I was scrolling my facebook homepage, something I always consider dangerous and often boring. One of his cosplay photos showed up and I clicked on it.
“Here, look at this cosplay. Doesn’t he look great?” I turned the laptop so my sister could see.
“He always does a stellar job.”
I clicked back to return to my homepage, but I must have clicked the wrong thing. I was on a profile page. I’d never seen his before. He had a page for cosplays, but didn’t publicize his private account. I guessed that for someone so charming and talented at cosplay he probably had quite a few groupies. Far be it from me to be one of them. None of the photos on this page were obvious face shots, but one of them showed half of his face behind a camera. I might not have known him well, but his face was one I’d recognize anywhere.
My anti-groupieism somehow failed. I clicked add friend. . .and felt sudden remorse. What if he thought I was an internet stalker? Dear me. I’d found the page completely by accident, not out of some protracted internet search. I’d never even known his last name until that moment for crying out loud. Although I’d always suspected it started with a different letter. I thought that was a strange detail. I hoped he’d understand. Was I stressing over this too much? He might not even care either way. But I respected him enough to honor any desire he might have had for privacy. We didn’t know each other and I had no license to assume we were any closer than he wanted.
That night I was cleaning up my sewing room before going to bed. It was right next to my closet, which linked through another door to my bed room. I had a tendency to leave the lights on after I was through working and forget them until I was getting my pajamas on and going to bed. It had happened again this time. Most everyone in the house was in bed already and the sewing room light was the last bright light to turn out. The lamp didn’t have a shade either, which added to its obviousness in a dark house. I folded up the fabric and boning that lay sprawled out on the floor and began putting it away when I heard someone coming into the room. I looked up, expecting my mother to tell me to go to bed. But he was standing in the door way. He stumbled toward me, weakly holding a bottle in his right hand.
“Zaid!” I said, shocked at how on earth he might have found me, but happy to see him in spite of it.
I set down my work, putting out my arms for a hug, but when he did not speak I suddenly knew something was terribly wrong. Before I could ask what had happened he fell into my arms, coughing weakly over my shoulder and trying to cover his mouth as he drew his limp arms around me. I caught him, staggering a little from his weight.
“Zaid,” I spoke softly, trying to sooth him. “Zaid,” I stroked his dark shaggy hair gently as I tried to steady him with my arms.
I knew that trying to ask him anything would prove no use. He was badly sick and by the looks of things had been drinking for several days. I half walked, half drug him across the room to a couch where I laid him out as gently as I could.
We hardly knew each other. In fact we only knew each other’s first names. And I knew that if he’d come to me, if he’d made the effort to find me, he must have had no where else to go. I wasn’t exactly well versed in taking care of a drunk man, and I knew plenty of women who would turn one out, but I couldn’t. Nothing could have made me turn him away, not in that state. If he’d drunk himself that sick I could only imagine what he’d been through.
I heard my mother’s slippered steps in the hall. Quickly I slipped through the closet into my bedroom. She appeared in the doorway. “Why aren’t you in bed? It’s after ten.”
“I’m just getting in bed right now. I was turning out all the lights.” I stood by my bed, lifting the covers and trying my hardest to act normal.
I gulped as I realized the sewing room light was still on, but I decided to keep playing it cool. I heard her walk down the hall and open the sewing room door. The light switch clicked and I heard her walking away to her own room. I started breathing again, guessing that she must not have seen him asleep on the couch.
In some ways it seemed a bit silly to be hiding a sick man in my sewing room from my mom, but at the same time, I knew he couldn’t afford being turned out. I couldn’t say how she would react, but I would rather run the risk of keeping it secret for his safety.
I heard my mother calling my name crossly. “Where have you been?”
I knew she must have found something. My sister and I rushed out of our room to her. She was pointing out the window to a purple car outside. I knew it was his.
“Where have you been and where did you get this car?”
“We haven’t been anywhere. It isn’t our car. We don’t know anything about it.”
That last bit was stretching it. I certainly had no direct knowledge about the car, but it was pretty obvious where it had come from. For some reason that was enough for her. She dropped the issue and we all went to bed.
I slipped back through the closet into the sewing room to check on him. I quietly sat down in the chair adjacent to the couch and table. He was fast asleep, stretched out mostly on the couch with his feet on the coffee table. It didn’t look like a comfortable position, but he was heavy and I wasn’t about to move him. I found it a little amusing that he was still in his Spike cosplay. It didn’t look too comfortable to sleep in either, at least with the jacket buttoned, but again, I wasn’t about to change that either. That would really have made me feel like a creep. After a few minutes of sitting there in the darkness brooding over everything I decided that watching him sleep was also a creepy thing to do, even if I was just looking out for him. So I padded off to my own room and went to bed.
…I woke up in quite a daze. It was all a dream. Just a dream.