In the aftermath of what he has done, Bryon begins to regret acting as he did last night. More than directly regretting his actions, Bryon continually seeks ways to understand why he did what he did, and is continually confused or “mixed up.” His mother tries to help him justify it and come to terms with it. Soon, Cathy comes to visit him. They have an apathetic conversation, and Bryon hurts Cathy with his words, realizing that he no longer really cares for her. By the end of it, he no longer loves her, and cannot figure out why. He is not bothered by it.
At Mark’s trial or hearing, Bryon has to testify. Mark laughs at him when he tells the audience that Mark was like a brother to him. Mark is sentenced to five years in state reformatory.
Bryon continues to work, and continues on to do very well in school. He does not date anyone. He once runs into M&M at the drugstore, and the younger boy tells him that he is scared to have kids eventually, because of what the drugs might have done to his chromosomes. Cathy begins dating Ponyboy Curtis. Bryon tries to visit Mark that summer, but is unable to, and hears that Mark has been causing trouble there. Bryon is promoted at work, and once runs into Angela there, who insults him for what he did to Mark.
Finally, Bryon is able to visit Mark. Mark informs Bryon that he hates him, and quotes Bryon back to him: “That was then, this is now” (pg. 158). Bryon leaves feeling as though Mark would have killed him had there been no barrier between them, and wishes for his younger days as a child, when he “had all the answers” (pg. 159).
In this chapter, Bryon uses the term “mixed up” very often, and all the way from start to finish. He first says so of himself after realizing that calling the cops on Mark was not a dream. He wonders “why people didn’t die from being so mixed up” (pg. 150). He still cannot fully understand or justify why he did what he did to Mark, and asks his mother to be sure that she doesn’t hate him for what he did. The polarity of love and hate is something that is central to how Bryon understands his relationships with people. Just as he was incapable of saying “I love you” to Mark, he is not fully able to understand if he did this to Mark out of hatred or out of love. He realizes and knows that it is a “mixture.”
His reaction towards Cathy is also very quick—after speaking with her, he also wonders “impersonally why I didn’t love her any more. But it didn’t seem to matter” (pg. 153). Bryon’s switch might be seen as fickle, but it only further confirms that the decision/actions he made/performed last night were of such a magnitude to sway his feelings over from true love into apathy. He feels this also when he talks to M&M, and finds out that Cathy and Ponyboy are together: he says, “It seemed impossible that I could once feel so emotional about someone, and then suddenly feel nothing” (pg. 155). This documents the change in arc for Bryon’s character—finally, he is liberated from that unstable emotional vulnerability into the ability to experience no feelings. Whether this is a positive thing is debatable.
Furthermore, during the hearing, Bryon notes that Mark, who could talk his way out of anything, does not even try this time, in front of the law. For Bryon, the law holds some sort of absolute—even if he disagrees with authority, the law is a standard off of which he can base his actions and behavior. The solidity of the law can be seen represented symbolically in the wall between Bryon and Mark when they finally see each other. Throughout the story, Bryon has described Mark as a lion, because of his coloring and his temperament. Now he again calls him an “impatient, dangerous, caged lion” (pg. 157). Mark says that he needed to see Bryon in order to make sure he hated him (pg. 157-158), something that hurts Bryon, since this means hating the person he once loved best.
Bryon understands that a person is a culmination of all of the experiences and relationships he has had. “I seemed to have become a mixture of things I had picked up from Charlie, Mark, Cathy, M&M, Mom, and even obscure people like Mike and the blond hippie-chick and the Shepards. I had learned something from everyone, and I didn’t seem to be the same person I had been last year. But like a mixture, I was mixed up” (pg. 155), he says. He says he is too mixed up even to really care (pg. 159), and finally stops considering all of the “What if’s?” that were disregarded by the actual, eventual passage of time. While the book ends on the negative notes of Mark’s dangerous attitude and then Bryon’s rueful nostalgia for his childhood, there is also an element of possibility, that there is still potential, that Bryon is still looking forward. Now on the cusp of his adulthood, Bryon has experienced many painful things, but he has gained much by becoming a “mixture,” and has many future “what-if’s?” to now explore.