Eventually, I made my way to the kitchen, stacking plates and bowls and placing them in the cupboards above the sink. One of the boxes had been wound several times over with thick packing tape, too tangled and sticky to undo by hand. With a nearby boxcutter, I attempted to cut across the tape, tugging hard when the blade was met with great resistance. But in doing so, my hand accidently slipped, the sharp boxcutter slicing right across the length of my left index finger. I hissed and recoiled, my eyes already welling up because of the sting.
“Shit,” I whined. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Red dripped onto the cardboard box, soaking into the material. I swallowed hard, immediately squeamish. I’d never been particularly good around blood. A terrible, heavy queasiness settled into my gut and stomach, threatening to make me lose my lunch. My head was light, air suddenly too thin and difficult to breathe. My heart started railing against the inside of my ribcage at a frantic pace, leaving me a shaking mess when I realized I couldn’t remember which box I’d packed my emergency first aid kit in. This was bad. This was really bad. I clutched my hand close to my chest and draped a clean dishtowel over my finger in an attempt to stop the bleeding. I needed to get help and fast. If I didn’t do something soon, I was definitely going to faint.
I managed to make it out into the hall, stumbling over my own two feet. The floor beneath me felt warped, every step that took me forward a struggle. I dragged myself to the nearest door and knocked, alarmed out how badly my fingers were tingling. A cold sweat had broken out over my brow, and the mere act of breathing was laborious. I leaned against the doorframe and prayed someone would answer. This was one hell of a way to meet my new neighbors.
The door opened rapidly –much to my relief– just in time for the man on the other side to catch me. The edges of my vision were blurred, as every muscle in my body simultaneously tensed and then relaxed.
“What the–” gasped my neighbor. To my utter surprise, it was the same man from yesterday evening, the one who demanded I turn down my music. “Hey!” he shouted at me as he carefully supported my weight in his arms. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Had a little accident,” I managed, lifting my wounded hand up a little. “Could you… Can I borrow a band aid?”
“It looks like you’re going to need more than a band aid,” he huffed.
By the sound of his tone, I thought he was about to turn me away. He didn’t seem any more amicable than he did last night. But to my surprise, the man gently carried me into his apartment and set me down on the nearby couch. He left momentarily, returning with a red first aid kit and a cool cloth that he pressed to my forehead.
“Lie on your back and lift your legs,” he instructed firmly. The man placed a few couch cushions beneath my feet.
“How forward of you,” I mumbled, stupidly light in the head. I did as I was told, though, too weak to argue.
“No, you moron,” he grumbled. “It’s so you don’t pass out.” He pressed the damp cloth to my forehead with a surprising amount of tenderness. The coolness against my skin was an instant relief, a sensation to focus on instead of the queasiness that had taken over my body. He took my hand and inspected the wound, clicking his tongue in disapproval. “How did this happen?” he asked me.
“Boxcutter. I was unpacking.”
“What kind of an idiot cuts themselves with a boxcutter?”
“Idiots who think they’re boxes, obviously.”
The faintest smile ghosted across the man’s lips, half-amused. “So, not only do you have shitty taste in music, but you’re a smartass, too.”
“Better than a dumbass.”
He gave me a real chuckle that time, but said nothing more. The man got to work cleaning up the cut, working with incredible diligence. There was an intense focus in his eyes that held me captive, the threat of an imminent fainting spell slowly passing. Up close, I had to admit that he was incredibly handsome. He had stoic, sharp features that drew in the eye. He reminded me of a marble statue, rigid around the edges with an odd softness about his remaining features. There was an air of seriousness about him, which didn’t seem to match how gentle his motions were.
At some point I had to look away, not because I was incredibly squeamish and feeling ill –though that was definitely a part of it– but because the longer I stared at him, the warmer my cheeks started to feel. I was hypnotized by the depth of his eyes. At first glance, he seemed intimidating and standoffish. Our first encounter certainly didn’t help my initial impressions of him. But now I could see a kindness behind them, a softness that only made itself apparent the closer I was. My other hand twitched, eager to grab up a piece of charcoal and parchment paper to try and capture his eyes on paper.