Teaching My Brother to Bleed

We watched television while he bled out on the bed beside me. ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ – that rhetorical question that so many people still seem to get wrong. As always, the two of us found the first few questions stupidly easy, and the rest impossible. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye every time I had a chance to joke about the fact the closed captioning was entirely incorrect. It was hanging onto meaning the way that only robots can.

‘The latest please for inn oh sense comes from the defendant’s lawyers…’ I read out loud, which didn’t sound as funny as I’d hoped.

The news wasn’t as good a distraction for him, and I kept hoping for something good and inn core ect to make him laugh. He hadn’t laughed since we’d come in. Except for his dry scathing ‘hah’ that is even worse than a lol.

I was starting to suspect he really had only come for the cheap party pies afterward. I felt the icy scratching of the needle in my arm, trying to divert my attention away from looking after him. My tongue felt thick. But it would take more than nearly passing out from fear or blood loss to stop me.

I’d dragged us to donate out of the same kind of misguided civic duty that makes me try to break up fights on public transport. I’m desperate to be seen doing some good, even if it just ends up with my blood all over the place.

‘Oops, seems you’re a bit of a gusher,’ the nurse said, trying to tamp down my vein with wads of cotton wool.

I leaned over to see how Gabes was doing. He’d finished before me – always the high achiever – and was sitting serenely. They’d even let him touch his bag of blood, and it was warm. He poked it like it had never belonged to him. I felt sick.

Years later I would try to go alone, and find myself deemed too weak for duty. My attacks of the spins that happened 50% of the time after donating made me too much of a risk. I still have one of their small letters, like a Christmas card from someone you don’t like but can’t throw away. It says ‘fainting’ in bold red text – everything was in a red or white font – and it makes me hate myself. I think of no longer being allowed to do this one good thing, and I’m swamped with more self-loathing than I ever was with nausea.

Gabes still goes regularly, though. And he doesn’t even make a big deal out of it. Just sits alone in the Millionaire hot–seat and saves lives with a self–sacrificing comfy–dance that I only wish I could aspire to.