This story is by Parker G and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I’m satisfied with the way blood tastes as it pools under my tongue. I usually swallow after it fills my mouth, enough to the point where I’d sound funny if I tried to talk. The moment after swallowing is satiating in its own way, different than that of the refreshing satisfaction of a cold soft drink on a hot day or a gulp of water at halftime of a soccer match. The blood is filling; it warms me as it coats the mouth and throat—the true uniqueness of the delicacy. To share my secret with the world would be to open myself up to a storm of scrutiny and ostracism that I’m simply not ready for. While frowned upon in modern society, depersonalization gives me the tools to satisfy my craving.
I have a date tonight.
Kendra and I have talked for several weeks on and off with Bumble, the feminist dating app that allows women to make the initiative. I’ve found that Bumble connects me with far less attractive women than does Tinder, but to not use it would simply be limiting my opportunities.
Kendra looks like a girl that most guys would fuck but wouldn’t brag to their friends about. She’s not overweight but not slim. Not short but not tall. Not attractive but not unattractive.
I pull up to the front of her house.
I ponder briefly whether or not I should get out of the car and walk to her front door—it’s been a while since I went on a date and I’m becoming less sure every day about dating norms. I feel extra caution tonight; Bumble matches are hard to come by. Maybe if I get out of the car I will appear too eager to be apart of this night and therefore decrease my chances of sexual intercourse. But, then again, women are supposed to appreciate kind gestures. I instinctually decide to get out of the car with the unfortunate timing of her also opening her front door. In a split second I can’t decide whether or not to advance toward her and offer a form of embrace through either a hug or a handshake, or to stand by my car door and wait for her to finish approaching. The third option is to get back into the car and wait for her to arrive to the passenger door and climb in herself. That is what I do.
As we’re driving down the road, the two of us struggle to string together any meaningful pieces of dialogue that have any relevance to ourselves or things we’d actually care to discuss. I can see through my peripherals that she’s staring straight ahead, so I take the opportunity to examine her more closely. She’s wearing a yellow blouse and jean skirt, a combination that I’ve never particularly liked. Flats are on her feet, so at least I don’t need to worry about her being taller than me. I hate when women choose to wear heels, as if they want to chip away at a piece of my masculinity. Kendra understood.
We pull up to the restaurant and park in an illuminated spot; the surrounding parking lot is dark and deserted. For a second I wonder if the restaurant is closed or even still in business and Kendra is probably thinking the same thing. If only she felt more comfortable, then she’d express herself with words. But instead she sits in silence. So do I.
The restaurant is not closed. We enter inside the dimly lit place and are seated at a table for two.
The menu provides a nice avenue of escape for both of us since the conversation is still more stale than a forgotten loaf of olive bread on the kitchen counter. Every new question asked, every comment made, is like trying to stab the hunk of bread with a fork, only to get a hard crunching noise as the impenetrable crust lets you know you’re not getting inside.
Sometimes I prefer stale bread.
She asks me if she can order a drink and I tell her go ahead. Perhaps the alcohol will finally loosen her up enough to unclench her fists. Looking at this girl reminds me of a shock victim, or someone who’s just witnessed a first degree murder in front of their eyes. It turns me on.
As we begin the main course, beef stew, she starts spinning her fork around in circles inside the bowl. Steam is rising up from both our bowls and she’s not taken a single bite. I ask her if she’s going to dig in and she tells me that she’s waiting for it to cool down. I tell her that beef stew doesn’t taste as good when it’s cooled down. She tries a bite and burns her tongue. I knew that would happen.
The meal is nearly over now as we’re sharing a slice of chocolate cake a la mode that’s positioned in the center of the table. I’m eating a little faster than she is to ensure that I consume a larger portion of the cake. Before I know it the cake is gone and she’s ordered a post-meal espresso, her favorite, she says. The fucking nerve. I excuse myself to the bathroom.
Finally, some alone time.
I approach the urinal which is guarded on either side by large dividers, giving the illusion of privacy so that I can pull out my genitals. Something tells me I need to do this in the stall. I enter the handicap stall and lock the door. I face the wall, drop my pants to my knees, and remove the vial of blood from my underwear. My last vial. I didn’t think it would come to this, but Kendra’s presence has been so fucking dreadful that this mouthful of blood is all that’s going to get me through the rest of this teeth-mashing ordeal. As she takes her sip of espresso, I tell myself, I take my sip of blood. To each their own.
I put the vial back into my pants and exit the restroom. As I’m approaching our table, I see that Kendra is almost finished with her espresso and the check is on the table. The aftertaste of blood is lining the roof of my mouth. Not a bad night.
I drive Kendra home. As I pull up to the front of her house, I’m hyper-aware that hasn’t offered to take me inside. I consider inviting myself in. I don’t say anything. We embrace with a hug across the two front seats of the car. She goes to leave but my finger has already hit the lock button. She yanks on it anyway and is overcome with the awkwardness of pulling on a locked door handle.
“May I use the restroom?”
“Sure,” she says.
The door unlocks.
Kendra is using the restroom first. I take the time to analyze her space. I think about how the blood spatter will soon mar the beautiful white walls and leave lofty stains on the carpet. A carpet that I’ll lick if I have to.
I stare at the wooden block of cutting knives on the kitchen counter. Most of the set is missing except for the large vegetable cleaver and a dull utility knife. I unsheathe the vegetable cleaver and ponder at the tip. Then the utility knife. I choose the vegetable cleaver.
And that is when I see it. As I turn around, a miniature wooden picture frame, sitting in isolation atop the fireplace mantle. I impulsively move closer, knowing I should fight this urge but I give in. As the image comes into focus I see a young girl with a mother. Surely this is Kendra. The cheekbone definition is merely identical along with strikingly familiar nasal symmetry. Kendra exits the restroom and instantaneously proves my theory correct, and I’ve already realized I’ve failed. I do not use the restroom. I walk out the door without saying a word, ignoring the expectations of her and the rest of society.
I refresh the Bumble matches on my phone as I stand in the center of my bedroom, still wearing my shoes and jacket from the date. I replay moments of the date in my head. I think about what Kendra is doing at this very moment. I think about the picture on the mantle. I think about what others are doing at this very moment. I think about blood.
My basic cable provides minimal entertainment. I flip through the channels. Cooking. Diamond informercial. Sitcom. Preacher. Cooking. A rerun of an old movie. The plot is too far developed for me to enjoy it. I turn the TV off.
My phone rings. A text from Kendra. Thank you, she says, for dinner. I contemplate responding at all. You’re welcome, I say. And then my phone is silent.