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Love & Blood
I couldn’t see anything.
The darkness was unlike any darkness I had ever seen. Imagine the blackest inks traveling down the darkest voids into the deepest depths of the ocean and one still wouldn’t be able to grasp how dark my surroundings were.
It was also deafeningly silent - as if everything else in the world – living and nonliving – had ceased to exist and all that was left were my thoughts and surroundings.
Without so much as a hint of a sense of sight or sound, my first thought was that I was dead, my physical body destroyed, my thoughts and the rest of whatever made up me scattered and strewn about across the farthest reaches of the universe.
But then I felt it.
It being the warm rushes of something moving around me – and almost through me, as if I were nothing more than an apparition. The temperature surprised me. If I were hopelessly deep underwater or somewhere unreachably far in outer space – someplace where a lack of sight or sound would make sense – then it would stand to reason that my surroundings would be unbearably and unfathomably cold. However, as I lay on whatever surface beneath me (I began to notice tiny grains of dirt and pebbles strewn about the surprisingly soft ground I stood on) I couldn’t help but notice that the currents that rushed past me were almost uncomfortably and disturbingly warm. It was the kind of warm one felt when sitting in a closed-up car for too long in the Sun. The kind of warm one felt when keeping one’s face against a pillow for too long. A warm that was suffocating. Smothering. As if whatever was rushing past me in hurried currents was trying its very best to make me feel as though I were being crumpled up like a piece of paper and compressed into a hot block of trash.
Suffocating. Smothering. It’s as if merely thinking of those words abruptly reminded my brain that Hey, this person needs oxygen.
And that’s when I realized I couldn’t breathe.
Naturally, one’s first instinct when realizing they are in a place with no oxygen would be to – of course – breathe in. As if the brain doubted its ability to tell if the body was in dire need of oxygen and instead chose to see for itself if there was or was not oxygen available.
Spoiler Alert: there was no oxygen.
My heart leapt into my throat as I came to this conclusion and I felt bubbles flow out of my momentarily open mouth and nostrils.
After convincing myself that no there was indeed no oxygen around here, I couldn’t breathe, I was unaware of how much more strain my lungs could take and that I should probably figure a way out of here fast, my initial thought of being deep underwater was proving itself to be true, as the currents continued to rush past me. There were only two things that struck me as odd as I forced my tired, heavy limbs to cooperate and kicked off the ground where I previously laid: One being the increasing temperature of the fluid I was in and two being the thickness of the fluid around me. When I was on the ground below, taking in my senses and surroundings, I couldn’t really feel how thick whatever I was in was, until I started to move my limbs, kick off the ground and attempt to swim to a place with air.
The viscosity of the liquid was off-putting – to say the least. So off-putting, in fact, that it was almost impossible to swim through. It wasn’t as if the currents were pushing against me and that was why I had a hard time swimming up. It was more so the fact that the fluid itself was oh-so thick and gooey, something I found to be rather unsettling as I not only tried to swim up to where there was air, but also tried to figure out where the hell I was.
But the effort of swimming through the viscous substance was enough to leave me feeling numb and absentminded, unable to think while also trying to consistently push myself up to the surface (wherever that was). It was as if the strain of pulling myself up and over each and every current that brushed past me – a strain that caused my thighs, calves, and arms to ache and scream in pain in every way humanly possible – was so great that my body was forced to somehow borrow energy from my brain in order to continue swimming – energy that the neurons and synapses in my brain desperately needed in order to think and function properly. Not to mention the fact that I couldn’t freaking breathe and that - if I couldn’t get to oxygen soon – my lungs would succumb to the ever-growing desire to inhale – despite whatever protests the rest of my body would have.
It’s hard to say how much time passed before – by some miracle – I finally made it to the surface of whatever this was. If I didn’t know better, I would say hours - maybe even days – as time seemed to blur, blend and mash into something immeasurable and irrelevant, the many pains and aches coming from my limbs and lungs numbing whatever sense of time my brain had the ability to keep track of.
The monotonous rhythm and routine of outstretching my arms, pulling and pushing myself up with my legs, screaming at my lungs to hold on for just a few more minutes, and repeat was broken when I felt myself reach something cool - relatively cool, anyway – the coolness first touching my fingertips, then reaching my hands, and then moving down my arms until I somehow had a little bit of will and hope left to pull myself up and over whatever frontier stood before me and breach the surface to sweet, sweet fresh air.
I gasped, taking in heavy amounts of oxygen at a time, my limbs burning in exertion, my lungs crying in relief and my brain pumping loudly inside my head.
After a few minutes of breathing and taking in whatever oxygen I could get, I opened my eyes – blinking something gooey out of them – to finally view my surroundings.
That’s when I screamed.
Blood. It was everywhere, both on and around me. The walls that menacingly stood before me - I deduced that they were probably walls to a cave or cavern – were drenched in the stuff, the stalagmites that jutted out from the cave floor seemingly piercing through thick mounds of blood and the stalactites that hung from the cavern ceiling horrifyingly oozing large droplets of the stuff. I screamed a second (even louder) time when I realized that whatever I was swimming in and almost drowned in was most certainly, without a doubt a giant pool of blood.
Actually, a better term to describe it would be, not a pool, stream, river or even lake, but an ocean of blood in which I wearily treaded in. Even though I could see the floor, ceiling and walls of the cavern that surrounded me, it was the same kind of sight of seeing a mountain looming in the distance at the beach – knowing what the large menacing structure is but also knowing that that structure is despairingly far away, hundreds of miles from where one stood (or in this case swam).
Any hope I had of getting to land, any land vanished as I realized how hopelessly far away I was from anything other than miles and miles of blood.
I turned my attention away from my depressing and horrifying surroundings and instead towards myself.
I tried not to gag as I looked at my hands – blood dripping off my fingertips as if I had just come back from murdering someone, dried blood caked underneath my long fingernails. I tried not to vomit when I ran my already-blood-soaked hands through my equally-already-blood-soaked black hair, dried blood making its way into my scalp and wads of thick, tangled hair being matted together against the back of my head, as if the blood was acting as a sort-of super glue to permanently adhere my hair to the back and sides of my head. I didn’t have a mirror on me – or anything else, besides whatever blood-soaked clothes I had on – but I didn’t even want to think of what state my face was in after swimming up through who-knows-how-much blood.
I started to hyperventilate, my breaths coming out in hurried gasps. I tried to control myself by taking deep breaths so that I could continue swimming towards some sort of land but that thought only unlocked a door of doubts and fears in my mind as I reminded myself that whatever land was around me was miles away. I would never make it. I felt a tear run down my cheek as I came to this depressing conclusion.
Suddenly, I felt something bump into the small of my back. I turned around to find a blood-soaked something that had somehow appeared out of thin air in the ocean of blood (as I had not seen anything but miles of blood just a few moments before).
I picked up the item in my hand, blood dripping from my fingertips, and realized – numbly – that the item that had just appeared was a blood-soaked teddy bear.
A teddy bear?
All of a sudden, a wave of memories and emotions hit me all at once. I saw a little girl – who I distantly recognized as me – clutching a teddy bear with a red button nose and a blue bow-tie, the stuffed animal looking clean and brand-new. I saw the smile of a person, a woman, her blue eyes, her small button nose and her soft wavy blonde hair.
Once her face came into focus, I recognized her as my mother.
“There you go, sweet. Now you’ll never be alone.”
Her strong voice echoed inside my head as if I had just heard her say this to me yesterday.
Then the emotions came.
All at once I felt joy, happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, and shame. I saw an image of a much older me who, in a fit of rage, screamed at my mother – her beautiful face racked with tears - violently grabbed my once-beloved teddy bear and tore it apart in front of my mom, the stuffing coming apart in clumps where it fell to the ground with a thump!, my footsteps pounding against the hardwood floors as I stormed off.
All of these memories and emotions felt new – raw – as if whatever beautiful things that I had done with my mother as well as all the terrible things that I did and said to her had all just happened yesterday. Yet I knew for a fact that the horrible memories and emotions came from a time years past, the happy memories going even further back in time.
This bombardment of memories and feelings only caused me to hyperventilate more. I felt more tears well up in my eyes and my legs were getting extremely tired from treading for what seemed like forever.
The next thing I knew, another something had made its way next to me in this sea of blood. This time, I almost immediately recognized it as a drawing: specifically, a drawing of two stick figures – one taller and one smaller – holding hands, a cartoony sun overhead. It would’ve looked cute and innocent if not for two things; one being that it was drenched in blood, warping the paper and making the colors bleed horridly, causing the happy expressions on the stick people to instead look nightmarish and two, because of the beautiful yet terrible memories and emotions associated with this drawing that – almost immediately after recognizing the item – had yet again hit me, this time the wave feeling almost suffocating as I relived the best and worst times of my life.
“Daddy! Daddy, look!”
I saw little me sitting at a small colorfully-painted desk with a marker in her hand.
“It’s beautiful, darling! We should hang it on the fridge.”
I saw a man – first his warm smile, then his animated eyes, his large nose and then his thick brown hair – and recognized him as my father, his rich yet gentle voice reverberating inside my mind as if he had just whispered into my ear.
Soon the emotions swept in, seemingly from nowhere. I felt joy, happiness and pride as I saw my father hang my beloved drawing of him and me on the fridge door. Then I felt bitterness, anger, and guilt as I saw myself rip the drawing up viciously in front of him, screaming at him until my voice felt raw and he was lying on the couch in tears, his pale face a hot red color.
I was starting to slowly lose momentum with my strokes in the sea of blood as I struggled to keep myself upright. I was scared, confused and full of such overwhelming emotion, it felt as if I was choking on the sheer amount of loss and pain.
Why was this happening? How did I get here?
It wasn’t until the third item appeared right before my eyes did I see the answers to these burning questions.
A large strand of small beads floated its way over to my struggling form. I was breathing heavily, trying in vain to keep myself upright. Numb with shock, I realized there was a strong breeze picking up from somewhere, the churning gusts of wind causing my hair to flail in the heavy air, the ocean of blood coming alive in a torrent of ever-growing waves. Nevertheless, I grabbed this new item out of the moving sludge of blood and turned it over in my hands.
The pearl beads of the necklace were encrusted with dry blood and dripping with wet blood and the locket in the center of the strand of decimated beads was horribly mangled. If I had not recognized and remembered this necklace and what it said on the outside face of the heart-shaped case I would’ve been unable to read what it said:
“To my love, who I have given my heart and soul to and will continue to… until I die, J.G.”
After whispering to myself the quote that I had held close to my heart for so long, I felt myself go under the waves of memories and emotions as well of the waves of blood that roiled around me, succumbing not only to the unmerciful powers these memories had over me but the desire to let go and stop struggling against the torrents of blood.
You was there.
Sitting next to me on the long ride to school. Next to me in class, reassuring me during a stressful exam by gently squeezing my hand. Next to me at a school dance or party when I was the only one who felt out of place. Next to me at the funeral, holding me when I cried for my grandparents whose deaths were wrapped in mystery and deceit. There for me when I called and hysterically told you I was running away from my parents.
Even there when I came to you, a mess of tears and rags, and you sat me down, made me tea and held me as if I was all that was anchoring you to this cruel world.
There for me through highs and lows, thick and thin.
Until the end.
That night you came home with another someone’s lipstick rubbed against your cheeks and lips and I slapped you, shoved you and screamed at you until my voice was but a raspy whisper.
That night you begged for forgiveness and a chance to explain until your eyes were bloodshot from crying and all I did was scream at you, pull the necklace up and over my head and savagely pulled it apart, the beads falling to the floor, the heart-shaped case shattering against the wood.
The last night we ever saw each other.
I don’t know how I realized what I did about the reason I was here in the middle of this inescapable ocean of blood. I suppose the three items – the three items that looked innocent enough in a certain light but in this light, this blood-ridden, dark, cavernous light, held so much overwhelming meaning and emotion – appearing before my eyes in this God-forsaken place triggered a sequence of events in my brain that led me to this realization.
The realization that this blood had a source.
That source being from all the people I had loved and lost.
The blood of my beloved grandparents. The blood of my parents. The blood of my soulmate.
I opened my eyes and gasped - a dreadful mistake as a surge of blood entered my mouth, the thick metallic-tasting sludge feeling its way down my windpipe. I pushed upwards with my arms and legs, not even wondering if I was moving in the right direction, only intent on trying to get to air. I broke the surface and choked, sputtered, and spit out blood, my lips and tongue and teeth dripping the stuff onto my outstretched arms.
My breaths were labored. Deep moans and groans of pain and fatigue echoed in the back of my throat. My arms and legs were flailing. I couldn’t float, I couldn’t tread, I couldn’t swim.
“Please someone help me!”, I cried out to no one in a desperate waste of breath.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see more things bobbing out of the waves of blood – the torrents becoming stronger, faster and more insistent on pulling me under.
I saw a friendship bracelet that I had made for my best friend in 2nd grade.
I saw a heart-shaped pin from my friend who was like a sister to me.
I saw a baseball hat that was a gift from my grandfather. A ring from my grandmother.
All of these people I had loved so dearly. Until I pushed them away. Carried them past a point of no-return. Pressed their buttons until they were unfixable. Until all that was left was the shell of the person I once knew.
The shell of my mom. The shell of my dad. The shell of my lover.
The shell of myself.
“PLEASE, I DON’T WANNA DIE”, I screamed pathetically and desperately into the howling winds, my words so loud that they echoed against the cavernous walls that were miles away, my voice sounding broken, defeated.
Their voices were piercing into my skull now.
My mother’s voice screaming “Why did you do it?”.
My father’s voice asking, “How could you?”.
My boyfriend’s voice, “I love you”.
I was crying, my sobs being heard by no one except myself. My arms slapped the water one last time before a looming wave of dark red blood rolled over me in a final attempt to silence my pleas for mercy. Roaring torrents of blood entered my ears, my nostrils, my eyes, my lungs. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think.
Only feel the waves pounding against my tired body.
Only feel everything that I had tried so hard to bury.
I loved them. I lost them. Now I am without love and lost.