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  “No,” Jude pleads with him, “no, Willem, no—I just—”


  But he interrupts him. “Why have you never told me who Brother Luke is?” he hears himself ask.


  He can tell that Jude is startled. “What?” he asks.


  “You promised me you would,” he says. “Remember? It was my birthday present.” The final words sound more sarcastic than he intended. “Tell me,” he says. “Tell me right now.”


  “I can’t, Willem,” Jude says. “Please. Please.”


  He sees that Jude is in agony, and still he pushes. “You’ve had four years to figure out how to do it,” he says, and as Jude moves to put the keys in the ignition, he reaches over and snatches them from him. “I think that’s enough of a grace period. Tell me right now,” and then, when there is still no reaction, he shouts at Jude again: “Tell me.”


  “He was one of the brothers at the monastery,” Jude whispers.


  “And?” he screams at him. I am so stupid, he thinks, even as he yells. I am so, so, so stupid. I am so gullible. And then, simultaneously: He’s scared of me. I’m yelling at someone I love and making him scared of me. He suddenly remembers yelling at Andy all those years ago: You’re mad because you can’t figure out how to make him better and so you’re taking it out on me. Oh god, he thinks. Oh god. Why am I doing this?


  “And I ran away with him,” Jude says, his voice so faint now that Willem has to lean in to hear him.


  “And?” he says, but he can see that Jude is about to cry, and suddenly, he stops, and leans back, exhausted and disgusted with himself, and suddenly frightened as well: What if the next question he asks is the question that finally opens the gates, and everything he has ever wanted to know about Jude, everything he has never wanted to confront, comes surging out at last? They sit there for a long time, the car filling with their shaky breaths. He can feel his fingertips turning numb. “Let’s go,” he finally says.


  “Where?” Jude asks, and Willem looks at him.


  “We only have an hour to Boston,” he says. “And they’re expecting us,” and Jude nods, and wipes his face with his handkerchief, and takes the keys from him, and drives them slowly out of the gas station.


  As they move down the highway, he has a sudden vision of what it really means to set yourself on fire. He thinks of the campfires he had built as a Boy Scout, the tepee of twigs you’d arrange around a knot of newspaper, the way the shimmering flames made the air around them wobbly, their awful beauty. And then he thinks of Jude doing that to his own skin, imagines orange chewing through his flesh, and he is sick. “Pull over,” he gasps to Jude, and Jude screeches off the road and he leans out of the car and vomits until he has nothing more to expel.


  “Willem,” he hears Jude saying, and the sound of his voice enrages him and devastates him, both.


  They are silent for the rest of the drive, and when Jude pulls the car bumpily into Harold and Julia’s driveway, there is a brief moment in which they look at each other, and it is as if he is looking at someone he has never seen before. He looks at Jude and sees a handsome man with long hands and legs and a beautiful face, the kind of face you look at and keep looking at, and if he were meeting this man at a party or at a restaurant, he would talk to him, because it would be an excuse to keep looking at him, and he would never think that this man would be someone who cut himself so much that the skin on his arms no longer felt like skin, but cartilage, or that he once dated someone who beat him so hard he could have died, or that one night he rubbed his skin with oil so that the flame he touched to his own body would burn brighter and faster, and that he had gotten this idea from someone who had once done this very thing to him, years ago, when he was a child and had done nothing worse than take something shiny and irresistible from a loathed and loathsome guardian’s desk.


  He opens his mouth to say something when they hear Harold and Julia calling out their welcomes to them, and they both blink and turn and get out of the car, fixing their mouths into smiles as they do. As he kisses Julia, he can hear Harold, behind him, saying to Jude, “Are you okay? Are you sure? You look a little off,” and then Jude’s murmured assent.


  He goes to the bedroom with their bag, and Jude goes directly to the kitchen. He takes out their toothbrushes and electric razors and puts them in the bathroom, and then he lies down on the bed.


  He sleeps all afternoon; he is too overwhelmed to do anything else. Dinner is just the four of them, and he looks in the mirror, quickly practicing his laugh, before he joins the others in the dining room. Over dinner, Jude is very quiet, but Willem tries to talk and listen as if everything is normal, though it is difficult, as his mind is full of what he has learned.


  Even through his rage and despair, he registers that Jude has almost nothing on his plate, but when Harold says, “Jude, you have to eat more; you’ve gotten way too skinny. Right, Willem?” and looks to him for the support and cajoling he would normally, reflexively offer, he instead shrugs. “Jude’s an adult,” he says, his voice odd to him. “He knows what’s best for him,” and out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Julia and Harold exchange glances with each other, and Jude look down at his plate. “I ate a lot when I was cooking,” he says, and they all know this is untrue, because Jude never snacks while he’s cooking, and doesn’t let anyone else do so, either: “The Snack Stasi,” JB calls him. He watches Jude absentmindedly cup his hand around his sweatered arm right where the burn would be, and then he looks up, and sees Willem staring, and drops his hand and looks back down again.


  Somehow they get through dinner, and as he and Julia do the dishes, he keeps the conversation topical and light. After, they go to the living room, where Harold is waiting for him to watch the previous weekend’s game, which he has recorded. At the entryway to the room, he pauses: normally, he would join Jude and squash in beside him on the oversize, overstuffed chair that has been squished in next to what they call Harold’s Chair, but tonight he cannot sit next to Jude—he can barely look at him. And yet if he doesn’t, Julia and Harold will know for certain that something is seriously wrong between them. But as he hesitates, Jude stands and, as if anticipating his quandary, announces that he’s tired and is going to bed. “Are you sure?” Harold asks. “The evening’s just beginning.” But Jude says he is, and kisses Julia good night and waves vaguely in Harold and Willem’s direction, and once again, he sees Julia and Harold look at each other.


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