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    I considered this a...ouple of kids on Rollerblades whizzed past, hockey sticks over their shoulders. "Yeah,"...aid, finally, "but you could also look at it the other way. Like you're saying no matter how bad things are for still relate."

    "Ah," he said. "So you're saying you relate to me."

    "No. Not at all."

    "Nice." He laughed, turning his head to look out the window...aught the quickest flash of his profile, and remembered all those days I'd spent studying him fro...istance.

    "Okay,"...aid. "Mayb...ittle."

    He turned back, facing me, an...elt it again. Another pause, just long enough for me to wonder what, exactly, was happening. Then he pushed the door open. "So," he said, "um, thanks again for the ride."

    "No you."

    "No," he said, "you didn't." He untangled himself from the seat. "I'll see you tomorrow, or something."

    "Yeah. See you then."

    He got out, shutting the door behind him, then grabbed his bag and started up the steps...atched him until he went inside.

    A...ulled away from the curb, the whole afternoon seemed so strange, surreal. There was so much filling my head, too much to even begin to understand, but a...rove...uddenly realized something else was bothering me: The CD had stopped and there was no music. Before...robably wouldn't have even noticed, but now, the silence, if not deafening, was distracting...asn't sure what this meant. Bu...eached forward and turned on the radio anyway.

    Chapter Nine

    Beauty and the Beast. The Odd Couple. Shrek and to hand it to the rumor mill: Over the next couple of weeks, they came up with lots of names for me and Owen and whatever it was we were doing every day on the wall at lunch. For me, it was harder to define. We weren't together by any means, but we weren't strangers. Like so much else, we fell somewhere in the middle.

    Whatever the case, some things now were just understood. First, that we'd sit together. Second, that I'd always give hi...ard time about not eating anything-he'd confessed to me he spent his lunch money on music, always-before sharing whatever I'd brought. And third, that we would argue. Or not argue, exactly. Discuss.

    Initially, it was only about music, Owen's favorite subject and the one about which he felt the most strongly. Whe...greed with brilliant and enlightened. Whe...idn' the Worst Taste in Music in the World. Usually the most spirited exchanges came at the beginning of the week, as we discussed his radio show, whic...ow listened to faithfully every Sunday morning. It was hard to believe that once I'd been so nervous to tell him wha...hought. Now, it came naturally.

    "You've got to be kidding!" he said one Monday, shaking his head. "You didn't like that Baby Bejesuses song?"

    "Was it the one that was all touch-tones?"

    "It wasn't all touch-tones," he said indignantly. "There was other stuff, too."

    "Like what?"

    He just looked at me fo...econd, half of my turkey sandwich poised in his hand. "like," he said, then too...ite, which meant he was stalling. After taking his time chewing and swallowing, he said, "The Baby Bejesuses are innovators of the genre."

    "Then they should be able to put using more tha...hone keypad."


    "That," he said, pointing at me with the sandwich, "is I-Lang. Watch it."

    I-Lang meant Inflammatory Language. And lik...n...nd placeholders, it had become part of my daily vocabulary. Hang out with Owen long enough, and you got an Anger Management tutorial, free of charge.

    "Look,"...aid, "you kno...on't like techno music. So maybe, you know, you should stop asking me my opinion of techno songs."

    "That is suc...eneralization!" he replied. "How can you just rule out an entire genre? You're jumping to conclusions."

    "No, I'm not,"...aid.

    "What do you call it, then?"

    "Being honest."

    He just looked at me fo...econd. Then, wit...igh, he took another bite of the sandwich. "Fine," he said, chewing. "Let's move on. What about that thrash metal song by the Lipswitches?"

    "Too noisy."

    "It's supposed to be noisy! It's thrash metal!"

    "I wouldn't mind the noise, if there were other redeeming qualities,"...old him. "It's just someone wailing at the top of their lungs."

    He popped the last bit of crust into his mouth. "So no techno and no thrash metal," he said. "What's left?"

    "Everything else?"...aid.

    "Everything else," he repeated slowly, still not convinced. "Okay, fine. How about the last son...layed, the one with glockenspiel."

    "The glockenspiel?"

    "Yeah. By Aimee Decker. There wa...tand-up bass, and some yodeling at the beginning, and then..."

    "Yodeling?"...aid. "Is that what that was?"

    "What, now you don't like yodeling, either?"

    And on and on. Sometimes, it got heated, but never to the point wher...ouldn't handle it. The truth was...ooked forward to my lunches with Owen, more tha...ver would have admitted.

    Between our discourses on early punk, big band and swing, and the questionable redeeming qualities of techno learning more and more about him...ow knew that although he'd always ha...assion for music, it wasn't until his parents divorce...ear an...alf earlier that he'd become, to use his word, obsessed. Apparently the split had been pretty ugly, with accusations going back and forth. Music, he told me, was an escape. Everything else was ending and changing, but music was this vast resource, bottomless.

    "Basically," he said one day, "when they wouldn't talk to each other...ot stuck in the middle, doing all the go-between work. And of course, it was always the other one who was terrible and inconsiderate. screwed, because someone got offended. But i...isagreed, that was taking sides, too. There was no way to win."

    "That must have been hard,"...aid.

    "It sucked. That's whe...tarted really getting into the music thing, all the obscure stuff. If nobody had heard it, nobody could tell me supposed to think about it. There was no right and wrong there." He sat back, waving that was circling around us. "Plus, around that same time, there was this college radio station out in Phoenix tha...tarted listening to-KXPC. There was this one guy who ha...ate-night shift on the weekends... he played some seriously obscure **. Like tribal music, or seriously underground punk, or five full minutes o...aucet dripping. Stuff like that."

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