Analysis of Blood


nonfiction by Courtney Maum


I have just had blood drawn. Drawn. Bottled. Carried away. Right before the insertion of the hollow needle, the nurse touches a muslin swatch of alcohol to my arm. I ask if I can keep my eyes closed. Most people keep their eyes closed, she says.

While the blood leaves me, I wait for it, and it comes. The traitorous dirge of nausea pulls me like a plastic wrapper to a pool drain. This is unlike me, but I speak up and say I feel sick. Actually, I say, is it normal if I feel sick? The nurse gets a little nervous. She says, let’s get your feet up. She cranks the leg rest into place. Take your time, she says. She asks if I want a sugar and I realize after some thought that she means a sugar cube. I think of the horses. It has been so long since the horses. When my parents were together, I used to ride and ride. Isn’t it something that these massive animals fall for the carrots, fall for the sweets.

Well, I feel fine now so I get up which is difficult because the nurse hasn’t cranked the leg rest back down into place, so I sort of javelin myself off of it. Say something unintelligible to the receptionists. Tell them, no, I’m fine.

Across the street there is a bakery. I decide to buy some bread for my husband, maybe half a baguette because I don’t eat bread in the morning and he has plans I think? And then I’m crossing the road and thinking actually I don’t feel great but he’ll be sad without it, it isn’t nice to go by a bakery and come home without any bread. I am standing by the bakery when the world goes lemon.

Half of the world I am standing in front of is paint-rolled in neon white and the other half—less than half now—is matte black with shining mica and there are automatons all around and there is no way I’m going to make it, the ground here is not safe ground. I can’t fall in the dog poop, I have to make it to the house.

I make it to the door outside my building and I will tell you, it’s incredible. Later, I will think this was a particularly impressive moment in my life: just to get there, punch the code in. The code opens the door and then I’m in the courtyard, second door, the stairs.

There is a saying—or maybe it’s a fact—that most accidents take place within ten miles of your home. I make it to the landing but the landing isn’t mine because my landing has a blue cupboard that has been discarded by the stairs and this one has a fold-up chair with an umbrella on it. Up one flight again. If I showed you a picture of the keys to this apartment, you would understand what happened next. They are massive; gold and plated, they are practically medieval, and when I thrust them towards the keyhole everything goes black.


I come to on the landing right outside my door. The neon world has stabilized but I have cracked my head. I stare at the iron balusters from the tiled floor. I get up quickly—such is the power of my embarrassment about falling on the floor. I find the keyhole. This time, I do good.

My husband’s in the shower, so I lie down on the bed. I take my coat and shoes off—I’m still being courteous. This is a sign that I don’t have a concussion. I think: this is good.

On the bed, I get emotional. There is pain in and on my head and I think, well, it’s normal, Jesus, it was my blood. That blood and I have been together for almost thirty-four years and they just took it from me. Which part of my blood? The blood that heats up and rises too quickly to my cheeks each time I get a crush; the blood that doesn’t visit my hands or feet enough, causing me to have an active disinterest in any type of snow sport; blood that was inside me when I used to climb the trees—I had a real thing for tree climbing when I was ten—; blood that was in me when I did brave things and also stupid things, and we reflected on these things together, my blood and I, and decided wisely, bravely, proudly to move on; blood that was with me, somewhere (left ventricle? Ulnar artery? Celiac trunk?) when I got to the base camp of Mount Everest in Nepal expecting to CHANGE and nothing changed about me, nothing at all.

In bed, I can’t put my skull onto the pillow. I have to lie on my face. There will be a bruise or more blood even. There will be an egg. Even though I know that I will survive the separation with my blood, that my husband will come out of the shower, be worried, bring juice—I know that I won’t consider the taking of my blood as normal, nor my reaction to its removal as dramatic.


Even now as I write this two hours later with a bag of frozen garden vegetables on my head, I feel sad about my blood. It is like setting free a lover, knowing, knowing completely that this person is now lost, that you will have no more news from him, no e-mails, only your past thoughts and that bouncy castle memory of the time you went down to the river in your white bikini with your young boyfriend from Vermont and despite the two men fishing upstream, he said, take it off. And you took off your bikini. And once you were in the water—cold water, simple flesh—you thought, this is exactly the type of feeling I would put into a test tube, if I could.



Courtney Maum