“You got a call?”
I took a bite out of my pizza, nodding.
There was a girl across from me with glossy black hair and light skin. Her almond-shaped eyes had dark irises and her well-done eyebrows were furrowed.
“Have you met him, then?”
“No, I will... today.”
“Wait so... how do you know he’s going to live with you?” I scratched my head.
“Well he needed a place today, so I agreed-”
“What?!” She yelled, both cutting me off and earning looks from the other customers.
“Quiet down, Ami.” She sighed, rubbing her forehead.
“So you’re just gonna live with some guy you’ve never met? What if he’s a serial killer or-” she stared at me, “a perv.” I choked.
“Jeez, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry so much.”
“Are you kidding me? The hell am I supposed to say to the police when I show up at your house and find you dead? ’I warned him not to room with a guy he’s never met before, but Ethan Kim is the biggest dumbass I know.’” I grinned.
“It’ll be okay. If he’s a dangerous guy I’ll take care of it.”
“Yeah yeah.” She bit her lip. “Still, don’t you think it’s worth looking for a new place?” I sighed.
“Where am so gonna find a place like this one? It’s clean, and the land lady’s nice. She doesn’t ask me useless questions.” Ami raised a brow.
“But it’s not like you need a two-bedroom space.”
“The two-bedroom is so that I can have a roommate. My... salary isn’t enough to cover one person. You know that.”
“You don’t have to keep working there,” Ami murmured gently. I scoffed.
“No one likes troublemakers, remember?”
“You’re not... what if you’re just looking for jobs in the wrong place-”
“Ami, drop it,” I hissed. The girl clicked her tongue.
“Maybe you’re new roommate can do something about that temper.” I snorted.
“Maybe.” She ate a fry, glancing outside.
“Looks like it’s gonna rain.”
“Hm? Oh, yeah.”
Light drops pelted against the window, sliding down the glass.
The sky had turned gray, and the streets were slick with water.
People outside had started to walk faster, hoping to make it somewhere dry before the downpour started.
I should have brought an umbrella...
I stepped out of the shower, glancing at the foggy mirror. I walked towards the light switch, pressing on it to turn off the bulb. I stepped into the bath one foot at a time, before sinking into the water.
Groaning, I closed my eyes.
Man... everything hurts.
I let out another long exhale, rubbing my face with warm, wet hands. I felt an itch on my palm, glancing down. I watched my fingers carefully.
Suddenly, a small flame appeared in the center of my hand.
It danced around my knuckles, making me turn my wrist, casting a soft, orange glow on my skin.
However, as the fire moved towards my wrist, I blew it out, once again sitting in the dark.
After soaking for a bit, I stood up, feeling more relaxed.
I plopped onto the couch, turning the TV on.
I knit my brow, glancing at the door.
I walked towards the window, looking outside.
“Shit, it’s pouring.” The streets looked black, except for the few lampposts illuminating the dark night. I could hear the mass of raindrops crashing against the concrete and glanced at the sidewalk.
I was frozen.
A thin, lightly tanned male was outside, on his shoulders, what looked like, a large hiking bag, completely drenched.
Shit that must be him.
I rushed down the stairs, and twisted the knob, opening the door.
Before I could utter a word, I found myself gazing upon the boy, at a loss.
His olive-colored skin was gleaming under the lamplight, and his hair was matted against his face from the rain.
His clothes were drenched, his large, loose black t-shirt sticking to his body and hanging lower from the weight of the water.
It revealed his thin figure.
He had blue skinny jeans on and his shoes were dark in color.
He was looking to the side, showing his sharp jawline and Adam’s apple.
A second passed before he glanced at me, his brown eyes boring into mine.
“Are you Alex Martínez?”
He was still.
After a beat, he nodded. I scratched my head, watching him.
“Shit, don’t stay out in the rain. Come on come in.”
He walked inside and I closed the door behind him. “It’s just up here-to the left.” He walked up the stairs and turned, looking inside.
I walked back into my unit. He took off his shoes, placing them on the wrack.
“Oh yeah, you must be freezing. Give me your bag and you can shower-” I reach for his back when he slapped my hand away.
He looked frightened. After a moment he looked down, nodding.
“Don’t worry about the mess, I’ll clean it up. There’s a clean towel in the bathroom lower cabinet. Turn the shower handle to the middle for warm water, and if you want it hotter turn it left.” He walked towards the bathroom.
I took his soaked bag to the side, laying down a trash bag.
I grabbed a towel, wiping down the floor.
He’s a bit... well, I’m sure it’s fine.
I washed my hands, then sat back down.
The shower had been on for a few minutes, then shut off, but Alex hadn’t emerged from the bathroom.
After a bit, I walked over, knocking on the door.
“You alright?” I asked.
There was a moment of silence, and then the door opened, revealing Alex.
He was wearing fresh clothes, and his hair was damp.
He was still in loose clothes, and my eyes drifted towards his collarbone. He was looking down, eyes on the floor. I noticed his skin wasn’t unblemished.
In fact, it was-
“Hey, wait, are you okay? you’ve got bruises all over-” I paused.
It looked quite bad.
Finger-print-like marks covered his wrists and biceps, and there was a purple shadow on his neck.
There was most likely more.
“You should treat those-”
However, when I touched his wrist he whipped around, moving away from me.
“Sorry-sorry I didn’t mean to startle you-” I halted my words. Alex was looking into my eyes, his own wide and alert. He blinked a few times, then relaxed.
He studied the wall next to him, avoiding my gaze and squeezing his arm.
“Want to see your room?” Slowly, he nodded.
I opened the door for him, and he stepped inside, looking around.
“Your bag is by the main door, it’s still a little wet though.” He walked towards the bed, staring at it.
I observed him carefully, waiting for him to reply.
“Do you talk?” He looked back.
Oops, that slipped out.
“I didn’t mean... never mind. I’m out here watching TV, we can talk about the rent tomorrow. Night.” I closed the door, lingering for a moment.
I flopped onto the couch, staring at the screen.
Maybe Ari’s right... well, he seems harmless...
The bruises though...
Maybe he’s into the at stuff?
I groaned quietly, hearing the alarm in my bedroom go off.
I had fallen asleep on the couch.
Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes, yawning. I stretched my arms, checking the time.
“Fuck, I have to go to the gym.” I stood up, rolling out my neck. I glanced at Alex’s room and shuffled towards it. Knocking, I record no answer. I pushed it open and found the bed empty. My eyes shifted to the floor, seeing him curled up.
“Did he fall-” the bed was looked just as it had the night before, completely untouched, meaning he hadn’t slept it in.
Did he sleep on the floor instead?
Alex shivered a little, pulling his legs in closer. I smirked, pulling the comforter off the bed and throwing it over him. I closed the door and returned to my own room, changing into my gym clothes.
I walked to the kitchen, drinking a shake before checking the time.
I pulled on my shoes and grabbed my keys, leaving the apartment.
“What’s he like?” Ami asked, tossing me a water bottle.
I caught it, unscrewing the plastic cap and drinking some.
“Quiet. doesn’t say much... anything really.” She raised a brow.
“He’s also small.”
“Yeah.” I looked at my hand. “My fingers could wrap around his wrist with room to spare.”
“...” I glanced at her.
“What?” She shrugged.
“It’s just... you seem super mindful of him.”
“What do you mean?” She closed her bottle, setting it down.
“Well, you never really cared about other people... no offense. You just kinda...” she flailed her hands, trying to convey a message, “let things be. It’s weird seeing you take an interest in someone.”
“I’m not interested in him,” I defended. “Besides, it’s kind of hard to not notice someone like him.” She squinted at me. “Fuck, nevermind. I’m not helping my case.”
“Whatever you say, man.”
I turned on the stove, pouring oil into the pan.
Is he still asleep?
I opened the door to Alex’s room, hearing a faint noise.
Alex sat up, looking around.
“I’m making breakfast, you want some?” He lifted his eyes, then nodded.
“Alright.” I returned to the kitchen, grabbing the eggs from the fridge.
I cracked them open and onto the pan, hearing it sizzle a bit.
I cooked bacon separately, placing them in a paper towel to reduce the oiliness.
I heard faint footsteps, and looked over my shoulder, seeing Alex walk t the table, yawning.
He rested his cheek on his hand, looking outside.
“It’s almost done, you’re fine with eggs right?”
He turned his head and nodded again.
I poured the scrambled eggs into two plates, chopping some scallions onto them, followed by a few strips of bacon.
I walked to the table, putting down the plate in front of him.
I sat down and murmured in a low voice,
I began eating, looking at Alex.
He devoured everything on his plate, which surprised me since he was so thin.
My eyes moved to his front, his shirt falling forward and revealing his chest. I stared at the marks on his skin, then at his eyes, which were trained on his plate.
“You know, I have a medkit in my bathroom you can use.” He looked up.
I gestured towards my chest, and he didn’t move, clearly trying to understand my actions. After a moment, he peered down, parting his lips in realization.
He pressed his hand against his shirt, leaning back and shifting his eyes to the side.
I ruffled my hair, then sighed, unsure of what to say. I set down my fork, gently tapping the table with my pointer finger. I lifted my cheek of my hand, opening my mouth to speak.
“So the rent...” he glanced back. “How are you gonna pay? Do you have a job?” He nodded. “Can you pay $1,500 a month then?” Again, he nodded.
“What do you do? Work from home?” Thrice now he had decided to nod instead of speak.
“Alright well it’s my day off today so I’ll be at home too.” He remained still.
After we finished he washed his plate and dried it, quickly returning to his room.
He holed himself up in his room, completely quiet, only coming out for meals.
He never spoke. Not to me, not on the phone, not even a soft hum.
Yet, the one thing I paid the most attention to was the fact that he hated being touched.
*Jal meokkessumnida loosely means “thank you for the meal.”