Another change in Cary occurred just as school started. Jonathan had thankfully not been bothered by Clearing or been opposed to meeting Cary there. In fact, if anything Jonathan had welcomed it. During the months which had passed since they had become friends, Cary had become able to converse easily when Jonathan or Clearing was around. That Malston Clearing had become one of Cary's closest friends was no longer a strange thing to Cary or Jonathan.
The change, when Cary noticed it, was late on Monday night before the coming first day of school, in August. Jonathan and Cary were walking back to Cary's house, through the woods between Clearing's street and Cary's. It was known, now, by most of Happy Endings, Lana had gone as Jonathan put it, "aIl holy roller" and with her efforts at Cary-bashing ended people seemed to forget Cary was persona non grata. No one had called him Ickie in weeks. Jonathan had even agreed to walk in public with him that very night. Though the older boy still insisted they sneak through the woods and be on alert.
The sun had just set. They were two houses down from Cary's own, with thirty feet of trees between them and the row of homes. They had just finished helping Clearing move in some furniture. “Do you have a girlfriend?” Cary asked Jonathan, sheepishly.
Jonathan stopped and turned to face Cary. “No.” the boy said and frowned. He stepped away from Cary and stared at the ground, a posture Cary knew all too well.
Cary had wanted to ask this for months, ever since he had seen Jonathan turn Lana down. But Cary hadn't expected the angry expression on the other boy's face, when Jonathan stopped staring at the ground.
“Me neither.” Cary said, although he felt this should be obvious.
Cary didn't know how to describe the feeling inside him. It was new and exciting. Terrifying and compelling all at once.
He knew he liked Jonathan, liked him in a way that was special, but how could he say that? A thousand different ways flashed through his mind but he could settle on none of them. Jonathan looked down at him, still several inches taller and he was still frowning, angry.
“..I..have to. go.” Jonathan said . Cary blinked, confused. Before Cary could say anything more, Jonathan turned and stalked away, much faster than he usually walked, half running, then full out. Cary watched with disappointment. The bright feeling burned inside of him. He wanted to stamp on the disappointment, tamp it down and trample it, but he could not. Now he had felt it, acknowledged it, he was changed and he knew it. Even though he still was not precisely sure what the change was or what all it meant.
The next day, his first at high school, Cary was overwhelmed by the throngs of students passing close to him. By the hugeness of the building. The whole school was housed inside a single structure, save the art room out near the football field. Still, kids and teachers alike paid little or no attention to him. Most saw he was just another little freshman. Even those who had been with him at middle school - some of whom did not recognize him at all. But one person did recognize him, and yet pointedly ignored him, much to Cary's consternation Jonathan. Cary saw him coming down the hallway before seventh period class. The whole day had nearly passed and it was yet the first-time Cary caught sight of his only teenage friend. Yet when they passed in the hall Cary could not bring himself to speak and Jonathan didn't even look at him. Cary stood there, head down until someone else bumped into him and said, “Watch it dumbass! Move! You're standing in the middle of the hallway, yo.”
Cary immediately darted off. He was nearly to the back door when a strong, deep voice stopped him short. “Cary?”
It was Clearing, leaning out of a classroom door. Cary, iced to the spot, did not look fully up. His hands twitched. "Aren't you coming to class, then, Cary?”
Clearing's tone was upbeat. Cary couldn't think of which response to give and was sure he could not get away with running, so he went into the class, keeping his head down until he sat. It was oddly enough exactly where he was supposed to be.
“Have a seat there, Cary, in the back.” Clearing said. Clearing's head inclined towards an empty seat in the back of the room. Apparently Clearing's Intro to Physics class was quite popular, Cary kept his head determinedly down, but still managed to glance around. He was rather shocked to see a heart carved into the desktop which read, Lana He wondered if there was another Lana at the school. It looked new.
“Welcome to Intro to Physics.” Clearing began. Questions tormented Cary over Jonathan's behavior. Combined with the other boy's getaway the night before, made it troublesome for Cary to focus on Clearing's class.
Had Lana or Bird gotten to him?
“First, I want everyone to take one of these.” Clearing waved a small paperback book at them all. “This is a copy of Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. This will be our text for the first semester.” Copies were passed around. Cary hardly noticed when the student in front of him extended his arm backwards, a copy in hand. The book hung there for half a minute before the other kid did turn around and said, “Dude, here....” Cary took the book without looking up.
“So, I'm-sure this will be the first physics class for most of you, and if it is not, you'll forgive the ease with which we proceed. I am going to begin with a very brief summary of what will be discussed this semester. Please take these topics down...” Cary wrote the topics down.
1. Structure of Time
2. Particles And Waves
3. Quantum Mechanics
4. String Theory
5. M Theory
A strange thrumming rose in him, almost as if he was resonating with the words: “M Theory,” as he wrote them down. Another kid must have raised a hand because Clearing paused “Yes, Miss... ?”
“Julie. Gambridge.” the girl said. Cary did not look up.
“I was wondering, sir, what you thought about parallel realities? You know, the idea that there are infinite universes?”
Clearing cleared his throat. “Well, Miss Gambridge, that's a bit advanced for today, we will be discussing that later in the course along with M theory. But I'll give you a quick answer. Myself, I believe there are many universes out there, and we are just on the cusp of discovering the truth of them all. Having said such, I don't think it is possible, as we understand physics, to actually find and travel to such parallel realities. Short answer, Miss Gambridge, we won't be seeing them in telescopes or transporting ourselves there in beams of laser-light anytime soon.” Clearing laughed.
Cary raised his head.
He couldn't say why. But he knew with a certainty beyond anything else Clearing was wrong, wrong about the ability to see and travel to parallel universes. The idea simply felt right. Clearing noticed Cary's head come up and he winked at him, as though he knew exactly what Cary thought.
If there are alternate realities somewhere out there is a place where I have a real family, where I can talk. Like a normal teenager instead of staring down at the ground, have lots of friends and didn't feel stuff about Jonathan.
The idea was so powerful, so entrancing... if I could just reach out - and maybe if I concentrate hard enough – I could find my way to that precise reality.
If its exists, then I could be all of those things, here. now.
Cary raised his hand.
Clearing blinked, maybe in surprise, and said, “Yes... Cary?”
But it was not so easy for Cary. As soon as he realized the faces of other kids in the class had turned to look at him, he blushed a deep, awkward shade of scarlet. His head hung down and his arm gently fell, limp, to his side. Clearing didn't miss a beat, he went right back into the lecture as if Cary hadn't spoken at all.