Wednesday, June 19

But Nothing

THE MAN STOOD up from his desk and ran, in a strange way, to the toilet. His right hand was clasped across his face. Once inside he crooked himself over into a hunch, and walked to the sink. He freed his face. An eager stream of blood came forth. It landed on his shirt in chubby vertical lines. He stood over the cheap sink and the blood came forth. He was old, seventy-two, a Geordie with rotten teeth, a mumble no one could understand, and eyes that completely disappeared whenever he smiled; they blackened like old fruit and rotted into his sockets; but, that said, he seemed a good man. I leaned against the wall in the toilet and watched him. His profuse bleeding was of some interest to me. It dribbled out of his nose, splashing into the sink. He tilted his head back a shade, but that didn’t help; it simply ran down his cheek down his jaw down his neck into his white shirt. Paper towel after paper towel was pulled from the pile, yet the bleeding would not cease. ‘Are you okay?’ I was very interested in this. I had not seen such blood in some time. I went to flick the light switch to get a clearer view, but nothing. When the sink filled up with blood – which, I admit, was cheerful looking, all red and shiny – he turned the tap a little too zealously causing the bloody water to splash everywhere. He cursed his luck.
I took some of the blood that fell on my fingertip and studied it, carefully, closely, noting the drying of the edges and the different hues under the light. Most interesting, yes; floating around in him once, but now completely free. I should have liked to show some to everyone, but they’ve seen blood before. When I went for a walk at lunchtime the blood saw the spot where I met Helen and, now, with summer finally stepping out of the shower and drying her hair, the stairs to Royal Exchange, aged, beige, were packed with business people chatting and eating their lunch. ‘Quite different, eh?’ it asked. ‘Hmm, yeah, definitely. Even if I try to imagine that March cold I cannot.’ ‘It was over three months ago now, you soppy cunt.’ The blood was making sense – ‘Yes, I know. She would’ve looked better in the summer, though, y’know.’ ‘Everyone looks better in the summer. Tanned flesh is this season’s massive American vintage car.’ ‘I don’t know why I should trust you.’ ‘Don’t be fucking cheeky, now! I’m the purest thing you’ve seen in months.’
The Geordie had gone. His desk was in a state. There was blood all over it. The blood was pale, dark at the edges, but smeared, from where he had tried to wipe it off. One of the directors diagnosed an unpleasant demise – ‘Yeah, that happened to my old man … thin membrane in the nose … anything can break it … that’ll just bleed. Anyway, we’ve got you another guy, he’s starting Wednesday.’ So the Geordie was no more. I told everyone about the blood, but they didn’t believe me. I even pointed it out on his desk, but they still didn’t believe me. Then the blood was cleaned away.
A barman told me – ‘Man, girls who play guitar ain’t shit. Loads o’people can play guitar. Get a girl who can play piano – or even better! a girl who can play violin.’ I awaited further explanation, though I had some good idea of what was coming – ‘It’s so elegant, and the fingers are real good to look at, man. They’ve got beautiful fingers, man, the girls who play violin.’ The blood was coming out of my chest from a spot that had grown there – ‘Yeah, she played violin… Sibelius, wasn’t it?’ I told the blood to shut up. I tried to focus on the twenty-year-old in an orange dress who was so nervous she might just faint at any moment.
Checking the sink one could find not a trace of blood, nor any of an incident in the toilet. Water makes blood explode the same way a firework explodes in a night sky, but nothing. He was gone and he’d been replaced. It’s been three months, why no replacement? I took a postcard to the post office and asked for a first class stamp to Finland – somewhere I’ve never been, but have seen through the eye of a movie camera. She was a young-looking Arab girl who, upon seeing the postcard, eyed me sorrowfully and informed me, through various expressions and gestures, that I needn’t show her anymore – ‘That’ll be eighty-eight pee, please.’ I handed over ninety. Unlike usual, she didn’t put the stamp on; she gave the stamp to me. The queue had grown much longer now; all of it business post or relatives abroad. I put the stamp and the ‘airmail’ sticker on the postcard and, unfortunately, covered some of my message.

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