“I need help!” He crashed through the doors, scanning the bustling room ahead of him. Immediately heads turned, snapping to attention, their eyes drawing conclusions from their brief survey.
“I need help!” he repeated, his breath catching in his lungs. His arms felt like boulders, the body heavy and cold. Her warmth had gradually faded as he had weaved between taxi cabs, the blaring of their horns never fazing him. Their faces were all a blur now, exclamations of surprise and fear all sloshed together in his mind.
“We need a gurney!” someone yelled. A woman, her hair bleached a ridiculous blonde, rushed towards him. Her eyes were a greyish blue, her icy judgement cutting though him like a knife. “Sir, we need to put her on the gurney,” she was saying, her small lips seeming to move slowly as she placed her hand, clawed with red nails, on the girl. “Sir, you need to let go,” the smell of cigarettes wafted towards him, making him realize just how tightly he was holding her. Her frail body was clutched to him, her skin white where his dirt stained nails dug into her tanned flesh. Dark waves of blood encrusted hair blanketed her benumbed face, her eyelids concealing those chartreuse diamonds that had caused him endless joy.
“Okay,” he whispered, nodding, lowering her onto the bed.
“Okay, we need a hundred cc’s, blood gas, check for a concussion and we need Dr. Stern down here NOW for internal bleeding!”
Then she was gone, wheeled down the hallway and around the corner.
How strange it was.
His arms ached with the absence of her. He knew, vaguely, how strange this all seemed. A man wearing a coat two sizes too big, ripped and reeking of the gutters was standing in the middle of the ER, drenched in blood.
A statue, no more wanted than a dead raccoon on the side of the street.
“Sir? Do you need something?” another nurse, a Spanish lilt on her tongue, with wide almond eyes and high cheekbones was staring at him.
“I-“he stumbled, moving backwards. His ears were ringing, the sounds of children crying and injured patients coming over him like a tidal wave.
“I could call someone for you?” she asked, stepping closer to him.
“No-I-“a clang shook him then, reverberating through his bones and shaking his blood. He spun around, eyeing a young man down on one knee, meeting his eye with obvious frustration. Fallen medical utensils surrounded him, shining in the harsh hospital light.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered, jumping back.
“No, it’s alright,” the young man mumbled, his eyes flashing from him to the nurse and back.
“I’m so sorry…” he moaned. His hands were burning, his fingers nervously snapping out a tune.
He had to leave. He had to get out of this place. The metallic smell, the dejected faces were crowding his vision.
A yell from behind, but he was already gone.
Fire was blazing through his hands, ripping and gnawing at his bloody fingers, creeping into the caves of his nail beds.
“Get off, get off,” he hissed, his hands a blur as he stared down at them. The cool water sizzled at the slightest touch, but he needed to get rid of it.
He had to.
He was digging, his nails scratching at his palms, his knuckles, the redness never seeming to seize.
His coat was gone, discarded in the dumpster by Martin’s. The cruel stench of its covering had become too much to bare.
They wouldn’t stop, flashing in front of him like a menacing slideshow; his hands compressing, squeezing, the jerk of a heart against his.
A splash of blood.
Her laugh echoed in the corners of his mind. Her eyes haunted him, despite a laugh as light and floating as a feather, were canvases of sorrow.
He hadn’t realized till now that he was trembling. The once white sink was spattered pink, mingling now with his own blood. Specks of blue, dashes of green, were staring back at him. How foreign they looked. His unshaven jaw had acquired the mark of a grown man’s fist. Sparkling tears had descended down his cheeks, and yet he did not remember crying.
She was beside him now. Laughing, hugging his arm. There were no bruises; her eyes were not tired and filled with misery, but alive, dancing with the joy of freedom.
A sharp hollow knock and she was gone. It came again, and as if seeing from above, he saw himself shake his head and face the door. His apartment, more like a shack, was decorated in flashing red and blue lights. A heaved sigh, a comb through his hair. He pushed himself off the sink, and shambled to the door, his heart seeming to weigh him down with the immensity of his impending doom. The doorknob seemed cold and unfriendly as he turned its head, revealing two officers, their faces masks of utmost apathy.
He didn’t hesitate. He turned his back to them, holding out his wrists as if offering a sacred sacrifice.
“Wesley Lang, you are under arrest for the aggravated assault and murder of Thomas Ward. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say or do will be used against you…”
He had stopped listening by the time they escorted him to the car.
Aggravated assault and self-defence, that was what he was found guilty of. Two months and a bail of $3000 was all they had awarded him.
Now, staring out the window at the rainy morning, taking his last drive through downtown Chicago, he found himself smiling. He didn’t mind the idea of jail, not really. Sure, he would have a record, but his actions were not of aggression, or even hate. Although, he could not deny his hate for Thomas Ward.
His actions were ones of love.
The squad car had stopped, parked at the corner of Oak Park Boulevard. The rain was pouring down; droplets making the already busy streets blur and distort the images of the early morning commute. A sudden speck of red caught his eye, and as he looked closer, squinting, he could see that she was a woman. No- a girl. Or maybe a girl-woman. A human being trapped between two finales; one of childhood, and one of blossoming.
A poppy lost in the city.
She donned a red coat; this was the speck that had caught his eye, which was tied tight around her waist. It was not a safe shade, like burgundy, but a fire truck red, reaching down and grazing her coco au latte knees. It made her stand out in the grey morning, like an actress engaged in a sorrowful soliloquy.
A melting image, waiting to cross the newly baptised street.
Black, surrounding white polka dots, guarding her from the encumbering rain, rested on her delicate left shoulder. He knew that there were no tears. The hand shaped stain – a reminder of her prison – was non-existent, merely a nightmare of the past.
How beautiful she was.
Chocolate waves tucked behind one small ear, the dampened curls caressing her cheeks.
She stood, still, silent, creeping closer as they turned the corner.
Her eyes were downturned, lashes dusting freckles. As she drew closer, some unknown force caused her to turn her eyes upward, revealing those dazzling emeralds. For but a moment, a too short moment, she watched, and saw.
And then, she was gone. A receding image, just a poppy lost in the city.
So was he, down the street and around the bend. He wouldn’t let go of the girl-woman, beautiful in her sorrow, tranquil in the downpour.
Because he loved her.
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