I first met Healing in a state of fear. She beat my door mercilessly with her fists, addressing me by name in a shrill scream. I hid under my bed, all doors between the front and the bedroom bolted, a heavy quilt over my head. My eyes squeezed so tightly shut that I could hear my body tensing, an effort to drown out the screeching and pounding that shook the entire apartment. The ordeal lasted for days until her screams were synonymous with silence, my body having adjusted to the torment.
I spotted Healing at the grocery store on a Wednesday, in the cereal, coffee, and tea aisle. She was tugging at her mother’s skirt and pointing to a sugary cereal that we all wanted as a kid but could never buy. Her scraggly blond hair was curling around her ears, dark spots patterning it from the rain outside. It nearly reached her waist and twirled around her when she turned. Her hands had splotches of purple and blue paint on them, especially on the backs of her hands like she’d intentionally painted them before being forced to wash them off. She’d missed a few spots, evidently. For a second, her blue eyes caught my own, and she trailed off her sentence, backing toward her mother after realizing that a stranger had heard her rambling. When she started talking again, her speech was clear and precise, articulate, as if she was suddenly hyperconscious of my presence. I walked away without finishing my shopping in the aisle. I wanted her to feel unfettered and as if there weren’t eyes on her.
I ran into Healing at my work. I was running in a frenzy around the shop and trying to keep my head while thinking of colors, and locations, and sizes; and what cleaning supplies we had to restock; and whether my boss wanted me to buy the toilet paper with the orange plastic or the purple; and if I had enough time to finish putting away the clothes from this rack before I had to tag a rack she was currently pricing with her son. My mind was completely off of the register at the minute, even though I was the only employee on the floor. Healing was waiting patiently with two collared plaid shirts- one blue, one black- and a pair of black jeans. He must’ve been waiting for several minutes before I happened to turn my head and see him. “Oh, are you ready to check out?” He smiled, “I am.” I apologized profusely for the wait and hurried to call for one of my bosses to work the register. I thanked him for his politeness and hurried back to my work. I didn’t give Healing a second thought- he was just another customer.
I watched, as if in slow-motion, as Healing’s wheel got stuck on a bump and he sprawled onto the asphalt, scraping the soft flesh off his knee and watching in horror as red rivulets carved their way down his leg. I ran across the street to the basketball court where he’d been practicing to bicycle. He saw me approaching and scrambled to his feet, ignoring the blood now seeping towards his socks. I lifted a few bandaids and a tissue from my purse, offered to help. His eyes shone in the sunlight, reflecting my concerned face back at me. I noticed a temporary tattoo of what looked to be a mythical creature on the back of his arm, half-faded and red like he’d been scratching at it. He assured me he was alright, took the tissue, swiped up the mess on his leg, and shakily climbed back on the bike. He pedaled off, not looking back. I had discerned his little tattoo was a hydra and wondered as its many heads stared at me. They were watching out for him.
Last weekend, I moved into a new apartment, one with dark wood floors and windows overlooking the tops of the other brick buildings in the area. Healing invited me over for tea when she saw me slogging the last box up the many stairs. Her apartment was much like my own, maybe a little bigger and without the several bookcases I had crammed in mine, paperbacks and hardcovers filling every inch and even stacked on the top. Her apartment smelled like lilacs in some places and lavender in others. She used a small yellow watering can to gently water the pansies in a flowerbox outside the window behind her kitchen sink. They were mostly white with purple gradients around the center, their spots looking like faces craning over the side of the box to see as much as they could. A slim black cat curled around her ankles as she did this, rubbing its head against her calves. She served tea in old English teacups that had roses on them. As I stirred in the milk and honey, she sipped hers though it was burning hot. She looked up at me from behind her glasses, her eyes young compared to the deeply etched wrinkles that held her face together in thin seams. She reached to a nearby shelf, pulled The Bell Jar off of it, and set it in front of me. “I would recommend this book,” she said, a smile lifting the very edges of her lips, “but you appear to have already read it.”
Author Notes: Any comments/suggestions are appreciated! Let me know what you think, I'm really happy with this :)