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What was it like to be Ted, I wondered, so I got out of my clothes, inserted my body beneath the rumpled covers, and proceeded to watch the car crashing. Just then his mother walked in. “Go to sleep now, Teddy. It’s very late,” she said. “And please Teddy,” she added. “Lower that TV. We can hear it all the way at the end of the house. I said nothing. Besides, I knew I couldn’t make it any lower if I tried. And then, of course, there was his father popping his head into the room. “Look, son,” he said, loud enough to hear him at the end of the house, “you stay up as long as you like and if you got a girl under the bed, that’s fine too. Your mother’s a light sleeper, otherwise, I’d join you.” “Sure, dad,” I told him. “You know I share everything with you, don’t you?” Then he laughed, a terrible devious laugh as if we shared some terrible secret together. I no longer felt I should get dressed and take Dyspnea home, but for some reason I felt stuck there, as if I belonged.
Suddenly, this had all become mine. The bed, the car crashing video, the pictures on the wall, the imaginary girl under the bed, the mother and father and most of all Ted’s nakedness. And then, she came in. Even in the darkness I knew it was her. After all, I recognized the breathing. No one else breathed as loudly and as lovely as Dyspnea. She was coming to me. She wanted me. “Please,” she said and then I waited as her wheezing blended into the soft, distant undertones of a car wreck. “Please . . don’t,” she pleaded. “Why not?” I asked in a voice I could not recognize which may very well have been Ted’s, and she said, “ come .” and then she said, “into ” and then she said, “my ” and then “ room, ” and finally “tonight” and then I put it all together-”Please-don’t-come-into-my-room-tonight.” And then I said, “And if I do?” just like Teddy would have said and she said, “I’ll . . .scream.” “I’ll. . . scream.” But she couldn’t scream. Ted knew and I knew she couldn’’t scream and yet she felt compelled night after night that Ted had been coming into her room to warn him nevertheless, a warning he probably laughed at, and then I too began to laugh, to laugh uncontrollably just like Ted might have done. But she stood there and with all the breath she could manage, she kept repeating, ”I’ll . . .scream.” ”I’ll. . . scream,” and then she turned to walk away and I knew what Ted would do next. I knew everything, I knew that she never tried to warn Ted at all in the car that night, but instead grabbed the wheel herself and steered the car into the oncoming traffic so that she and Ted might die and their parents would have to spend the rest of their lives together alone.
So now, knowing everything, I got out of bed, put my clothes back on, turned off the TV, ripped the calendar off the wall and threw all the photos of all the women I was too ashamed to look at into he garbage can at the side of the bed. Yes, I decided, we would go right home and work on her screaming. This would at least be a start, I thought, in a world where there is so little air.