the art of boxes (chapter 2)
the art of boxes
[these updates might be a little shorter than my one-shots, but they’ll be frequent. listen to regina spektor’s “firewood” because she wrote it for faberry. you can read the story here, on my lj, or on ffn. part 1 here.]
two. sadness would rise from our bones and evaporate in sunlight the way morning fog burned off the river in summer
“I love your shoes,” he says, gesturing to her oxfords.
Quinn turns her head to glance at the guy next to her. He has dark, rich skin and even darker eyes, hair cropped close to his scalp. He’s tall and thin and Quinn’s pretty sure he’s a dancer. She smiles. “I love your shoes.”
He laughs. “Flea market in Berlin,” he says, then sits in the chair next to Quinn’s, so that they’re sharing the thin table. It’s the second day of syllabus week, and Quinn’s early to her first Analysis of Literature class because she’d left plenty of time for her to get lost and still find the right building, which hadn’t actually happened.
“I got mine in Ohio,” she says.
The guy smiles, offering his hand. “I’m David.”
David leans back in his chair. “So are you from Ohio?”
David pats her on the shoulder with a sympathetic pout. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’d never have guessed that.”
Quinn twirls her pen between her fingers. “That does, actually.”
“Excellent,” David says, adjusting his scarf. “I’m from Dallas.”
“It’s okay. I’m from Ohio, remember?”
David smiles. So does Quinn, uncapping her pen and doodling a little in her brand new notebook.
“I’m a sophomore,” he says.
David says, “I’d never have guessed that either.”
Quinn laughs. “Excellent.”
More people start to file in and soon their professor arrives, hands out syllabi. Class goes by quickly and they get out a little early.
As they walk out of the building, David asks, “Where are you headed?”
Quinn points in the direction of her dorm.
David crooks his arm. “Me too.”
Quinn smiles and slips her hand around his forearm.
“So, Quinn, you’re a dancer, right?”
Quinn smiles. “Yeah. You too, huh?”
David nods. “We should dance sometime together.”
Quinn slows down, turning so that she can look at David. “I—uh—”
David shakes his head, waving a hand in the air. “Oh, honey, it’s not a date. Did you think it was a date? Because I’m a pretty obvious gay and if you couldn’t tell that, we’re really going to need to—”
Quinn smiles, wrapping her arm around David’s again. “I just wanted to be sure. I’m gay too,” she says.
“You are the hottest lesbian I’ve ever seen,” David tells her, hugging her playfully.
He’s the second person she’s told at Yale, and Quinn thinks of the box that her new camera came in—it was small, but it held lenses and instructions on how to see the world.
They get to her building and Quinn says, “I can’t wait to dance with you.”
David smiles. “It was nice to meet you, Quinn.”
Quinn thinks of Casablanca.
Wednesday evening, she and Hazel are deciding where their new My Brightest Diamond poster should go—over Quinn’s desk or on Hazel’s closet door—when Hazel asks, “So have you come out to Rachel?”
Quinn sucks in a breath, sits down on her bed. “No. Not yet.”
“But you like her?”
Quinn nods. The mattress shifts as Hazel sits down next to Quinn. “Does she like you?”
“Is she gay?”
Quinn tugs on the sleeve of her Yale sweatshirt. “I don’t think so. But she—Rachel’s just—I could give her everything.”
Hazel wraps an arm around Quinn’s shoulders and says, “Please don’t start crying.”
Quinn laughs. “I can’t promise anything.”
Hazel’s fingers squeeze Quinn’s arm gently. “You should tell her. At least that you’re gay.”
Quinn nods. “She’ll be fine with that. She has two gay dads.”
“Oh,” Hazel says. “Should I clear my schedule for a gay pride parade soon, then?”
Quinn rolls her eyes. “You’re so funny.”
“That’s what they tell me.”
Quinn takes a deep breath. She leans her head against Hazel’s soft sweater.
“And besides,” Hazel says, “if there was any girl in the entire world someone would go gay for, you’d probably be up there on the list.”
Quinn laughs and Hazel winks playfully.
They hang the poster above Quinn’s bed, because Quinn knows be brave, dear one, be changed, or be undone should be the chorus pumping through her blood.
She can’t fall asleep on Thursday night. It’s silly, because she wants to be rested for when Rachel gets there the next afternoon, but it feels like the night before an AP Exam or a big final—Quinn feels pressure and Quinn feels the heavy, heavy weight of a million expectations, and Quinn feels her own frustration at not being able to escape the smoke of the house of herself that’s on fire from her very own matches.
She falls asleep in the ink of the early morning, and she has nightmares: She can see twisted metal and hear the crunch of glass as paramedics make their way to her car. She can’t move and she can’t breathe.
She wakes up sweating, and it’s still dark. Her clock says 5:24 am, and Quinn takes her shaking hands and places them against her shins. The air in her dorm stings her lungs but her nerves fire correctly—miraculously—and all ten fingers are vivid along her legs.
She picks up her phone and climbs out of bed, walks into the hallway as quietly as possible, so Hazel doesn’t wake up.
Santana answers on the second ring. “Fuck you, Quinn,” she says.
“I’m sorry.” Quinn can hear the tremble in her voice, so she’s sure Santana can too.
Santana sighs, but she doesn’t say anything. Quinn listens to the comforting sounds of her breath—oxygen masks and chest tubes and this is going to hurt—and then Santana says, “You’re okay.”
It’s certain and gentle and her stitches had come out, and Quinn believes her.
She says, “Thanks, Santana.”
“I still hate you,” Santana says, but then she says, “I’m glad you’re okay, though.”
Quinn creaks open the door to her room and climbs in bed. “Love you,” she whispers.
Santana says, “Yeah. Love you too.”
Quinn sleeps soundly until her alarm goes off in the morning.
It’s 3:31 when Rachel’s train gets in. Quinn almost feels sick, but it’s not from dread; she’s just excited now.
And then Rachel’s the third person off, and there really aren’t that many people at the station so they see each other right away.
Quinn forces herself to walk normally—instead of running-across-the-field-in-Dirty Dancing-happily—but Rachel skips a little.
She’s wearing a short red dress with little birds printed on it, and sunglasses, and then Quinn is holding her in her arms, and it just feels so good, so right, and Rachel’s hair is still long and soft and a pretty brown, and Rachel says, “I’ve missed you so much.”
Quinn remembers birthday presents from her sister when they were little, a box full of her favourite chocolate, ever year.
They walk around Yale for a little while—Quinn points out a few of her favourite spots—and then Rachel grabs her hand.
Quinn pretends like it doesn’t mean anything, and Rachel rambles on and on when Quinn asks about her classes, but Quinn can’t help but think that if anyone walking around right now, to classes, to meet friends for coffee, to see their lover, saw them, they’d think they were together.
Her chest feels tight at the notion, full and heavy in the good way, the same way that beautiful books and the ocean make her feel: like she’s small and insignificant, but like there is a whole world out there constructed just for her.
“And then, my professor asked each of us to say our favourite animal, and this one girl, Martha, I think—”
“—Rachel,” Quinn says, and Rachel stops talking. “I have, I have something to tell you,” Quinn says. She wasn’t planning on telling Rachel now—the goal was to wait until two hours before Rachel was supposed to leave on Sunday afternoon, so that if it got really awkward Rachel could just take an earlier train but Quinn would have at least gotten to see her for a little while—but Rachel’s face looks so gentle when she nods and her hand feels so warm and small and perfect that Quinn says, “I’m gay.”
Rachel’s brows knit together and she leans forward a little, but she doesn’t take her hand away. “Are you—you’re sure?”
Rachel bites her bottom lip and Quinn remembers seeing the container of blood and fluid being drained from her lung, red and translucent and horrible.
But then Rachel smiles a little and says, “You make so much more sense now.”
Quinn laughs. “It’s great, isn’t it?”
Rachel nods, squeezes Quinn’s hand. “It’s wonderful.”
They walk to a restaurant just by campus that Quinn knows serves vegan stuff—it’s the first thing she looks for now, when she goes anywhere—and they sit at a little booth, Rachel across from her.
They talk happily about classes and music—Quinn wants to ask about Finn and she wants to ask about Rachel’s sexual orientation and she wants to ask about lips and fingers and breasts and then she thinks it’s funny that her brain short-circuits to a Rachel-like rambling default mode—but nothing serious.
The waiter brings their food, and then Quinn hears Rachel take a deep breath and put down her fork.
“I know it must’ve been really hard for you to decide to be honest with yourself,” she says.
“Yeah,” Quinn mumbles.
Rachel shakes her head. “With your background and your faith, I just—did you know for a long time?”
“Yeah,” Quinn says again.
Rachel puts her fingers between Quinn’s. “I’m so proud of you.”
Quinn bites her lip. “You know when you’re standing on the beach, and you just look out at the ocean, and it’s like you’re the only person in the entire world. Small and alone.”
Rachel says, “Yes.”
Quinn nods. “But then you just kind of think that maybe one other person, on some other continent, somewhere entirely different, someone you’ll never even know, ever, is doing the same thing. And you think of them, and you hope they’re thinking of you.”
“Is that what you feel like now?” Rachel’s voice is a whisper.
Quinn smiles. “Yeah.”
“Me too,” Rachel says.
The weekend is simple. Rachel laughs at Hazel’s impression of Quinn in the morning, and they all have dinner the next night with David and a few other friends from the dorms, and Rachel sleeps in Quinn’s bed without question.
They are friends.
At the station on Sunday, Rachel says, “Your hair’s gotten so long.”
Quinn nods. “I’ve been too busy to get a haircut.”
Rachel tucks a strand behind Quinn’s ear. “Come see me anytime.”
“How does next weekend sound?”
Rachel laughs. “Perfect.”
They hug for a long time.
Rachel doesn’t treat Quinn any differently. It’s heartbreaking but it’s also the most comforting notion Quinn has ever felt: They’re still continents apart, but continents shift and there are boats to take them across the sea.
i mention lyrics from "be brave" by my brightest diamond. the chapter title is from "light boxes" by shane jones.