Embarassing or Stupid

fiction
Runners Running in the Run

The video faded to credits and Gaige pulled the lid of the computer closed with a limp tug of his arm. A familiar magnetic click, and he let the aluminum rectangle slide to his left side where it caught between a fold in the blanket and his hip. He leaned back into the pillow. An involuntary sigh escaped through his lips.

“That looked interesting.” A nurse stepped into the room leading a wheeled cart of vials and medical implements in front of her. Her nametag read Gail. Gaige could only see her now familiar eyes. He saw pity there. The medical mask covering her mouth and nose buckled ever so slightly in sync with her lips as she spoke. “Was it you?”

“In the video?”

“Yeah?” 

“Nah. It’s just some guy —” He shrugged. Weakly. The medication had dialed the sharp pain back to merely a dull ache.  That ache was the various muscles in his back and neck waving a white flag. “— a channel I’ve been watching lately.”

“I need to take some more blood, okay?” Gail moved Gaige’s laptop to the bedside table, careful to untangle the power cord from the safety rail. She prodded the space on the hospital bed beside him, smoothing the blankets into a makeshift workspace for the collection of vials and labels she would need in a moment. Then, she took his arm with her hand and lightly touched around the intravenous tube with practiced fingers.  She asked. “So — you’re an athlete right?”

“I guess.” Gaige couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “I run. I used to run.” 

“Me too.” The fabric of her mask implied she smiled, and with a nod she added.“We’ll get you back out there.”

Neither said anything as she peeled printed sticker labels from a tear-off sheet and applied them to a small collection of glass tubes, the soft clicking noises filling the silence in the air.

“I do envy some of the people in those videos though.” She said finally as Gaige watched her start to fill the vials one at a time with dark, red liquid draining from the tube in his arm. “I mean — they’re out there doing it, right? Living.”

“I tried that —“ Gaige shrugged. “Look where it got me.”

Her eyes finally met his. “You’re going to let a little tree hitting you in the back stop you, then?”  When he didn’t reply she continued. “I haven’t told anyone this — so if you tell Sasha out there I won’t be so gentle with your blood draw tomorrow —“ she winked. “— but last week I was out for my run and a wasp flew into the front of my shirt. She managed to wriggle under my bra and stung me good and hard — right here.” She tapped her chest over her heart at the top of her right breast.”

A weak smile flashed across Gaige’s face. 

“Not funny.” Her eyes flashed a fake scolding glare. “It hurt like hell — and I had an itchy welt there for three days.”

“You got right back out there?” Gaige scoffed. “That’s my lesson for today?”

Gale dropped the vials of blood gently into a pink plastic basket on her cart. “No lesson.” She shrugged. “I’m just saying that nature, she has it out for all of us — and there are a lot more boring ways to get a scar than having a tree fall on your head.”

“Embarassing.” He corrected. “Or stupid.”