The bus was nearly full as I stepped inside, as colorless and nonreactive as neon, destined to be an invisible noble gas. I quickly study every detail, being the analytical thinker I am.
Seats made of iron, windows made of potassium and sodium and people made of a molecule I couldn't quite understand. Quantum physics came as easily as breathing, but I could not figure out humans to save my life.
My people skills were severely lacking, which proved to be fatal as the bus lurched and I was thrown into the uranium seat next to one of the most attractive men I'd ever seen. His smirk was studded with a lip piercing and his copper hair was untidy but lovely all the same. I felt a strong and unfamiliar urge to run my fingers through it. He has looks like liquid Mercury, extremely dangerous yet so lovely and rich.
"Um, what are you doing?" He asked, his eyes the violet color of rubidium burning as they shook me from my thoughts.
I looked up to see that my hand had betrayed me as I daydreamed and was stroking his head without my permission. I ripped it away hastily, color rising to my dark cheeks.
"Oh--uh, I'm sorry. That was an accident. It just looked really smooth and--and did you know hair is made up of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur?" I did a mental face-palm at my attempt to save the awkward situation. As usual, I only made things worse.
I cut him off before as he opened his mouth to speak. "I'm sorry, I'm better at science than people."
Thoughtfulness melts his face in an adorable way that reminds me of lead softening under heat. "But wouldn't that also make you good with people?"
He elaborates on this and I could listen to him talk all day, his voice like the oxygen I crave for. "We're all made up of molecules, and easily broken down into the simplest life forms. Everyone is walking and talking proof of the simplicity, yet complication, of science."
I drink this is in as he laughs, the quick and tinkling sound of test tubes chiming together. "So you're pretty good at chemistry?"
I nodded. "Then let's conduct a science experiment," He says, scooting closer. "What kind of reaction would we have if we went out for dinner later?"
"I think positive feedback would occur, but I would definitely need to test this theory at once," I say with mock seriousness before smiling.
"Let's head to the lab straight away." He grinned widely. "Can I test one more theory?" I nod and he takes my hand, and we combine like lithium and fluorine.
To anyone else, we'd be two boys holding hands. But we see ourselves as we truly are. We're simply made of molecules, only not bouncing around in space because we've found something to latch onto.
"So, cheetos, pretzels, diet coke and... butter?" She tilts her head at me in confusion.
"What? You can never go wrong with butter." I hold my hands up in protest. She raises an eyebrow before returning the butter back on the counter. I gasp sarcastically and drop it back inside our basket. "Nope." She catches it swiftly before it lands. I decide to put my arms around her waist and squeeze her tight.
"Trey, come on." I tickle her from behind and she starts laughing uncontrollably, "Okay, okay! You can keep the butter, just stop it!" I let go of her and give her the goofiest grin I could and she smirks back at me with a punch to my shoulder.
Maxine Cartwell, the love of my life, had just let me keep a stick of carbs I had placed inside our basket. She's amazing, isn't she? She's perfect, and everything I could ever wish for. They exclaimed that it was a miracle for me to have been able to recover, but what they didn't know was, she was the miracle. She helped me escape the darkness and see the light. She was my everything and I vowed to do anything for her.
"Will that be in cash or card, ma'am?"
She flashes a smile, as if our butter fight hadn't just happened. As the cashier was scanning our items, a huge guy wearing a leather jacket sneaks up behind us and pulls out a gun. I haul Max behind me and I take two steps back.
"Max, stay calm." I whisper.
"Cash. Bag. NOW!" He yells as he slams the bag on the counter. I shake in fear and my heartbeat pounds faster. Everyone was awfully quiet and I could feel the tension inside the store. All of a sudden, she lets go of my hand and takes a step forward. "Stop, just... put it down." Her voice is firm and she tries to reason. "Max, what are you --" "Look! just give me the money and nobody gets hurt!" The cashier just stands there, frozen, unable to move. Impatiently, the guy cocks his gun and as he was about to shoot, Max, with no thought, lunges at him. He sees her from the corner of his eye and with no control whatsoever, he pulls the trigger. "NOOO!" I yell and reach my hand out.
"Just stop it!" I open my eyes and I couldn't believe it. Max drops the butter. What the hell? Didn't this already happen? "Max, wait!" I tremble as I shook her to see if this was real. "What's wrong, Trey? Do you want to put the butter back? Because I would definitely agree to that." Was I imagining things or did I just rewind time? Did Max... die? Was it all a dream? A vision? I hear the store's door jingle and I turn to see a familiar face. The guy points his gun and my girlfriend tries to defend us. "No, don't do it! Please!" I snap at her and she struggles free from my grip. She yells at him and it only angers him more. I hear the shot once again before reaching my hand out.
"Cheetos, pretzels and --" "Diet coke." I finish the sentence for her. She gives me an unsure nod and leaves with our basket headed for the cashier. "No! Damn it!" I reach for her shoulder. "Max, please! You die!" I choke. "Gosh, Trey, you're such a drama queen, a few pretzels won't kill me." I grab her hand forcefully and head for the exit. "Trey! Wait! The basket!" But just when we were nearing the door, the guy barges in and holds a gun right to my forehead. "Where do you think you're going?" He scuffs. Max pushes me away and I reach my hand out before my ears start to ring.
"Hello? Earth to Trey?" Max waves her hand at me. "Max, please!" She ignores my pleas once more and continues to walk to the counter. I sense the guy approaching from a far and this time, I had a plan. As he enters, I run and tackle him to the floor and his gun slides out. I immediately take it, "I'll shoot you!" I threaten him. He holds up his hands and slowly backs away before making a run for it. I gave a huge sigh of relief, I was able to save Max. She was shocked and was probably unsure of what she just had witnessed. I slowly walk up to her before giving her a big kiss.
A few weeks later, we were at my house, watching a movie. She turns to me and she's paler, her glow gone and her eyes tired. "Trey, I need to tell you something." A pause. "I'm sick." "What? How?" I turn the volume down. "Right after the grocery incident, I started feeling... unwell. I visited the doctors and they found something... It's incurable." Tears fall from her eyes and I knew what I had done. I made her sick, no matter how much I tried to prevent what happened. She was going to die anyway. The love of my life was going to disappear right before my eyes. Her death was unavoidable, and I couldn't do anything about it. "I love you, Max." I stammer before reaching my hand out again.
We're back at the grocery store, and the gun's pointing straight at us, but instead of letting it shoot Max, I jump straight for it. It hits me hard and I see her shriek and call out my name. But I can't hear her anymore, and that's alright, because if I can't fix us, we might as well be destroyed together.
He held her hand while she died. They had already given her midazolam to ease her mind in her final hours, but still she convulsed on the bed, her lungs straining for the oxygen the virus had trained them to reject. He would never forget the stark terror spiraling wildly in her overlarge eyes, glassy worlds of fear rolling in sockets hollowed out by the virus.
The virus, the cruel virus--it had taken a savage chisel to her face like a perverse Michelangelo; carving out her cheeks, her nose, her lips. Those lips, alabaster white, moved, now, to form sounds that seemed on the brink of being words, and her skeleton-like hand contracted upon his like a vice. He squeezed back, partly to let her know he was there and partly to keep himself from falling, as though he could forcibly keep himself in the present by holding her hand tightly enough. It was only when her frail form fell limply back onto the bed, when her wooden fingers relaxed their grip, that he became dully aware of the tears on his cheeks.
He wasn't sure how he felt. Grief, surely, would come later, but at the moment blatant denial and disbelief were stamping out any sadness that might have surfaced. There was a bizarre ache in his palm: upon removing it from his lover's fingers he saw that her fingernails has drawn his blood. Blood: her downfall, her savior. She needed a transfusion, the doctor had said, but there weren't any compatible donors. They waited for a whole month--surely at least one donor would have the correct blood type?--but the weeks and days spun out like water through fingers and still her tainted blood remained her own.
He stood, swayed for a moment, and reached down to brush her hair out of her lifeless eyes. But he felt nothing, only a great swelling of emptiness that roared with the loss of his lover. He bowed his head as though in prayer to look at her one last time, to try and conjure the feel of her lips against his own, and finally brought himself to leave the room. And then he saw her. The angel sent too late, the cruel punch line of the joke made by irony. The lone figure sitting in the chair he'd watched for a month, waiting, hoping, wishing. His stomach lurched as he stumbled across the hallway to collapse on his knees before her. She gasped, startled at first; but shock gave way to concern as she saw the man before her, panting, devastated.
"Sir, are you alright?"
"She could have been," he said, his voice strangled. "You're too late."
"I--I'm sorry. Do I... Know you?" He dropped his head into his hands as the woman looked down at him in polite bemusement. Finally, he looked up at her with dull eyes: the angel, the savior, the donor come too late.