I limped home from my almost-violent almost-altercation with Lucas and his men. A little help from a friend (Furri-Furri) had done the trick for me. In my flying rush to catch a fleeing Lucas while threatening to teach him manners, I’d twisted my historically problematic left ankle, and fallen on rough tarmac like a sack of apples each out to impress Sir Isaac Newton, and consequently I had very nearly died of screaming in pain. So I abandoned the chase and directed my fragile steps towards my room.
I was surprised to find Ailis waiting for me right outside my locked door. Her stance – crossed arms, crossed feet, forward leaning body – all indicated that she had grown impatient. Her facial expression expressed displeasure and disappointment, which I found presumptive. We hadn't organized to meet that night or any other, but she had clearly taken for granted that just because we met every night for supper, that there was some sort of obligation upon me to be there each time. But as she surveyed my gait as I approached her, she saw me limping, and she perked up with concern. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
I said nothing, as my mind was still demystifying the touchy implications of her presumptive assumptions. Did she think there was more to us than regular gossip-flavored supper? The idea was... new. How dare she even...? I couldn't help perceiving that she thought my decision to go missing that night should have been vetted and approved first. My injuries weighed heavily upon me, to the extent that they were cramping my (walking) style, so I didn't want to have to deal with her issues that were threatening to emerge right then. I searched her face for traces of that anger I had seen earlier but all I saw was a genuine concern as she stared at my uncomfortable limping. Meanwhile the security light just outside my door illuminated the fact that my high-speed tumble in the pothole had me worse for wear, and rather dusty too; torn of skin and clothing.
“What happened to you?!” Ailis demanded, in a much less composed tone, when we eventually met under the light and in front of the door.
“I was running and I fell,” I said in a deadpan everyday tone while searching pockets for my keys.
“You smell like alcohol,” she said shrilly, “Why were you running at night?”
I laughed, catching an uncomfortable implication in her words. We entered my room. Immediately, I let myself fall spread-eagled on the bed. I wanted only to sleep, and fast - my nerves had had it with jarring pain and a foolish limp whereas I could have taken a motorbike, and I was probably bleeding too - if so, I didn't want to see it at all; not if I could sleep and wake up first before dealing with it in the morning, when embarrassment was no longer charging through all my systems.
Ailis on her part was in a hurry to go nowhere; she turned on the TV, picked a stool and settled it near my head. Then she took a seat facing me, noisy TV to her back. I stared at her worried expression as I lay on my stomach; it seemed like as she surveyed me, her eyes moving back and forth from head to toe, she too felt the painful sting of my wounds. A delicate grimace was on her face.
“You’ve got too much weirdness going on in your life right now,” she said, waving outstretched fingers about, “Were you fighting...? Why didn’t you tell me you were going out? I didn’t know you would be going out. If I was there this wouldn’t be happening… So you fight?”
I said I wasn’t fighting. I was running and I tripped so I fell.
“Running? Why? Are you drunk?”
The puzzled look in her face was the last thing I saw before I fell asleep. Something about having many wounds all over one’s body simply invites sleep. I vanished into dreamland quickly, and the worried words of Ailis seemed to drift into the darkening distance, meaningless and ineffectual mutterings full of emotion and empty on substance (so I told myself). Her concern was nonetheless touching, even if a bit annoying in the manner of its manifestation. I dislike attention. And I was realizing, rather uncomfortably, that I needed to conceptualize our relations with Ailis in a different light, and stop operating on assumed givens, which transition would likely involve a long sentimental talk, which looked to me like a clumsy task whose outcome could only end one way: scarily.
Sleep was a welcome diversion. Hopefully Ailis would see herself out after realizing I had actually slept, I figured.
However, after an indeterminate while, I woke up with a start, and yelping too, much like a dog kicked out of its sleep. Jolting pain shot through my body in crashing waves, originating from my arm. Looking up to discover why, I found Ailis pressing a hot steaming fabric against a raw graze in my elbow, and the air was thick with the smell of boiling disinfectant. Completing the picture was a steaming container on the floor beside my bed which belched fumes that stank decidedly medically.
The tripartite agreement between my open wounds, hot water and disinfectant, facilitated by Ailis' strong pressure, made me incoherent. But Ailis was far from done - she had only just begun.
"Relax," she said, in a way that only made me more tense. "You'll thank me for this one day. Remove your shirt."
It was an order.