When he had been younger, he had broken a limb at least once a year. Not on purpose – he just never cared, forgot to care, didn’t realize you were supposed to care. His right arm broke in two places falling off his bike, as it flipped halfway down the steepest hill he could find. His left leg, on a bad landing after jumping down a flight of stairs. Left wrist, when the front tire of his bike twisted on a sewer grate. Left leg again, while climbing the side of his house, catching his weight on a foothold which wasn’t there.
This was in the space of two or three years. They were the last years of middle school and the first years of high school, summer every time.
Now, he does the same stupid things his younger self loved, but doesn’t make mistakes. At least, he doesn’t think of the mistakes. Especially not his most recent one, though his arm still tears every time he lifts a gallon of milk or bag of groceries. The mistake was in the past – weeks ago. He doesn’t remember it now, and is always surprised by the pain.
Now, he holds a phone in the dark, shirtless but not chilled on this summer night. The apartment is small, and he’s walked from kitchen to bed twice. The cell phone’s display has darkened, but he remembers the number he entered, and the girl behind the number.
Following a narrow path of light, burnt into the carpet by a street lamp’s harsh glow (the blinds always let some light in, enough to see by when he wakes, later), he steps barefoot into the bathroom. The bathroom isn’t dirty in these shadows, and he remembers to avoid stepping on the toothbrush he dropped this morning.
Looking up, still holding his phone. He’s there in the mirror, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t call. He always looks best in half light, like something dark and solid, pulled and cut from shadow.
The girl would look better, but he can’t remember her face. Why not? Is this a sign? He’s never trusted superstition, or most explanations. He has a bad memory for faces, that’s all. He’ll remember her face later; looks away from his expression in the mirror.
9:40. Maybe he should wait until later. She’s the kind of girl who’s always busy in the evenings. She’s probably in some school club, or at a friend’s house. He’ll call, and hear voices in the background, and want to call back later, preserve their privacy, and she won’t understand, think he’s weird. He takes the back off the phone. Replaces it. Checks for missed calls. Listens to his voicemail, the call from his father he still won’t return. He should call her.
But how do you know? She gave him her number, but they’re working on a project together. She gave him her cell number, told it to him - smiled. And he remembered to smile back, right? This was easier before college, back home, where the whole school knew before you did.
9:44. He has to relax, maybe watch some TV or something. He can’t feel the sofa as he sits down, can barely feel the ceiling fan dropping that quiet breeze across his chest and into his lap. The channel changer lies on top of the TV, across the room. And he suddenly doesn’t have the energy, doesn’t want to walk towards the black faced box, doesn’t want to hear words designed by committee to be perfect.
The phone lies near his right hand, balanced squat in the middle of a thin cushion. He reaches for the phone. He’s about to do something stupid.