We made our way around the hospital until I found a good grassy spot on the side of a slight incline around the back.
“That’s fine.” Iggy hadn’t crossed his arms since we’d left the hospital doors. I took that as a good sign.
I took the blanket from him and put it down, then helped Iggy out of his chair and onto the blanket. I sat beside him and flopped back, the grass tickling me through my cap.
“Whew!” My heart was still beating faster and harder than it had in a long time.
Iggy was silent for a minute or two, then said, “Man, can you ever run. Even when you’re sick!”
“Ha. My little sister used to say I should go out for track.”
“You have a sister?”
He fell back beside me, his hands forming a pillow behind his head. “I haven’t been outside in . . . since the surgery.”
“When was that?”
“Almost a month ago.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, so all that came out was a muted, “You’re crazy.”
He laughed, but it sounded forced. “Yeah, really.”
We were both silent until the sun had set and darkness had settled, the stars just beginning to pinprick the night sky.
“You’re crazy too.”
“How’s that?” I turned my head a bit, eyes straining in an attempt to see his face in the dark.
“You actually talked to me after the surgery. Most of the nurses tried,, but I always glared them
down or didn’t do anything at all.” He sighed heavily. “I was such a jerk . . .”
“But you aren’t anymore,” I said, looking back up at the stars.
“I was to you. I am. Still, really.”
“I don’t mind. It makes things more interesting. Frustration sometimes, but then again, I always did like a challenge.”
“So you still want to help me, even though I’m a wreck?”
I laughed at that. “Everyone’s a wreck, dude. Everyone. And if we didn’t help each other, where would we be?”
“True. But still. After all I’ve put you through. I still get prosthetic legs, so it isn’t like I’ll be wheelchair-bound the rest of my life but—“
“It’s a coping strategy, Iggy. Don’t say you shouldn’t have felt sorry for yourself. It just takes different people different lengths of time to recover from something.”
“Like cancer. You don’t seem like it hurt you much.”
A snort escaped my nose. “Yeah, right. My friend dies of cancer, and you tell me I seem unchanged. You didn’t know me before it.”
He was quiet for only second, then said, “You’re still cooler than anyone I’ve known. Despite everything.”
I smiled to myself and nudged him with my elbow. “And you aren’t too bad yourself, once I got past the onion-exterior.”
“Thanks.” He paused, thinking about what I’d said. “Wait a minute . . . hey!”
Next thing I knew, my mouth was full of a clod of grass, dirt, and whatever other worms and muck that could fit into Iggy’s hand.
“Don’t think you being nice to me brings on any exception to the rule!”
All I could do was laugh through my mouthful of (once dirt) mud, sputtering to get it all out.
“You’re one crazy kid, Iggy.” I managed to say before I had to roll away to avoid another handful of crud headed for my mouth.