I first noticed the nosebleed when I was in the shower dying my hair.
I had never dyed my hair before, and I had been in such a hurry to get it started and over with that I was sure I wasn’t doing it right. All that I knew was that this color did not seem to match the picture on the box—a beautiful, regal chestnut brown. Trevor always did have a thing for brunettes. Instead, the color I came out with was the picture of a dying willow that had fallen deep into the muddy waters of a swamp. So, at first when I saw the drips of red beading against the cold tiles of my shower, I thought maybe that was some of the dye that I hadn’t mixed in, a clear sign of the mistake I had somehow made. Then, the drops came faster and faster becoming a strong enough downpour to rival the rush of water and dye, and I felt warmth dripping down my mouth, my chin, my throat.
“Oh! Oh no,” I stumbled out of the shower, slipping and sputtering on a noxious mixture of dye, blood, and water until I finally made it to the mirror.
Bruises old and new littered the lines of my body, as numerous and unappealing as trash on the side of an interstate. This combined with the strings of my wet hair clinging to the sides of my face like fat, ugly slugs and the blood that coated my skin made me look like the picture of a victim right before they became a casualty.
It took me a while to move away from my own reflection staring accusingly back at me—look what you’ve 39 done—and when I finally did, I found the sink was a bloody mess. My hands had slipped through it, drawing out images of people grappling for their life and of other people holding it back from them.
Familiar, in a way.
For a moment, I thought about grabbing the cleaner from under the sink, but my nose was still bleeding and it showed no sign of stopping so instead I grabbed a roll of toilet paper, pressed it against my nose and struggled into a pair of old pajamas. The hole in one of the pant legs brushed cool air against my skin, a somehow soothing balm despite the fact that my wet skin already felt icy from being beneath the whirl of the ceiling fan for so long.
Once I was fully dressed, I stumbled into the living room. The rest of the house looked no better than the bathroom, but it was a different kind of mess. Rather than there being blood, there was the stretch of dirt along the countertops, the discarded bodies of clothes that had been shrugged off from the lives that used to wear them, and dishes stacked and picked clean by various scavengers.
Again, came the thought of the cleaner, but, no, no, my nose was still bleeding, pooling into the toilet paper against my nose. I suppose I could have tried that old trick of putting tampons in my nostrils. They always said that worked and I couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t, but I thought of the image of myself like that, my pale skin flushed dark against the white padding, and of Trevor seeing me like that when he returned and…I just couldn’t do it.
With a sigh, I sat down on the couch.
What else can I do? I hadn’t gotten a nosebleed in years. The last I could remember was when I was in middle school and at that time it had been a good experience because it had gotten me out of English class—my worst subject. Who cared if a word was a verb, adverb, or some other kind of shit?
What I did remember, though, was that nosebleeds had to have an underlying cause. They didn’t just start. Sluggishly, like an old librarian sorting through a card catalogue, my brain went over the events of this morning. I had managed to hit my nose against the swinging door of the shower before I went in—stupid, stupid, stupid—but it didn’t seem like that could have caused enough of an injury to elicit this kind of reaction.
I couldn’t think of anything else though.
So, what do I do now? Just wait? Wasn’t there some kind of rule stating that if a nose bleed lasted more than five minutes than you should probably call your doctor? I couldn’t remember how long it had been since it started nor could I remember the rule; there are too many situations where people are recommended to call their doctor.
I didn’t even know my doctor’s name.
Finally, I decided that if it didn’t stop by the time Trevor got home I would do something about it. Besides… Trevor would have a better idea about what I should do.
So, I sat on the couch and waited, trying to ignore the numbers that glared at me from my phone and instead focused on the voice of Dr. Phil until Trevor arrived.
Lay it on me, Dr. Phil.
Like always I could hear him coming. I don’t really know how since his movements had always reminded me of the action scenes in comic books. You could see the sound they were supposed to make, but instead there was only silence somehow more powerful than the sound itself.
Then, he was there, standing in the doorway, already shrugging off his uniform. I could see the glint of his bare chest as sharp as the ice you were trying to claw your way out of.
“What are you doing?” He scowled at me, throwing down his uniform on the couch beside me.
How to answer this? There were so many things I was doing. How could I possibly encompass them all? Simply, I said, “I’m waiting.”
“On what?” He moved around our apartment, examining everything as if he hadn’t just seen it this morning. Eventually, he made it to the fridge, opening it up with tiny noises of disapproval, like the soft swish of cat’s tail along the ground before it jumped. “Jesus, Jaimie, did you accomplish anything today?”
Other than break myself I guess I really hadn’t accomplished that much.
“No, sorry,” I answered, staring down at the toilet paper in my hand. It was all red now—when had that happened?— and I floundered around desperately to get a new one before the blood could drip onto the carpet. Trevor would lock onto that splatter of blood on the carpet much more quickly then he would the splatter of blood on my face.
Why hadn’t I cleaned up the bathroom?
“Whatever.” He turned back to me, holding up a can of what I was pretty sure was the last of the sodas. “I’ll do it.”
“Sorry,” I murmured once more. Finally, I’d found another piece of paper to brace my nose against, and without a word I tossed the old one into the garbage can sitting beside me. At least there was one other thing accomplished.
Trevor fell onto the couch, leaning into the cushion as if he wanted to disappear into it.
Sometimes, I wished I could. Slowly at first, then picking up pace and volume, he told me about his day. It was a struggle to focus on his words. They came in clips and phrases that I had heard many times before—Tom was a douche, customers are jackasses, his manager was a dick, and Trevor was the only one who seemed to be able to recognize all this.
The entire time a thought buzzed in my brain, an annoying mosquito who resisted the slap of my hand each time—Is he ever going to notice my nose?
Eventually, the words worked their way free and I flinched as they fell into the empty air, “Um…you know my nose is bleeding right?”
“What?” The scowl was back.
I tried to backpedal quickly, but it was like my brain couldn’t move backward without pushing more negative thoughts out of the way and when it did these thoughts fell, bouncing from my mouth to land flatly in the world, “I figured you would notice, but you haven’t said a word about it.”
“Well, sorry!” He leaned forward and placed the soda on the table before turning to face me fully and I was confronted with the full view of him, nothing but muscles and anger, “I wasn’t aware I was supposed to keep track of every time you bleed. Next time you have your period make sure to tell me so I can synchronize my fucking watch.”
“This isn’t even that kind of bleed, you moron!”
The insult seemed to shock us both, and for a moment there was no sound except for that tiny voice inside my head shouting. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Why are you still talking!?
I didn’t really know.
“What?” The word came like a distant gunshot in the night, like you knew there was danger but just didn’t know when or if it would come again.
“I’m…just, you know, hurt here and all you care about is how your day went. Sometimes you’re a real asshole, you know that?”
I turned away from him, my breath was coming in short and fast like it was trying desperately to keep time with my heart which was beating against my ribcage with a frantic urgency as if trying to warm me of the danger I was in.
Like I didn’t already know
“It’s just a fucking nosebleed!”
“That’s not the point!” I was screaming now. I don’t know how I got to this stage, especially with that voice inside my head still yelling, still beating at the walls of my brain to shut up—just shut the hell up!—and yet… “You don’t care about anyone but yourself! You’re selfish and cruel and—“
It was quick.
I hadn’t even seen him move, but suddenly I was on the floor, pain arching through me like some medieval monster come to claim its sacrifice. The toilet paper that I had been holding to my nose this entire time was curving away from me, somehow unfolding perfectly into a bloody road leading to my body’s memorial museum. The funny thing was that I think my nose had actually stopped bleeding. Not with the hit, but some time before. I wondered if it would start again.
“Jaimie!” Trevor was down beside me and without a word of protest from me he managed to pull me into his arms, apologies pouring from his mouth as easily as the complaints about me and his job had come a few minutes before.
Silent, I could only nod to each one. My thoughts were sluggish and disorganized, dissolving rapidly in the expanse of my brain like salt in a glass of water. Only one thought managed to stay solid long enough for me to grasp ahold of it.
Look what you’ve done.