Finders Keepers by Kathryn Kolouch
This story is about giving blood. I gave blood three times. The first time, I gave whole blood, which means you get fifty advantage points that you can trade for certain goods. Most goods cost at least 500 points, though. That’s a lot of blood! To be more specific, that’s maybe ten pints of blood. You can only donate blood every fifty-six days. What’s great about donating blood is that you can save up to three lives with each pint. The second time I gave blood, I didn’t really give blood, but I gave platelets—which are useful for creating clots to stop bleeding. I don’t know why the sick need platelets, honestly, but I know they spoil after three days, and the hospitals are always in need, they say.
You can’t give blood if you have AIDS. I don’t. (Sometimes I need to cheer aloud for my good fortunes because I am apt to focus on my misfortunes, anyway.) You also can’t give blood if you’ve spent more than three months living in Europe…who knows why? I guess it has something to do with Mad Cow disease. I guess it’s not super important that you know all the rules about giving blood. I do think it’s interesting. It’s just not that important for the story, which I haven’t gotten to yet. I guess this is the background, or the exposition, or whatever you want to call it. What is important is the third time I gave blood; I gave full blood. I also watched the whole thing. The other two times I turned my head away and closed my eyes and clenched my teeth, but this time I watched the needle get pushed into my arm, and I watched the blood go through the tube and into the bag.
When I watched the red stuff go through the long tube, I thought of those Silly Straws that I drank Coca Cola out of when I was a kid. This is another unremarkable piece of information, and I realize it is slightly esoteric. Silly Straws are drinking straws formed into spirals and loops and zigzags. They make drinking much harder but also more beautiful.
So what happened was that by some strange coincidence the blood center was mobbed. There are maybe a dozen stations in one room. They’re arranged in a square, all facing the center, so we can all see each other. There’s an outspoken guy next to me who has high iron and “too much blood.” He’s making the Phlebotomists laugh and me smile because he’s saying, “Take a gallon! Take it all! I’ve got too much!”
Well, they didn’t. They didn’t take a gallon of blood. They took one pint because they always take one pint. I don’t know why. I don’t know this man’s name. I met his wife, though. I don’t know her name, either. She sat at the cookies table with us. It’s standard procedure to wait about fifteen minutes at the food-and-drink table. They don’t want you to pass out or faint or puke or whatever may happen. I ate Oreos and drank Swiss Miss hot chocolate. I had to wait a long time for it to cool down. It’s always chocolate that burns your tongue…tea never does. I heard it’s either the sugar or the fat or something about the shape of the molecules in hot chocolate that makes it burn your tongue more than other hot drinks.
While we were replenishing, we were talking. The guy was saying some stuff that I forgot and then at one point he was talking about the phone call when he and his wife learned that they loved each other. He talked about love for a minute, and then he stopped and looked at me and told me that I shouldn’t worry. He said I shouldn’t worry about love because “God works in mysterious ways.” He then began describing this man that I love. He was describing what he looked like. I started crying, and then the guy said, “Hey, don’t cry. He loves you! He really does!” So I stopped crying and left the place.
A good friend of mine is in the hospital right now because he had a manic episode. I don’t know what happened. I know that he’s in a ward, and he doesn’t want visitors, and he hasn’t called me. I haven’t called him either. I guess I’m scared that he won’t want to talk to me. I should really call, but I haven’t. Don’t worry: This will become pertinent at the end of the story.
My blood type is O+, which means that I’m a universal donor. Anyone can use my blood. What woes me is that I’m not a universal recipient like AB-, so if I’m ever in that situation where I need blood desperately, there’s a greater possibility that I won’t get what I need. If you need blood and don’t get it, you die. I’ll need O+. The blood center likes getting donations from O+ people. It sure makes everything easier for them. I’m getting tired of telling this story. Is anything really happening? Maybe if I do fifteen pushups my writing will get better. I can use words like senescence and pusillanimous and acephalous and tergiversate. Maybe what I have to say can be said with the words we all know. There’s a song out there for everyone. The thing about giving blood is over.
Walking is a way to achieve moderate low-impact exercise and can be helpful in stress management. The key is to walk with ease, observe your surroundings, and wink at hot people. I’m just kidding about winking. I never understand winks. I get them from all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, and I always feel uneasy about them.
Wouldn’t it be a crazy twist if I were actually a vampire? It’d be ironic because the whole beginning is about giving blood. I’m not a vampire. Traditionally, vampire stories are just fascist propaganda. What terrible people would try to scare their children with lies about blood-sucking people?
I think I’m being funny, but I’m actually being frightful. I’m suffering post-traumatic stress. I can’t breathe, and then the lack of oxygen to my brain becomes a problem, and then I speak without really considering the presence of anyone else. So here’s an apology for that. Oxygen is an element that all people inhale and need to continue living.
Blood will be given. See if you’re eligible to give. I was walking home after I gave blood, and I saw someone who looked just like me. They were bleeding from the stomach, and I asked them what happened, and they told me that they had an accident at the wood shop and they were just released from the hospital. I wondered aloud if they needed a blood transfusion, and they said, “No,” so I forgot about it and kept walking.
Later, I went home and made a bath. I put in salts and oils and fragrances and bubbles, like I always do. I put on an hour-long song that has been proven in labs to slow your heart rate and induce relaxation. I turned off the white bulb light and turned on a blue bulb light. I like blue baths. The whole room was blue, I was blue. I was naked. I should have been worried that the hole in my arm would open up in the briny water and cause me to bleed out. Luckily that didn’t happen. I would have been kind of embarrassed to die in a blue-lit bathroom listening to the most relaxing song in the world (according to the research students at Stanford University). You can’t really be embarrassed after death, anyway. The point is: I do this all the time. I mean regularly. One can’t really bathe for their whole life, though wouldn’t that be a spectacle!
As time goes by, I continue doing stuff. I will do what I will do, and it’s not so bad. I’ll give blood! I will give my blood to other people. How great is that? I shouldn’t really be giving blood. I’m almost anemic. I’m not the strongest one out there, you know? You don’t, really. You can’t see me or my body. You can’t see if I’m weak or strong, but I’m sure you can assume as much as you will. Assume whatever you want. I’m irritated.
X X X
The trouble with finishing this story is that the ending will make everything you’ve read much different. I want to give it to you in a gentle way. Is the ocean gentle? We think of the ocean as gentle, but the ocean can destroy pretty much anything with time. It can’t destroy plastic, I guess. When a lady with silicone implants drowns in the ocean, her body might sink to the bottom but when the fishes eat her skin her implants will float back to the top. I wonder about this. I don’t know. It’s not very important. What’s important is policy making and economic reform. All the punks think economics is bullshit, but they should know better. What’s the truth?
My very good friend is still in the ward at this time.
I suppose this story ought to be a full-length novel, but I don’t have time for that kind of nonsense. Show me the money! This story is about giving blood, but it’s also about money. Money is important, like blood. Money is misunderstood, like me. Thank god I’m misunderstood! If everyone understood me, I’d have been burned at the stake when I first became a woman. It’s funny how some people consider me a girl. I think women who are considered girls are the most misunderstood people on the planet, you know?
You should see the desert, though. It sounds like nothing but it’s not nothing. It’s so clean and hot. You might imagine that it’s dirty because of all the dirt, but the dirt there is sterile, in a way. There’s no flu season, there’s no need for Purell hand sanitizer, there’s no pollution. It sounds like nothing but it’s really, really something. It’s big, too.
What about the tragic story of the son of the mason man, the bricklayer? His son was smaller than the other boys and wasn’t good at sports and made too many jokes. He never really got a strong sense of himself and couldn’t find confidence anywhere. His father didn’t know what to say to him. His father probably hated him. So what did he do? Did he become an artist? We’d like to think so, wouldn’t we? No. He had a creative mind but he didn’t have the confidence to share. His tragedy was that he never shared his thoughts, so people assumed he had none. People gave him the worst jobs. Once he got a job at the armory polishing guns. He died in a freak accident. Someone else shot him. The funeral was brief. I want my funeral to be long. I want it to be a two-week vacation on my island. It’ll be what everyone dreams of doing if they manage to have an extra forty grand hanging around.
I don’t know if forty grand is the right amount. I just made that one up. I’ve seen billboards for vacations in Mexico. It’s like that. Everyone who loved and hated me will be sent to Mexico and stay in the same building. The building will be under constant surveillance. They won’t know about that part, though. We’ll record all the video and audio and then put them into a museum about how people I knew talked about me after I died and what they said. I am assuming they’ll be talking about me, but I don’t really know. They could talk about the great weather. The weather could be torrential, too. In Spain they have this thing called Derecho. It’s a weather pattern that lasts weeks and can be very wet and windy. I hope Derecho doesn’t come to my funeral. I have an awful feeling that my funeral will be pequeño.
When I go to a bookstore, I pay attention to the books. Whenever I pay attention to anything, I feel people paying attention to me. I look to them and see them looking at me. They look away, I leave the store. Why did I come in anyway?
Blood diseases are very bad. I’ve been told that very isn’t a very strong modifier. I’ve been told a lot of lies!
There’s a blood disease out there that will kill you in a day if it gets the chance. I never understood diseases. They kill you, and then what? Life started because of the law of thermodynamics. Don’t believe me? Do you know what the law of thermodynamics is? Malaria is prevented by tonic.
Those blue eyes never found me again. I realized when I fell asleep.The most tragic thoughts appear the very moment before that first breath of sleep. I can’t remember why I remember. It’s hard to imagine a time when I thought I would see them again. Once hope fades, I wake up in the world that exists today. Tomorrow and yesterday are both very far away, especially when you feel the last bit of warmth drift further out from the heart that once beat faster. If you can believe it, I am dead now. I, laying completely still, am getting text messages. I don’t respond. Obviously this American death is not official yet. When word gets out, nothing new will happen. Things will be still for a moment. Go away. Go to Jerusalem and tell them all to be friends and post videos on YouTube for the children of tomorrow. Sell your blood for cash — even if you don’t really need the money, somebody needs the blood.