The old, decrepit building creaks and mutters around me, and I sit alone, falling apart just as slowly and rapidly as this place. Paper. It is all nothing but paper flaking and peeling off the walls that are the sky and the dirt, crumpled up and frail against the force of the wind. How much longer can it resist?
This I know: I have to get out. I have seen enough of this paper town to know that I don't belong here, that I never have, really. Just let me go already!
It's not fair that everything I start to love gets snatched away in the end. Or perhaps it is the most fair thing in the world. Life sucks, and the only thing you can do it try to keep going and try not to care and keep starting over, one day at a time, dealing with things as they come. And try, best as you can, to maintain yourself and keep the strings from breaking, so you can continue your paperdoll existence for as long as is survivable.
And this is why I need to leave. Because even here, in the quiet darkness where there is nobody to define me, I still fail to define myself. Who is Margo Roth Spiegelman? She seems to be everything and nothing: an adventurer, a mourner, a piece of goddamned paper, a slut, an enigma, a girl. Have I let so many perceptions of me change my realness? Have I become a walking travesty? Those stupid, stupid flimsy people. I don't want them to matter, any of them, but they do and I despise the way they make me feel things: pain, anger, helplessness. I am cracking open because of these people, or because of the town, or both, really, because they are so deeply intertwined. Or maybe this is my fault, and it doesn't matter what anyone else says or does.
I glance around the room, my first and only safe place. There is nothing here for me anymore. This space is not large enough to hold me. My gaze rests on the black notebook next to me, worn at the edges, tea stains on many of the pages. It will come with me, certainly. The rest can rot and fall to dust.
As I take in my surroundings for the umpteenth time, it occurs to me: Q would like this place. I picture him crawling through the holes in the walls, sitting cautiously on old cardboard boxes and staring through the ceiling, and I like the image, my nondescript neighbor trying to get used to the stillness and the solitude. I think I'll leave it for him. As to how I will tell him about it, I'm sure I will come up with something. I pick up the notebook and start scribbling, ideas floating through my head and attaching themselves to the paper.
I sit hunched over, writing, for a long time. I do not need sleep. It feels good to plan, to do something besides fall apart, and the night's activities and the words I weave seem to sew me up just a bit, holding my parts together, allowing me to breathe a little more freely. And I am reminded of Whitman's view of the world, how we are all blades of grass forever reaching upwards for the sky, and even though we will never get there, maybe just the trying is enough. I've always preferred the paper, the strings, and the harshness of being irreparably broken, but who really is to say which metaphor is the right one? I certainly can't claim to know all of what life entails.
It is nearly dawn now; I can see the sky beginning to lighten through the hole in the ceiling, the warmth at the edges spreading throughout in a way that cannot be entirely seen but must partly be felt. It is time for the goodbyes. I have always detested goodbyes, avoided them, but there are not many I need to make this time. Just three, really.
I pick up my notebook, crawl through the holes in the walls, get back into my car. "Goodbye, safe place," I call out as I make my way to the highway, trying to make my voice light and nonchalant, not letting myself look back. And still knowing I will never see you again.
Twenty minutes later, I have followed all the steps of my last plan. The clues are hidden, and I need to trust that Q will know where to look. I take a last look at him while I'm slipping out the window – fast asleep, as if the sky could fall and he wouldn't notice. I smile. That's Q for you. "Goodbye, Quentin," I whisper as I exit. "I hope you appreciated our adventure." I sure did. I will miss this boy, awkward and hesitant and in love with me – one version of me. Perhaps someday our paths will cross again, and maybe, just maybe, he could learn to love the real Margo. Whoever that is. But for now, I must avoid the nostalgia of looking into the future and say goodbye to him.
And to Orlando, as I head north bathed in the pale blue light of early morning and towards a future of unknowing and searching and discovering, I call out my final words: "Goodbye, my beloved paper town."