Deciding to follow his suggestion, I tried to walk over to him but faltered when the cramp returned.
He sighed, his breath steaming up the air. He came over to me and stopped. The next thing I knew, he was turned around and kneeling in front of me. For some reason, the sight of him in that position made my pulse skip a beat.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“It’s called a piggyback ride. C’mon, we don’t have all day.”
“I can walk just fine,” I shot back, annoyed by his condescending tone.
“No you can’t. Don’t be a brat, hop on before we both freeze to death.”
I opened my mouth to protest but closed it when another gust of wind hit my face like an icy baseball bat. Knowing he was right, I begrudgingly mounted him, feeling my chest press against the hardness of his back as I wrapped my arms and legs around his torso. His body exuded enormous heat—probably because he had been running not long ago—and it permeated the layers of wet cotton separating us. The sensation was warm and comforting making my pulse beat a steady staccato in my ears.
I didn’t have the will to protest, especially considering how comfortable the ride was, so we kept each other warm as we walked through the trail.
Five minutes later, my cramp had gone away and we arrived at a brick apartment complex. He’d been right: his place was much closer than the dorms. It was one of those off-campus student apartments. They weren’t officially owned by the college, but a lot of the upperclassmen stayed in them, and they were usually much nicer than the on-campus dorms.
After walking up the steps to the second floor with me on his back, he set me down in front of apartment “2E”. We went inside and he closed the door behind us. My shivering stopped almost immediately. I was so grateful the apartment was much warmer than outside. I released a deep breath, relieved I was no longer in danger of freezing to death.
“You’re wet,” he said. “Wait here.”
He disappeared into another room while I awkwardly stood near his door, water dripping on the carpet. Not knowing what else to do, I surveyed the surroundings, noticing the tidy kitchen and an old brown couch positioned in front of a small TV. It was surprisingly neat for a guy’s place. I was expecting empty beer cans, posters of half-naked swimsuit models, and maybe a bong or two—the typical college guy setup.
He returned with a few pieces of neatly folded clothing and a towel. I expected him to be in a new change of clothes but he was still in his drenched sweats.
T&M offered me the clothes. “Sorry, but this is all I have. I don’t exactly keep women’s clothes around.” He pointed past the couch. “Bathroom’s around the corner.”
“What about you?” I asked, eyeing his hair and clothes dripping on the carpet.
“I’ll be fine for a bit longer, go on . . .”
“Are you sure? You can go first. It’s your place after all.”
The edges of his lips curved upward. It was the first time I’d seen him smile and the look of him with wet hair and a boyish grin sent tingles down my back. “I appreciate the concern but I’ll be fine. Go on, warm up. I’m gonna change out of these clothes while you’re in there.”
“Okay.” I gratefully took the items he gave me and went into the bathroom, closing the door behind me. The inside matched the neat efficiency of the rest of the apartment and smelled faintly of disinfectant. Setting the clothes on the counter, I looked at myself in the mirror.
Wow, I look like a mess.
There were bits of algae and ice caught in my hair. I was suddenly feeling self-conscious about my appearance, when I normally wouldn’t be. The inappropriateness of the concern given the circumstances kind of pissed me off. I’d almost died and here I was fretting about how I must’ve looked to T&M. What’s gotten into me?
Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I turned on the shower, and steam slowly filled the room. I removed my boots and socks then peeled off my wet clothes that had been clinging to me like a heavy blanket. I placed the items on top of the toilet but when I tried to step into the shower, I accidentally knocked a wet sock into the nearby trash bin. Grumbling in annoyance, I reached into the trash and fished the polka-dotted sock out along with a wad of tissues clinging to it. When I took a closer look, I noticed a used condom crumpled up among the tissues.
Scrunching my face, I gingerly pinched off the undesirables and dropped them back into their home in the waste bin. I spotted at least two more condoms poking out from the pile of tissues. Apparently this guy either had a lot of sex or he didn’t take out his trash often. The unusual neatness of his apartment suggested it wasn’t the latter.
Figures, a hot guy like him would be getting a lot of action.
I stepped into the shower and let the heat of the water wash away the pinpricks beneath my skin. T&M—or Tim as I decided to refer to him for simplicity—clearly lived a spartan lifestyle. One bottle of shampoo and one bottle of body wash stood next to each other in the shower cubby. They almost looked lonely. I considered using the loofah that hung over the showerhead, but when I imagined him lathering up the creases of his abs and his junk in the front with it, I decided against it.
Just warm up and dry off Lorrie, no distractions. Just as if it’s a quick rinse before sex . . .
I sighed. What a great return to campus. It was just supposed to be uneventful semester; one that was going to help me return to a normal life. One without people dying. But before it even began, I almost died myself. Now I was showering in some strange guy’s apartment who probably thought I was depressed and suicidal.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t too far from the truth. Being depressed was a shitty place to be and telling others about it only fed the condition, making it worse. It was like rolling an impossibly large stone up a hill and if you asked for help, the extra hands got in the way more than they helped, pushing the stone in all sorts of directions until you realize that you’d have been better off pushing it alone. But you know you can’t do it by yourself. The only solution then was to not roll it at all. Just walk away, pretend it wasn’t there, that there was no point to moving it to the top of the hill in the first place. And that left you feeling numb—which wasn’t great but at least it wasn’t bad. Feeling numb was at least better than feeling depressed.
I turned the water off, stepped out of the shower, and dried myself with the towel he’d given me. I took a closer look at the clothes: there was a large black US Air Force t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I put them on and laughed when I examined myself in the mirror—the clothes were huge, making me look comically small in them. I had to hold the jeans up with my hand otherwise they’d fall down. At least the bagginess of the shirt would help hide the fact that I was no longer wearing a bra.