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"An Aversion to Blood," short story excerpt

Tuesday 11/29/22

I wasn't someone who ever bled a lot. Over the course of my life, sightings of my blood were rare. I didn't have bloody noses. I was active but avoided scrapes and cuts. My injuries, when they happened, were likelier to be in the nature of bruises. I broke a toe, but the bone stayed within the skin.

A bruise doesn't bleed, though perhaps they do on the inside, which feels redundant, or so obvious that there’s no need to express it, but maybe that’s when we should say something most of all, just in case, which makes “a bruise doesn’t bleed” akin to “I love you.”

One encounters that term, "internal bleeding." Isn't that how blood is supposed to work? Blood bleeds internally. That’s what blood does. Only it isn’t. Blood goes where it is needed. Bleeding is the opposite.

I bled so infrequently that I didn't think of my blood as red on account that I'd once come across some information in a doctor’s pamphlet that suggested that blood was blue on the inside of you. That's how I thought of my blood. I never saw it, so who or what was to say anything different?

The effect was calming. Blue is typically less sinister. Less aggressive. Less urgent. Insistent. As a color, blue has a tiered, beatific pace as it meets the eye. The color unfolds. Blue happens—is perceived—in stages. It’s like it waits for you. Red is a torrent, a flash. If a color could clap, red would clap the loudest. But maybe red—and blood—is better at getting things done. Commanding attention. A clarion clap for clarity.

In my worst times, which were plentiful because my happiness was limited, I'd think of the blue of my blood, ascribing a multitude of hues to that blueness, and that would provide a measure of peace, distance, retrieval through retreat. A slowing of my heart rate. A reduction in the totality of my anxieties, though never enough for me to evaluate and measure in the comforting terms of fractions. “Reduced by 1/11th.” There was “some,” but not “a sum,” which is different than a sufficiently sizable depreciation worth noting with the solidity of math. Or it was an illusion of peace. If something else can always happen to you and you can always feel worse one minute than you did the minute before—and that something else can be nearly anything else—is there ever really peace?

I picture clouds with gavels. Each cloud with a gavel. They get together in the sky and one cloud bangs its gavel on the blue table of the horizon, and says, “Hear, hear! I call this meeting to order. Is there ever really any peace? Should there be? That’s what we’re here to determine. That’s why our august body has assembled. I open up the floor.”

The floor being the sky. The sky being possibility. For people. The clouds already had everything worked out for them, which is why they each had their own gavel.

When I watched a movie in which blood featured, I shielded my eyes during the relevant portions, and because they were unlike so much else, I knew when they were coming. Those were movies I saw with my friends, in younger stages and stations of life, not movies I would have chosen on my own. Intervals when one tries to belong with others, before the arrival of those stretches in which one attempts to belong with one’s self. A day comes when you realize that was what was going on all along. Or there doesn’t.

I was confident I didn't bleed when I got a shot on account that I was so good at not bleeding, but I still looked away as the needle pierced my skin. It became such that I couldn't feel shots as they were administered, even if there was nothing else I didn’t feel in the extreme. That was the lone blunted edge, an irony given the nature of needles. But blow up anything big enough under a microscope and it can look like the wall of a fortress, two kilometers long.

I took the Band-Aid all the same, just in case. I'd leave it on until it fell off, which usually happened in the shower about four days later. One lasted for a week, and I was saddened when the outward, visual component of the run of its heroism came to an end as one side fell away from my skin as the water hit it just so, and the other then followed. I crouched to retrieve the bandage and rushed it to the garbage can, in mid-shower, stepping from the tub, dripping freely the way one rains in one’s own bathroom. It didn’t seem right to place it in the soap dish to wait as I stood there feeling the water’s warmth on my neck.

My daughter thought my aversion was funny. She'd say, "Look, mommy," and take off her own Band-Aid as soon as we left the doctor's office after she’d had a shot and we were restored to the car, beckoning for me to turn and see her in the backseat. The smile of triumph on her face and its faint trace of benign gloat. Of being proud of herself. And her harmless remonstrance, so unlike the forms I applied to myself.

"Look at you," I'd say, because I liked how she teased me and that she had this information about who I really was, which is a requirement of true teasing. I was happy when she teased me. I would have liked that she could have teased me all the time, but that’s not how teasing works. Those were the moments I craved. The only moments, I think. Moments that exist, and persist, under the banner of untradeable. I wish more had been there.

We all have our things. That which gives us pause and which we cannot work around. The key may be not to have too many of them, or, I think, have them be that which matters not too much in the grand scheme of anything.


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