Since four o'clock, Paul had fantasized about going home and making mac and cheese, not out of the box, the real kind with three cheeses, elbow macaroni, and a touch of spicy mustard. He could smell it — gooey and warm. Seeing Lisa's face when she took her first bite made him want to cook for her every day.
"Help me up. Where are my groceries?"
It had been a sucky day at work. His boss was out of town and the team had a mega-crisis. The client had a half mil to use on overnight ad placement. No one wanted to make a decision. He knew what to do, but he was the new guy. He hadn't gone all, ‘I'm the smartest one here' and stepped on a few toes. He should've.
"Stay still. Talk to me."
The slog to the subway was miserable. New York in early March was rainy, windy, a touch of sleet thrown in for the hell of it. The platform was packed; nobody favored walking in the icy soup. A train arrived. He pushed his way on harder than he usually would've, but he needed to battle the ghosts of the day to even things out. He found himself wedged in, nose to armpit with a guy who'd been to the gym and elected to skip the recommended post workout shower.
"I'm really cold."
At the Roosevelt Island stop, he pushed onto the platform, and took his first clear breath since West Fourth. The walk to Foodtown was surprisingly enjoyable, proving what his mom always said about not letting the tiny things get too big and take over your day. He ducked into the store and steamed through aisles. The line was long, but he was drying out and warm. His backpack was lighter than usual as he'd left his work laptop in the office for spite. No late-night emails would bother him tonight.
"The ambulance is coming, kid. Are you in pain?"
The wind was always strong on the Island. Something he loved in the summer; dreaded in winter. It was spitting sleet mixed with snow when he hit the automatic exit doors clutching his plastic bag of contentment. Through the dripping trees, he could see lights glowing in his 9th floor apartment across the park. Lisa was home.
"I can't feel anything."
Glancing to his left, he saw a delivery van approach the first of two stop signs along River Road. As per his pre-move research, Roosevelt Island was one of the safest spots in NYC. There was one road that ran the length of the island with no red lights, just stop signs and speed bumps every fifty yards or so. 15 miles an hour was about as fast as a vehicle could hope for.
"Officer, the truck blew through the stop sign and ran over him. He's pretty messed up, but conscious."
Paul stepped off the curb and things got crazy fast. On his third stride something very tall and hard hit him like he'd been sucker punched by a building. Before he could object, his head bounced against the van's hood, his ears rang, and he stood perfectly still for a split second before collapsing onto the wet asphalt. Then something went wacko with his left hip.
"My apartment's just over there. Help me get up."
He blinked for a split second against the sleet, but realized the icy pinpricks were gone. He opened his eyes and saw the undercarriage of a large vehicle up close, a first for him. Both wheels ran over his thigh, badda-bing, badda-boom, before coming to a stop. The sleet was back. His body shook violently as his heat drained away.
"Oh, Jeez, that's a lot of blood. Why's his leg turned like that?"
From his fuzzy vision, Paul realized he'd lost his glasses. When he'd first gotten them in fourth grade after he kept changing his seat in class to see the board, he never wore them. It wasn't because of the other kids, but because he was afraid he'd lose them. Now sixteen years later, after middle school, high school, and college, and living on his own, he had lost them.