We left on the twenty-fourth. You were laying on the concrete, the blood from your scrapes staining the sweatshirt I’d placed under your head. You asked me to light a cigarette for you, and you smoked it while I tried to clean your cuts the best I could with half a bottle of water and some tissues. You were real quiet, just smoking your cigarette and looking up at the sky at something I couldn’t see. I swear you stopped breathing for just a second, and so did I. But then you stubbed the cigarette out and asked me to light another one, and I did.
Jazz, I said, sitting back, hands stained with your blood, don’t ever fucking do that again. I watched as you sighed and closed your eyes, cradling your free arm against the black t-shirt we’d gotten at Goodwill a couple weeks ago. I was scared that you’d broken a rib or hit your head too hard, but you wouldn’t let me take you to the hospital. Jazz, I insisted, washing my hands with what was left of the water. You put out the cigarette and opened your eyes again. Wendy, you said, I will never fucking do that again. For a minute, I just wanted to walk away and never come back. You couldn’t take anything seriously; not even your own life. I was getting tired of having to hold your hand just in case you decided to walk into traffic again, like tonight and all the nights before this one.
Wendy, you said, look at me. I didn’t. Wendy, you repeated. I watched a street light flicker in the distance and willed it to stop. You tried to sit up, and I pushed you back down, so afraid you’d hurt yourself again. And then suddenly your hands were on my hands, and my body was on top of yours and my lips kissed your bruised lips and I tasted metal. Jazz, I sighed, I’ll hurt you. Let me go. But you wouldn’t, and so I rested my head against yours and breathed when you did and did my best to forget that we were sprawled on a street corner at two am in a city I didn’t yet know the name of. I was so in love with you, but I wished you didn’t have to walk into traffic for me to realize it.
A siren went off then, sending both our hearts slamming against our chests. I scrambled up and helped you stand, even though you leaned on me so hard I was afraid we’d fall. Behind that building, you suggested, pointing up ahead. It was only a couple hundred feet, but it took such a long time to make it that I thought we’d be caught. You braced yourself against the wall as the ambulance sped past. The driver’d made good on his promise to call for help, but you didn’t want it and I couldn’t force you. Wendy, you said, defeated, hopeful, let’s get the fuck out of here. We didn’t pack; just bought the tickets and ran.