My girlfriend has this blonde hair. Natural blonde, not like me. She’s taller than me, but not by much, which I like. She’s sort of delicate, like? I hate to say that about anyone– especially a woman– but she treads lightly. Sometimes hesitantly, sometimes beautifully, and always lightly. It’s funny the way that blonde hair looks so different on her; like the light was made for her to travel in it. There’s a strength in wearing the hair that grows out of you as it comes– not doctoring it the way I do.
She and I have never had sex. Well, I mean, we’ve done some things. Fondled, sort of. But like I said, she treads lightly. I try to tread lightly too. We’ve talked about it though. I can’t help but talk about it every now and again. And she doesn’t seem squeamish, which I appreciate. It’s almost like she wants to have all the information before she makes the purchase. Like she’s signing a lease on me or something.
And maybe because I am in the celibate phase of wooing, I talk about it a little more than ‘every now and again.’ I let perversions slide, I talk about radical subjects, I flaunt taboos, I confront her conservatism. I say things like “I’ve always wanted to fuck in that conference room in the middle of the night,” or “God, I love reading about bloodsports.”
That one catches her attention. Of course, she thinks I meant gladiator-style bloodsports. I share the sadomasochist handbook I’m reading with her. We’re in the library and she’s working on a paper and I merely accompanying her, flagrantly reading a nonfiction book about bondage. I watch her read the passage and briefly glance at the section on safety.
“Yeah,” she says, “What about diseases and stuff?”
“Well, I guess you have to be careful. Really know the person. Make sure they’ve been tested.”
“And you want to do this?”
I sit back and close the book. “I’m not saying that I have to. Or that I need you to be into it. I’ll be honest, I’ve never done it. I just like the idea. It’s vampiric, it’s dangerous, it requires an immense amount of trust.” I think about her pink ears, those little conch shells. Seeing droplets of blood fall from them into her cornsilk hair.
“I just like the idea,” I say.
She resumes her work. I go back to reading, but now the book is in my lap, the cover facing down. I’ve been cowed. She’s not looking at me anymore, but my face is all pink from shame. I don’t know the first thing about the practice of bloodsports, for all the reading I like to do, and I’m not bold enough to instigate that kind of thing. I’ve got the fear of the curious.
Time goes by for us in that slow way time does when you aren’t really sure what is going on in your relationship. We share beautiful moments, and we don’t talk about our less beautiful ones because we aren’t sure how to brooch the subject. We hold hands at the movies, and I kiss her goodnight on the steps of her house. Things like that.
I don’t think about the blood stuff too much, except when I can’t help it. Her skin is thin and papery, the kind that would bleed like a motherfucker if she ever decided to get a tattoo. Skin like a white girl. My skin is the same thinness, but lacks all the grace and poetry of hers. I’ve always had skin problems; a mysterious eczema-like disease when I was a child that left its remnants all over my arms and legs. I look reptilian in the wrong light, which is to say, most light. I have dark Italian hair everywhere that I don’t bleach it and don’t shave it, which is to say, everywhere except my head. And her hair– well, it’s that feathery blonde stuff all over. Everywhere I’ve been permitted to see, anyway.
She’s such a soft thing, such a fragile thing. Doesn’t smoke cigarettes, doesn’t stay up late, can’t handle loud music. The predominant instinct toward her is protection, aid, love and support. Sharing a nice dinner with her. The second urge is to eat her for dinner.
Some evening it happens.
“This is really good, baby. What is it?”
She laughs. “I don’t really know. I threw a bunch of vegetables in a pot and… here we are.”
“Well, it’s good, whatever it is. You’re a mean cook, baby.” I reach across the table and run my thumb across her cheek. Quickly, like a flick. I mean to sit back down, but I stop. I’m half-standing, arm extended across her dining room table, warm dishes under me. It’s just a really sweet moment, and that makes me stop.
In that way that things expound upon themselves, she too stops what she is doing. It must be a sweet moment for her too.
And then her nose starts bleeding. I see it before she feels it. A thin red coming in drips down her lips and chin.
“Blood,” she says, putting her hand to her face. When she feels the steady wet stream, she continues, “Oh, it’s bad.”
She tilts her head back, and we rush her into the bathroom. My heart hits my ears. The blood down that face– red on peach with red rising to the surface behind. A drop on her collar.
“I’m so sorry,” she says.
I don’t respond. I run a washcloth under the sink and wipe her neck, her chin, and finally her face. Her head still tilted, the single stream is like a fracture. I wipe it from red to orange to nothing.
“I didn’t mean to ruin dinner,” she says.
“Shh,” I say. “Is it alright if I run this shirt under some water?”
She motions in the affirmative. Face parallel with the ceiling, arms crossed in front of herself, she lifts the soiled garment. She isn’t wearing anything underneath it. Her nipples are dark, rubber gooseflesh in the cold bathroom. She hands me the shirt.
I had every intention when I asked for the shirt of really washing those spots of blood out, but when she extends it to me with so little consideration, face upraised, alabaster all over, I can’t help it.
I place the shirt on the sink. I put one hand on her left wrist, and the other on her face. She grunts. I tip her head forward. The blood, unobstructed now, rolls down her face and onto her chest. Pascal’s triangle forms on her left breast. The delta breaks and reforms on her abdomen.
“I’m sorry,” I falter, “is this okay?”
She merely looks at me, watery and bleeding. She’s so beautiful like this. Beautiful all the time, but in the silence she gives me now, especially beautiful. A broken vessel pouring, weeping red onto herself.
“Yeah, it’s okay.”
I take the washcloth and wipe in a broad stroke across her chest, and the blood smears.
She smiles. “I’m just going to have to take a shower.” The blood has mostly stopped flowing now. It comes in single droplets. Her septum is a fluid stalactite. “It’ll be a quick rinse. A minute or two.”
“Can I wait for you in here?”
“Sure.” She’s still smiling. Where has this grace come from? My nervous blonde, so composed when her body is not. I sit on the toilet. She strips her a-line skirt and panties, and turns the water on.
“You didn’t ruin dinner, you know.”
“What?” She asks, over the rushing faucet.
I say it again, louder.
She walks toward me and kisses me lightly on the forehead. “I still don’t get it,” she whispers. The steam and her syllables are of the same frequency.
“Thanks anyway,” I reply. Before she can turn back to the shower, I hug her. Press my ear to her breast, feeling the stain there. Put my hands on the small of her back.
She was nervous to be fractured, but she cracked only a little on my behalf.