by Lauretta Salvini


Every year since my friend Emma died, I donate blood at the same hospital. I used to be afraid, but now I welcome this duty as a propitious act.

Nurses know me. They are kind and chatty. They make me feel like a modern heroine. But they don’t know why I only show up on January 16. Emma was a B negative. Her blood type was not available during surgery.

This morning, I’ve got in later. As I wait for the result of my haemoglobin levels, I spot an apricot blonde guy already on the donation chair. Shirt sleeve rolled up, needle sucking.

‘Hello, I’m Stella,’ I say entering the room.

‘Martin,’ he replies with a smile.

‘Chilly outside, uh?’

‘I live in Copenhagen… it’s springtime to me.’

I laugh.

‘He always comes in January, like you,’ says the nurse examining the veins in the inside of my elbow.

‘May I ask why you travel all the way to Rome to give blood?’ I bite my tongue. I can be such a meddler at times.

‘Five years ago today, I was here on holiday. A young woman got to this hospital after an accident,’ he adjusts himself in the chair. ‘They told me they couldn’t save her. She was a B negative.’

‘Same as you?’ I ask.

‘No, but I was driving the car that hit her.’

A hot flush blasts through me.

‘Rare blood group people pay the price,’ says the nurse, offering him a glass of water.

The needle stick, the ruby red stream flowing into a plastic bag set on an agitator scale, the subtle tickle in my arm. I breathe the same air with the person who ran over Emma. As he drinks a droplet of water wets his neck. Air and water are for us all, not blood.

‘And why are you here?’ he asks.

I look at the slim athletic young man who, buttoning up his cuff, waits for my answer with a polite expression.

‘She was my friend.’

He pales.

‘You’re not a bad person,’ I say.

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