Six days after Margo’s disappearance, Quentin tells his parents about her clues. His father suspects that Margo will be coming home soon, and his mother warns his father not to speculate, presumably because she doesn’t want to give Quentin false hope. They encourage Quentin to focus on his own life and trust that Margo can take care of herself. Later, Quentin hears them talking in worried tones.
The adults in Quentin’s life encourage him to prioritize his own wellbeing over Margo’s. This was the message of Detective Warren’s balloon metaphor as well. Unromantic pragmatism is in conflict here with the intensity that often accompanies deep feelings of connection. Quentin does not consider their advice seriously, and it seems as though caring for Margo is more satisfying to him than caring for himself.
Later that evening, Ben calls Quentin. He is preparing to go shopping with Lacey, to help her pick shoes for prom. Quentin scoffs at this. Ben confesses that he is nervous, that he really likes Lacey, and that he hopes his showing up to prom with her will force their peers to see him in a different light. Quentin brushes all this off and ends the conversation as soon as he can. He thinks of his own prom fantasy, in which he brings Margo home just in time for the last dance and their peers marvel while they do the fox-trot. This is a silly dream, but he takes pride in the fact that that — unlike undignified Ben —he doesn’t talk out loud about it.
Ben is completely honest and unpretentious. He talks about his happiness, anxiety, and hope without worrying about how Quentin will perceive him, and he continue to do so even when Quentin ridicules him outright. Though nothing he says is particularly deep, it is strange that Quentin should resent Ben’s honesty, which sets him apart in their image-obsessed world, and that he should pride himself on being less forthcoming than Ben.
Thinking about Ben, Quentin’s mind wanders to their earlier attempt to remove the doors in Margo’s room. Suddenly, a new idea occurs to him: that the doors he was meant to remove were not Margo’s, but his own. He sneaks into the garage and smuggles a screwdriver into his room. When he wrestles his bedroom door from its hinges, he finds a sliver of newspaper with an address —8328 Bartlesville Avenue — printed on it in Margo’s handwriting.
Before this moment, Margo’s clues have never seemed like a direct message from her. She has used objects and images to communicate, but not her own words. Finding her note brings Quentin closer to Margo than he has been since she ran away, and the fact that she hid it in his room rather than her own, presuming access to his personal space, amplifies the sense of a bond between them.
Quentin searches the address online and discovers that the place to which it refers is 34.6 miles away. He calls Ben and announces a plan to drive to Bartlesville Avenue that night. Ben tells Quentin that he will not let him drive alone to a strange address in the middle of the night, and Quentin agrees to skip school and go in the morning, saying he is tired of having perfect attendance. Ben and Radar, whom Quentin calls after hanging up with Ben, both make plans to fake illness so they can accompany Quentin the next morning.
Quentin’s decision to abandon his perfect attendance record, which he has mentioned again and again before this moment, marks a reorganization of his priorities. His earlier remorse about having refused to go to New York seems to have soured his attitude toward the world of rules and routine. His friends’ immediate willingness to accompany him shows their loyalty.