It happens because the pen sticking out of his pocket catches on my book bag. One moment, I'm alone in the river of people flowing across the quad from one class to the next, and then my bag is torn and my palms are stung by pavement. He's flat on his back next to me, laughing. His skateboard flies off into the crowd and is promptly covered in swears and kicked back.
"What the hell?" I add to the din as I pick one of my badges up off the ground. "BREATHE," it calls up to me in big block letters. It's hard to do that just now.
"I'm sorry," he gasps, grinning at me. There's gravel stuck to the side of his face. He smells like sweat and coconut. "You okay?"
"No." I shove scattered objects into my bag, not even checking to see if they're actually mine. "This bag was supposed to last me another year."
He's still on his back. One hand goes behind his head, the other holds his skateboard against his side. The rest of him is completely unperturbed by all the people who have to step over his sprawled legs. "Don't we have chem lab together?"
I glare at him. He does look vaguely familiar. A flash of red against his skin draws my eye.
"You're bleeding." I touch his arm gingerly, blood coming away on my fingers.
"You're a planet," he says.
I drop my hand. "Wow. Really. You crash into me and call me a planet. That's the response you have for me?"
He sits up. "No, see, I'm a planet, too. We're all planets."
"I think you hit your head."
"It's this theory I have. We're all the center of our own private universe, right?"
I cross my arms. "You do know that a planet isn't the center of the universe, right? I thought you said we had science together."
He continues as if I hadn't interrupted. "Adventurous planets, the ones that can't be bound to their own lonely universes, find other large bodies in other universes, and they collide and make space dust. Or something. You know what I'm saying?"
"I don't have any idea what you're saying. I think maybe you should take astronomy next semester."
"Okay." He beams into my face, then uses his skateboard for leverage to haul himself off the ground. I take his hand, my wounded pride and skinned knees appreciating that he offered. But only a little.
"Nice running into you. Literally." He twists his hat around and claps me on the arm. "I'll see you in lab. Maybe you can tell me more about the things I don't know."
When he pushes off, I look at my fingers. They're still wet with drops of his blood. As I watch, my skin tastes it, pulls it in through my pores. Warmth spreads up my arm and the sense of him winds around the cords of my sinews. When the warmth reaches my face, my head fills with whispers. They're inquisitive, interested. Hopeful.
I look after him. He raises his hand in a lazy half wave before the crowd swallows him whole.
My bag's still torn, but I find I care less than I did a moment ago. The whispers grow louder, turning into a pleasant hum.
I know better than to touch their blood. Mom's warnings bubble up beneath the humming. I know I've been infected. Some small trace of him will pulse through my veins forever.
Somehow, I'm okay with that.