13 Reasons Why Cassette 5 Side B
“Were you at the party?” I ask.
Jeremy looks out his side window and changes lanes. “No. Josh, I need to know that you’re going to be all right.”
Impossible to answer. Because no, I didn’t push her away. I didn’t add to her pain or do anything to hurt her. Instead, I left her alone in that room. The only person who might’ve been able to reach out and save her from herself. To pull her back from wherever she was heading. I did what she asked and I left. When I should have stayed.
“No one blames me,” I whisper. I need to hear it said aloud. I need to hear the words in my ears and not just in my head. “No one blames me.”
“No one,” Jeremy says, his eyes still on the road.
“What about you?” I ask.
We approach a four-way stop and slow down. For a moment, from the corner of his eye, he looks at me. Then he returns his gaze to the road. “No, I don’t blame you.”
“But why you?” I ask. “Why did she give you the other set of tapes?”
“Let me drive you to the party house,” he says. “I’ll tell you there.”
“You can’t tell me now?”
His smile is weak. “I’m trying to keep us on the road.”
I press Play.
Soon after Josh left, the couple from the couch walked into the bedroom. Actually, stumbled into the bedroom is more accurate. Remember them? I thought she was acting drunk, bumping into me so we’d get up and leave. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an act. She was smashed.
I passed them in the hall. One of Jessica’s arms lay flopped over Justin’s shoulders. The other one groped for the wall to steady herself.
Of course, I didn’t actually see them come in. I was still on the floor, my back against the far side of the bed, and it was dark.
When I walked out of the room, I felt so frustrated. So confused. I leaned against the piano in the living room, almost needing it to hold myself up. What should I do? Stay? Leave? But where would I go?
Her sofa buddy kept her from stumbling too hard into the nightstand. And when she rolled off the bed…twice…he lifted her back on. Nice guy that he was, he kept the laughter to a minimum. I thought he would tuck her in and shut the door behind him as he left. And that would be the perfect time for my getaway. End of story.
Hayley wasn’t my first kiss, but the first kiss that mattered; the first kiss with someone who mattered. And after talking with her for so long that night, I assumed it was just the beginning. Something was happening between us. Something right. I felt it.
But that’s not the end of the story. Because that wouldn’t make for a very interesting tape, now would it? And by now, I’m sure you knew it wasn’t the end.
Still, with no destination in mind, I left the party.
Instead of leaving, he started kissing her. I know, some of you would have easily stayed for such an amazing voyeuristic opportunity. A close encounter of the sexual kind. Even if you never saw it, at least you’d hear it. But two things kept me down on that floor. With my forehead pressed against my knees, I realized how much I must’ve drank that night. And with my balance not what it should’ve been, to run across the floor felt a little hazardous.
So that’s one excuse.
Excuse number two is that things seemed to be winding down up there. Not only was she drunk and clumsy, she seemed to be completely unresponsive. From what I could tell, it didn’t go much beyond kissing. And it seemed to be one-sided kissing at that. Again, nice guy that he was, he didn’t take advantage of the situation. He wanted to. He tried for the longest time to get a reaction out of her. “Are you still awake? Do you want me to take you to the bathroom? Are you gonna puke?”
This girl wasn’t totally passed out. She grunted and groaned a bit. It dawned on him–finally–that she wasn’t in a romantic mood and probably wouldn’t be for a while. So he tucked her in and said he’d check on her in a bit. Then he left. At this point you might be wondering, Who are these people? Hayley, you forgot to tell us their names. But I didn’t forget. If there’s one thing I’ve still got, it’s my memory. Which is too bad. Maybe if I forgot things once in a while, we’d all be a little bit happier.
The mist was heavy when I left the party. And as I walked through the neighborhood, it started to drizzle. Then rain. But when I first started walking it was just a thick mist that left everything sort of hazy.
No, you’ll have to wait for a name on this one. Though if you’ve been paying close attention, I gave you the answer a long time ago. Before I say his name out loud, this guy needs to stew a bit…to remember everything that happened in that room. And he remembers. I know he does.
I would love to see his face right now. His eyes shut tight. Jaw clenched. Fists pulling out his hair. And to him I say, Deny it! Go on, deny that I was ever in that room. Deny that I know what you did. Or not what you did, but what you didn’t do. What you allowed to happen. Rationalize why this isn’t the tape you’re making a return appearance on. It must be a later tape. It has to be a later tape. Oh, really? And you’d like that? A later tape would make things better? Don’t bet on it.
God. What else could’ve gone wrong that night?
I know she wasn’t your girlfriend, that you hardly ever talked to her and barely even knew her, but is that your best excuse for what happened next? Or is that your only excuse?
Either way, there is no excuse. I stood up, stabilizing myself with one hand on the bed.
Your shoes–the shadow of your shoes–were still visible in the light coming under the door. Because when you left that room, you took up post right outside. And I let go of the bed and started walking toward that sliver of light, not sure what I’d say to you when I opened the door. But halfway there, two more shoes came into view…and I stopped.
When I left the party, I just walked. Several blocks. Not wanting to go home. Not wanting to go back.
The door opened, but you pulled it back and said, “No. Let her rest.” In that tiny burst of light, I saw a closet–its accordion doors halfway open. Meanwhile, your friend was convincing you to let him in that room. I waited, heart pounding, trapped in the middle of the floor. The bedroom door opened again. But again, you pulled it shut. And you tried to make a joke of it.
“Trust me,” you said, “she won’t move. She’ll just lay there.” And what was his response? What was it? What was his reasoning for you to step aside and let him in that room? Do you remember? Because I do. It was the night shift. He told you he was working the night shift and had to leave in a few minutes. A few minutes, that’s all he needed with her. So just relax and step aside. And that’s all it took for you to let him open the door.
Pathetic. I couldn’t believe it. And your friend couldn’t believe it, either, because when he grabbed the doorknob again, he didn’t rush right in. He waited for you to protest. In that brief moment–the moment you said nothing–I fell on my knees, sick, covering my mouth with both hands. I stumbled toward the closet, tears blurring the light from the hall. And when I collapsed into the closet, a pile of jackets on the floor caught me.
When the bedroom door opened, I pulled the closet doors shut. And I shut my eyes tight. Blood pounded in my ears. I rocked back and forth, back and forth, beating my forehead into the pile of jackets. But with the bass pumping throughout the house, no one heard me.
“Just relax.” Those words, he’s said it before. It’s what he always says to the people he’s taking advantage of. Girlfriends. Guys. Whoever. It’s Bryce. It has to be. Bryce Walker was in that room.
And with the bass thumping, no one heard him walking across the room. Walking across the room. Getting on the bed. The bedsprings screaming under his weight. No one heard a thing. And I could have stopped it. If I could have talked. If I could have seen. If I could have thought about anything, I would have opened those doors and stopped it.
But I didn’t. And it doesn’t matter what my excuse was. That my mind was in a meltdown is no excuse. I have no excuse. I could have stopped it–end of story. But to stop it, I felt like I’d have to stop the entire world from spinning. Like things had been out of control for so long that whatever I did hardly mattered anymore. And I couldn’t stand all the emotions anymore. I wanted the world to stop…to end.
For Hayley, the world did end. But for Jessica, it didn’t. It went on. And then, Hayley hit her with these tapes.
I don’t know how many songs went by with my face buried in those jackets. The beats kept sliding from one song into another. After a while, my throat felt so scratched. So raw and burning. Had I been screaming? With my knees on the floor, I felt vibrations whenever anyone walked down the hall. And when footsteps fell within the room–several songs after he entered the room–I pressed my back against the closet wall…waiting. Waiting for the closet doors to be torn open. To be yanked out of my hiding place. And then? What would he do to me then?
Jeremy’s car pulls over. The front tire scrapes the curb. I don’t know how we got here, but the house is right outside my window now. The same front door where I entered the party. The same front porch where I left. And to the left of the porch, a window. Behind that window, a bedroom and a closet with accordion doors where Hayley, on the night I kissed her, disappeared.
But light from the hallway seeped into the room, into the closet, and his footsteps walked away. It was over. After all, he couldn’t be late for work, could he? So what happened next? Well, I ran out of the room and straight down the hall. And that’s where I saw you. Sitting in a room all by yourself. The person this whole tape revolves around… Justin Foley.
My stomach lurches and I fling open the car door.
Sitting on the edge of a bed, with the lights turned off, there you were. Sitting there, staring at nothing. While I stood in the hallway, frozen, staring at you. We’d come a long way, Justin. From the first time I watched you slip on Kat’s lawn. To my first kiss at the bottom of the slide. To now. First, you started a chain of events that ruined my life. Now, you were working on hers.
Outside that very same house, I throw up. I keep my body hunched over, my head hanging over the gutter.
Eventually, you turned my way. The color in your face…gone. Your expression… blank. And your eyes looked so exhausted. Or was it pain I saw there?
“Stay there as long as you want,” Jeremy says.
Don’t worry, I think. I won’t puke in your car.
Justin, baby, I’m not blaming you entirely. We’re in this one together. We both could have stopped it. Either one of us. We could have saved her. And I’m admitting this to you. To all of you. That girl had two chances. And both of us let her down.
The breeze feels good on my face, cooling the sweat on my forehead and neck.
So why is this tape about Justin? What about the other guy? Isn’t what he did worse? Yes. Absolutely yes. But the tapes need to be passed on. And if I sent them to him, they would stop. Think about it. He raped a girl and would leave town in a second if he knew…well…if he knew that we knew.
I press Pause.
Still hunched over, I breathe in as fully as possible. Then I hold it. And release. Breathe. Then hold. Release.
I sit upright in the seat, keeping the door open just in case. “Why you?” I ask. “Why do you have these tapes? What did you do?”
A car drives by and we both watch it turn left two blocks away. It’s another minute before Jeremy answers.
“Nothing,” he says. “And that’s the truth.” For the first time since approaching me at Rosie’s, Jeremy addresses me eye to eye. And in his eyes, catching the light from a lamppost half a block away, I see tears. “Finish this tape, Josh, and I’ll explain everything.”
I don’t answer.
“Finish it. You’re almost done,” he says.
I press Play.
So what do you think of him now, Justin? Do you hate him? Your friend that raped her, is he still your friend? Yes, but why? It must be denial. It has to be. Sure, he’s always had a temper. Sure, he goes through girls like used underwear. But he’s always been a good friend to you. And the more you hang out with him, the more he seems like the same old guy from before, right? And if he acts like the same guy, then he couldn’t possibly have done anything wrong. Which means that you didn’t do anything wrong, either.
Great! That’s great news, Justin. Because if he didn’t do anything wrong, and you didn’t do anything wrong, then I didn’t do anything wrong. And you have no idea how much I wish I didn’t ruin that girl’s life. But I did. At the very least, I helped. And so did you.
No, you’re right, you didn’t rape her. And I didn’t rape her. He did. But you…and I…we let it happen. It’s our fault.
I press Stop.
“Full story,” I say. “What happened?”
I pull the sixth tape from my pocket and swap it with the one inside the Walkman.