Rejection Letters

The Phlebotomist’s Tale

I moved from Memphis to Knoxville and started working at a clinic, taking blood, much as I had before, except I liked this job better, because for whatever reason, this clinic had younger patients and it wasn’t so depressing to tap into their veins. At the clinic in Memphis I felt vampiric draining life force from wrinkled old grey bodies to run tests they’d probably just as soon not know the results of. I had left town to get away from a boyfriend. He was a nice person but couldn’t do many things without my help, and he was very self-conscious about everything, except for things he might have had the power to change.

After settling in I grew lonely. And since I’d never before made a move to a place where I knew no one, I struggled for weeks with how to fix the feeling until deciding to try one of those phone hookup apps. It seems the men online have given up on even the pretense of small talk. Most messages I received read something like nice titts, or want 2 ride my pony? or I would let you sit on my face as long as you want. So, sort of sadly, I admit, when I finally read a message simply asking if I’d like to get a drink, I looked around my apartment, still littered with half-filled boxes two months after moving, and decided to give the drink offer a chance.

The Internet man, John, picked a Russian-themed bar decorated with portraits of dead Soviet Premiers and gilded orthodox icons. He arrived after I did, shorter than I pictured, but actually handsomer than his pictures. He had dark hair and light eyes and gray in his stubble. He was funny and after we talked a while, we went back to his house—only a few blocks away. His television was in his bedroom and he put on a movie and we started to kiss and before long had taken off our clothes. Everything went well until he stopped with his mouth near my neck and whispered that he wanted me to cut him.

“What?” I said. I pulled away.

“I want us to share my blood.”

“I don’t think I’m comfortable with that,” I said.

“I thought you’d be more comfortable than most, considering your line of work,” he said.

I included I was a phlebotomist on my bio on the app because I thought it was amusing no one ever knew what that was.

“Is that why you messaged me?” I said, “Just for that?”

“No. I thought you were pretty, and I’ve had fun with you tonight.”

“I’ve had fun too, and this has been nice, but I don’t want to do that.”

“That’s ok,” he said.

We put some clothes back on but continued to be close to each other and began to pay more attention to the movie. Then he stopped the movie to show me the clip from The Royal Tenenbaums where Luke Wilson cuts his wrists and bleeds everywhere as Elliott Smith plays. I told him I was leaving.

 

I thought about him for days. He sent me a message that said, “I’m sorry.”

I read about blood play on a BDSM site and also a site focusing on life forces and alchemy and black magic. I wrote him a message:

“Is it something spiritual to you?”

“No,” he said. “I just thought it’d be nice.”

“Is it something about being dominated and hurt and emasculated?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t want to feel abused.”

“Is it symbolic to you?” I said. “A sacrificial act?”

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Though it does seem like it would be nice to share that with you. I also think it would be visually striking.”

I stole a butterfly needle, a vacuum tube, a rubber tourniquet, and a syringe from work. I looked at them on the counter in my kitchen for a couple of days and spoke to no one outside of work and thought about how I hadn’t shared anything with anyone since I’d arrived in town. Maybe long before that.  I sent him a message that said, “Can I come over tonight?”

“Yes,” he said.

When I arrived he squirted wine from a box into two plastic cups and we drank them a while talking about weather and his cat. After three cups I said, “I want to do this safely. I have the supplies.”

“Well,” he said, “you obviously know what you’re doing.”

We kissed on the couch a while and made our way to the bedroom. He’d made no obvious preparations—I mean his bed was made just as it had been before.

We undressed and kissed some more until he stopped and said, “I’m ready.”

I pulled the supplies from my purse, wrapped the tourniquet around his arm and kissed the crook of his elbow. He made a fist and a beautiful, thick vein appeared. I massaged it and looked up at him. His eyes were half closed, but he opened them and smiled. I plunged the needle into his soft flesh and watched the tube fill with bright, red blood. He sighed as I pulled the needle back out. I held pressure on the spot and suddenly overcome I put my mouth on the tiny prick and sucked. I could taste the iron of him, but the flow had already slowed.

I took a syringe and pierced the tube, ready to fill it. He stopped me and said, “I think that’s enough.”

We fucked, and it was nice, but I felt slighted—I wanted to see the contents of that tube streaked on his body or mine or at least to feel the temporary warmth it held.

***

Scott Ray is from Mississippi. He lives in Denton, Texas where he is the Production Editor of American Literary Review. His poems and stories have appeared in Hobart, WhiskeyPaper, Measure, and elsewhere.

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