Also, the Phil Wrayson costume is excellent as is, but it’d be even better if we had some Will Graysonish clothes for Gary to wear.

Furthermore, I thought I would have time to make a preshow mix in which the odd-numbered tracks are punk rock and the even-numbered tracks are from musicals. I will not, in fact, have time to do this; if you do, it would be truly fabulous.

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You are a cute couple, and it was my distinct pleasure to set you up, and I do not in any way resent either of you for failing to have thanked me for making your love possible.

I remain . . .

Your faithful matchmaker and servant . . .

Toiling alone and newly single in an ocean of pain so that some light may be brought into your lives . . . Tiny Cooper

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I laugh while I read it, and Tiny laughs, too, nodding his head, appreciating his own awesome.

“I’m sorry about the other Will Grayson,” I say.

His smile folds in upon itself. His response seems directed more toward my namesake than me. “There’s never been anybody like him.”

I don’t trust the words as he says them, but then he exhales through pursed lips, his sad eyes squinting at the distance, and I believe him.

“I should probably get started on this, eh? Thanks for the backstage invite.”

He gets up and starts nodding like he sometimes does, the repetitive nodding that tells me he’s convincing himself of something. “Yeah, I should get back to infuriating the cast and crew with my tyrannical direction.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” I say.

“And all the other days,” he says, patting me too hard between the shoulder blades.

Chapter eighteen

I start holding my breath. not like you do when you pass a graveyard or something like that. no. i’m trying to see how long i can do it before i pass out or die. it’s a really convenient pastime - you can do it pretty much anywhere. class. lunch. at the urinal. in the discomfort of your own room.

the sucky part is that the moment always comes when i take the next breath. i can only push myself so far.

I’ve given up on hearing from tiny. i hurt him, he hates me - it’s as simple as that. and now that he’s not texting me, i realize that no one else texts me. or messages me. or cares.

now that he isn’t into me, i realize that no one else is all that into me, either.

okay, so there’s gideon. he’s not much of a texter or a messager, but when we’re at school, he’s always asking me how things are going. and i always stop not-breathing in order to answer him. sometimes i even tell the truth.

me: seriously, is this what the rest of my life is going to be? i don’t think i signed up for this.

I know it sounds like teenage idiocy - the needles! in my heart! and my eyes! - but the pattern seems inescapable. i am never going to get better at being a good person. i am always going to be the blood and shit of things.

gideon: just breathe.

and i wonder how he knows to say that.

the only time that i pretend i have it all together is when maura’s around. i don’t want her to see me falling apart. worst case scenario: she stomps on all the pieces. worse-than-that case scenario: she tries to put them together again. i realize: i am now where she was with me. on the other side of the silence. you’d think that silence would be peaceful. but really, it’s painful.

at home, mom is keeping close watch on me. which makes me feel worse, because now i’m putting her through it, too.

that night - the night i screwed everything up with tiny

- she hid the glass bowl he gave her. while i was asleep, she put it away. and the stupid thing was, when i saw it was gone, the first thing i thought was that she was afraid i’d smash it. then i realized she was only trying to protect me from seeing it, from getting upset.

at school, i ask gideon

me: why is it upset? shouldn’t it be downset?

gideon: i will file a lawsuit against the dictionaries first thing tomorrow morning. we’re going to tear merriam a new asshole and throw webster inside of it.

me: you are such a dork.

gideon: only if you catch me on a good day.

I don’t tell gideon that i feel guilty being around him. because what if the threat tiny felt turns out to be true? what if i was cheating on him without knowing it?

me: can you cheat on someone without knowing it?

I am not asking gideon this. i am asking my mother.

she has been so careful with me. she has been tiptoeing around my moods, acting like everything’s okay. but now she just freezes.

mom: why are you asking me that? did you cheat on tiny?

and i’m thinking, oh shit, i should not have asked that question.

me: no. i didn’t. why are you so mad?

mom: nothing.

me: no, why? did dad cheat on you?

she shakes her head.

me: did you cheat on dad?

mom: no. it’s not that. it’s . . . i don’t want you to ever be a cheater. not on people. sometimes it’s okay to cheat on things - but don’t ever cheat on people. because once you start, it’s very hard to stop. you find out how easy it is to do.

me: mom?

mom: that’s all. why are you asking?

me: no reason. just wondering.

I’ve been wondering a lot lately. sometimes, when i’m passing the minute mark on holding my breath, besides imagining being dead, i’m also imagining what tiny is doing. sometimes i picture the other will grayson there. most of the time, they’re onstage. but i can never understand what they’re singing.

and the weird thing is, i’m thinking about isaac again. and maura. and how weird it is that it was a lie that made me happiest.

tiny doesn’t respond to any of my instant messages. then, the night before the musical, i decide to type in the other will grayson’s screenname. and there he is. it’s not like i think he’ll completely understand. yeah, we have the same name, but it’s not like we’re psychic twins. it’s not like he’ll wince in pain if i burn myself or anything. but that one night in chicago, i felt he understood a little of it. and, yeah, i also want to see if tiny’s okay.

willupleasebequiet: hey

willupleasebequiet: it’s will grayson.

willupleasebequiet: the other one.

WGrayson7: wow. hello.

willupleasebequiet: is this okay? me talking to you.

WGrayson7: yeah. what are you doing up at 1:33:48?

willupleasebequiet: waiting to see if 1:33:49 is any better. you?

WGrayson7: if i’m not mistaken, i just saw, via webcam, a revised musical number that involved oscar wilde’s ghost, live from the bedroom of the musical’s

WGrayson7: director-writer-star-etc-etc

willupleasebequiet: how was it?

willupleasebequiet: no.

willupleasebequiet: i mean, how is he?

WGrayson7: truth?

willupleasebequiet: yes.

WGrayson7: i don’t think i’ve ever seen him more nervous. and not because he’s the director-writer-star-etc-etc. but because it means so much to him, you know? he really thinks he can change the world.

willupleasebequiet: i can imagine.

WGrayson7: sorry, it’s late. and i’m not even sure if i should be talking about tiny with you.

willupleasebequiet: i just checked the bylaws of the international society of will graysons, and i can’t find anything in there about it. we’re in vastly uncharted territory.

WGrayson7: exactly. here be dragons.

willupleasebequiet: will?

WGrayson7: yes, will.

willupleasebequiet: does he know i’m sorry?

WGrayson7: dunno. in my recent experience, i’d say hurt tends to drown out sorry.

willupleasebequiet: i just couldn’t be that person for him.

WGrayson7: that person?

willupleasebequiet: the one he really wants.

willupleasebequiet: i just wish it wasn’t all trial and error.

willupleasebequiet: because that’s what it is, isn’t it?

willupleasebequiet: trial and error.

willupleasebequiet: i guess there’s a reason they don’t call it ‘trial and success’

willupleasebequiet: it’s just try-error

willupleasebequiet: try-error

willupleasebequiet: try-error

willupleasebequiet: i’m sorry. are you still here?

WGrayson7: yes.

WGrayson7: if you’d caught me two weeks ago, i would have had to agree with you fullheartedly.

WGrayson7: now i’m not so sure.

willupleasebequiet: why?

WGrayson7: well, i agree that ‘trial and error’ is a pretty pessimistic name for it. and maybe that’s what it is most of the time.

WGrayson7: but i think the point is that it’s not just try-error.

WGrayson7: most of the time it’s try-error-try

WGrayson7: try-error-try

WGrayson7: try-error-try

WGrayson7: and that’s how you find it.

willupleasebequiet: it?

WGrayson7: you know. it.

willupleasebequiet: yeah, it. willupleasebequiet: try-error-try-it

WGrayson7: well . . . i haven’t become that optimistic. WGrayson7: it’s more like try-error-try-error-try-error-try-error-try-error-try . . . at least fifteen more rounds . . . then try-error-try-it

willupleasebequiet: i miss him. but not in the way he would want me to miss him.

WGrayson7: are you coming tomorrow?

willupleasebequiet: i don’t think that would be a good idea. do you?

WGrayson7: it’s up to you. it could be another error. or it could be it. just do me a favor and give me a call first so i can warn him.

that seems fair. he gives me his phone number and i give him mine. i type it into my phone before i forget. when it asks for the name to go with the number, i just type will grayson.

willupleasebequiet: what’s the secret to your wisdom, will grayson?

WGrayson7: i think it’s that i hang out with the right people, will grayson.

willupleasebequiet: well, thank you for your help.

WGrayson7: i like to be on call for all of my best friend’s ex-boyfriends.

willupleasebequiet: it takes a village to date tiny cooper.

WGrayson7: exactly.

willupleasebequiet: good night, will grayson.

WGrayson7: good night, will grayson.

I want to say this calms me. i want to say i fall immediately to sleep. but the whole night my mind goes

try-error-?

try-error-?

try-error-?

by the morning, i am wreckage. i wake up and i think, today’s the day. and then i think, it has nothing to do with me. it’s not like i even helped him with it. it’s just that now i’m not getting to see it. i know that’s fair, but it doesn’t feel fair. it feels like i’ve screwed myself over.

mom notices my unparalleled self-hatred at breakfast. it’s probably the way i drown the cocoa puffs until the milk overflows that tips her off.

mom: will, what’s wrong?

me: what isn’t?

mom: will . . .

me: it’s okay.

mom: no, it’s not.

me: how can you tell me it’s not? isn’t that my choice?

she sits down across from me, puts her hand on my hand even though there’s now a puddle of cocoa-colored milk under her wrist.

mom: do you know how much i used to scream?

I have no idea what she’s talking about.

me: you don’t scream. you fall silent.

mom (shaking her head): even when you were little, but mostly when your father and i were going through what we went through - there were times when i had to go outside, get in the car, drive around the corner, and scream my head off. i would scream and scream and scream. sometimes just noise. and sometimes curses - every curse you can think of.

me: i can think of a lot of them. did you ever scream ‘shitmonger!’

mom: no, but . . .

me: ‘fuckweasel!’

mom: will—

me: you should try ‘fuckweasel.’ it’s kinda satisfying.

mom: my point is that there are times when you just have to let it all out. all of the anger, all of the pain.

me: have you thought of talking to someone about this? i mean, i have some pills that might interest you, but i think you’re supposed to have a prescription. it’s okay - it only takes up an hour of your time for them to diagnose it.

mom: will.

me: sorry. it’s just that it’s not really anger or pain i’m feeling. just anger at myself.

mom: that’s still anger.

me: but don’t you feel like that shouldn’t count? i mean, not the same as being angry at someone else.

mom: why this morning?

me: what do you mean?

mom: why are you especially angry at yourself this morning?

It’s not like i’d been planning on advertising the fact that i’m angry. she kinda traps me into it. i of all people can respect that. so i tell her that today’s the day of tiny’s musical.

mom: you should go.

now it’s my turn to shake my head.

me: no way.

mom: way. and will?

me: yes?

mom: you should also talk to maura.

I bolt down the cocoa puffs before there’s any way for her to persuade me. when i get to school, i sail past maura at her perch and try to use the day as a distraction. i try to pay attention in classes, but they are so boring that it’s like the teachers are trying to drive me back to my own thoughts. i am afraid of what gideon will say to me if i confide in him, so i try to pretend like it’s just an ordinary day, and that i’m not cataloging all of the things i’ve done wrong over the past few weeks. did i really give tiny a chance? did i give maura a chance? shouldn’t i have let him calm me down? shouldn’t i have let her explain why she did what she did?

finally, at the end of the day, i can’t deal with it on my own anymore, and gideon’s the one i want to turn to. part of me is hoping that he’ll tell me i have nothing to be ashamed of, that i’ve done nothing wrong. i find him at his locker and say

me: can you believe it? my mom said i should crash tiny’s show and talk to maura.

me: did your sister use your mouth as a crack pipe last night? are you insane?

gideon: i don’t have a sister.

me: whatever. you know what i’m saying.

gideon: i’ll go with you.

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