Getting closer, I saw that the figure was Pudge. He was sitting and swinging, taking short drags off of the cigarette that he held awkwardly between two fingers. He coughed every so often, and I smiled to myself. Judging from the difficulties he was having, I guessed that he either had just started smoking, or didn't do it very often. What an innocent boy.
Just as he made a move to get up, I said suddenly, "So do you really memorize last words?"
I ran up behind him and pushed him back down on the swing. He looked kind of nauseous and tired, like the day had taken a lot out of him.
"Yeah," he said. "You want to quiz me?"
"JFK." I said instantly. My favorite president.
"That's obvious," he immediately responded. So apparently the public school kid had some sass to him.
"Oh, is it now?" I challenged.
"No, those were his last words. Someone said, 'Mr. President, you can't say Dallas doesn't love you,' and then he said, 'That's obvious,' and then he got shot."
I sat silently for a second, thinking about that. It's funny, how it's true that the ones you love hurt you the most. Then I laughed.
"Okay Mr. Famous Last Words Boy. I have one for you." I rummaged around in my massively obese backpack, then pulled out the book I had last been reading. "Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The General in His Labyrinth. Absolutely one of my favorites. It's about Simon Bolivar. It's a historical novel, so I don't know if this is true, but in the book, do you know what his last words are? No, you don't. But I am about to tell you, Senor Parting Remarks."
Before I opened up the book, I reached again into my backpack and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. I lit up, then took a long drag before forcefully blowing out the smoke and reading:
"He was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. 'Damn it,' he sighed. 'How will I ever get out of this labyrinth!'"
Now those, ladies and gentlemen, are great parting words. Great words in general, actually. How will it end? How will we get out of it, this thing, that has pained us all? Pudge just looked at me, seemingly not realizing how deep the words actually were.
"So what's the labyrinth?" he said. He looked at me searchingly. I didn't answer, just letting the mystery brew. I looked back at him. From his hair to his face to his arms to his skinny stomach to his chicken legs, he was all angles. There was nothing soft about him. There was no continuum, no reason. He was randomness, he was sharpness. And if there's anything that I like, it's chaos.
I leaned closer to him, and said, "That's the mystery, isn't it? Is the labyrinth living or dying? Which is he trying to escape, the world or the end of it?" I fell silent, expecting Pudge to come up with his answer. It soon became obvious that he had no opinion.
"Uh, I don't know," he said. "Have you really read all those books in your room?"
I laughed. "Oh God no. I've maybe read a third of 'em. But going to read them all. But there's so much to do now: cigarettes to smoke, sex to have, swings to swing on. I'll have more time for reading when I'm old and boring." I told him that he reminded me of the Colonel when we first came to Culver Creek. They both had the innocence that was just waiting to be spoiled, the living that had yet to be done. I told him the story of the Colonel's first girlfriend, and of our first prank together.
"You're smart like him," I sighed. "Quieter, though. And cuter, but I didn't even just say that, because I love my boyfriend. He smiled. He had an amazing smile, the first one I'd seen from him. It lit up his entire face, and it made you want to make him do it again.
"Yeah, you're not bad either. But I didn't just say that, because I love my girlfriend. Oh, wait. Right. I don't have one." My heart beat just a little bit faster, hearing him say that. Maybe there was a chance he could go for me, then. Wait. Damn. I didn't just say that either, because, again, I love my boyfriend.
"Yeah, don't worry, Pudge. If there's one thing I can get you, it's a girlfriend. Let's made a deal: You figure out what the labyrinth is and how to get out of it, and I'll get you laid."
"Deal", he said, and we shook hands on it. We got up off the bench, and started walking back through the dorms through the darkness. It was nice not being alone in the dark. "When you're walking at night do you ever get creeped out and even though it's silly and embarrassing you just want to run home?"
"Yeah, totally." He said, smiling.
I grabbed his hand and started running, loving the feel of the wind through my hair. We were the only things moving on this still, hot Alabama night. "Run run run run", I whispered to him, and we parted the darkness to make our way home.