“I have to ask,” he doesn’t, obviously, but they’ve been sitting in the waiting room for an hour (it feels like a lot more) and he would love to just be at home, taking a shower, maybe cracking a beer, but instead he’s here, staring at colorless linoleum and faintly smelling blood every time Amir moves his hand. Which is a lot. Amir hasn’t sat still since they sat down and that was again, an hour ago.
I’m all ears man.”
“Yeah, I just--”
“I’m an open book.”
“I know, let me talk.”
“No secrets from you, soulmate.”
“Don’t call me your soulmate.” They’re getting looks now, if they weren’t before. Before, he was burying his attention in a magazine though, so he isn’t sure. “Did you actually think you could drill around your hand?”
“Uhhhhhh.” Okay. Not getting an answer there, just Amir, squinting through his glasses as if he’s suddenly forgotten who Jake is. That’s fine, whatever. Actually, if only.
“Pat said you tried to hit him with a plank of wood.”
“Okay. Not even gonna deny that one.” Jake’s phone buzzes with a text from one of his roommates asking if he’s coming home, and he begins to hammer out his response, jamming the buttons double hard so he skips past the right letter and has to retype. But he gets it out and sends it.
Working late :/
“Hey, did I have any voicemails?” It occurs to Jake late, they’ve already been sitting around for a while. Amir’s hand is still wrapped in the only clean dishtowel that could be found in the office kitchen. He’s drumming his free hand on his knee, bobbing along to a silent, not-good beat.
“Your mom called, she said to call her back.”
“I have to get a new phone now.” He’s not even sure if he’s mad. Well, he is mad, on the surface, and under it too probably. But he’s also just… whatever. It feels like it might as well happen. Amir said it, and he was kind of right. He has been acting crazy ever since they met. Why was it surprising to him that the guy who kept a diary of what jeans he wears would also steal his phone and drop it down the drain? This wasn’t even reaching the bar for Amir-ness.
“If you think about it though, it’s kind of a good thing, because it’s like, do you wait for it to break, or do you replace it with the newer model right away?” Amir gazed pensively at the rubber plant in the corner of the waiting room. “Technology moves so fast. Sometimes it feels like we’re getting left behind.”
“Don’t try to be deep, you got your hand stuck in a drain today.” He wants to be mad. He should be mad, and he knows, or he feels like he will be, if not for this then for something, and probably soon, but instead he’s just… impressed isn’t the word, but it almost is.
“Seriously where did you get carobs and figs? And why are you selling them?”
“The softest fruit you’ll ever see!” Amir gestures at nothing, casting blood across the woman in the chair across from them.
“Don’t gesticulate, you’re still bleeding everywhere!” Jake says. Tell that to the office carpet though. Or his desk. Or his passenger seat. It did occur to him--like waking up, almost-- why the fuck am I doing this? But they were already in the car then, it wasn’t like he could change his mind. Try to be a better person than Amir. That was his new years resolution, not because he thought it would be hard but because it felt like… he needed a reminder?
“It’s like barely bleeding now!” Amir’s voice has climbed the three octaves it always does. Jake sinks his face into his hands.
“Just. Try to sit quietly, okay?” As soon as the words leave his mouth he knows they’re a mistake. He isn’t sure, but he thinks he recognizes the nurse behind the desk from last time. He’s hoping she doesn’t remember them, but then again, he doesn’t know if remembering Amir would make healthcare officials want to make them wait longer or bump them up the list.
For the dozenth time, he thinks about just ditching. Amir’s fine, more or less. His finger isn’t actually off , and it’s not like he’ll die. But it’s not like he can call anyone for a ride, either. So Jake lifts a home and garden magazine from the pile and slumps lower in his chair. The woman across from them is moving seats. Amir is still singing, more off-key than ever.
“Why’d you spend a G on knives, by the way?” he asks next, although he’s more than aware he won’t get a satisfying answer. “Who sold you knives?”
Jake glares at the form in his hands. It’s always me with the form, somehow. And the worst part is, some of it feels familiar. He writes down date of birth without thinking, checks N/A under allergies without asking.
“What kind of snake was it?”
“Dumbass.” Amir has been kind of fading, for the last half hour. But he falls asleep during conversations occasionally, so Jake can’t tell if that has to do with the snakebites or it’s just more of the usual.
“Like what species of snake, you idiot.” Some guy in the chair one over from them is giving Jake a look now, like he’s the asshole. Amir doesn’t respond to that one, so it’s a lost cause, probably. He thinks about skimming a magazine, since the form is about as filled out as it’s gonna get.
“Hey, by the way, why do you keep getting so many owls?”
“Earlier, you said you’ve had like ten owls in the last year.”
“The bird of a pimp and a philosopher.”
“On second thought, let’s not talk anymore.”
But they end up talking, of-fucking-course. Jake drinks stale coffee, which tastes way too familiar.
“By the way, it’s definitely not fine to just throw a backpack with a snake in it into a dumpster.”
“It’s not illegal though.”
“It probably is illegal.” And it probably is. But Jake doesn’t take out his phone and look. Amir slumps more and more to the side, so much so that by the time they call his name he’s asleep on Jake’s shoulder. And Jake is just letting it happen, because he can’t decide if letting him stay or shaking him off is what a good guy would do. And he’s not that sure that he’s a good guy anyways, but he’d kind of like to be.
Get Rich Quick Schemes
For once, there’s not that much waiting. Before Amir (because that’s life now, pre-Amir and post-Amir, like an apocalypse) he didn’t know what actually gets you seen right away. He didn’t know how much you can bleed before you pass out. He knew those things like, he’d looked them up at some point, or learned them in middle school, but he didn’t know .
But then there is waiting, he’s stuck in a waiting room while Amir is getting his throat (fixed? Do they even fix that?). He gets up to leave four times. Twice, he makes it as far as the door and turns around to walk back. Once he plays it off like he was just going to the bathroom. In the bathroom, he stares at himself in the mirror. He looks kind of old, and he isn’t even old. Well, he’s not young, strictly. Not really college-aged, but way too young for serious shit--old enough to be a training-wheels kind of adult.
There’s this feeling bubbling up in him like--what? Is that nervousness? Fear? It’s not his fault , in fact, it has barely anything to do with him. Maybe it’s the sense that he’ll be in trouble somehow if Amir isn’t okay, but again, it isn’t his fault, and he won’t be, you can’t get fired because your coworker is dumb enough to try to drink a paperclip.
But it keeps bubbling up anyways, and it’s that feeling that keeps him there the fourth time. The fourth time all he does is stand up and then sit back down again. That’s giving up, for sure, and giving in, in a way he’d like not to.
When they let him in to see Amir, what feels like a fucking lifetime later, he’s either asleep or medicated into unconsciousness, and for a minute, Jake just feels like he’s looking at a friend. Which he technically, in the most distorted and corrupt definitions of the word, is.
He knows there will be a next time. And he kind of thinks he’ll be there.