Every Day Page 8

“I know that.”



I sigh.

There’s always a chance that, in some way, I will have brushed off on Justin. There’s always a chance that his life will in fact change—that he will change. But I have no way of knowing. It’s rare that I get to see a body after I’ve left it. And even then, it’s usually months or years later. If I recognize it at all.

I want Justin to be better to her. But I can’t have her expecting it.

“That’s all,” I tell her. It feels like a Justin thing to say.

“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, you will.”

“Thanks again for today. No matter what trouble we get into tomorrow for it, it was worth it.”


“I love you,” she says.

And I want to say it. I want to say I love you, too. Right now, right at this moment, every part of me would mean it. But that will only last for a couple more hours.

“Sleep well,” I tell her. Then I hang up.

There’s a notebook on his desk.

Remember that you love Rhiannon, I write in his handwriting.

I doubt he’ll remember writing it.

I go onto his computer. I open up my own email account, then type out her name, her phone number, her email address, as well as Justin’s email and password. I write about the day. And I send it to myself.

As soon as I’m through, I clear Justin’s history.

This is hard for me.

I have gotten so used to what I am, and how my life works.

I never want to stay. I’m always ready to leave.

But not tonight.

Tonight I’m haunted by the fact that tomorrow he’ll be here and I won’t be.

I want to stay.

I pray to stay.

I close my eyes and wish to stay.

Day 5995

I wake up thinking of yesterday. The joy is in remembering; the pain is in knowing it was yesterday.

I am not there. I am not in Justin’s bed, not in Justin’s body.

Today I am Leslie Wong. I have slept through the alarm, and her mother is mad.

“Get up!” she yells, shaking my new body. “You have twenty minutes, and then Owen leaves!”

“Okay, Mom,” I groan.

“Mom! If your mother was here, I can’t imagine what she’d say!”

I quickly access Leslie’s mind. Grandmother, then. Mom’s already left for work.

As I stand in the shower, trying to remind myself I have to make it a quick one, I lose myself for a minute in thoughts of Rhiannon. I’m sure I dreamt of her. I wonder: If I started dreaming when I was in Justin’s body, did he continue the dream? Will he wake up thinking sweetly of her?

Or is that just another kind of dream on my part?

“Leslie! Come on!”

I get out of the shower, dry off, and get dressed quickly. Leslie is not, I can tell, a particularly popular girl. The few photos of friends she has around seem halfhearted, and her clothing choices are more like a thirteen-year-old’s than a sixteen-year-old’s.

I head into the kitchen and the grandmother glares at me.

“Don’t forget your clarinet,” she warns.

“I won’t,” I mumble.

There’s a boy at the table giving me an evil look. Leslie’s brother, I assume—and then confirm it. Owen. A senior. My ride to school.

I have gotten very used to the fact that most mornings in most homes are exactly the same. Stumbling out of the bed. Stumbling into the shower. Mumbling over the breakfast table. Or, if the parents are still asleep, the tiptoe out of the house. The only way to keep it interesting is to look for the variations.

This morning’s variation comes care of Owen, who lights up a joint the minute we get into the car. I’m assuming this is part of his morning routine, so I make sure Leslie doesn’t seem as surprised as I am.

Still, Owen hazards a “Don’t say a word” about three minutes into the ride. I stare out the window. Two minutes later, he says, “Look, I don’t need your judgment, okay?” The joint is done by then; it doesn’t make him any mellower.

I prefer to be an only child. In the long term, I can see how siblings could be helpful in life—someone to share family secrets with, someone of your own generation who knows if your memories are right or not, someone who sees you at eight and eighteen and forty-eight all at once, and doesn’t mind. I understand that. But in the short term, siblings are at best a hassle and at worst a terror. Most of the abuse I have suffered in my admittedly unusual life has come from brothers and sisters, with older brothers and older sisters being, by and large, the worst offenders. At first I was naïve, and assumed that brothers and sisters were natural allies, instant companions. And sometimes the context would allow this to happen—if we were on a family trip, for example, or if it was a lazy Sunday where teaming up with me was my sibling’s only form of entertainment. But on ordinary days, the rule is competition, not collaboration. There are times when I wonder whether brothers and sisters are, in fact, the ones who sense that something is off with whatever person I’m inhabiting, and move to take advantage. When I was eight, an older sister told me we were going to run away together—then abandoned the “together” part when we got to the train station, leaving me to wander there for hours, too scared to ask for help—scared that she would find out and berate me for ending our game. As a boy, I’ve had brothers—both older and younger—wrestle me, hit me, kick me, bite me, shove me, and call me more names than I could ever catalog.

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