There were two things he wanted.
Three. Three things he–
no, four. Four things he wanted most of all–
Her voice sounded woodrowsy, his name like a plate of rice. “Huh?” he said, and he heard something else. Something red surrounding them on the grass.
Five things, now that he thought about it, and she was one of them. He said her name: “Yes?”
She laughed at the sound of his voice, high, like Chip. Or Dale. She sounded Smurfy. “No one ever…they don’t say…”
She was sideways, the weight of her face dripping down to rest on her arm. He was sideways, too, and a pressure-built tear clung to his eyelash. Six things, he wanted. Twenty-two would have been nice, especially with her.
“What?” he said. He felt sick, now.
“Don’t talk about this. They. They don’t. You don’t learn it. On the chart. Heeeeeeeeeliumm-um-um-um.”
He tried to remember what her real voice sounded like, but it was lost somewhere far down in his kidneys.
She closed her eyes and he said, “Heeeeyyyyy,” and she laughed again and said, “Stohhhhhhhp. Need my…aiiiiir.”
“Shhhh.” He reached out for her hand and she moved the tip of her finger against his thumb. On her wrist glittered the spangly sparkle-rocks he’d picked up that afternoon from the funny man with the nose. The bracelet for her twenty-first birthday. “Hbthday,” he said.
Her eyes didn’t open, didn’t move, but her lips still smiled. He squeezed her finger because he knew it was killing them, and the buffalo outside tromping the grass was too late with its oxygen tank.