Author : J.R.Blackwell, Staff Writer
“Does it hurt?” asked Tom
Dana brushed her fingers against her straight black bangs. “More than ever.”
“Mine too. You’re lucky you don’t have them on your face.” Tom motioned to the blue, red and brown lines that twisted on his cheeks like veins under pressure.
“I do have them though, look closer.” Dana leaned across the table and Tom saw faint traces of blue under her pale skin. Tom’s eyes followed the veins down her cheeks to her small breasts, tucked in her black silk dress.
He wanted to touch her, but he kept his hands twisting on his lap. “Not too bad.”
“Every bit as bad as yours Tom. I’m a professional makeup artist.” She shrugged. “Well, I used to be. This is my full time job now. This illness.”
“Yeah.” Tom sipped his frappachino. He liked cool things on his skin; they did numb him a little, make it harder to feel those snaking veins. “So, why did you shut down the forums?”
Dana played with her red beaded bracelet. “I didn’t. My hosting service gave me the boot. Password denied. I called them, and they said they had no record of ever getting payment from me. I tried to buy the domain name again but they won’t sell to me. Nobody will. I’ve been shut out.” She shrugged. “I got freaked out, and then you called me.”
Tom called Dana two days ago. He was worried she might have died or committed suicide. He wouldn’t have blamed her for suicide. Dana’s forum was the only place where he could find anything about the strange lesions on his body that wouldn’t heal, the veins getting huge under his skin and the fibers that poked out of his wounds. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“What do doctors tell you about all this?”
“I never saw a doctor. It was just too weird.”
“I went to eight doctors, two of them wouldn’t even look me in the face when they told me to get out of their office. One doctor saw me, but once he saw the fibers, he was on the phone to security in seconds.”
Tom curled his hands around the cold drink. “So that’s it, they just shoved you out?”
“One doctor took a look at my neck and gave me sleeping pills. Lots of sleeping pills.”
Tom looked at the floor of the tiny coffee shop. “Shit.”
“Yeah.” She peeled back the palm-sized bandage on her neck. Three brown, blue and red veins poked out of her skin, tapering like shaved wires. “They’ve gotten worse.” She replaced the bandage, wincing as she pressed on the tape. “Will you show me yours?”
“Well, they’re on my leg, my upper leg. My inner thigh.”
“Really? Lets go to the bathroom then.” She pointed to the one room unisex bathroom.
“Yes, together. What, are you afraid what other people will think? Afraid people will think you’re doing me in the bathroom.”
“I’d be happy to do you in the bathroom.” Tom shook his head. “I guess I don’t have anything to be proud about.” Tom felt eyes on him, but he followed Dana into the bathroom, and surprised himself. He really didn’t care. The bathroom was painted with a mural of dogs in ballet costumes, holding umbrellas in a park. Tom dropped his pants.
Dana stared. “They’re just like mine.” she knelt on the tiled floor.
“Hey, it’s kind of filthy down there Dana.”
“Does it matter? I’m sick anyway.”
“I guess not.”
“You don’t wear a bandage?”
“No. The bandage always feels too tight, even pants feel like I’m salting a cold sore.”
She put pale fingers on his thigh. They were cold. “These fibers look just like mine, blue, red, brown.” She pulled back her own bandage. “Tom, why do you think no one will acknowledge what’s happening to us?”
“I don’t know, but if I have to feel like there are bugs under my skin for too much longer, I’ll kill myself.”
“I hope you don’t kill yourself. I like you Tom.”
Tom scratched his chest. “If we didn’t both have this crap, you wouldn’t have ever looked at me twice.”
“Why do you think that?”
“I’m a nerd, and you’re a punk.”
“Punks love nerds. We are nerds, if you think about it. Just with a different sense of fashion. Besides, I think you’re thighs are tight.”
“You done looking?”
“No.” She looked up at him, her lipstick bright as paint. “Do you think we should put the wires together?”
“Whatever, you think we should put them together?”
“What do you think is going on Dana? You know something I don’t?”
“Would you try?”
“What if something happens?”
“You were telling me about killing yourself a minute ago. If something happens, if we both die, then we die. It’s not like anyone cares.”
“You’re right. No one cares. Not even me. Do it then.” Dana peeled back the bandage on her neck and scooted closer to his legs. “Hey Dana?”
“You really think nerds are cute?”
Dana touched her neck to his leg. “Yes Tom.” she said, but the voice was in his head.