How I came to know that Drew Ramos regularly went to other worlds was nothing more than a bookmark nestled in a Harry Potter book (the sixth one, I think) that came spinning out when I happened to knock the book off an end table. Drew was the type who would re-read Harry Potter every six months, almost as though he missed the characters so much that he couldn’t bear to be too far away from them. I often wondered if, given the chance, he wouldn’t give up his life to snuggle into the pages and join the wizarding world, even if that meant he only had a bit part as a background character.
The bookmark fell from the knocked-over book, merely confirming things I had suspected about Drew for a long time. “Where do you go, Drew?” I’d often asked him, for Drew simply disappeared. There were times when I could have sworn that he was in his dorm room, only to find the room empty, the window firmly jammed shut and too much ice crusted on the ledge in any case to let him out that way. He just went. Drew just went.
In the earliest moments of our existence at St. Ives, Drew found me. “Can I have your mushy peas?” he’d asked in the cafeteria. I’d given them to him and watched as he’d sat next to me, steel tray clattering with the effort of securing his cutlery while dealing with a glass over-filled with milk. The peas had been gobbled – not eaten, but truly gobbled, four heaping spoons that he’d slurped between his lips and swallowed without a hint of exertion from his teeth.
“No one likes mushy peas,” I’d told him. “My name’s Jane.”
“Old-fashioned name back in style,” he’d said. I think that was when he’d finally looked at me, and I’d discovered that Drew could lift his eyebrows one at a time: the left one first, the right one joining it, until there was a Roman archway of ginger hair spread across his face. “Come to my room later, 2312.”
“Why would I do that?”
He’d fixed his glasses and sipped the bubbles off the milk. He was the most serious boy I’d ever met, and thinking on him now, I wonder if that’s because he was aimed at something beyond me, something I couldn’t understand or grasp, as though not only did he want to vanish into a book, but that possibly he’d come out of one, too.
“Simple,” he’d shrugged. “It’s really simple. I owe you for the mushy peas.”
In his dorm room, Drew scribbled on the chalk board above his bed. I’d sat against his desk and watched the dust float onto the covers. “Did you know that big things come from small things?” he’d asked, as I wondered if he would try to kiss me. But he didn’t. Drew scribbled straight lines on the chalk board, in different colors, almost like intersecting tic-tac-toe boards. He talked while he was doing it, telling me how he’d like to paint someday, but that his first and greatest love was physics.
“It doesn’t look like much,” I’d said of the drawing. He’d continued to scribble. “Where do you live? How come you’re at St. Ives?” He’d mumbled replies between long strokes of rapidly-diminishing chalk. I might remember it strangely, after everything that’s happened since, but every now and then the tic-tac-toes flashed, the overlain boards separating as though they weren’t written in the same plane – as though they were on top of each other, stacked in a configuration that was growing out of the board.
“Done!” he’d said finally, tossing the chalk. There must have been a thousand lines on the board. “Are we square now?”
“I don’t see how,” I’d told him. “Even if it was mushy peas, this is a bad trade for me.”
“You haven’t added your bit yet. Come up here. Go to the middle. Use your finger to make a line down the middle.”
In that strange, kiss-less visit, that had been the strangest part of all, but not nearly the strangest thing about Drew Ramos. I’d wetted my finger with a bit of spit and run it down the middle of his drawing, all with the startling effect of having made no difference whatsoever. Drew had been leaning against the back wall, smiling. Serious boy that he was, he didn’t smile much.
“Come here,” he’d said.
“Now look, no funny business…” I’d gone to stand next to him, wondering if he was going to try and hold my hand. But he hadn’t. In the strange, hand-holding-less air of that chalky dorm room, I’d looked at the board. That one mark through the middle of the scribbles had transformed the picture, until there, staring back at me, was me: the blond straight hair, the blue eyes, the hairband, the green of my uniform sweater, the knot of my tie and the very clear curl at the end of my shirt collar.
“Like I said,” he’d said, as though that were the point he’d been making all along, “big things come from small things.”
There’s a few parts to this odd story. Hope you all enjoy it. I wrote the first draft a long time ago and rediscovered it lately. I’ve just finished it up and will be releasing it in parts over the next few days. Thanks as always for reading!