At some point he fell asleep; when he woke up, the room was pitch black. His head pounded, and he assumed the fetal position. Numbness wasn’t what coursed through his veins, but rather something more like an out-of-range radio station that periodically got reception. Disorientation tinged with vague familiarity.
A medically induced coma would be a much kinder way to endure this, instead of being forced to process the grief head on.
The door opened and light flooded in from the hallway, but he remained still. Footsteps crossed the room the stopped at the bed, and something was placed on the nightstand next to him.
“You awake?” Jodie whispered.
“Yeah,” croaked Mitch. She moved to the other side of the mattress and lifted the cover of the duvet, then slid underneath it. They lay in a companionable silence for a while, until she asked, “Do you need a hug?”
“No, I’m alright. I um…” He trailed off and held up Cendre, wiggling it back and forth to make the arms flop about. “I got him back.”
“Oh shit! I want a snuggle buddy!” Leaping out of bed, she turned the lamp on then grabbed the pink Care Bear from off of the dresser, a gift from Mitch from well over a decade ago. Gifted during a rather trying episode in her life, he had included a note with it that said: ‘Look, she’s a girl and she’s gay, just like you!’. To that day, Jodie claimed it was the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for her.
While she retrieved the bear, Mitch stared vacantly ahead, until something red in his peripheral vision caught his eye.
“Why’d you put this here?” Mitch reached over the nightstand and picked up the apple.
“Huh? Oh, Avi said that he didn’t want you to forget about that.” She returned to the bed and turned the lamp off. “I told him to not get his hopes up.”
“Well maybe I’ll eat it then,” Mitch indignantly retorted.
“Good! I wish you would!”
“Fine!” Bringing the apple to his mouth, he sunk his teeth into its flesh. The smell was nauseating, his esophagus fought to choke it down, and his stomach nearly rejected it, but he managed a successful bite in the end.
“Did you just eat out of spite? Is that all it took?” marveled Jodie.
“Barely,” Mitch deflated. “I regret to report that food’s still very unappetizing.”
“Aw, hun. It’s not gonna be like this forever. It’ll get easier.”
Setting the apple back on the nightstand, bitter disappointment overcame Mitch. “I really hope so,” he sighed.
While the next few days would be written of as uneventful to most, Mitch was relieved by the first taste of normalcy since the injury. He worked on his own laptop instead of constantly borrowing Jodie’s and he dressed in his own wardrobe instead of the few emergency garments that he picked up from Target. The first follow up appointment for his rotator cuff went well; it still hurt when the doctor moved it, but apparently the tear was on tract for a full recovery. He sent a text to Avi saying that he’d been cleared to start PT, and Avi responded with a coffee cup emoji. “Dork,” Mitch muttered under his breath, and an involuntary smile crept onto his face.
“What’s got you all goofy?” Jodie remarked once they departed from the patient drop-off/discharge lot.
“Nothing.” His head shot up, and he froze like a deer in headlights. Regaining composure, he said, “Hey, could we stop by Starbucks before we go home?”
No questions were asked, but he was the recipient of a gnarly side-eye when he deviated from his usual order; however, he grabbed a caramel Frappucino for Jodie, and the offering seemed to placate her. It wasn’t until he’d been dropped off when he realized that he didn’t even check to see if Avi would even be home. Or if he’d actually be available to start that very day. But Avi’s car was in the driveway, and the coffee could be considered future payment. This wasn’t something worth stressing over, he decided.
Avi was nowhere to be found downstairs, which again, did not merit fretting about. Mitch shoved aside various clutter strewn about the kitchen table and placed the plastic cup on the newly cleared spot, then picked it back up when he worried that the condensation would form a ring on the wooden surface.
Agitated and wanting to be rid of the drink, he wandered upstairs and until he stood outside of Avi’s door. His knuckles rapped against the solid wood, and again, he raked himself over the coals for acting without any forethought. This could have been handled with a text, he didn’t have to deliver it personally.
“Hello?” Avi’s voice called out.
“Uh. It’s. It’s Mitch.” Mitch squirmed, cognizant about being so far out of his element. “I have uh-” His tongue felt heavy, which was bizarre; it was as though he was back at square one with Avi, and there wasn’t any discernable reason for that. “-the goods?” He settled on, then panicking when there wasn’t an immediate reaction.
“Oh,” Avi laughed, and a wave of relief washed over Mitch. “Give me a second, OK?”
“Sure.” Mitch tried to keep from fidgeting as he waited. He wasn’t trying to snoop on purpose, but he was certain that he could hear Avi talking, concluding with a soft “OK, love you. Talk to you later.”. The door swung open, and Mitch recoiled as far away from it as possible.
Avi appeared from the other side and gasped, “My co-pay!”
“If you’re busy, we don’t- we don’t gotta do this right now.” Mitch handed it over. Avi took a sip, then flashed a grin.
“No, I’m good to go if you are. Wanna go hang out in the living room?”
“Yes.” Mitch gave several hard nods.
“Cool.” Avi smiled and shut the door, then gestured for Mitch to lead the way.