Home > Thirteen Reasons Why(5)

Thirteen Reasons Why(5)
Jay Asher

I knew it!

You walk to the end of the slide with your arms out, ready to catch me. And wouldn’t you know it, when I jump off, my huge feet don’t step on your little feet.

“See? We were made for each other,” you say. Then you lean in to kiss me. Your lips getting closer…and closer…and…I wake up.

Every night for a week I woke up in the exact same about-to-be-kissed spot. But now, Justin, I would finally be meeting you. At that park. At the bottom of that slide. And damn it, you were going to kiss the hell out of me whether you liked it or not.

Hannah, if you kissed back then like you kissed at the party, trust me, he liked it.

I told you to meet me there in fifteen minutes. Of course, I only said that to make sure I got there before you. By the time you walked into the park, I wanted to be inside that rocket and all the way up, just like in my dreams.

And that’s how it happened…

minus the dancing trees and funky feet.

From my viewpoint at the top of the rocket, I saw you come in at the far end of the park. You checked your watch every few steps and walked over to the slide, looking all around, but never up.

So I spun the steering wheel as hard as I could to make it rattle. You took a step back, looked up, and called my name. But don’t worry, even though I wanted to live out my dream, I didn’t expect you to know every single line and tell me to stop playing with the trees and come down.

“Be right down,” I said.

But you told me to stop.

You’d climb up to where I was.

So I shouted back, “No! Let me take the slide.”

Then you repeated those magical, dreamlike words, “I’ll catch you.”

Definitely beats my first kiss. Seventh grade, Andrea Williams, behind the gym after school. She came over to my table at lunch, whispered the proposition in my ear, and I had a hard-on for the rest of the day.

When the kiss was over, three strawberry-lip-gloss seconds later, she turned and ran away. I peeked around the gym and watched two of her friends each hand her a five-dollar bill. I couldn’t believe it! My lips were a ten-dollar bet.

Was that good or bad?

Probably bad, I decided.

But I’ve loved strawberry lip gloss ever since.

I couldn’t help smiling as I climbed down the top ladder.

I sat myself on the slide—my heart racing. This was it. All my friends back home had their first kisses in middle school. Mine was waiting for me at the bottom of a slide, exactly as I wanted it. All I had to do was push off.

And I did.

I know it didn’t really happen like this, but when I look back, it all happens in slow motion. The push. The slide. My hair flying behind me. You raising your arms to catch me. Me raising mine so you could.

So when did you decide to kiss me, Justin? Was it during your walk to the park? Or did it simply happen when I slid into your arms?

Okay, who out there wants to know my very first thought during my very first kiss?

Here it is: Somebody’s been eating chilidogs.

Nice one, Justin.

I’m sorry. It wasn’t that bad, but it was the first thing I thought.

I’ll take strawberry lip gloss any day.

I was so anxious about what kind of kiss it would be—

because my friends back home described so many types—and it turned out to be the beautiful kind. You didn’t shove your tongue down my throat. You didn’t grab my butt. We just held our lips together…and kissed.

And that’s it.

Wait. Stop. Don’t rewind.

There’s no need to go back because you didn’t miss a thing. Let me repeat myself.

That…is…all…that…

happened.

Why, did you hear something else?

A shiver races up my spine.

Yes, I did. We all did.

Well, you’re right.

Something did happen. Justin grabbed my hand, we walked over to the swings, and we swung. Then he kissed me again the very same way.

Then? And then, Hannah?

What happened then?

Then…we left. He went one way. I went the other.

Oh. So sorry. You wanted something sexier, didn’t you?

You wanted to hear how my itchy little fingers started playing with his zipper. You wanted to hear…

Well, what did you want to hear? Because I’ve heard so many stories that I don’t know which one is the most popular. But I do know which is the least popular.

The truth.

Now, the truth is the one you won’t forget.

I can still see Justin huddled among his friends at school. I remember Hannah walking by, and the whole group stopped talking. They averted their eyes. And when she passed, they started laughing.

But why do I remember this?

Because I wanted to talk to Hannah so many times after Kat’s going-away party, but I was too shy. Too afraid.

Watching Justin and his friends that day, I got the sense that there was more to her than I knew.

Then, later, I heard about her getting felt up at the rocket slide. And she was so new to school that the rumors overshadowed everything else I knew about her.

Hannah was beyond me, I figured. Too experienced to even think about me.

So thank you, Justin.

Sincerely. My very first kiss was wonderful. And for the month or so that we lasted, and everywhere that we went, the kisses were wonderful.

You were wonderful.

But then you started bragging.

A week went by and I heard nothing. But eventually, as they always will, the rumors reached me. And everyone knows you can’t disprove a rumor.

I know. I know what you’re thinking. As I was telling the story, I was thinking the same thing myself. A kiss? A rumor based on a kiss made you do this to yourself?

No. A rumor based on a kiss ruined a memory that I hoped would be special. A rumor based on a kiss started a reputation that other people believed in and reacted to.

And sometimes, a rumor based on a kiss has a snowball effect.

A rumor, based on a kiss, is just the beginning.

Turn the tape over for more.

I reach for the stereo, ready to press Stop.

And Justin, honey, stick around. You’re not going to believe where your name pops up next.

I hold my finger over the button, listening to the soft hum in the speakers, the faint squeak of the spindles winding the tape, waiting for her voice to return.

But it doesn’t. The story is over.

When I get to Tony’s, his Mustang is parked against the curb in front of his house.

The hood is propped open, and he and his dad are leaning over the engine. Tony holds a small flashlight while his dad tightens something deep inside with a wrench.

“Did it break down,” I ask, “or is this just for fun?”

Tony glances over his shoulder and, when he sees me, drops the flashlight into the engine. “Damn.”

His dad stands up and wipes his oily hands across the front of his greased-up T-shirt.

“Are you kidding? It’s always fun.” He looks at Tony and winks. “It’s even more fun when it’s something serious.”

Scowling, Tony reaches in for the flashlight. “Dad, you remember Clay.”

“Sure,” his dad says. “Of course. Good to see you again.” He doesn’t reach forward to shake my hand.

And with the amount of grease smeared onto his shirt, I’m not offended.

But he’s faking it. He doesn’t remember me.

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