I sigh. Stupid, stupid, stupid. “It means I don’t want to eat you. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not looking at you and scheming about how I’m going to get you naked in my room and fuck you.”
The pout becomes a frown. Her eyes narrow to slits. “Oh, yeah. I’m sure.” She snorts in disgust. “Every man’s the same, whether he’s got all the power in the world or none at all. They chase what they want, and they’ll throw anything under the bus to claim it.”
I roll my eyes. “That’s asinine. That’s a childish oversimplification and a grotesque generalization.”
“Fuck you.” I jump. Only a little, but still. Her words are just the right volume, just the right tone to make me take notice, to not just sniff dismissively and wave her away like she’s just overly sensitive and given to voicing untested and unfounded opinions.
Her hands have dropped to her side, her fists balled up and clenched. I can see how she might have worn this look before, how she almost certainly has, again and again. Everyone’s hurt her. At her core, this girl doesn’t expect to be in control, not like the woman down at the pool. My senseless lashing out hasn’t shocked and offended her; it’s cut her. Wounded her.
Her hands are trembling. Her lips are trembling. Christ. I did that. I did that to her.
My mouth twists up. I want to apologize. I want to make her feel better. Her lips are full. They look soft. I want to kiss her, hold her close, tell her I’m sorry, tell her–
I shake my head. Hard. Stop that. You’re not going to kiss it all better. You’ve never seen her before and you’ll never see her again. She’s not some delicate little thing you have to coddle and protect. You don’t owe each other anything.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? We don’t owe each other anything. None of us do. So why don’t we try and be decent to each other? Sometimes we need a reminder that there are decent people out there. That the greater mass of humanity is not heartless and cruel, selfish and stupid. Only the deranged and depraved want to deliberately hurt someone who doesn’t want it.
I can’t take back my words, but I can at least offer an apology, an explanation. “Hey, look. I’m sorry. I’ve been on edge the past couple days, but I’m not dangerous, okay? I mean, I’m not harmless, but I’m not dangerous. There’s a difference. That’s what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m not trying to be a dick to you. I just open my mouth sometimes without thinking. And I mean, I’m feeling kind of vulnerable. You walk in on me hooked up to the auto-doc, and it feels like I’m helpless. And I don’t like feeling helpless, so I tend to lash out. Do you understand?”
She does not understand. It’s plain to see from the look on her face. She’s once again looking at me like I’m going to eat her. Like I’m out of my mind. I’ve utterly failed to acquit myself.
I sigh. I slump against the wall. She’s backing away, and I’m at once irritated and understanding. All things considered, it’s a perfectly rational response to my babbling. “Forget it. It doesn’t matter. If anyone asks you, tell them I’m fine. Just resting. Rehydrating. Napping. Whatever. And if nobody asks, don’t say nothing. Tell them you went to the bathroom and got lost. Or something less absurd. Or nothing. Whatever.”
She’s standing motionless in the doorway, the same spot she’s been standing since she entered the room. No closer, no further. I could have invited her in. I could have asked for privacy. But she’s just in the same spot, looking at me with an expression that’s either disgust or pity, and I can’t take it. “Just go, will you?”
Without a word or a look back, she goes. The room is silent, save for the sound of the auto-doc pumping medicine into my veins.
I am alone.