Noah, up on the roof, uses Dad’s binoculars to scan the neighborhood and make sure that Zephyr and Fry aren’t waiting nearby to torment him as soon as he leaves the house. He spots them down at the beach—they’re with Jude, and a group of pretty girls in bright bikinis. Jude has been hanging with this group all summer, tanning with her girlfriends and kissing boys, and though Mom tells Noah that Jude’s acting differently because of her “hormones,” Noah knows that Jude must hate him. Noah imagines a portrait of Jude, Braiding Boy After Boy into Her Hair.
Jude is still making her flying sand women, though, and Noah has been following her down to the beach to watch each time she goes. He even photographed her once, but was overcome with such a horrible jealousy that as soon as Jude went back up to the house he destroyed the sand woman himself instead of waiting for the tide to wash it away. Noah feels that Jude gives off light, and he gives off dark, and imagines a portrait of them as a “flashlight” and a “flashdark.”
Even though Noah and Jude have drifted apart, the jealousy between them is still palpable and even divisive. Noah compares himself to Jude constantly, worried that she is leaving him behind.
Noah uses his binoculars to watch a pair of ripped movers bring a black piano into a house two doors down. A feeling of longing comes over Noah, but it is immediately replaced by fear and embarrassment when he spots a boy on the roof of the house the movers are going into—looking straight at him with a telescope. The boy smiles at Noah, and throws something at him—Noah, to his own surprise, catches it. It is a flat black rock. Noah wants to ask the boy what it is, but he has already turned his telescope up to the sky. Noah pockets the rock, climbs down the ladder on the side of the house, and runs down the hill towards CSA.
Again, when Noah is caught in an embarrassing moment, he retreats into art—in this case, running toward CSA—as a way to escape his feelings of shame. This passage also emphasizes how deeply embarrassed and uncomfortable Noah is with his sexuality.
Since school got out for the summer two weeks ago, Noah has been doing “recon” at CSA—peering into the studio windows to spy on student artwork, and occasionally catching a glimpse of a class in session. Today, Noah crouches underneath the window where a figure-drawing class is usually held and waits for the session to begin. He hears a crunching noise and footsteps nearby, and, after they retreat, Noah sneaks around the corner. Someone has placed a bottle of gin in a brown paper bag behind the bushes. Noah quickly returns to his own spot.
The validation Noah receives from his mother is not enough—he longs to be a real artist, and to immerse himself in a world where everyone is like him rather than one where he’s a perpetual outsider.
Noah peeps up through the window and sees that class has begun. The model this week, though, is not a woman—it is a man. The model undoes his robe and walks naked to the platform at the center of the room, where he poses for the class. Noah stops his hands from shaking and slowly begins to draw in his own notepad. When the class breaks for a few minutes, the model dons his robe and exits the classroom—a few moments later, he emerges from the building. Noah crawls around the corner and watches as the model picks up the bottle of stashed gin and begins drinking.
The world of CSA is not all happiness and creativity—this passage shows that many of the people in the world Noah imagines as a perfect utopia of art and reason are just as unhappy, or even unhappier, than he is right now.
After a few moments, the model notices Noah. He is visibly startled, and, in an English accent, asks what Noah is doing spying on him. Noah is struck nearly silent, but the English guy chattily begins asking him questions anyway. He catches a glimpse of Noah’s sketchbook and admires Noah’s talent, then promises to sneak him a stand on his next break—and keep secret the fact that Noah is spying on CSA classes—while continuing to drink. When Noah asks the model if he’s okay, the model replies that he is not.
Nelson clues her readers in to the fact that the model Noah is meeting now is the same English guy Jude will meet in a few years, furthering the idea of interconnectedness and the theme of supernatural coincidences throughout the book.
Noah watches as the English guy heads back inside, but sees the teacher meet him at the door and motion for him to go back into the hall. When the model comes back in, he dresses quickly, keeping his eyes on the floor. The teacher goes to the center of the room and announces that, as CSA has a zero-tolerance policy, the model will no longer be working with the class.
Noah witnesses a painful moment full of guilt and clearly motivated by a large measure of grief.
As Noah walks home through the woods, he spots the boy from the roof. The boy asks Noah how “class” was, and then admits that he followed Noah down to the school and spied on him while he was drawing before heading to the woods to search for meteorites. Noah is struck by the boy, who seems slightly older than him. The boy asks if Noah drew the naked model in his sketchbook, but Noah hesitates to show the boy the drawing. The boy asks Noah to help him find his way home—he’s new to the neighborhood—and Noah reluctantly agrees.
Noah is so used to being taunted for his drawings—especially for his ones of the male form—that the idea that someone else, let alone another boy, is earnestly interested in them is completely foreign to him.
When the two boys emerge from the woods and onto their street, the boy from the roof marvels at how Noah didn’t speak a word the entire time. He asks Noah if he “talk[s]” only through his notebook, and Noah shyly admits that he “pretty much” does. Noah confesses that he often paints in his head—this is what he was doing, he says, on the walk through the woods. He marvels that he is letting the neighbor-boy into the “invisible museum”—he never lets anyone in. When the neighbor boy asks Noah what he was painting, Noah replies, “You.” Worried he has said too much, Noah quickly hurries inside.
The invisible museum is the place where Noah’s greatest fancies lie—alongside his innermost desires. Receiving positive male attention is such a rare thing for Noah that he can’t help experiencing a kind of sexual excitement at the idea of someone wanting to actually connect with the truth of who he is.
The next morning, while working on a drawing of the boy from the roof, Noah hears Jude calling him from the hall. He quickly flips the page in his sketchpad back over to the figure drawing of the English guy. Jude, wearing high heels, teeters into Noah’s room. Her face is caked in makeup, and she is wearing a short, tight dress. Noah knows that his sister’s habits of sneaking out, breaking curfew, and texting with boys are all the result of the fact that Mom didn’t ask to look at Jude’s sketchbook that first day at the museum—and because, when it was time to go home that day, Noah and Mom drove off without Jude before realizing they’d forgotten her.
Jude is acting out and seeking attention through her appearance as a result of her feelings of insecurity about her mother’s clear favoritism towards Noah. She is trying as hard as she can to differentiate herself from her brother.
Jude sits on Noah’s bed and asks him who the model in the drawing is. Noah insists it’s just someone he made up, but Jude calls him out for lying. Noah promises her he’s not. Jude cannot stop staring at the drawing though, and asks if she can have it. Noah is shocked—Jude has never asked for a drawing before.
Jude’s attachment to this piece of art is strikingly deep, especially considering the fact that she has never been as interested in art as Noah has.
Noah tells Jude he’ll give it to her—in exchange for the sun, stars, oceans, and trees. This is a game the two of them play—for years, they have been dividing up the world. Jude refuses to make the deal at first, but then agrees to give Noah everything in exchange for the drawing of the “imaginary” guy.
This game, though seemingly innocent, is another high-stakes competition in which Noah and Jude attempt to assert dominance over one another, just like the aforementioned Drowning Game.
Jude asks if Noah has seen the new “freak” on the block—she means the boy from the roof. As weird as the boy is, Jude says, he can’t possibly be weirder than Noah. As she drones on and on, Noah tunes her out, but eventually blurts out that the new kid is his friend. Jude asks what the boy’s name is, and Noah is embarrassed that he can’t answer her.
Jude is cruel with Noah—she attempts to point out how uncool he is and cut him down even though she should be his fiercest ally.
The twins’ father appears in the doorway and asks if everything is okay—both of them nod. Noah reminisces about how, as a child, he was so close to his father—now, though, they are practically strangers, and Noah remembers the fracture relationship as the day when, trying to teach Noah to swim, Dad almost let him sink. Noah feels that his father doesn’t think he’s brave or tough, and sees him as a “broken umbrella.”
Noah’s insecurity about his relationship with his father is now compounded by his insecurity about his relationship with Jude. He worries that he is not enough for either of them, and that both of him see him as the freak and outcast so many others do.
Dad leaves the room, and Jude asks Noah if he wants to play Ouija board—she has found one in Grandma’s old room. Noah agrees, and Jude leads him to their grandmother’s old room where she teaches him how to use the board. Jude insists that they need to ask their questions to the board out loud so the “spirits” can hear—she goes first, and asks if someone named “M.” loves her. When Noah asks who M. is, Jude won’t tell him, and so Noah pushes the Ouija planchette towards “No.” When Noah asks his question, he wonders aloud if he’ll get into CSA next year. Over and over again, the planchette lands on “No.” When Noah asks the board if Jude will get in, the planchette goes straight to “Yes.”
Jude’s preoccupation with the supernatural is blossoming, and she uses Grandma Sweetwine’s old tools in an attempt to make sense of her life and her future—just as Noah uses the invisible museum to make sense of the world around him.
That night, Noah can’t sleep. He goes up to the roof to see if the boy is up on his, but he is not. Noah pulls out his notebook and begins drawing, but soon falls asleep. He wakes up to the sound of a garage door opening—the new kid, with his bag of meteorites, emerges into the street and locks eyes with Noah as he heads into the woods. Noah feels a surge of electricity and wonders if the new kid has known that Noah has been up on the roof all along. He feels like the boy is “telepathically” trying to tell Noah to follow him; reminded of his “mind-meld[s]” with Jude, Noah decides to pursue him into the woods.
Noah and Jude have an intense connection that often transcends explanation—and yet Noah has a sense of anxiety about how that relationship is changing. When he catches even a glimpse of that same closeness in someone else, he is determined to chase after it.
Noah finds the new kid in the woods and, though he is nervous, introduces himself. The other boy introduces himself as Brian, and says he’s fourteen. Noah, lying, says he’s fourteen as well. Brian tells Noah that he attends boarding school back east, where he is ahead by one grade level and going into his sophomore years. Noah, lying again, says he himself goes to California School of the Arts before becoming embarrassed, backpedaling, and admitting that he doesn’t really go to CSA and is not yet fourteen.
This passage shows that Noah is so nervous about ruining a new friendship or seeming uncool that he’s willing to forsake the truth of who he is to seem more likable. Luckily, he realizes that to start a relationship based on lies is a misstep, and corrects his mistake.
When Brian doesn’t say anything, Noah gets nervous that Brian has become “freaked out” by his strange lies, but Brian makes a joke about Noah being a mess and the two laugh together. Noah feels as if he and Brian are “made of the same air.” Brian begins collecting rocks which he believes might have pieces of meteorite in them, and offers Noah use of a spare magnifying glass. Realizing that Brian brought along the spare just for him, Noah imagines a self-portrait in which he is standing on his own head.
Noah is so excited by the prospect of a new friendship with someone as intriguing as Brian that he retreats into the invisible museum in order to fully experience his disorienting but thrilling feelings.
Hours later, Noah and Brian have not found any meteorites, but Noah is taken with Brian, whom he sees as the “coolest person ever.” He wonders aloud if Brian is a “blow-in”; going along with the joke, Brian says that though he comes from another planet, he’s been prepared well to blend in as an earthling, and even plays baseball. Noah has never felt so relaxed around another person, and as he admits to Brian his struggles with social anxiety, he feels the mood between them shift. Brian asks Noah about the paintings he does in his head, and wonders aloud whether Noah has drawn him yet. Noah reluctantly shows Brian a drawing he’s done of him, afraid that Brian won’t like it. Brian, though, loves it, and Noah is elated.
Noah is able to be his full self around Brian—something that he’s nervous to do even around Jude or his mother, the two people closest to him in the world. Noah is in fact so excited by Brian that he worries the boy is not real, or worse, transient, and will soon leave. Noah doesn’t trust happiness, having learned to fear others—especially boys and men.
At that moment, Zephyr and Fry wander through the woods, and begin teasing Brian and Noah for acting “romantic” with one another. Noah wishes he had the strength to tell Zephyr and Fry to “fuck off,” but is intimidated into silence. When Zephyr and Fry continue taunting the boys and calling them “homos,” Brian calmly offers them one chance to apologize. When they refuse, Brian picks up a giant rock and whips it at the boys. He begins lobbing rock after rock at them, and Noah is mesmerized by the “machine” of Brian’s arm. As Zephyr and Fry beg Brian to stop, he urges them once more to apologize. They say they’re sorry as they try to defend themselves from the hail of rocks, and then Brian stops attacking them and tells them to “get the hell out” of the woods. The bullies flee.
Though Noah has had, it’s implied, countless run-ins with Fry and Zephyr which always end in his debasement and humiliation, Brian has no tolerance for bullies. Brian has the confidence to ignore the bullies’ homophobic taunts and retaliate with a show of force—in other words, he knows how to speak their language, when Noah has no clue how to relate to other people at all.
Noah asks Brian if he plays pitcher in baseball, and Brian, smiling, says that he does. They pick up the rocks they’ve gathered and run through the woods together. Noah worries aloud that the bullies will find a way to get payback, but Brian says they won’t. For a moment, Noah feels invincible.
Brian is a mess of contradictions—a “blow-in” obsessed with meteorites and a strong athlete, an observer who also likes to be observed.
Five days later, Noah is at his desk, sketching Brian. Every day this week, the two of them have spent time in the woods together, looking for meteorites and exploring. As Noah leans back in his seat to picture Brian, Jude walks in and asks Noah about his friendship with Brian. She reveals that all of her friends talk about Brian like he’s a “baseball god.” Fry’s cousin goes to the same school as Brian, and has told Jude that back home, Brian is nicknamed “The Ax” on account of his pitching arm.
Up to this point, Noah’s friendship with—and burgeoning attraction to—Brian has been a private thing which Noah can enjoy. Now that Jude has begun hearing about Brian, though, Noah begins feeling threatened and insecure, afraid that the most exciting thing in his life will soon be taken away.
Noah attempts to shrug off Jude’s questions about his relationship with Brian, but at that moment, there is a tapping at the window—Brian himself has come by to see Noah. Jude tells Noah that she wants to meet Brian, but Noah wants the opposite—secretly, he wants Jude to “fall in a hole.” Nevertheless, he opens the window for Brian, who urges Noah to come up to the roof and look at the stars with him. Jude squeezes her head through the window and greets Brian. Noah is jealous when the two exchange a couple of quick jokes—and even more so when Brian invites Jude up to the roof, too. Noah imagines a painting of Jude in Her New Home in Timbuktu. Noah elbows Jude out of the way and quickly tells Brian that she can’t join them because she’s busy, before slamming the window in her face.
In this passage, as Brian shows an interest in Jude—not even a sexual interest, just a polite passing one—Noah reacts violently. He does not want Jude encroaching on the one thing that’s his. Just as they have had to compete all their lives for their mother’s affection, Noah now worries that he’ll have to compete with Jude for Brian’s attention, and the thought makes him angry.
Brian and Noah walk down the street towards Brian’s house, and Brian asks why Noah was so short with Jude. Noah doesn’t have the chance to answer—his neighbor’s parrot begins squawking about “Ralph” again, and Brian declares that they need to find Ralph, whoever he is. Noah asks Brian about his nickname—the Ax—but Brian laughs it off with both “embarrassment and pride in his voice.” He jostles Noah’s shoulder with his arm and Noah feels his skin spark—it is the first time that Brian has touched him.
Noah is attracted to Brian, but also really looks up to him. Brian’s casual confidence and sense of self-worth are totally foreign to Noah, who spends a disproportionate amount of time scrutinizing his own actions and attempting to hide himself from the world. Brian, though, seems proud of who he is.
Noah and Brian climb up onto the roof, and Brian readies the telescope before showing Noah a book of constellations. He points out Gemini—the Twins—and explains the stars’ namesakes to Noah. When Brian explains that Pollux traded his immortality in order to share eternity in the sky with his mortal twin, Castor, Noah excitedly says he’d do the same—but secretly he means he’d do it for Brian, not for Jude.
Noah smells jasmine on the air, and remembers one of Grandma Sweetwine’s superstitions: that the smell of jasmine makes people tell their secrets. He relays this bit of lore to Brian, who asks Noah to tell him one of his own secrets. Noah reveals that he spies on people, and Brian asks if Noah has ever spied on him. Noah says he hasn’t. The two trade small secrets, until Noah reveals a large one: he’s never kissed anybody. Noah hopes that Brian will kiss him, but the moment passes, and Brian returns to fixing the telescope.
In a rare moment of emulating his sister, Noah turns to Grandma Sweetwine’s wisdom to help further his relationship with Brian.
After a few minutes, Brian calls Noah over to use the telescope, and Noah is amazed by the stars. Brian tilts the telescope towards the Twins and urges Noah to look for them, but Noah can’t make them out. Brian comes up behind Noah, pressing their bodies together, and helps him find the constellation. Noah, feeling as if he is about to “burst into flames,” hurriedly tells Brian he needs to go back home.
Noah has wanted to get closer to Brian for a while, but when they actually seem on the verge of airing out the unspoken attraction between them, Noah shies away from the intensity of the moment.
The next afternoon, as Brian and Noah emerge from their daily trek through the woods, they find a group of popular girls from Noah’s school perched on a rock. One of the girls, Courtney, greets Brian with a smile, and Noah can tell that she is interested in Brian. As Brian flirts back with Courtney, Noah begins feeling upset and threatened—not just because he’s jealous, but because he knows he doesn’t fit in with “normal” people. As the girls bring up Brian’s tiff with Fry in the woods—and his nickname, the Ax—Noah realizes helplessly that Brian isn’t a blow-in, but a cool kid just as capable of blending in and making friends as Jude is.
Noah feels he is losing control over his relationship with Brian—he was threatened by the idea that Jude might intercede, and now, confronted with the cool, popular, “normal” girls from school, Noah is afraid to recognize that perhaps Brian is not as much like him as he wanted to believe—and not interested in the intense codependency Noah longs for.
The girls take turns trying on Brian’s hat as a way of flirting with him, and Noah is confused by the strange ritual. Though the girls laugh and joke with one another, Noah doesn’t understand what’s funny. Growing increasingly uncomfortable, Noah says he has to “bounce,” trying to use some normal teen lingo; rather than following him, Brian bids Noah goodbye, and stays behind to continue flirting with the girls.
Noah would rather abandon Brian than watch him drift away. He has been forced to watch his sister become more distant and attached to her friends, and does not want to linger in the shadows while the same thing happens with the boy he has grown to love.
Back in the house, Noah goes to his room and watches Brian and the girls from his window. After a few minutes, Dianna comes in and tries to engage Noah in conversation. She tells him how proud she is of his art, and how excited she is for him to apply to CSA in just six months. In spite of the compliments, Noah remains at the window. Sensing Noah’s quietness, Dianna reassures him that everything will be okay before leaving the room. Noah watches as Brian, Courtney, Heather, and the other girls head towards the beach together.
Noah is so obsessed with securing Brian’s attentions and affections that even attention from Dianna doesn’t shake him from his need.
The next morning, Noah overhears Dianna and Jude arguing in the hallway. They are preparing to go into the city together for a mother-daughter day. Jude wants to wear lipstick and a short skirt out with her friends, but Dianna doesn’t believe the outfit—or the makeup—is appropriate. She tells Jude that she’s becoming scared of how “wild” Jude is, and hardly recognizes her anymore. Jude retorts that she doesn’t recognize her mother, either, and Noah, overhearing this, realizes that Dianna has in fact been a little off lately.
Noah seems to be the epicenter of a swirling storm of resentment and confusion—he is forced to watch as Brian, Jude, and his mother all spin away from him in opposite directions, leaving him alone and confused.
The argument ends, and Jude comes into Noah’s room. She apologizes for trying to intrude on his evening with Brian and for generally being “awful” lately, and confesses that she’s getting sick of her “normal” friends. She crawls into bed with Noah and together they assume the smush position. They try playing rock-paper-scissors, but keep picking the same symbols. Jude is delighted that they still have their link. She asks Noah if he wants to watch a movie with her later, and they make a plan to hang out that evening before she leaves with Dianna. As Jude leaves the room, Noah considers how his relationship with Jude is like a painting—“both exactly the same and entirely different every single time you look at it.”
Later that afternoon, Noah decides to return to CSA and observe the life-drawing class. He draws the model for a while, but soon grows bored, and turns to a new page where he begins sketching Brian. He is focusing so hard on the drawing that he barely even notices when Brian approaches him and stands over him, blocking the light. Noah looks up, and Brian tells Noah that he waited for him this morning. There is an awkward silence between them, and Brian tries to apologize to Noah by explaining that sometimes he feels like a lonely planet. Noah, realizing the emotion in Brian’s quasi-apology, lets him off the hook.
Though Noah has been getting nervous about losing Brian to the super-popular crowd that stole Jude away, when Brian comes to him and attempts to explain the feelings of loneliness and insecurity he himself wrestles with too, Noah is quick to forgive and forget.
That night, Noah blows Jude off to hang out with Brian, and continues blowing her off each night that week. Noah even begins hanging out with Courtney, Heather, and the other girls—Brian has told them all about Noah’s skillful drawings, and they all want Noah to draw pictures of them. Jude becomes jealous that Noah is stealing all of her friends, but Noah ignores her, grateful to have Brian back. As the two hang out in the woods, on Brian’s roof, and on the beach with friends, Noah notices that sometimes there is an “electric fence” between them, and sometimes there is not. One evening, at a movie, Noah feels Brian’s hand drifting closer and closer to his. When Brian finally squeezes Noah’s palm, Noah feels as if they have both been electrocuted.
Brian eclipses everything else in Noah’s life. He lets his relationship with Jude fall to the wayside, and even begins letting going of his shell whenever Brian is around now that Brian has made it clear to Noah that he will not abandon him. Still, Noah feels he can’t ever get quite close enough to Brian, and senses that Brian is holding back his true feelings for Noah.
One afternoon, Noah comes home and finds a note on the kitchen table—it is from Jude to Dianna, and asks Dianna to come down to the beach to see one of Jude’s sand sculptures. Noah buries the note at the bottom of the garbage can, though the act “makes [his] soul hurt.”
Noah has a new friendship in his life, and shouldn’t be jealous of any closeness between Jude and his mother—and yet the idea that his mother might bond with Jude over art is still more than he can bear.
Weeks later, it is the end of the summer, and there is a party at Courtney’s house. It is technically her older sister’s party, but she is using the evening as a kind of going-away party for Brian, who is returning to boarding school the following morning. As Noah navigates the crowds in Courtney’s house, he feels as if he is in the “underworld.” A drunken girl with a strange, Dracula-like accent approaches Noah and begins flirting with him; she kisses him and then walks away, and he feels shocked and confused.
This passage is thematically reminiscent of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice—the famed Greek musician who was offered the chance to retrieve his bride from the underworld after her death, but failed to do so. Noah is following Brian to this party in hopes of once and for all winning his affections and cementing their connection.
Finally, Noah spots Brian: he is following Courtney up a staircase. At the top of the stairs, Noah sees Brian turn around and scan the room below; he knows that Brian is looking for him, and the feeling fills him with electricity. Courtney pulls Brian down the hall, and Noah follows the two of them upstairs. At the top of the stairs he makes a left, and in the hall encounters two guys making out. Noah, rapt, watches them for several seconds, and the sight makes him feel like crying, though he’s unsure why. Suddenly, a door opens, and Heather pulls Noah into a room where all of their friends are gathered—Heather explains that they have all been waiting for him.
This scene plays with the idea of identity, as Noah, encountering an outward expression of the person he wants to be and the life he wants to have, imagines himself as someone else in an intense moment of longing.
Brian and Jude are there—Brian is talking to Courtney, and Jude is talking to a group of guys. Jude gives Noah a withering look, and Noah gets a “bad feeling.” As he and Heather settle in, Noah realizes that many of the kids in the room are talking about playing a game—seven minutes in heaven. Noah gets a nervous feeling in his stomach as Courtney picks up Brian’s hat, which has been filled with slips of paper bearing the names of the guys in the room.
Noah has rejected his sister in favor of Brian—and a whole new social life, too—and as they face each other down at the party, Noah senses the same kind of “psychic air raid” Jude once launched when she felt that her relationship with their mother was threatened.
Noah greets Brian, and suggests the two of them leave the party. Brian, though, want so stay. Noah’s heart sinks as he worries that the game is fixed—that Courtney is about to draw Brian’s name, and that Brian wants for all of this to happen so that he can make out with Courtney. Noah sits down in a chair and begins drinking a half-empty beer. Heather and Courtney flash the lights on and off and announce that the game is about to start. Heather picks from the hat. She draws Noah’s name, but he is feeling woozy and nervous and barely even notices as Heather takes his hand and leads him into the closet.
Noah wants Brian all to himself, but something in Brian—the desire to deny who he is, the need to fit in, or the fear of being truly vulnerable after weeks of the “electric fence”—causes him to want to stay at the party and be part of the group rather than isolate himself with Noah.
Once inside, Heather tells Noah that they don’t have to do anything if he doesn’t want to, but he insists that he does. Heather kisses Noah, and he kisses her back halfheartedly. Once he imagines that she is Brian, though, he becomes excited, and the kiss grows more passionate. The two barely even hear the ding of the timer, and have to be dragged out of the closet, rumpled and flushed, by their friends. Noah catches sight of Brian from across the room—his face is “bricked up with fury.” Noah focuses hard on Brian’s face and wishes he could tell Brian telepathically that he was imagining him the whole time. He hardly notices when the next set of names are called, and is stunned when he sees Jude take Brian by the hand and lead him into the closet.
This passage shows how starved for Brian’s love and affection Noah really is. He feels he’ll never get it—and believes that imagining it, just as he imagines things in the invisible museum, is better than not having it at all. When Noah’s way of self-soothing backfires, though, and inspires jealousy in Brian, Brian turns right back around and decides to get even with Noah—and the cruelty is more than Noah can bear.
Noah is paralyzed, and draws a self-portrait in the invisible museum of himself as a gutted fish. He staggers from the room and then makes his way out of the house. On the lawn, he hears a familiar, English-accented voice, and turns around to see the English guy from CSA—he is drunk. He asks Noah what his name is, and Noah replies “Picasso” before telling the English guy that he seems like he’s “from a movie.” The English guy states that if his life is a movie, it’s a bad one—he’s been homeless for weeks now. The English guy lights a cigarette for Noah and passes it to him. Noah takes a drag and chokes on the smoke. He is embarrassed, but then realizes that the English guy is so drunk he didn’t notice Noah coughing.
Unable to face what’s happening, Noah uses his old trick of retreating into the invisible museum to cope and to escape. When he meets up with the drunken CSA model again, Noah is confronted by the only person in town who seems just as miserable and haunted as he is.
Noah’s mind wanders and he imagines Jude and Brian locked in a passionate embrace. Upset, he tells the English guy he’s going to go home. As he turns to leave, the model tells him that he once worked with a “barking maniac of a sculptor” by the name of Guillermo Garcia. He urges Noah to seek the man out and take lessons from him at his studio on Day Street rather than hiding in the bushes at CSA.
Nelson continues the thread of missed—and fated—connections as she creates yet another link between Noah and Jude, though a link that’s separated by many years and many acts of anger and betrayal.
When Noah gets home, he is disturbed to realizes that his camera is not where he left it. He tears the room apart looking for it before spotting it on his desk. He wonders who moved it, and starts it up. He deletes all his pictures of Jude’s flying sand women, erasing his sister’s talent from the world. He goes to Jude’s room, pulls the drawing of the English guy down off the wall, and rips it to shreds. Then he returns to his own room and rips up all of his drawings of Brian. When he’s finished, Jude still isn’t home from the party. Noah crawls into bed but can’t fall asleep, buzzing with hope, against all odds, that Brian will come to his window.
Hurt, upset, confused, and angry, Noah attempts to destroy Jude’s art. Because of how important art is to Noah—and because of Jude’s inferiority complex concerning her own artistic practice—Noah thinks that this is the surest and cruelest way to get back at his sister for her betrayal.