My first memory of blood: our grandmother brought me to the recovery room, the middle of the night, when I should have been sleeping. You looked so sickly and small, your skin too red, what hair you had spiked and matted. Our mother had blood on her wrist, browning and almost dry.
I collected scabs. The art was in peeling a cohesive patch or strip, rather than letting them break apart. I kept them in a clear plastic pencil case in my nightstand. I knew, even then, that they were illicit somehow. Aren’t all of the best things?
It all went wrong when I let you in on the secret. You’d fallen and hit your elbow—six, maybe seven years old—playing tag, when the game spilled from the safety of the grassy lawn to the blacktop driveway. Your arm gushed blood. Afterwards, a perfect oval of scab formed over the wound, and I asked if you would give it to me when it fell off. You said yes, but you also told our mother.
Then, the interrogation.
I told her about the pencil case and she made me show it to her.
She emptied the scabs in the toilet and flushed them. It was as if she knew throwing in the trash wouldn’t be enough for me to stop from digging for them. This was how she saw me, even then. Past rehabilitation.
According to Stat Sa Upirom, it is not the bite that makes one a vampire. Vampires are born, and the bite is the revelation that frees them.
People give Twilight a hard time for all of its sparkly vampires and endless angst. And no, these books are not accurate—the movies less so. (Yes, I watched them. I have a lot of time on my hands.) But it’s not like Bram Stoker was more accurate. Better lies crafted into better sentences still do not make for truth.
I told you the truth.
One of us should have run from conversation.
I know we shouldn’t have leaned in closer.
We were always partners in crime, weren’t we?
Lately I’ve been testing the limits of the crucifix. Yes, it burns, but what counts as a cross? Most necklaces charms do, but matchsticks, haphazardly fallen in a lowercase t formation don’t hurt. Nor do crosshatched steel fencing, the bars between window panes, or—most interesting of all—the crosses on the tops of gravestones.
Is it a matter of intentionality, then? Conviction? If someone believes enough, might it lend a power that happenstance and the dead cannot muster?
I like writing stories. Remember the stories we’d write together?
I never liked writing in school, when teachers concerned themselves so with grammar and mechanics. They taught us commas and semicolons and ellipses then they told us we were using them too much. Has anyone ever really used such things rightly?
Existence—mine, at least—is death with a punctuation problem.
If you want to make time disappear, hang around a hospital. People wait days, while away their lives fretting and suffering and comatose. Most of all tired.
I take shifts. The waiting room at the ER. The cafeteria. I walk the floors. Leave as soon as someone asks, and you never make people suspicious. Act confused, lost, and the worst they’ll do is shake their heads at you.
A friend told me eating at the hospital is like shooting fish in a barrel.
I told him it was a mercy.
An old man pointed at me from his room the other day. He called me the angel of death.
I liked the sound of that. After all this time, might I be redeemed? After all this time, maybe I’m not so different from an angel.
I want you to know if you ever read this that you’re still my sister. I still love you. It sounds trite, even in my head. But trite can be true. Maybe it has to be, to become antiquated.
But now you are talking as if I love the idea of you, not you yourself, because how can I love someone I’m not certain exists anymore?
Don’t all people become memories, more imagined than real?
All right then. Let me rephrase. Of all the things I’ve held onto, you’re the one I never regret.
Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and currently lives in Georgia with his wife and son. His hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press and he has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, Barrelhouse, and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin.