Half the sky, sunlit cerulean. Ashen clouds softening the remainder. Skylar throws rocks. In his hands they break the skin. From under the skin, the dirt seeps in. Through the blood, the dirt flows. From the veins, it meets the heart and also his brain.
Hospital tiles are dirtier than they want him to know. His feet dangle above the grimy floors. Phlebotomists can’t stick the needle in just once. They gossip: “hard stick.” Skylar’s veins were worms hiding safely, fearing greatly the sharp beaks of the needles.
The needle presses long before it pierces him, his skin slowly rising around the syringe. He doesn’t dare look. Echos of blood slurping into the barrel is all the information he needs. Wafts of rubbing alcohol and new plastics invade his lungs, assaults his tongue. He counts seconds, hundreds of them. Nurses’ voices bounce off the labyrinth of walls and down the halls. He hears only the last syllables, and the last word. “Positive.”
He is left with arrays of old needle points on his arm and the rising bruise.
Straining his ears, phlebotomists mumble apologies.
He doesn’t tell his girlfriend the news. He coughs a lot. Skylar can’t hide health. He tries. Sarah stops asking, turns on her side in bed. He does not press, but wants to.
They don’t speak. They talk over dinner. Neighbors hear yelling.
Half the sky, sunlit orange. The sun, running away. Sarah follows suit. Her jacket, forgotten on the lawn where boxes of her things sat earlier. Her car, driving away.
Skylar smokes heavily again.