I Punched a Girl: Part II

After a car ride engulfed in awkwardness, we pulled into St. Bartholomew’s Hospital of Beaver Falls, PA.

When Shelby had asked if we could listen to some music, I’d attempted the whole cliché as-she-reaches-for-the-radio-my-hand-will-brush-hers thing. Unfortunately, when we both reached for the radio, I stopped paying attention to the road and swerved into oncoming traffic.

Blasting car horns on all sides sounded as a sky blue Mercedes barely missed us. My tires screeched as I swerved us back into the right lane. Shelby looked like a scared rabbit, wide eyes and flared nostrils. When I caught my reflection in the rearview mirror, I looked like an even more scared rabbit.

“Whoops,” I said, trying to play if off like it was nothing, but I felt like she could hear me sweating.

She shot me a terrified glance, then turned on the radio.

“Trying to be my best, when I fall, it’s a mess!” screeched through my shoddy speakers.

No! my brain screamed in panic. I’d forgotten my little sister had left her Hannah Montana CD on with the volume full-blast. “I’m Still Good” by Miley Cyrus’s fictional character was playing. If I’d died in that moment, my tombstone would have read “Gay.”

A slim smile crept up on Shelby’s bloodied face.

I blushed harder than I ever had before, including that time my sister uploaded my mom’s cell phone video of she and I dancing to “Best of Both Worlds” to YouTube.

“It’s my sister’s!” I cried, waving my arms in the air.

“Keep your hands on the wheel!”

“Sorry,” I murmured.

She turned on the radio and some song about bitches and sluts came on, some kind of generic rap dilapidation of culture.

Desperate for conversation, I blurted, “I hate this song!” and gulped audibly.

She stared at me with an expression I couldn’t make out with my peripherals, then changed the station. “I hate that song too,” she said.

More generic music came on, this time in the form of some 80s has-been trying to revive his dead career into an electronica-pop, sex-lyriced zombie.

“Get ready, bay-bay, ‘cause I’m gonna slide my beep into yuh,” sang the aging star.

Shelby sat silently, not moving.

“When I lay you low, where the lights don’t show, gonna let you know, where my fin-gas go…”

I got the sensation that my ears were bleeding.

“Play my beep with your flow, gonna let you know, where my fin-gas go, when it’s time to snow!”

“What?” I asked.

Shelby shrugged.

“What does snow mean in this context?”

She laughed. “Please tell me you’re not serious.”

Even though she laughed at me, not with me, I was glad I’d seen her smile. Just as I was reveling in this, the synthesizer solo ended and the monotonous singing started again.

“Kill this time with your beep, kill my heart with your kiss! Lay me down, lick me slow!”

Right as I was about to rip out my car radio and throw it out the window, the song mercifully came to an end and the cheesy DJ came on and announced who the aging atrocity was. “That was Jared ‘JoJo’ Jones with ‘Thigh Time’. Y’all might know JoJo best from his short-lived 80s fame, when he was part of the popular boy band ‘Zap’. He’s going on tour soon and he’ll be here in November at Sanctuary Stadium! We’ll have more 80s revivals for ya after these commercials. You’re listening to one-oh-two-five, The Sizzle! Family-friendly radio, limited commercial breaks.”

Then some ad about air conditioning came on.

It was hard for me to keep my eyes on the road for the rest of fifteen-minute drive. I kept wanting to stare at her. She was still beautiful, even with crusty bloody on her face.

But anyway, back to now. Now we were in the abysmal waiting room of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital’s Emergency Room. Sick people were moaning and Shelby was filling out those forms they make you fill out. Some shirtless old man was sitting right in front of us, leering at Shelby. He smiled at her, toothless, and licked his gums. I saw her shudder.

I wouldn’t look at Shelby directly when she spoke to me, but when I thought she wasn’t looking, my eyes kept darting over to her, then back.

“I know you’re looking at me,” she said, eyes staring intently at the old man’s potbelly, which seemed to delight him.

Damn, I thought I was being covert.

“No, you weren’t,” she said, smiling.

“What?” I asked. Was she psychic? Psychics were real? Like Paranormal State? Wait, no. That wasn’t the same thing.

“You said it out loud,” she said, but her eyes were still glued to the old man’s hairy, protruding stomach.

“What? What did I say out loud?”

Her voice deepened. “Damn, I thought I was being covert.”

We both looked down at our laps. An old lady coughed.

“Did you know humans often cough just to fill up awkward silence?” I blurted.

Shelby’s face contorted into an inquisitive look. Her eyebrow raised as she said, “I think she’s just sick.”

“Oh, right,” I laughed nervously. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stupid me. “I know. I was just saying.”

My stupid mouth, always blurting out stupid things. My face felt red with shame. I wanted to escape.

Pwap slapped my chair, hitting the linoleum. Shooting up out of my seat, I abruptly announced, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

Shelby stared at me, confused. “Okay… congratulations?” she said.

Slowly, very slowly, I coolly strolled down the hall. When Shelby was out of sight, I sprinted toward the men’s room, ready to splash water on my face and give myself a stern lecture in the mirror. I’d never actually done that before, but I always saw people do it in movies and I figured, for no real reason, that it was time to try it.

As I was thinking that, I slipped in a pile of puke, face-first.


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