I’ve never seen cold blood.
A hot summer day, playing flag football. My first nose bleed. Accidental. So bright, so warm, spilling out of my nose, trailing across my lip. Red dots drip, dripping upon my white t shirt, spreading into irregular shapes, pulled by gravity and the cotton weave. Some drips reaching the grass on the field. Dark red flowers blossom.
Tasting thick and coppery, draining down my throat. A unique taste, like Oreos, lobster, peanut butter. For me, it’s how red tastes.
One of the last hot days of early fall. My first nose bleed at school. Deliberate. I see the fist coming. A small crunch, pressure into my eyes, across the front of my face, then that red taste again. I bent over in time for the next blow to bounce off my head, breaking his hand. I hear him scream as I watch fat red drops of my blood bombardier toward his nice shiny shoes. Splat, splat, splat onto his shoes and the black asphalt. “Break it up!” The vice principal yells.
By thirteen I had determined that face and head blood were different from limb blood. More red, more insistent, more determined to escape. Limb blood was reluctant, oozing.
Late Spring. An early game in the season. Playing third base, a fast high hopper coming up the line, a runner coming from second, preparing to slide. The ball takes a bad bounce and, instead of nestling into my glove, it bounces off my chin, driving my teeth into my tongue and snapping my head back. I’m bleeding and woozy as the runner slides into me, cleats first, knocking me off the bag and into the third base box. I lie in the coach’s box, tasting red, my calf throbbing, bleeding, coloring my gray uniform and white socks wet pink. “Safe!’ I hear the umpire. “Play to home,” I mumble. I sit out the rest of the game, trying to gather my wits and sucking on an orange popsicle.
A hot, cranky Friday night in LA. Torso blood. Lit by street lights, I see the sweat stained, dark uniform, the shiny badge on his chest, cap slightly askew. His face is angry. He’s pointing at me. I hear a pop, feel a hard push, like someone bumped me while running past, and then a bright, hot tingle. I touch my chest, feel the hole, smoking, singed, until the warm blood escapes, smothering my hand. It flows like a not quite clogged kitchen sink, slow but steady. “Stop! He’s just a kid!” I hear before I faint.
Standing in juvenile court with my arm in a sling, charged with “assault”, I’m remanded to a community service program instead of CYA camp. Unhappy with the community service program, I stop participating, and end up in youth authority camp, where fights are entertainment. Gladiator night for the counselors. More blood. Angry blood, frustrated blood. It still tasted red. The CYA lends us out to the California Forestry Service as summer work crews. As we work, accidental blood sprinkled about Placerita Canyon State Park.
Combat blood. On twenty four hour R&R, a walk through town looking for beer, babes, and clean laundry. As we make our way down a narrow street to a favorite bar, a grenade rolls out from between buildings, metallic ticks as it bounces along the rough street. I hear an abrupt explosion propelling bits of death. A sharp wasp sting just above my boot top. Chaos. Screaming. I watch Ray collapse onto his back, arterial blood pumping in tempo to his heart from a hole in his neck. As I strip off my uniform blouse to create a wound compress, I watch his dark skin turn gray. The MPs come pounding up the narrow street, yelling and waving weapons.
I press hard on Ray’s neck, trying to stop the pulsing, hot flow of blood engulfing my hand. Arterial blood, surging to bathe Ray’s brain in oxygen and nutrients. Instead, it turns my shirt from khaki to wet sepia. Ray looks at me, coughs a few times, blood in his throat. “How does it taste?” I ask Ray as his eyes close, his pulse thready. My hands and shirt are sticky warm. A corpsman throws his trauma bag down next to Ray’s head and pushes me aside. “Give me room to work, Mister.”
Blood type, innocent, city style. I stood in the window of my apartment on Bush St. in San Francisco, sipping Johnnie Black and watching the traffic go by. The accident happened so fast that the truck hit the car and was gone before the crunching sounds of destroyed body panels, screeching tires and shattered glass reach me. I dialed 911, reported the accident, grabbed a pair of flashlights and ran out the front door, down the steep flight of stairs and into the street.
The speeding truck had spun the Toyota across four traffic lanes and into the curb where it sat, leaking gasoline and steaming coolant. The radio, still working, played Mozart through crushed door speakers. I propped a flashlight on the street and set it to flashing mode as a warning to oncoming traffic. I hear heat tick, ticking.
A young female driver was the only person in the car. Strapped in by the seatbelt, she was motionless, her head sitting on her shoulders at an odd angle. Blood cascaded from a long, deep cut on her forehead, covering her face, a red mask.
She wore a tank top. I could see a long hematoma, a bruise, already forming where the seat belt had violently contained her motion. Her purse and its contents are scattered about the passenger side foot well. The collision was so brutal, the force had snapped the shoulder straps of her black bra. I carefully leaned into the window and tried to find her pulse. Nothing. I talk to her. “What is your name?” “Can you hear me?” No response. “You’ve been in a car accident. Emergency services are on their way.” I smell her blood. “Don’t let all the blood freak you out. Head wounds always bleed a lot.”
I thought I heard her wheezing breath over the street noise, topped by the oncoming blare of the emergency services vehicles.
The first ESV to arrive crushes my flashing flashlight. Large confident men casually emerged from their vehicles, moving to their pre-assigned duties of crowd and traffic control, evaluating and stabilizing the injuries of the woman, determining how to extract her from the crushed Toyota. They tell me to step back so they can do their work. I offer that I saw the hit and run accident occur. I’m directed to a police officer who takes my name, address and phone number and asks me to return home.
Quickly, the Toyota is engulfed by the group of men, flashing lights and squawking radios tracking the continuing tragedies of the night. They brace her neck, back and legs then split the car open, removing the roof so they can lift her out the top. I watched from my window, sipping another Johnnie Black, hoping the blood on her face didn’t frighten her too much.
Hospital blood. Everywhere. In the ER, all manner of bloody cuts and punctures, blood soaked dressings. Or, pre HIV, when you arrive home, blood stained shoes, uniforms or dried blood splatter across the face of your wrist watch.
Today I carry clean, sterile blood to an accident victim in ICU. Two bags of A positive red blood cells.
The nurse arranges the bag, connects the IV tube. The tube core turns bright red, like rope candy with a surprise center, as blood flows from the bag to the body. So clean and hygienic, no drips, not even bloody. It probably doesn’t taste red.
I join some of the ER crew for lunch in the break room. A hockey game is on the TV. The play is fast, graceful, the collisions abrupt and fierce. One player rises from the ice, bleeding. The blood drips to the ice. It doesn’t splatter, flow. Instantly chilled by the playing surface, it looks like a spilled Slurpee, blobs of static blood spotting the ice. I wonder, when blood is cold and freezing, does it still taste red?
My Detoured Life
My high school guidance counselor,
egg shaped body topped by a fringed, egg shaped head.
With a tie. Soft. Pale. Alien.
I’ve just revealed a deep secret to him.
“A writer,” he repeated.
After a nervous pause,
“But your people are so good with their hands.
Perhaps auto shop would be a better idea.”
Nodding, willing my agreement.
“Prepare for your future.”
He waits for my answer.
In the barrio, words weren’t written; they just are
My writing goal is to prove I am good with my hands- with a pen, on a keyboard. I am currently enrolled in Glendale Community College in Glendale, AZ.