She smells of sickness and death. She smells of sickness and death and I’m bugging even before she sits down next to me, in the only empty seat in that crowded walk-in clinic. F—. Her each shallow wheeze builds a wall of contamination, and I plaster myself against a seat handle as far away from her as I can. I am going to die – I should have taken my chances with the tetanus.
Before she’d sit down next to me I had been debating the merits of spare tires over liquid sealant kits. Not an abstract question, mind you. A pertinent one. One I’d considered only two hours earlier when I’d walked out of the gym and discovered a flat. One that I’d considered, intermittently, as I kicked loose rusted-on lug nuts wearing only a thin gym shirt, shorts, and no gloves on a windy sub-zero parking lot. One that I’d asked as I gradually lost feeling in my right hand, fingers turning wooden as they scrabbled against the cold wet of the tire. I was lucky not to get frostbite in a third finger, a fate only avoided when I realized that the lurid redness coating my finger, that liquid insinuating itself with all that mud, rust, and grease, was my own. I must have skinned myself on the parking-lot asphalt cranking that jack – skinned myself unnoticed, for when your fingers are numb . . .
And now I’m in a walk-in clinic, waiting for a 30s tetanus shot, sitting next to a girl who smells of death. I pray that I won’t get sick, but that prayer goes unanswered.