Jess chucked little bits of bread at the pigeons while I was babbling on and she didn’t seem to get excited about it like I was getting. She said it all sounded great and she couldn’t wait to go, but she said it like she was being polite and was thinking about something more important. I started to feel like a dork eventually and so I shut up and looked at the pigeons too for a bit. It was weird how many of them were limping.
She emptied out the last crumbs and said sorry, it was just that she’d been speaking to Sandra again that morning; she’d had a long talk with her and she’d also had a long talk with a couple of her friends from school, and she couldn’t get it all out of her head. I asked what they’d been talking about and she told me it was about Ganymede of course, and what everyone was saying about Chris and me. I said I didn’t care what anyone was saying because it was all lies anyway, and she knew that. She said she might know but I didn’t seem to realize how much smutty stuff there was on the web about me; you just had to type in my name, or billboard boy, and all kinds of things came up and zillions of photos. I asked whether she’d done that and she said no, but Sandra had.
She said she thought I should write it all down, everything that had happened. That’s when she first suggested it, on that bench in the park. I didn’t think it was such a good idea at the time; I mean I didn’t see how writing a humungous essay would help with anything. I didn’t know what to say about gabby Sandra and the others either, so I changed the subject.
I told her my mom and Chris thought I should carry on with modeling and I asked her what she thought. She shook her head, as though she meant to say no, but then she said maybe it would be crazy to throw away the chances I had, but I had to be careful if I was going to do it still. I said I wasn’t going to model Ganymede type stuff again, no way. I was hoping she’d say what my mom had said, that I looked like a god in underpants but she didn’t. She just smiled slightly and didn’t say anything.
We went back soon after and that’s when the accident happened, when I’d left Jess at her place and was walking back to the flat. I don’t remember anything about it. The cops came to the hospital and asked me what kind of car it was but I told them I didn’t see it, I didn’t see anything and I couldn’t remember anything. That was long after it happened anyway because I was totally out of it for ages.
People have tried to tell me what happened because some people did see it, a few people in the street and in cars, but they all seem to have seen or heard something different. One bloke said he didn’t think it was an accident; he said the car didn’t even brake and it looked as though the driver meant to hit me. The cops never said that to me; Jess told me she’d heard other people saying that and she said a newspaper said that too. The cops told me he must have been drunk, or maybe he was gong too fast and lost control.
They haven’t caught the driver. The cops told my mom there were cameras in the street but they weren’t working and they’re especially pissed off about that. They told her they were never going to stop looking for the driver; my mom said they didn’t call him the driver but she couldn’t repeat what they had called him.
I was in hospital for seven weeks. I can’t remember much about that either, at least not the first five or six weeks. It’s all kind of jumbled up and I think I was asleep, mostly. I remember my mom and Chris and Cindy and Judy being beside my bed a lot, and I woke up once to see George staring down at me and I shut my eyes again smartly. Jess often came with her dad and sometimes her mom. I even remember Miles coming to visit once and the nurse telling him not to sit on the bed. I don’t remember much but I remember the people who came to see me and I’m grateful.
Tomlinson came a couple of days before they let me out of hospital. The nurse told me he’d been a few times before but I’d always been asleep. He brought a pile of history books and a couple of essay questions. He told me the essays were overdue but I must write them when I could and he’d overlook the lateness just his once. I laughed when he said that and he told me he wasn’t joking. I still think he was joking but it’s impossible to tell for absolute sure with Mr. Tomlinson.
Judy came the last evening I was there. Jess and her dad had just left. Judy was all excited because she’d got engaged to a bloke called Simon something. She showed me the ring on her finger and she was really dizzy about it. I asked whether that meant she wasn’t going to wait until I was old and fat and bald. She looked a bit blank for a moment, and then her face lit up again and she said she’d much prefer to marry me but if she waited that long she’d be an old hag, just like Inez, and I wouldn’t want to marry her anyway.
She nattered about Simon non-stop. If there’s anything you want to know about him, just ask, because I’ve got all the details. He comes from Brazil and he has a younger brother and an older sister, he does kite surfing and he works in a bank; he talks with his mouth full, and Judy isn’t crazy about that, but on the whole he’s the greatest bloke that ever walked the planet.
Judy told me Chris was going to propose to Cindy. She said it was a state secret and he’d made her promise not to tell anyone and she said I mustn’t let on that I knew. He’d only told her because she’d got engaged and so she knew about choosing rings. I told her I was going to tease him about it the moment I saw him again, or maybe I’d call Cindy on my mobile right now and say congratulations. She pulled a face and she said I’d never do that because I was so kind and gentle and beautiful. I said, didn’t she mean handsome, and she said yes, that too, and everything.
Judy gave me a book before she left. She looked at the big pile of books Mr. Tomlinson had left and said maybe I didn’t need another book but she’d leave it anyway because she’d finished reading it. It was Turning Mortal. I asked her what it was about, like I’d asked her before. She said I must read it and find out for myself, and she wouldn’t tell me what it was about, or how it ended.
That was a while ago and now I’m in a wheelchair by the sea in Mauritius. It’s just a holiday and I still have to go for another operation so they can figure out what’s wrong with my legs and why I can’t use them. My mom says they’re bound to figure it out, she says that all the time, but the doctor doesn’t nod when she says it, and he doesn’t smile like she does. So I don’t know what the real story is or how it’s going to turn out in the end. It’s crap when it’s like that, when you don’t know who is pretending and who’s telling the truth.
Jess and her parents are arriving tomorrow morning and my mom is coming again in the evening. Chris and Cindy are arriving the day after that; at least I think it’s the day after. They’re engaged now and my mom says it’s like they’ve suddenly moved to a different universe and it’s just the two of them living there. She sounds quite pissed off about it.
At the moment it’s just Guido and me in Mauritius. Guido phoned soon after I got out of hospital and said I must come now, and to hell with what anybody else had to say about it. My mom and Chris had a lot to say, they had a huge debate, but in the end they told me it was up to me, it was my decision, and I said I wanted to go, and so here I am. I’ve got email and I can do schoolwork so it’s not like I’m using the accident as an excuse and just totally goofing off, you don’t have to think that.
We’ve spent quite a lot of time in the dingy though. Guido bought a new motor. It has an electric starter so it’s no hassle, but he won’t let me go on my own. I tried once, when he was out, but the wheelchair got stuck in the sand and I had to yell for help. Fatima came to my rescue and, boy, was she pissed off, she crapped me out big time. She said that was no way to treat a perfectly good wheelchair and she made me clean it with a cloth. I haven’t tried doing it again, I suppose it was stupid but it does get frustrating.
I didn’t tell you that Patricia died. Guido says they found her on the beach by her house a couple of weeks ago, lying on her back on the sand like she was just catching a few rays. She even had her sunglasses on and a book in her hand. Guido says she’s left all her paintings and sculptures and art stuff to a gallery in America.
The sculpture of me was still standing in her garden when I got here, in the place I’d suggested. Guido took me over to see it the first evening, just before sunset. It’s bigger than I was expecting but maybe it’s because it’s standing on a rock and I had to look up. Guido says it’s exactly life sized but it weighs a ton, and he wouldn’t want to carry it down to the dingy like he carries me. It looked like it was on fire when I saw it, burning up in the last red light from the sun.
I don’t know why exactly, but the whole thing totally freaked me out and I started crying and I couldn’t stop. Guido got upset too and he lifted me out of the wheelchair and carried me all the way back to his house along the beach. He kept saying sorry and telling me not to worry, that the doctors would sort me out and it would all be OK, it would be good, better than ever.
We’ve never been back to look at the statue again and I think it’s gone to America now anyway, so Jess won’t see it but she’s seen a photo of it. There was an article in a magazine her mom read, about Guido, just the other day, and there was a big picture of the statue in that, she said, and a small picture of me on the billboard.
There are still a lot of photos and crap about me on the web, not so much as there was, but that’s why I wrote this humungous essay, like Jess suggested, to tell the truth and also to get my head around everything. I don’t know whether that’s worked but maybe now you’ve read it you’ll think a little differently about me, because I have told the truth, as much as I know how anyway. The trouble is the truth keeps changing, like everything else, like the tide and the sunset, like people change their minds, and you can never know all of it.