"Not again," Sullivan muttered a moment before his bow screeched across three strings at once.
Melanie and the rest of the class stopped one by one to look at him with mixed exasperation and concern. His bow arm jerked before slacking, letting out another toneless wail on the strings before falling by his side.
"Are you alright?" the instructor asked.
"M'sorry it h-" His words stopped with a strangled noise. One sharp breath in, a gasped half-breath back out. His left hand clenched the violin's neck. He muttered as his face lost focus, staring past their heads at nothing. The pupil of his green eye momentarily desynced and grew large, before both shrank down to pinpricks.
"That's the second time tonight," someone said disdainfully.
"Should we do something?" another said.
No one did.
Thirty seconds of his eyes moving to things only he could see and muscles twitching from head to toe, and he let out a long, tired breath and slumped forward.
"Are you alright?" the instructor repeated. Her tone carried impatience: are you done inconveniencing me?
"Hnn." He sat up. "S'over."
"Are you well enough to continue?"
He sighed and lowered the instrument from where it had been gripped between chin and shoulder. "No."
Melanie lowered her own. She was his ride home.
"Very well," the instructor said shortly. The others watched in silence as the two packed up.
As they descended the front steps into the warm, suburban summer evening, Melanie looked him over critically. His short, thin frame drooped wearily and every so often he blinked out of sync. She'd seen this before, a little different each time: sometimes he'd lose focus for just a moment, sometimes he'd seize for several long minutes.
"I need something from the store," he said after they put their cases in her trunk.
"What is it?" she said.
"Aahhh... milk. Almost out."
She arched a brow. He wasn't looking at her, instead gazing up and down the street thoughtfully before nodding once to himself.
"Of course. It doesn't sound as if you had to ad lib that response at all." She slid into the driver's seat.
"No idea what you're talking about." He took the seat beside her. "Can't a man be thirsty after two episodes in one night?"
"For an entire gallon of milk. Naturally."
He murmured something noncommital and rested his head against the window.
The route from the instructor's home to the nearest store took them zig-zagging through back roads and neighborhoods, as the dim sky continued to darken and specks of light bobbed over lawns and under trees. As they passed the distinctive old house with the pink shutters at the corner of Azalea and Marigold, his head snapped up alertly, green-and-blue eyes locked on the road. Melanie opened her mouth to inquire just as he unbuckled his seatbelt and sprang out the door.
She stopped hastily at the curb and dashed out after him as he made a beeline for an unfamiliar man at the cross-walk. Before the stranger noticed their approach, Sully grabbed the man's shirt and yanked him forcefully away from the street and onto the sidewalk.
"Oh my god," Melanie said.
The man whirled and shoved, shouting obscenities. Sully stumbled back without a word, staring past the man.
"Pardon my friend," Melanie said as she caught up to them, panting. "He's -"
Her voice was swallowed by the roar of an eighteen-wheeler ripping past a red light through the space the man had just been walking. Her braids whipped about in the wind of its wake. She stared. The man stared. Sully had stopped staring.
The man looked down at him. "Oh, hey man, I'm sorry, I didn't notice -"
"It's fine, it's nothing." Sully stuck his hands in his pockets and briskly walked away, head lowered.
Melanie jogged after. "What was that?"
"No, that was most definitely something."
He hunched further. "It just happens sometimes."
"Is it -"
"I don't know," he said. "And I don't really need milk. I just needed... you to..." He gestured vaguely at the road.
"This puts much of your previous behavior in perspective," she said.
"Oh, good, you don't think I'm just a squirrely weirdo anymore."
"I did not -"
"No, no, 'a remarkable curiosity' or 'inscrutably mercurial' or something, right?" He waved it off. "It's easier not to explain so I don't."
"Hmm. How long has this been happening?"
He looked up at her and tapped his cheek. "Since this eye turned green."