There I stood, stitching up the ends of the gash. It had taken a load of ice bags and a tight knot with a strip of my shirt to halt the flow of blood enough for me to see and not turn him into a human pin cushion. Common sense told me he wouldn’t really like that but after everything that happened, I had half a mind to pretend I had no medical training whatsoever. Give him a butchered suture line for all I care. And add a lifelong scar in there for good measure.
About halfway down, I stuck the needle into his bicep and he instantly sucked breath in through his teeth. The sound annoyed me.
Blowing air out of my own mouth, I sighed, “This is the third time that this happened in two weeks, Jaime.” Not caring to stop, I pulled the thread through and weaved it through the other end.
“Two weeks, huh. Has it really been that long?”
I tightened the thread, yanking in one pull and he winced. “Not the point.”
Jaime huffed. A sign that he knew that I was upset and instead of acknowledging my concern he was going to try and persuade me onto his side. “It’s just a scratch, Rae.”
My scoff was so loud I was sure the neighboring village could hear. “Tell that to the hole in your arm.”
From my peripheral, I saw him roll his eyes. “You’re over exaggerating as usual. Besides, I’ve dealt with worse.”
My gaze drifted from the blue and yellow terrain of his arm up to his eyes at the reference to the life he led before we met each other. There I looked for some emotion connected to the memory: regret from everything he was made to do, loss of the person he used to be or maybe even wistfulness for the normalcy he grew up to know. But I found nothing but the same indifference he showed whenever he refused to talk about it.
Void of the energy to have that conversation again, I poked the needle through his arm once more and turned to a less hostile but probably an equally as stressful one. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself. You’re not helping anyone by almost getting yourself killed.”
“But see, that’s the thing, Rae, I am helping. You don’t see it but every night I go out there and stop someone from making the biggest mistake of their lives, I’m making a statement that—they don’t have to be the no good ruffians that everyone expects them to be.” Jaime expressed, his biceps flexing underneath her fingertips signaling that he was becoming riled up. “They don’t have to fit the mold, they can be better.”
I heard more than saw the determination on his face and in his heart. He really believed in this cause and I understood why but I couldn’t understand why this had to be the means that he fought for it. “What kind of statement do you think you’ll make if you die, huh? That it’s okay to be a martyr as long as you believe in what you’re doing?”
Jaime lolled his head to the other side unwilling to face my stubbornness head on. “You don’t understand.” He sighed.
“No, Jaime, I really don’t. Why don’t you help me?” I stuck the needle into his skin with a little more force and he winced again. It wasn’t intentional but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t satisfy me. “Help me understand the moment when you stopped caring whether you lived or died.”
“That’s just it, Rae. This isn’t about me, it never has been. It’s so much bigger than that, than all of us.” His eyes pinned me down glistened with desperation for me to understand. When it was clear that I wouldn’t, he said, “Come with me.”
“What?” I asked finishing up the last stitch and retrieving the salve to sooth over the area.
“Come with me.” He repeated, growing ever more incised. “Tomorrow night, or the next. Then you can see for yourself what makes this so important.”
“Jaime, I can’t fight—“
“You don’t have to! I’ll take all of it, you don’t even have to be near when the first strike is taken, just—,” He grabbed my hand and held it in between his. Slender, naive fingers laced within hard-lined, immovable knuckles. His eyes pierced through mine determined to look for…what exactly? Curiosity? Resignation? The mirror picture of whatever fire blazed in his own? I’d come familiar with that fire. Come to know it as an independent entity with its own purpose separate from Jaimie yet unable to operate without him. I had no choice but acknowledge it for it was the only part of him for which I had no counterpart.
Seemingly unable yet again to explain, Jaimie sighed. His breath warmly fanning over our interlocked hands. “This is important, Rae.” He finally said.
“Of course it is.” I said. Because whether or not I believed this was okay, regardless of how scared I was every time I heard his heavy laden footsteps outside my door, Jaimie wasn’t going to stop. And if there was any constant in our relationship with each other, it was the fact that I always had his back.