As I stood there staring at him, I was met with dark eyebrows, even darker eyes, and sharp facial features. With the way he stood in front of me and the way the back of my head ached from the fall, it was strangely parallel to the first time I’d looked at him in the venue. If this had been then, my next move would’ve been to grab the back of his neck and kiss him. My knees locked again at the thought.
“Don’t move!” the officer yelled, rocketing down the last few stairs, and those two words were enough to kick me from my daze. Macon took another grab for my wrist and started yanking me down the sidewalk.
“What about the mattress?” I called.
“Forget about it! Run!”
The officer was sprinting after us, yelling into his radio as he did so, as if two kids riding down a staircase on a mattress was the most highly-prioritized crime being committed in all of New York City. My adrenalin was pumping through my body, and the surges seemed to match the rhythm of shoes against concrete. Macon, his hand still on my arm, pulled me through hordes of people on the sidewalk. He glanced over his shoulder to see how far ahead we were and I caught sight of the enormous grin on his face. The dimple on the left side of his mouth was more noticeable than it’d ever been.
We sprinted over a crosswalk and my ears filled with the blare of a horn. He and I reached the curb just as a transit bus came rolling through the intersection.
“Keep running straight. I’ll go this way,” Macon shouted. He turned left and started to shove his way through the crowd.
“No worries, I’ll meet up with you!” he called back.
I stood on my toes and tried to find him again in the tangles of people, but there were bodies moving every which way. As I looked over my shoulder, I saw the last few windows of the bus as it went past. The cop was there, out of breath but still impenetrably determined.
Once I forced my legs into motion, they seemed to move entirely on their own. I weaved through the businesspeople and the tourists on the sidewalk. My shoulders hit against theirs and I muttered apologizes that didn’t really mean anything at all.
The rain fell pretty heavily now, and I could almost smell the water mixing with the asphalt. I kept sprinting straight down the city blocks, but I didn’t know where I was going, or how Macon was supposed to find me again.
Finally, I stopped. I impatiently pushed back the wet hair that was matted against my face. My breathing was heavy, and I stumbled as I looked up at the buildings around me. Steam rose from the sewers and closed in around me.
I hadn’t the slightest where I was, and although I’d seemingly outrun the cop, I’d managed to wander into one hell of a sketchy area. There were construction platforms all over the place, but no one was working on them. Very few people walked by, and those who did walked quickly. It was starting to get dark. The platforms cast long web-shaped shadows across the ground.
I started sprinting again when I heard sirens behind me, bouncing back and forth against the bars on the platforms, but an arm wound around me and I was pulled backwards into a subway entrance. Macon’s voice registered in my mind before I had a chance to panic. “How far behind us is he?”
“I don’t know.”
Our feet were flying down the concrete at a blurring rate. “Didn’t you see him?”
“I heard sirens. That’s it.” I followed close on Macon’s heels, trying not to slip on the stairs; the rain was pouring down them so quickly, it looked like a miniature waterfall.
“When we get to the bottom, jump the turnstiles. If the train’s there, get on. If not, run the platform,” he demanded.
Before I could question the plan, we’d reached the base of the staircase and were sprinting toward the underground tracks. A subway car was waiting there, but its doors were just about to shut.
There was a woman standing at the MetroCard machine, fixing or restocking it or whatever, and she yelled to us as we jumped, one after the other, over the rails of the turnstile. She didn’t even have time to fully turn her body around before the doors had closed and we were moving.
I stood in the center of the jostling subway car, clinging to one of the handles. Macon collapsed on a chair as I rested my palm on my knee and doubled over. We both tried desperately hard to catch our breaths.
“Do you think,” I began, “the sirens were for us?”
“Maybe,” Macon heaved. His chest rose up and down in quick bursts. His shirt was soaked through and through, and he had iridescent droplets of water stuck in his hair.
“But you can’t get arrested for what we did, right?”
“Damn straight, you can. Those guys have on-duty arrest authority granted to them by the New York State Penal Law,” Macon told me. “We technically just endangered the lives of citizens while on the grounds of a massive city landmark.”
I groaned and sank down into the seat beside him. The subway car rattled back and forth, forcing my shoulder to hit against his. We glanced around; he and I were the only ones here.
“Do you know where we’re going?” I asked.
Macon leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. He shook his head. “No. Didn’t pay attention to which line we got on,” he told me. “I guess we’ll ride it for a while until we figure it’s safe. Then we’ll go back up to the street and figure out how to get to my apartment from there.”
I glanced out the window and saw nothing but a dark wall. The lights in here were flickering a bit, and it made me uneasy. I could still feel the heat of the adrenalin in my legs, and I wanted nothing more to get up and walk it off, but I was way too winded.
“You’re bleeding,” Macon told me.
My first reaction was to check my hands, thinking maybe they’d skidded on the concrete when I bailed off the mattress. I turned over to my palms, though, and I didn’t see anything but unbroken skin.
“No,” Macon said, lightly taking my chin in his hand so I would look at him. “Here. On your lip.”
I touched my hand to my mouth. The contact stung, and when I pulled away, there was red sinking into the small patterns of my fingerprints.
“You bite your lip when you’re nervous,” he said.
“Yeah. I know.”
“Bad habit to have.”
“Yeah,” I repeated. “One day I’m gonna chew the bottom half of my face off.”
Macon raised his arms above his head. His next statement was stifled by a yawn as his body grasped for oxygen. “Not just that,” he said. “It lets people know when you’re feeling vulnerable.”
“Oh,” I answered.
He lowered his shoulders and stared forward with a vacant expression. His eyes were focused on nothing in particular. Then Macon’s face lightened a little bit and he coughed out a laugh. “You have to admit, that was epic.”
I inhaled sharply and planted my chin in the palm of my hand. If we’d just broken the law, like Macon said we had, I didn’t care to acknowledge how “epic” it was. It’d been way too close of a call.
“C’mon. That cop? What a tool,” Macon pressed. “Did you hear him say, ‘stop that mattress?’ Like that shit was equipped with brakes or something.”
The corner of my mouth unwillingly turned upwards, breaking through the solemn expression. I shook my head, sitting up straight again.
“Alas, she smiles.” Macon shoved his shoulder against mine. “Be still, my heart.”
“Shut your face,” I spat, pushing him away with my elbow, but hard as I tried I couldn’t turn my mouth back into a straight line.
We sat there for a really long time, waiting as the car stopped and started again. A few people got on and off, but for a large portion of the ride, it remained just us two.
My clothes dried in stiff discomfort against the plastic seats. I could feel that my hair was dry now too, but, it without a doubt looked terrible from sprinting through the rain–a look Will would most definitely describe as, “sex hair.”
Macon finally decided that we should get off, so we left the subway car and went up to street level. The rain had lessened to a calm drizzle by then, and the sky was pitch black. The streetlights around us cast a yellowish halo, and the beams caught the water particles in the air. It was eerie but striking at the same time, and despite the heaviness of summer that stuck to our skin, I was momentarily reminded of Christmas.
Macon looked at a few street signs, got his bearings, and figured out what had happened: we’d initially started moving upwards from Manhattan into the Bronx, but we’d gone too far north and now we had to backtrack a bit. He began explaining how we would go about getting to his apartment, but I lost him after the first few sentences. I told him to just lead and I would follow.
Nearly two hours later, Macon and I stumbled through the door of his dark apartment. He flicked a switch, turning on a ceiling light that barely touched half the room. From where I stood in the poor lighting, all I could see was a couch, a small television, and some clothes tossed on the floor.
“Sorry it’s a mess,” Macon said. “I probably would’ve cleaned, but I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
“Yeah, you’re right. Maybe not.” He wandered over to the couch and collapsed onto it. He let his head drop back against the armrest.
I shook my head at how his answer had been so predictably-boyish. “It’s fine. I need to get going anyway. It got really late.”
“Nah, sit down for a bit,” Macon said to me. “We just walked about two dozen blocks, Andy. If your legs aren’t about to give out on you, you’re on steroids.”
I spit out a halfhearted laugh, almost too exhausted to get the emotion across in the first place. I sank down on the opposite end of the couch. My head rested against the cushion behind me, and I shut my eyes for the sole reason that it actually hurt to keep them open any longer.
Macon and I talked for a little in the dark apartment, but the conversation seemed murky and unfocused to my mind. I kept trying to convince myself to stand and leave, but my muscles wouldn’t allow it. The last thing I remember saying to him was, “In all seriousness, I need to go now.” Then my head lolled to the side and my breathing fell into a shallow, rhythmic pattern.