writing: are you okay

Are you okay, she said to him.

He was crouched in the bathroom with his fingers clamped over his wrist and his wrists pulled into his chest. She was next to him; she was so close to him that her hair kept brushing against his lips and his nose, but it was not romantic. He was making animal sounds, and she was scared. There was blood coming out between his fingers, stains on his sweatshirt. Sirens coming in his eyes so bright she couldn’t see him.

Hey, she said. Stay with me, okay? I’m going to call 911.

Shit, no, he said, and he staggered to his feet, staggered away from her. Blood still coming between his fingers.

You need help, she said. Her breath was coming so fast that she felt sharp and unwound; this was not going the way it happened in her head, when she acted as the angel of light and saved some beautiful, broken dark boy. She pressed herself against the wall of the public bathroom and made her hands into fists so they stopped trembling. She did not know the boy. This was her chance, this was her fate, and she was failing miserably.

Go away, he said. Or I’ll–


You don’t know me. Why do you care?

I found you, she said, the spit in her mouth freezing against her teeth with the fear. I can’t just walk away. You need help. You’re in the girl’s restroom–

He swore violently, and she looked away. I was in a stall, he said. You don’t just walk into a stall.

The door was unlocked, she whispered.

He didn’t hear her. He was pacing now, and she couldn’t look at his face, just the bloody wrists and the way he kept shoving them in and out of his jeans’ pockets. Like this was all routine to him.

You don’t think I was in here for a reason? he said. You don’t think I wasn’t hiding from someone? You don’t–holy shit, I can’t handle this. I know what I’m doing, okay? This isn’t new.

She looked at him again; his face was gaunt and violent under the fluorescence. She was going to say something else, but there was a plastic moving sound, and the bathroom door swung inward.

She did not know if he grabbed her first and or if it was her hand that shot out to take him, but they were touching, and then they were crouched in the stall together, watching the polyester sneakers go in and out and away again.

Even when it was silent they didn’t move. He was panting; she put her hand on his chest and he didn’t pull away. It was his heartbeat that made her decide to stay; that now, at least, he was alive; that the things in his eyes that glowed when he looked at her couldn’t be allowed to go out just yet.