopped going to class even as irregularly as he did because what would it matter anymore? And he'd wait for someone to fix it all. But no one would be able to fix it. He'd just be all alone.

He shuddered. That was the scariest thought. The one thing that no one could ever help you with, the one thing you are just always stuck with alone: death.

"Hey Jesse," Jenny said softly, "Why don't we see if we can find an awful movie on TV? We could make fun of it. And I could make quesadillas."

Jesse smiled and slowly nodded.

"That sounds great, Aunt Jenny. Let's go for it."