So Sick

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Natalia doesn't text me
at all on Monday, or
on Tuesday, either.
Wednesday, I head
to Seth’s house after school
with a thermos of soup
my mom had made for dinner
the night before, reheated
in the pot because
“microwaves are the death
of a good batch of soup.”
I wonder where she got
that one from.
Maybe some show on
the cooking channel.

Seth's mom lets me in
with little fuss, and only
stops me on my way
up the stairs to warn me
that Seth might not be awake,
and to coo as well over how
great a girlfriend I am
for bringing him soup.
My stomach knots at her words,
but I only smile politely
as she disappears back
into the living room.

I've never been in
Seth's room before;
it’s a little bigger than
the room Eunice and I share,
with football paraphernalia
strung up everywhere.
A few trophies sit
on a shelf over his desk;
a football helmet hangs on
a hook by the door;
clothes are scattered here and there
across the floor, and some bear
the logos of various college
football teams that I
have never cared about, let
alone wanted to be
able to identify.
Seth sometimes tries to
explain football to me, and
even tries to get me to
watch it on occasion, but
it confuses me so much that
he eventually gave up.
I'm glad he did.
It's so boring.

Seth himself is lying hidden
in a mountain of quilts
on his bed, only his head free
of the tangle.
His eyes must have
been closed originally, but as
I crack the door open, they
open as well, and he
smiles slowly as I walk
across the room to sit down
on the bed beside him.

“Hey,” he says.
“You didn't have to come,”
He sounds tired, and I
immediately feel bad for
waking him when he's
so sick.
“I don't want to be
responsible for giving
you the flu, too.
I already infected
my stepdad.”

“But do you feel bad
about getting him sick?”

He pauses for a moment
to think.
“Nah,” he says at last,
and his grin broadens as
he struggles to push himself
out of the blankets and
into a sitting position.
After I set the thermos
on his nightstand, I
prop his pillows up
behind his head, and he
mumbles his thanks as he
settles into place.
“But you're my girlfriend,”
he continues when I'm done.
“I’d feel much worse if
I got you sick, you know?
And especially when
you brought me soup…”

A little stab of guilt
hits me then, though I'm not
really sure why.
I haven't actually done anything,
even if I have been thinking
about Natalia a little too much.
And then I talked to her
on Monday, even though
Seth doesn't want me
to be friends with her
any more.
But that's not horrible,
is it?
I shouldn't feel so guilty
over such stupid, small things.

“Are you feeling
any better?” I ask,
an attempt to distract myself
away from that train of thought.
“You sounded worse
on the phone this morning,
so I was worried.”

“A little.
I slept a lot after
I talked to you, so I
think I'm a little better.”
Our conversation continues
on like that for
a little while, small talk and
me trying to make him
drink his soup, and then laughing
when he starts complaining like
a five-year-old about having
to drink “that sketchy brown stuff.”
It keeps me distracted long enough
that I don't even remember
why I had put off seeing him
for the first few days
of his illness, or why
I've been feeling weird around him
for the past couple months.
But then he stills and
smiles up at me, too kind -
and the memories come
flooding back in again.

“I've missed you,”
he says, more sincere
than I've heard him in
a while - maybe he
has a fever.
His cheeks do look
a little red.
I put a hand to his forehead
to check, but he just
shrugs me off with
a low chuckle.
“I mean, texts are okay,
but it's no substitute for
hanging out with you.”

My heart lurches again, and
I shift in my seat beside him,
suddenly uncomfortable.
But I only smile, tell him,
“Yeah, I know,” and
leave it at that.
He seems satisfied,
and from there lapses into a
vivid description of the ways
his mother has tried to kill him
in the past few days,
rubbing his thumb along
the back of my hand
all the while.
I sit quietly, nodding when
it’s appropriate, laughing
when he laughs -
but my thoughts are a
million miles away
from his room, from my
place here at his bedside.
They're in Natalia's neighborhood,
more specifically, despite
my attempts to bring them
back to where I am -
and it makes me
feel worse than ever.

Seth is cut off as
my phone suddenly rings once
from inside my pocket,
alerting me to a new text.
He frowns up at me as
I pull it out and
touch the power button to
show the text.
And then I frown too,
reading the first line of
the text that my
lock screen shows.

“Who's that?” Seth asks me,
squeezing my hand.
It makes me jump a little;
I'd still been lost
in my own thoughts.

“Oh... Uh, my mom,”
I say, trying to ignore
the way he's looking at me,
as if he knows what I don't
want to tell him.
“She wants to know when
I'm going to be back.
Needs help with dinner,

“You should go, then.”
Seth pulls his hand back
from mine with a sigh,
but his smile is relatively untouched.
Still, it seems a little strained,
as if he already regrets
what he's just said.
Maybe he's just tired.
“I need to sleep, anyway,”
he tells me, confirming
my suspicion,
“or I won't get better,
and then I won't be able to
come back to school.
And then I won't
get to see you.”

School without Seth
escorting me from class
to class actually doesn't
sound so bad - and it
hasn’t been too bad these
past few days without him.
But I don't say so, and instead
pat his hand as he
lies back down and shuts his eyes.
“You're right.
So get better soon, okay?
Or else I might have to
come back this weekend
to bother you.”
He doesn't say anything,
just smiles.
Hopefully he's on his way
towards sleep.

In a few moments, I'm out
of his house, the mostly
empty thermos clutched in
my hands as an unusually
chilly spring wind blows my
hair back from my face.
I shiver in spite of myself
as I struggle to pull my cell phone
from the pocket
of my jeans.

A message from Natalia
peers up at me as I
start the walk homewards;
its few lines reveal themselves
seconds after I
swipe impatiently at
the screen.
I'll pick you up Friday night,
around seven or so,
it says.
We can go get dinner or whatever,
if you want. And yes, before
you ask, I promise
I will tell you what
happened between Seth
and I.


Update: I did get a ukulele yesterday. It's super cute and I love it to death. I just suck at playing it so I kinda need to work on that... Yeah. Anyway, I don't have much to say, so enjoy Seth being sick! I know I am, lol.

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