Objective 21

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Chapter 2

The show had been going on for nearly four and a half hours, and even more people had turned up for the main headliner. I had long since lost Will in the ever-increasing mass of people, and I was in no mood to barrel through mosh pits in search of him.

Even at 3:21 in the morning, the New York City sidewalks were far from neglected. I sat on a brick sill underneath the front window of the venue, waiting for the show to end. The final band had already been called back on stage for an encore, and they’d been doing a break-down for about half an hour now. I figured the crowds would be filing out into the streets decently soon, though you never really knew with underground shows like that.

It had been raining earlier in the night, and the streets and curbs were still wet. The tires of cabs and trucks made whooshing noises on the road, and the city lights reflected off the pavement in streak-like patterns.

The venue had been hot and sweaty, and I had tied my brown jaw-length hair up in a sad excuse for a ponytail. I’d cut it about a month ago, and the twelve-year-old-boy look was finally starting to grow out. The shorter strands fell down around my face, but at least I could feel some air on the back of my neck.

I rubbed my hand over the top of my spine, feeling that it was sore and a little bit swollen. My neck had cracked forward at least three times when my head hit the floor, and it still hurt like a bitch.

I was torn from my thoughts when I heard the roar of an ambulance from down the block. The sirens bounced off the high buildings, creating the illusion of several vans, but just one skidded to a halt in the front of the venue.

Two men jumped to the pavement and pulled open the back doors. While I sat there and let my eyes follow, I wondered which idiot had managed to break himself in the pit.

This question was—queue FML moment—promptly answered when I turned and saw two skinheads leaving the building. In their arms, they carried a bloody mess that was none other than Will O’Hanson.

The skinheads were burly enough, and Will was damn-well skinny enough, but they still seemed to struggle with his height. They passed the broken moron off with little resistance, and then the EMTs dragged him out from under the awning.

“Will!” My voice came out shrill and unrecognizable.

“Andy, look what happened,” he said, pointing to his mangled ankle as if I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Will clenched his jaw and cringed in pain, but he was grinning through it anyhow. Personally, I didn’t see the hilarity in the situation, but that’s just the way he was.

“What the hell did you do!?” I stumbled to my feet, my legs feeling like rubber and lead at the same time. I managed to follow on the heels of the men as they loaded Will into the van, like he was a package and they worked for UPS.

“This stupid little kid was trying to stage dive into the middle of nowhere, so I was gonna catch him...” Will struggled to speak to me while he was being strapped into a gurney, but he had the attention span of a goldfish to begin with. I assumed it would only worsen now that all of his blood was rushing out of a gaping hole in his ankle.

“And?” I demanded. I kept on my toes and struggled to see past the ambulance crew. Will had managed to get blood everywhere, including on his precious t-shirt—a personal souvenir from this one particular show.

“And then we both went down and a”–he gritted his teeth and inhaled sharply as they wrapped his leg–“a three-hundred pound metalhead landed on my foot.”

“Oh, good Lord,” I managed to choke out. I bit my lip hard. I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up, but it seemed like too much of a hassle; the closest garbage can was thirty feet away, and my knees wouldn’t bend.

“No worries,” he spoke, pushing past the pain in his voice. “It’ll make for one hell of a story, yeah?”

I ignored his statement and turned to the first responder. His white collared shirt had some blood on it near the neckline, and I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off the red specs as I spoke to him. “I need to go with him,” I stated.

“You’ll have to meet him at the hospital, Miss. There’s no room in the ambulance.”

“No, you don’t understand. I need to go with him.”

“Miss, there’s no room in the ambulance,” he repeated, only this time he emphasized his words like he was speaking into the voice command on a cell phone.

“But I have no other way of getting there! I have no money for a cab, I have no idea where the subways are… Hell, I don’t even know where I’m trying to get!”

“The hospital is on East 77th Street,” he told me, as if that would somehow kick-start an epiphany that would fix everything. He shut the back door of the truck and the sound reverberated in my mind.

“You really don’t understand,” I attempted once more, but the man whirled around and, along with a pointed index finger, cut my statement short.

“Look, lady. I can’t help you, okay? Call the hospital later to see if he’s alright. That’s all I can tell you.”

Casting red and white lights on the pavement, the ambulance sped off and left me standing on the side of the road. I just stared down the city block and, like a bunch of damp clothes in a dryer, the phrase “Are you fucking kidding me?” tumbled around in my head. Finally, accepting the fact that the ambulance wasn’t coming back, I heaved a sigh and went to go sit on the brick window sill again.

The show had let out. While the majority were making their way down the street in search of fresh air and bottled water, some people stuck around. They created a mob around the venue doors, conversations and cigarette smoke rising from their lips. I didn’t smoke, granted I never really had the urge to before, but I found myself ready to bum a cigarette off anyone within a five foot radius; given the current circumstances, I figured I needed one pretty bad right about now. Anything to get rid of this bounce in my pulse.

The more I reflected on it, the more I realized just how terrible this situation actually was. Apart from the fact that my friend was on his way to the hospital with a few of his bones showing, I was stuck alone in the depths of New York City at 3:30 in the morning.

I had nothing on me except the dead cell phone lodged in my bra and the bucket list in my back pocket. I now realized that Will had taken my round-trip train ticket and my money, insistent that his cargo pants pockets would be the safest place for them. Well, they might’ve been safe, but they weren’t much help to me while they were steadily speeding toward East 77th Street, wherever the shit that was.

I didn’t have the slightest idea how I was going to get home, and frankly, thinking about a plan in my current state seemed like one hell of a grueling task. I had the overwhelming urge to just fall asleep somewhere, just for a few hours until it was light out and my head was clearer. It having been June, I certainly wouldn’t have frozen to death, but there aren’t too many places in New York City that are considered ideal for a goddamn catnap.

A face suddenly forced its way into my line of view, and at first, because of the darkness paired with the thoughts swarming in my head, I couldn’t distinguish it. I raised my eyebrows and shot the stranger a look.

“Aren’t you the girl who started macking it with me in the middle of the show?”

His features finally registered, even despite the shadows cast by the venue’s awning. He stood up straight and the intensity of his eyebrows lightened a little. “Are you alright?” he asked. When I didn’t answer, he added, “That’s gotta be the fourth time I’ve asked you that tonight.”

The boy, his hands hidden in his pockets, sat down next to me and peered around. He must’ve sensed that my solitude was the problem, because his next question was, “Where’s that kid you were with?”

I swallowed the lump in my throat that had been lodged there since I saw the blood on Will’s clothes. “Decided ten minutes before the show ended that it was a good idea to get his ankle split open.”

“Oh, shit,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I saw that. That was him?”

“Yeah, that was him.”

A few bouncers had come out of the venue and were dispersing the crowd in front, waving them away from the entrance. I slowly got to my feet and, like something out of Resident Evil, began dragging myself down the sidewalk.

The guy stared after me for a second or two before casting a few glances in either direction. Then he stood, lengthened his strides in order to catch up, and started walking alongside me.

“Where are you gonna go?” he asked.

“I have no goddamn clue.”

“Well, where do you live?”

“Long Island,” I answered, “which isn’t the most strategic of places right now, granted my friend’s got my train ticket.”

He cracked a sideways smile, apparently finding humor that I couldn’t. Then he shook his head in a ‘well, isn’t this ironic’ sort of way and asked, “Lemme guess. Money, too?”

“You bet.” My voice lacked any emotion whatsoever. I kept my gaze pointed straight ahead.

“Alright,” he murmured. “Don’t worry about it, okay? I’ll save your ass on this one.” His strides suddenly picked up speed, as though he had a destination this time, and I allowed my feet to move faster alongside his.

I didn’t know what he meant, but I didn’t want to ask. He seemed like he had a plan, which was more than I could say for myself, and I didn’t want to know the details in case his plan sucked; I just wanted to wallow in hope for a few moments before I was potentially shot down, if that makes any sense at all. Then again, I didn’t particularly have any other options at the moment, anyway.


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