Objective 21

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Chapter 3

“Pretty wicked show, huh?” he offered, and he glanced over his shoulder at me.

“Not really my type of scene,” I murmured. “I just went because Will asked me to.” Maybe if I hadn’t been in such a shitty mood, I would’ve agreed for the sake of conversation, but I didn’t possess enough energy to stop the clipped words that rolled off my tongue.

“Least you’re honest,” he shrugged.

The conversation dropped there, and neither of us made any attempt to pick it back up again. I watched my feet scraping over the wet pavement and sewer caps. The streets were starting to thin out, and the traffic lights changed without a purpose. The air had a clean static smell to it that arose when the rain quit, and though only a little, the scent helped to calm my frayed nerves.

We were stopped at the corner of an intersection when he asked, “Did you call your friend to see if he’s okay?”

I shook my head. “My phone died about two minutes into the show.”

“Wanna use mine?”

I paused for a second, and then remembered, “I don’t know his number off the top of my head.”

The boy tightened his mouth into a straight line as he contemplated something. “Give me your phone,” he told me. I glanced from his expression to his extended hand. Then, my face reddening, I turned my back to him and reached into my shirt to get it.

He bit back a smirk as I dropped the phone into his palm. With his other hand, the boy reached into his pocket, got his own cell, and took out the battery. I didn’t think they’d match, but they did, and he switched them. To my revelation, my screen lit up and the little jingle sounded from the speaker.

“Good thing we both have insanely old phones.” He tossed it back to me.

For the first time since the ambulance ditched me, I cracked a smile. “Good thing you have insanely good ideas.”

I scanned through my contacts for Will’s number and then put the speaker to my ear. It rang five or six times and then went to voicemail. I hadn’t actually expected Will to answer, as he never did even when his limbs were intact, but my heart still dropped when I heard the beep on the other end. I forced an impatient sigh and shut the phone.

“Didn’t pick up,” I said. I started to take the battery out again, but he stopped me.

“Keep it for a while. He might call back.”

We started moving again, and after a turn at the next crosswalk, I recognized the wide double doors of Penn Station. Once inside, the boy confidently led me over the tiled floor. The station wasn’t teeming with people, but there were groups scattered here and there. I recognized the majority of them from the venue; nothing else had let out this late.

He approached one of the ticket machines that was pushed up against the far wall. “Where you headed?” he asked.

“Massapequa,” I told him.

After touching his finger to the screen, he shoved a ten in the slot and a ticket came out in its place. Grabbing it along with his change in the form of heavy coins, everything disappeared into the pocket of his hoodie. I watched as he strayed a few feet and lowered himself to the floor. He let his head drop back against a metallic pillar that reached to the ceiling; I slid down across from him and pressed my back to an identical one.

“I haven’t even figured out your name, you know.”

With his eyes still shut, his mouth curved. “That didn’t particularly stop you from attacking my face.”

I felt my skin heat up again, and even though he couldn’t see me, I let my bangs fall over my expression. “I don’t normally do shit like that,” I offered quietly.

“Okay.” His voice was so accepting that it had the opposite effect—it sounded contemptuous.

“No, dude,” I insisted. “Look.” I shifted my position and took the yellow paper out of my pocket. Then I held it up with my finger positioned next to objective number twelve.

“Kiss a complete stranger,” he read aloud. His face was scrunched up in either confusion or disappointment; I couldn’t tell which, but I figured that if it was the latter, it was because I wasn’t as impulsive as he would’ve liked to think.

I quickly folded the looseleaf again and stuck it back into my jeans before he could read any more of it. “Yes.”

“What is that?” he questioned, and his eyes lingered on the pocket that it had just disappeared into.

“It’s my bucket list.”

“Bucket list,” he repeated. His expression deepened at the minor familiarity of the phrase. “Is that one of things where you write a bunch of shit you wanna get done, and then you have to finish it all before you–?”

“Kick the bucket, yeah.”

He shut his eyes again and crossed his arms over his chest. “Hm,” he mused. Then, after a few more seconds of silence, another, more final, “Hm.”

“Yep.”

“That’s kind of cool, I guess,” he decided.

“Thanks, I guess.”

The lighting in here was bright—much brighter than the novelty lights at the show, and since his eyes were still closed, I quit holding my breath and allowed myself a chance to examine him a little more strictly.

His sharp features looked even more defined underneath the florescent lights. I thought that his short hair had appeared dark because we’d been in the venue, but I now found that it was practically black to begin with. His skin, however, was a complete contrast to his hair and eyes; it was a pale ivory color that seemed to make him all the more intimidating-looking. The only thing that argued against it was a single dimple on the left side of his mouth.

“My name’s Macon,” he told me, as though he knew that I was just about to ask again.

“Macon what?”

See, I’d always done this eccentric thing with people where I analyzed their name, first and last, to see if it suited them. I mean, maybe it seemed weird that, right off the bat, I was so concerned with knowing, and come to think of it, phrases such as “Would you like my social security number with that?” often followed. But if Macon found it odd, he didn’t show it. He answered without delay.

“Macon Prindall.”

Macon Prindall. I repeated it over again to myself, letting the associated feeling of it just settle. Though I’d heard the name once or twice, maybe on book characters or in a baby-name directory, I’d never actually met anyone named ‘Macon’ before. As far as I knew, his last name wasn’t too common, either.

The more I looked at him, the more I decided that it suited him very well. In my opinion, his appearance was average. It wasn’t as though he wasn’t good looking; he was just basic. Besides maybe being a few inches taller than most, there was nothing to set him apart from anyone else. If I was to scan over a ton of people in a crowd, he would go unnoticed. But when he was tossed right in front of me (or, rather, I in front of him) I wondered how I ever could have missed him.

That’s why his name suited him. Because it was distinctive and his appearance suggested the opposite of him. They kind of evened each other out, in a way.

My train of thought was interrupted by the cell-phone in my hand. I flipped it open without even bothering to look at the caller ID on the front screen.

“Will?” I asked desperately.

“Andy. Yeah, it’s me.”

“Oh, thank God,” I mumbled, dragging my hand over my eyes. I got to my feet and started pacing back and forth between the pillars. “Are you calling from the hospital? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I could hear voices in the background, but I couldn’t really make out the words. Through the ear-speaker, it all just sounded like incoherent murmur. “And yeah, I’m at the hospital. They just set my ankle. Aw man, Andy. It was awesome. You should’ve seen it.”

“I did see it, Will,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, but not without all the blood and crap. When they cleaned it up, you could see the bone. No joke.”

My stomach dropped and then jumped up into my throat. “Ew,” I stated.

“But no worries, I got pictures.”

“Will, listen,” I said, disregarding him. “I am so incredibly sorry that I left you there alone, dude. I practically dropped to my knees and begged the guy, but he would not let me in the ambulance with you, and I didn’t know how to get to the hospital on my own, and I–”

“Relax. It’s not a big deal. My parents are on their way into the city now.”

I shut my eyes and, even though he couldn’t see, I nodded. “Are you sure you’re alright?” I stressed each word.

“Positive. This morphine is incredible stuff, yo. And crutches always seemed like a shitheap of fun.”

I took a deep breath and then exhaled, trying to release some frustration and concern along with it. The strands of hair blew from my forehead as a result. “As long as you’ve still got all four limbs.”

“Hey, Andy, I gotta go. This one doctor’s screaming at me to get off my cell phone. Something about pacemakers. I’ll catch you later, okay?”

“Alright,” I agreed, though reluctantly. “Wait, Will. Call me when you–” There was a click on the other end and I took the phone away from my ear. Macon’s eyes followed me as I sat back down against the pillar.

“He’s still in one piece?”

I nodded while I slid the battery out of my phone and tossed it back to him. “Yeah. He seems pretty proud of himself, too. The moron.”

Macon cracked a grin and sunk lower toward the tiles. “Been quite the eventful night, yeah?” he mused. I looked up at the ceiling and shook my head in miserable reflection.

I heard an announcement regarding my train, and only because it was the middle of the night, the motorized voice was permitted to echo off the walls of the station, nothing to soak up the sound but the drunkards and the bums. Macon and I simultaneously dragged ourselves to our feet.

“Here,” he said, handing me the ticket from his pocket. “You know where to go?”

“Yeah, I think I can manage,” I replied. A couple dozen people were walking past us, heading in the direction of the platform.

“Alright.”

“Listen. Thanks so much. I really owe you one.” I was dangerously close to diving into an explanation of how, if he hadn’t helped me, I’d probably be lying in a heap of newspapers somewhere while I got pecked at by street pigeons, but Macon waved my comment away.

“Don’t mention it.”

I tried to look him in the eye with an I’m-being-genuine stare, but I found that every time I tried, I immediately pictured his “who are you and why did you initiate a game of tonsil-hockey” expression. Instead I nodded and awkwardly averted my gaze. “Seriously, though. Thank you.”

He flashed the dimple on the side of his face. “Tell your friend Will not to maim himself next time, alright? Or at least get your ticket back from him first. Get going, you’re gonna miss it.”

I took one more glance at his prominent features and dark eyes, trying to absorb as much of him as I could. I couldn’t explain it, but something about the situation told me that it was an important thing to do. Even though Macon appeared common, he wasn’t, and some kind of against-the-odds feeling told me that I would figure that out soon enough.

With my fist wrapped around the one-way ticket, I turned away from him and followed the crowd of Long Island punks, skins, and metalheads toward the platform.


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