I stand in front of one of those curtains that curve around a hospital bed, hiding the sight but not the sound of a sick or injured patient. I hear a groan. Anxious parental voices cry out Keith’s name, hopeful and soothing, yet guarded. I duck under the curtain and stand at the foot of Keith’s bed. At least I think it’s Keith. It looks like his hair. His face is bandaged and the parts I can see are swollen. His mom and dad are holding his hands and cooing his name. This must be Keith. The clothing he was wearing is in a clear plastic bag under his mom’s chair. Bloody. His leg is held aloft by some contraption.
“Cool, huh?” he says. He stands next to me again, pointing at himself, or rather his body in the bed. “I’ve been in and out of consciousness for hours, popping back home or to school. Even went to church once.”
I want to ask where Michael is, if he’s dying, too, because it certainly looks like Keith doesn’t have much time left in this world. Instead I say, “Hey, you’re barefoot, too.” He smiles and I ask the question that is burning hottest in my head: “How come you knew my address?” As soon as it’s out of my mouth I know it’s not the question I should be asking.
His laugh is sweet, such a contrast to the weeping of his mother. His father, or it must be his stepfather, keeps up a steady stream of soft words in his mom’s ear.
“Tyler’s been talking about you for years. Had me drive him by your house. But he’s shy, you know. He’s just gonna keep his feelings to himself and never even ask you to—”
“Ask me to what?”