Noah is at home, mixing paints in the sink, searching for the perfect angry color. Just about an hour ago, his mother left the house—as she started her car’s engine, Noah ran out to the drive way and shouted that he hated her. In response, Dianna mouthed I love you and drove off—to go tell Dad she wanted a divorce.
Noah is furious with Dianna, and lashed out in anger earlier just as he did with Brian. Noah doesn’t yet understand the devastating consequences his words will have in both relationships.
The phone rings, and Noah answers it—a man with a gruff voice asks if he’s reached the residence of Dianna Sweetwine, and if he can speak with Noah’s father. Noah explains that his father doesn’t live here. Noah asks who is speaking—but somehow already knows it’s the police, and imagines a self-portrait: The Boy Inside the Boy Stops Breathing. Though Noah hasn’t been told yet what’s going on, somehow he has a feeling there’s been an accident. He begs the officer to tell him what’s going on, but the officer will only speak to Benjamin, and asks Noah for his cell phone number. The officer hangs up to call Benjamin.
When circumstances get dire, Noah retreats into the “invisible museum.” Though he hasn’t been “there” recently, when the phone call from the police comes in, Noah realizes that something is deeply wrong, and instantly retreats to the place within him that feels safe and navigable in order to make sense of what’s happening.
Noah, feeling anxious, looks over to Brian’s house, and wishes Brian were up on the roof. He paces through the house until he hears a car in the driveway—it is Dad, who is being tailed by a police officer. Noah imagines another self-portrait: Boy Careens Off World. As Benjamin comes inside, he is weeping, and holds Noah in an embrace as he repeats, over and over again, “I’m so sorry.” Noah pulls away from his father, looks him in the eye, and tells him that Dianna was on the way over to the hotel to ask him to come home—to ask him to be a family again. Benjamin is shocked. Noah adds that before Dianna left, she said that Benjamin was the love of her life.
Noah, in this passage, attempts to safeguard Benjamin from the deep feelings of grief, pain, and anger that Noah himself feels towards Dianna. At the same time, Noah is climbing into the invisible museum and trying to distance himself from the reality of what’s happening to their family.
The day after the funeral, Noah leaves his house—still full of mourning family and friends—and heads down to Day Street, to the sculptor’s studio. He waits on the sidewalk until Guillermo comes out of the warehouse—when the man catches sight of Noah, he remarks how much he looks like Dianna. As the sculptor approaches, Noah begins wailing and crying, and Guillermo envelops him in an embrace. Noah is strangely comforted and wishes he could live in this man’s arms forever—he feels as if his mother is inside of the sculptor, telling him how to comfort Noah.
Noah finds an unlikely source of solace and comfort in Guillermo—the man his mother loved deeply. They come together in their shared grief, and Noah experiences a rare moment of total vulnerability with another person.
In the midst of all his emotions, Noah is struck by a new thought: if it weren’t for this man, he realizes, Dianna would still be alive. Noah wriggles from the man’s embrace and tells him, to his face, that Dianna’s death is his fault. He tells Guillermo that Dianna told Noah she didn’t love Guillermo and wasn’t going to marry him. As Noah turns and walks away, he feels himself entering the crawlspace deep inside his soul and shutting the hatch.
Rather than surrendering to pain and vulnerability, Noah chooses to get angry—and remain angry—as a way of safeguarding himself from feeling the unbearable depths of his emotions.