Before I even knocked on the door, I'd begun to brace myself for what was inside. I'd never before seen Will's bedroom, but I had, on one or two occasions, gotten a glimpse of his college dorm while we'd Skyped during the school year. Based on that visual, I had no choice but to prepare for an encounter with a war zone and perhaps a previously-undiscovered species of algae.
Will was blasting music—something upbeat with a horn section and a walking bass line that shook the door on its hinges. I felt bad for his mom, who, despite the noise in the background of the call, had sounded peppy while giving me the directions to the house. Will hadn't picked up his cell phone, as usual, so I'd been forced to call his home line. It was probably just as well, though, as I couldn't really surprise him if I'd asked for his address first.
I offered a series of knocks, increasing in volume each time, but my knuckles had gone raw by the fourth attempt. I ultimately gave up and pushed the door open without permission. I had to shove it along with my shoulder, as there was a wet towel and a pair of mesh gym shorts wedged underneath, but I finally managed a big enough gap that I could slip inside.
Will was lying there on his bed, though he was not parallel to the mattress like anyone normal would’ve been. All six feet four inches of him were stretched horizontally across the bed; his head and half his torso were hanging upside-down over the edge, and his cast-enclosed leg was propped up against the wall.
I advanced a step forward, as that was as far as I could walk without having to lift my feet a substantial distance above the ground to scale the towers of junk on the floor. Still, the movement in the corner was enough to grab Will's attention.
"Andy!" he yelled, forgetting about the video game he'd been playing. The screen erupted in a series of 8-bit explosions followed by a 'game over' bubble. He grinned anyway.
"Sorry," I called.
"I said sorry! Hi Will."
"I'm turning this shit down.”
He flipped over onto his stomach and dropped the controller in the process. It landed in an over-flowing laundry basket by his bed. "What?"
I shook my head. "You're useless," I murmured. His stereo rested on a shelf above his desk, so I used his computer chair as both a stool to reach it and an island to escape the apocalypse scene that was his floor. I twisted the dial and waited a second for my ears to stop throbbing.
"I said Hi, Will."
He resumed his torso-off-bed placement, but he looked at me rather than the screen this time. "What's good, Andy?" he asked.
I never knew how to answer that question, as the customary 'nothing' made me out to be somewhat of a pessimistic bitch, so I often ended up disregarding it altogether. Will never seemed to mind. I asked, "Aren’t you uncomfortable like that?"
"Like this?" he said. "Nah. Nothing's uncomfortable. I'm on these meds that make me numb as a polar bear's ass. It's great."
I laughed. "Charming. So you're feeling better, then."
"I am, yeah," he told me. Will found that he couldn't reach the game controller when he was sprawled out like that, so he surrendered and instead heaved himself upright. "Crazy bored, though, man. My mom won't let me out ‘til this ankle has a few more days to chill, and I'm telling you, there's nothing to do in this fucking room." Will couldn't seem to stop moving; he kept incessantly tapping on his thigh like some kind of stir-crazy crack addict.
"Not that you could even get out if you wanted to," I remarked. I possessed an aerial view from where I stood on the chair, and I could safely say that not one inch of Will's carpet—or wooden floor, for all I knew—was visible.
He laughed. "Ah, this is my room on a good day. You’ve seen it worse than this, haven't you?"
"I've never seen it at all," I reminded him.
"Really?" Will shook his head. "Nah, you definitely have. I've known you forever."
I disregarded the fact that four years could barely be considered ‘forever," and instead I answered, “Nope. I’ve never seen it."
Will was one of those kids who was always out doing something. He never took down-time, because his half-assed and frankly dangerous schemes (shenanigans, as he called them) always kept him busy. I was usually invited, but rarely attended, and when we did hang out, we'd normally go to get food at two AM and then drive around town in his ten-year-old mom wagon while he told me about the stupid shit he'd done since I'd last seen him. Come to think of it, I may never have seen Will's room if he hadn't been forced to sit still for two seconds because of the cast around his ankle.
"Oh," he mused, and then Will shrugged. "Welcome, then. Take a seat."
I looked around once more, and upon realizing that there weren't too many options, I just lowered myself down onto the chair I’d been standing on.
"You want a drink?" He motioned to the pyramid of juice-boxes he'd constructed on his bedside table. Poor kid.
"I'm good, actually. Thanks."
"Okay.” He pushed his blonde hair out of his eyes, and I took notice of how long it was getting. "So what've you been up to, then? Do anything cool since the show?" Will grabbed the crutches that'd been leaning against the wall and he used them to force his body upright. I asked him if he needed any help, but he waved the suggestion away as he hobbled to the other side of the room.
I thought about mentioning the mattress and how I'd nearly gotten arrested for playing human-bowling on the grounds of one of the largest research libraries on the continent. I figured the occurrence might slip underneath the category of 'cool’–at least in Will's book.
For some reason, though, I didn't. It was a long story, especially if I included the part about how I'd talked my way out of a three-week grounding, and Will probably wouldn't have believed me anyway. It was without a doubt something he would've attempted, but not at all me. I was still having trouble believing that I’d done it.
I'd just tell him about it later, I decided. And anyway, I didn't want to rub it in his face that he was stuck alone in his room right smack in the middle of the summer. "Nothing," I lied, and I shrugged.
"You and I both."
Will had grabbed something off his dresser and was now making his way back across the room; he shoved things out of his path with the end of his crutch. "Check these out," he said, tossing a stack of photos onto my lap. "I told you I got pictures."
I flipped through them one by one, each photograph further zoomed-in and more disturbing than the last. "Beautiful," I murmured. "You know, I saw your ankle first hand, dude. These really aren't necessary." In an attempt to keep my breakfast from resurfacing, I turned my face to the side and pushed them back toward him.
"Suit yourself," he told me, as though I was totally missing out because I didn't want to see the internal mechanics of a human leg.
"How long you in that thing, anyway?"
"About five weeks," he told me. "Showering's gonna be a bitch. I can't drive, either."
I shook my head. "That blows, dude. That's most of the summer. I'm sorry."
"S’okay," he reasoned, offering a shrug. "When I get out of this, though, I'm gonna do something insane. Like ride my bike to Montauk or some shit."
"That's on the other end of Long Island, Will."
"I know. Figure a two day trip. Three at the most," he said. "Wanna come?"
"Maybe," I told him, though had Will been anything close to attentive, he would've caught the ‘not-a-chance’ written on my face. "I'll think about it."
As much as it sucked to be trapped in a cast, I reasoned that if anyone was going to manage, it’d be this guy. When I'd first met Will back in high school, he told me about the time he'd gotten stitches near his ribcage, and, so they didn't tear while he walked, he had to use a wheelchair for about a week. By the third day, he'd gotten his friend Phil to rope him to the back of a mail truck so he could get pulled around behind it.
On second thought, Will probably wouldn't be tied down here for too long.