Sit tight Mitch did, zoning out as his brain made a feeble attempt at processing the last 15 minutes worth of conversation. His body shivered, presumably due to the ongoing combination of no sleep and no food, and he took a few breaths to ground himself from lightheadedness.
Avi returned with a glass of water in one hand and an icepack in the other, which he applied to Mitch’s shoulder; however, his hand remained on it. “I can take that,” Mitch said, but regretted speaking up; his palms were hot and tingling from the energy that he exerted earlier, and the temperature contrast from the ice burned. While the intense cold gave him something to focus on, despite the lingering symptoms.
“Great. Got you this, too.” Avi set the glass down on the side table. “There’s electrolyte powder in it, but it doesn’t have any taste. Figured you could use the nutrients.”
Mitch frowned. “I’m not doing this on purpose,” he pointed out defensively.
“Didn’t say you were.” Avi raised both of his hands, as though he was trying to placate a wild animal. “But I can’t train you until you start eating. That’s the deal. Until then, copay’s still on.”
“Fuck!” spat Mitch. He let go of the icepack, grabbed the glass, and took a sip. The texture was both gritty and slimy, and there was an odor that did not agree with him, but he swallowed it regardless. Though he wanted nothing more than to drink it all in one gulp and slam the glass down, his body wouldn’t allow for it, so he continued to sip until the amount visibly decreased. “I hate this,” he lamented, temporarily forgetting present company and the restraint that he exercised up until then. His head hung low as let out a pitiful, “I don’t want to be like this anymore.”
He barely noticed that the glass was taken away, or that ice pack was readjusted on his shoulder, or that Avi had crouched down in front of him. “Hey man,” Avi softly spoke.
“What?” Mitch sniffed, unwilling to look at him.
“You did great today. We’ll do more stretches tomorrow, OK? But I’m gonna reattach the sling now.”
“I didn’t even do anything,” Mitch let out a self deprecating laugh.
“You did so much,” Avi insisted as he put the straps and buckles in place. “I promise, you were great.”
“If you say so.” Everything was clipped and tightened, and Mitch tested it by trying to wiggle his arm, which hardly budged.
“I do.” Avi stood back up and stretched, while Mitch continued to keep his head low, focused on the way that his insides churned from the neglect they’d been subjected to. “So,” Avi’s voice transitioned from assurance to something more familiar and affable. Mitch looked up enough to see a small bit of his hip exposed from the way that his ill-fitting shirt rode up, and went back to staring at the floor. “I’ve got a shift at the school this afternoon. You wanna tag along and hang out with everyone?”
“No, I…I’ve gotta finish writing this article I’ve been stuck on. Deadline’s tomorrow,” Mitch stuttered, needing solitude or fresh air or something to clear his head.
“Alright. Well, I’ll catch you later, then?”
“Later. Yeah.” He waited until Avi had left the room before he rubbed his aching chest, silently wondering if there were antacids somewhere in the house.