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.’
‘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.’
‘You’re not a bad person,’ I say.