When you were born you were a bloody mess. You came out cloaked in placenta, sticky and strange. But they washed you until you were clean, swaddled you and gave you a name. At seventeen you trekked in a mild Nepalese winter. Two thousand metres above sea level, your nose bled every day for two weeks. Somehow it made it easier to appreciate the fiery sunset bleeding onto the snow-capped mountains. Your blood was the colour of monks’ robes and poinsettias. Merry Christmas.
At five you flew off a desk without missing the ground. You wanted to be Superman but did not want to wear blue. Instead of kryptonite, an errant bedspring brought you down. Through a curtain of blood you wailed as your cousin fetched help. Your mother held your forehead together in the car and said it might need two stitches. You got three. They hurt when they went in, but not as much as the bedspring.
At fifteen you clipped your big toenail too short and it bled at the corners, a shallow well of red ink. You dipped your calligraphy pen in the wound and wrote a love letter to him. You never sent it. Your love remains unrequited still.
At twelve-and-a-half you experienced your first blood. Your mother fixed you up with No Frills sanitary pads, each the size of a wallet that made you waddle. Every month you’d spend three nights sleeping sitting up to stop the flow from staining the bed sheets. In the morning you'd scrub your underwear and towel and hope that in the future this would change and your body would become discreet and kind.
At thirty-eight you were diagnosed with . Your blood attacked itself; it fought a civil war and lost. The chemo made your lips dry. They would crack overnight like desiccated concrete and you’d wake up to the trickle of liquid iron in your mouth. Your gums would bleed every night when you brushed your teeth. You almost got used to the sweet metallic foam of mint and blood as you spat orange toothpaste into the sink. Almost.
At sixteen you donated blood for the first time. The school gym smelt like the inside of an old shoe and the floorboards grumbled as the nurses walked briskly from patient to patient. You watched them slide the needle in, wondering what would happen if you flexed your arm. You wanted your formal dress to be the colour of venal blood. (You ended up going in a wine-coloured tuxedo.) O positive. Universal donor.
At the end, a red Volkswagen beat the cancer. Internal injuries, internal bleeding, the paramedics declared, and from out the side of your mouth a perfect bead of blood drying in the dull sunlight like drizzled raspberry coulis.