Finalist of the 2011 creative nonfiction contest
When she stabbed him, the blood burst across his floor, sprayed the walls in rhythm, splashing her and the ceiling in time. The blood and she issued from his apartment; they spilled down the stairs. The plash of blood pounded, in her woodblock print footsteps, to the middle of the darkened street where the
mottling of blood stopped as if
she’d been snatched from the road, as if
she’d simply disappeared.
See there on the steps where the drops made small puddles, here where she paused deciding which way to run. Here, when the drops flew, widely spaced, where she ran, knife in her fist held tight beneath her breasts, phallic and gory with blood.
Tom was stabbed. The woman who stabbed him flew from his apartment in a thick trail of blood to the middle of Nineteenth Street in the middle of the night, to be swallowed up by the dark of the city. The police never found her, nor any information as to her identity, despite the fact that she and Tom had spent hours in his car, earlier in the evening before returning to his apartment, looking for her connections or friends so they could buy marijuana, or perhaps more potent street drugs.
She made a trail of blood that ran east from his door to the middle of the street where it stopped cold and dead leaving the police dogs unable to find a trace of it in any direction beyond that point. A cabbie working the overnight shift must have stopped for her and what must she have told to make him keep her, cheeks and arms blooming with poppies, as a fare.
There is nothing remarkable about an unsolved near-homicide in Minneapolis.
Tom was stabbed in 2005 on a soft night in late July. He was stabbed again and again by a woman with enormous breasts like the Venus of Willendorf’s, though Tom would have said boobs or tits and wouldn’t have referenced Paleolithic art. He’d picked her up at a bar, drove her back to his apartment where they had sex on his bedroom floor. After, naked, he caught her slipping his wallet from his jeans and tried to stop her–no doubt violently, given that he’d been drinking at the bar before meeting her, given Tom’s temper when he gets drunk.
The woman left the bedroom where they were arguing, walked into his kitchen and came back with the chef’s knife from his knife-block. Tom had started to follow her down the hall, which is where she caught up with him and began piercing his naked torso, slicing into his chest and collar bones, cutting down deeply through the scalene muscles on the right side of his neck, almost severing his carotid artery. Blood began pumping from his neck with his pulse. Considering Tom’s regular heavy drinking, his cigarette and pot smoking, his internal pressure must have been fairly well above normal, possibly into the early stages of hypertension. Tom’s heart would have been bleeding him out onto his walls and ceiling twenty-percent faster than a healthy adult.
Tom pushed past the woman with the knife and ran out into his living room. At that point, something in her clicked off, and she lowered the hand holding the knife down by her side and stood staring at him, without speaking, in the middle of the room. Tom became aware of the rhythmic red spurting and screamed, “Look what you’ve done! You’ve killed me!” The woman continued to stand, staring, all the while it took Tom to find his cell phone and call 911.
After calling for help, Tom hung up his phone and pushed against the unresponsive woman, screaming at her to get out, to get the fuck out. He pushed her right to the apartment door, which he opened, and then shoved her out into the hall. The woman ran, knife in hand, leaving the door open and Tom, naked and bleeding in every direction, standing alone in the middle of the living room. Tom shut the door and locked it, his vision beginning to fade to black at the margins and realized dimly that he was in grave trouble.
Tom grabbed for his phone a second time while in the process of collapsing. He called 911 again to have someone with him as his strength soaked into the carpet. He remembers being uncomfortable with the idea that the paramedics would find him naked. He remembers dropping the phone as he began to lose consciousness. He remembers hearing the sirens of the ambulance, somewhere at the edge of the world.
When Tom pushed the woman out of his living room and into the hallway of his apartment building, she still stood for a moment, apparently mesmerized by Tom and the blood (redder than his freckles, redder than his hair), still not speaking, as if she no longer knew how to make her body work as it should. After a moment she turned and ran and Tom pushed the door of his apartment shut and turned the handle of the lock until the deadbolt slid into place.
When Tom turned his deadbolt, he slid his back down the inside of his front door until he was resting on the floor, still bleeding, the spurts noticeably weaker, the red arcs spouting lower. All the stillness there ever was fell down upon his bloody chest, wrapped around him like spider webs. Filaments, swaddling, shrouds, a pall–thick filmy soundlessness that stretched in every direction.
Following the sound of the bolt was the longest quiet he ever knew. The silence reached on forever.
The human body can suffer up to a forty percent loss of blood before losing consciousness. (In a normal, healthy adult with a full capacity of eight pints of blood, a loss this extreme is equal to nearly a half-gallon of fluid.) When the body hemorrhages massively, the heart rate increases in a desperate attempt to keep what fluid is left circulating to essential organs, and the blood pressure drops because there quite simply is not enough ichor left to press back on the circulatory system as it usually would. Capillaries collapse. The skin becomes waxy, cool, and moribund. The body goes into medical shock and the mind becomes deeply anxious before passing into darkness. Medical, or circulatory, shock is unrelated to the acute emotional stress response one experiences after a fright or near miss; medical shock is a matter of blood flow, cell death, brain damage, and a growing potential for cardiac arrest. Wait too long for aid and the shock itself becomes irreversible.
Sunrise. An empty, red apartment.
Tom will have night terrors: the woman with the knife waits for him in the dark beside his bed. Tom will have daymares: she regards him from the faces of buxom dusky women.
Tom: “Do you know what it feels like when a knife slashes through your body? Like your body is made of butter. Insubstantial. Frivolous. Weak. It feels like the flesh is weak.”
Traditional: To stop bleeding, walk east while repeating Ezekiel 16:6: And when I passed by thee, and saw thee wallowing in thy blood, I said unto thee, In thy blood, live; yea, I said unto thee, In thy blood, live.