Bloody Knuckles

December 2, 2009
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Friday, 1:36 a.m.

As I survey the Emergency Room from my chair in the back corner, I realized that it looks nothing like the set of Grey’s Anatomy, one of my favorite television shows. The walls on Grey’s are practically glistening like icicles from all the gorgeous smiles, and Chicago’s Saint Francis Hospital is not quite as shiny. In a pea green chair with my friend’s jacket folded into the creases my arms, I half expect to see Dr. Yang pace sharply around the corner with a clipboard in hand. But I don’t. Because I’m not some actor on a high grossing television show. I’m a scared, confused teenager, sitting alone in a hospital’s waiting area. And no Dr. McDreamy is about to come and save me.

“Excuse me miss, are you alright? Can I get you a glass of water or some coffee?”

I look up abruptly to see a young nurse leaning over me, her eyes like bush babies and her hair as yellow as a Chicago taxi cab. It occurs to me that I probably look like a total head case, sitting in the same anxious position for over an hour, tapping my foot against the linoleum floor and rubbing harshly against my temples. Time has been passing subconsciously before me, a sensation that seems to occur quite often.

“Oh,” I say quietly to the nurse as I pull on the sleeves of my sweatshirt. “I’m alright thank you. But I don’t...I don’t know where my friend is. His name is Collin and I brought him in a while ago. Do you know if he’s okay?”

The nurse stands up straight and latches her tremendous eyes onto mine, catching me in an almost paralyzing daze. She opens her mouth to speak but my mind suddenly wanders far, far away. What she says after is only noise, like hundreds of young children laughing in unison on a city playground.

Friday, 3:15 p.m.

I remember hearing once that a bed serves only two purposes: as a place to sleep, and a place to make love. But on one Friday afternoon, sprawled out over my covers, I had managed to defy this theory. I wasn’t moving, in fact I hadn’t even twisted a knuckle in almost thirty minutes. I was just lying there, like one of the bricks in my building, staring at the ceiling and letting my thoughts rush through the confines of my head. Like all weekdays, my parents were both at work, so the apartment was left alone for me. And although the city’s noise was constant, I remained focused in one position, letting my eyes gloss over while listening to the tight and sometimes panicky beat of my heart.

My mother had told me that I was probably clinically depressed, and that’s why I could stay still for so long without any motivation to do something productive. She even offered to visit a doctor with me and and get some treatment. But I just laughed cynically and shook my head. I was never one who believed in medication for mental conditions. People who take Prozac or Zoloft, or any of that other stuff, are just looking for escapes from their day to day existences. They think that by popping some bogus pills, the nightly news will suddenly be cheery and uplifting. I wish someone would tell those people that it’s isn’t their own mind that makes things so depressing, it’s just the world itself.

Suddenly the phone rings and I am forced to move. “Hello?”

“Hi,” a familiar voice says on the other end. “I’m coming over.”

I sat up and pushed a few locks of hair from my face. “Collin, don’t you have work right now?”

“I got off early. I’m on the L right now so I’ll be there in five.” And he hung up.

When Collin arrived, he knew right where to find me. Using the spare key in my garage, he let himself in and climbed the stairs to my bedroom. I had reassumed my position on the top of my covers when he entered.

“Let me guess,” he began as he took a seat on the bean bag against my wall. “You’ve been lying here since you got home.”

I smiled slightly and hoisted myself upward. “I just don’t see how there’s anything better to do.”

Collin took a large sip from his plastic Pepsi cup and rolled his eyes. “We live right in the center of a huge city, and you’re bored? I don’t get it.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know...I just, I can’t come to terms with anything out there. Everyone’s a phony these days.”

“Oh, well okay, Holden Caulfield,” Collin joked as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of Parliaments. Although he knew I hated when he smoked in my bedroom, he lit the tip anyway and took a long drag. As Collin inhaled and then released, the smoke danced around his face like a ballerina and I looked at him like I had never looked before. Since we had been best friends for so long, I never saw Collin as anything more than someone who could stick up for me in the lunch line or walk me home from the arcade at night. But suddenly on that afternoon, his profile shielded by a smoky haze, I felt like I was studying a stranger. Collin Sutherland, the eighteen year old boy who I had shared my whole life with, was suddenly a man. In that moment, he looked like nothing short of the paradigm of God’s work.

“I have an idea,” he said as he got up and walked over to the edge of my bed. “We’re gonna get out of here tonight.”

I curled the sides of my mouth. “Oh, yeah? What are we gonna do?”

Collin ran the tips of his fingers up my forearm, a particularly sensitive area of my body. Then his mouth came dangerously close to me ear and he whispered, “You and I, we’re going to save the world.” Then he slipped his jacket over my bare shoulders.

Friday, 1:40 a.m.

When I return from my temporary state of dazed vertigo, I see that the young, wide eyed nurse is still standing before me.

“Miss,” she asked, “Did you understand me?”

Her words are finally clear, but I can only focus on the people buzzing around her like hummingbirds. I try to aim my eyes and they tweak again to the side. She opens her mouth once more. “Let me repeat myself.” She takes a deep inhale and places her hands on her pillowy hips. “I’m sorry but....”

In that split second, all the images of my mind come to a halt. In my head, there is only silence.

“There was nothing else we could...”

Abruptly, my heart beats are so hard and accelerated that it feels like someone is pulling a tightrope across my lungs. My blood quickly rushes to every corner of my body, pumping my skin up and down like a stress ball.

“Is there someone we could call for him?”

My face suddenly feels like putty, the skin shifting from chillingly cold to blisteringly hot and then back again.


Heavy tears. One slowly descends along my cheek bone, and then another follows shyly. I lift my hand to wipe the moisture away but my I find my bones are too weak. My alternating skin is still pulsing.

“Are you going to be okay? You look pale...”

My hands start to shake uncontrollably. I look into the nurses eyes and clench so tightly onto Collin’s jacket that the folds of my fingers are pained. I feel like I’m losing control over everything as I close my eyes in an effort to escape. I am obsolete. I am an inanimate object; simply the shadow of something greater than myself. I am a child’s giggle, I am the black smoke of Collin’s cigarette, I am the flap of a hummingbird’s wing. I am the last stroke of Sylvia Plath’s pen.


I want to say something but am too fragile. I feel like a child being cradled in the hands of my father. I open my mouth to scream but there is no sound. It’s like a nightmare without an awakening.

“Hey!” I hear a voice in my ear. “Hey, hey, calm down. You’re okay. Take a deep breath.”

I look up to see Collin before me.

“Collin?” I manage. “What...what...I thought...” Before I can finish, I abandon my attempt at dialogue and touch his arm with my outstretched hand. When I feel that his skin in tangible, my breathing starts returning to normal.

“Are you alright?” he asks, taking another step closer. “Look,” and he rolls up the bottoms of his jeans, “Just a few stitches. I’m good to go. Everything is alright.”

I sit up and begin to swivel around in jagged movements like a child who has lost her mother in a grocery store. “Yeah, but the nurse said...”

Collin looks confused and places a hand on my convulsing thigh. “What are you talking about? What nurse?”

“The one who was just talking to me! Blonde hair, big eyes...”

“Uh...”, Collin looks around with a burdened expression. “When I came out you were all by yourself. Look, are you sure you’re okay? You look a little sick.”

Was the woman just a figment of my imagination? Was I dreaming? Is Collin really sitting next to me? Am I an actor on Grey’s Anatomy?

Collin stands up and stretches his back. “Jeez,” he murmurs, rubbing his forearms, “It’s cold in here all of a sudden. Can I have my sweatshirt? Thanks for holding it.”

I nod and extend the sweatshirt in Collin’s direction. He pulls slightly at the sleeve and it falls from my palms. Then I look down at backs of my hands and I notice that every one of my loosened knuckles has begun to bleed. The red fluid that escapes my veins is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is outstandingly vibrant, more brilliant than the first stripe of any rainbow.

“Look,” I say quietly, pushing my hands closer to Collin’s face so he can witness my injury. But as he finishes zipping the sweatshirt, he looks down and there is nothing to see. The blood has mysteriously evaporated.

“What?” he asks. “I don’t see anything.”

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