Donors

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.