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Staying still

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“Please stay still, Mercutio”

“Mercutio, be quiet!”

For as long as he could remember- and probably longer than that even- that was all the adults would say to him. Sit still, stand up straight, be silent, behave...

If they had more to say it was usually longer variations of the same- why can’t you be like this or that kid, why can’t you be like you friends, or like Paris or-

In short, Mercutio had grown up with the idea that he should not be like himself. And he had resisted that idea fiercely, proudly. He got into fights, climbed rooftops, disappeared for days on end- and he was never quiet.

So to hear those same words now, not from any of the grown-ups who had hurled them at his head all his life, but from his own friends. Well. He couldn’t let that slide, could he? The friends who had been with him through more adventures, and scrapes, and trouble, and fun. That they should now tell him to be quiet? Mercutio wasn’t having any of it.

Through the haze of pain he pushed himself up on his elbows.

“Please Mercutio, please stay still, the wound looks bad.” Benvolio, at his side, begging him to listen. ‘Like he doesn’t know me at all’, thought Mercutio.

He fought to take a breath. His friends around him seemed to be holding theirs.

“A plague on both your houses! Why do you tell me now to be quiet, Benvolio? At this moment, of all times?” The shock on their faces was worth the pain. Let them be surprised, let the whole world know that Mercutio does not simply lay down and stay still.

“Have I not earned the right to speak my mind, now more than ever?”

He coughed, and tasted something that may have been blood, while Benvolio nodded and urged him again to lay still.

“A doctor is being fetched even now, Mercutio, please, stay with us. Don’t aggravate the wound.”

“Ah, a doctor… I hope he should make it in time-“ more coughing, and definitely blood. “I do not think I shall be in town tomorrow.” He attempted a smile, and saw this own weak smile echoed on his friends’ scared faces.

It was Romeo, on his other side, who said: “You will make it Mercutio, the doctor cannot be far…” he trailed off as he looked around the square. No help was coming yet. Sweet innocent Romeo, a dreamer he always had been.

More coughing, and the haze of pain was beginning to feel like a heavy blanket on a warm summer’s night. Mercutio hoped his friends would keep each other company, and could keep each other safe without him.

Within his group of scared friends he spotted a figure. Looking at them, he realized this figure was also a friend, someone he had known most of his life. And someone who would never urge him to stay still, or quiet, or behave.

And the figure reached down a hand, and Mercutio raised his to meet them.

And rose, even as he saw his own hand fall down, and his friends began to cry.