February 2, 2012 by Manny Wordsmith
Blood. Not a fan of it. I can usually take the sight of it in movies and television shows, but the real-life stuff freaks me out. I’m mentioning this because I have a Combat Lifesavers class I have to attend in D.C. next week.
During this class I’ll be subjected to blood, at some point. I don’t know exactly when, but it’ll probably jump out at me like a stripper in a birthday cake.
Probably from someone’s arms…or buttocks
At this point, I will begin to feel light-headed. My face will lose its color, and my hands will begin to weaken. And before I know it, my legs will soften like spaghetti noodles and my body will start it’s slow decent toward the floor. My fellow soldiers will fan me awake and give me a Dixie cup filled with water. All cool points will be gone and they’ll start to treat me like a fat kid who fainted during dodge ball. Everything they say will be like, “Are you alright Sergeant Smith? Too bloody for you Sergeant Smith? Why are you being such a big vag Sergeant Smith?” After I take a couple of breaths from my brown paper bag, I’ll respond with some clever quip that will have the entire class saying “Ohhhhhhhhh.” Or I’ll just use my eyes to intimidate my way out of humiliation. But to be honest, both choices feel unlikely.
I wasn’t always like this. It started when I was 4….
It was a hot summer day in 1988, and like most kids, I was thirsty. Everyone knows you don’t learn how to breath in and out of your nose till you’re at least nine. So my senseless sprinting and gasping caused my reserved unit of tasty grape Kool-Aid to be burned through my body faster than I had expected. I needed a refill, so I returned to the kitchen.
There my brother Victor stood, in front of the open fridge, slightly confused and indecisive about what snack he wanted for the mid afternoon. I was behind him, impatient, hopping from one foot to the next, trying to get a peek at my wondrous chalice. I could see the half filled cup, idly waiting for my return. I poked and I prodded, trying to rush my brother to make his decision. He looked back at me wide-eyed, and said without words, “BACK OFF!”. I was 4 and was afraid of this deafening look, so I cooled my jets and calmed my clamoring. Seconds later, he made his decision. He chose an apple.
I was overwhelmed with joy! He stepped away from the fridge and I grabbed my cool grape drink and closed the door. We both were at the happiest points of our day. I was preparing to soothe my insides with a cool beverage, and my brother was ready to consume one of nature’s most alluring fruits.
But biting into this bright red Granny Smith apple wasn’t enough for my 6-year-old brother. He needed to peel it. The tough consistency of the apple’s outside layer was too much for his newly formed “adult teeth”. So he grabbed what looked like the biggest knife in the draw and assured me, with a slight wink, that everything would be fine. He began peeling, and for a moment, everything was going according to plan. I was drawn in, carefully watching how the knife slid fluidly around the apple, exposing its juicy insides. I think my close observation and unshaken stare is what allowed the images that followed to stick in my brain so well.
As the knife came around the other end, edging toward completing its first revolution, my brother had a twitch. He was a like a surgeon up to this point, meticulous in his technique and confidence. But the twitch, the lapse in his accuracy, caused the knife to cut through his thumb, sending blood spritzing over the pure white refrigerator and all over the floor. I don’t remember anything after that. But I can tell you in my mind, things went from an episode of Sesame Street where Grover is counting apples as they appear over his head, to the prom scene in Carrie.
Before that point, I had never seen blood. Or at least blood that I can remember. When it was supposed to surprise and intrigue me, it just blacked me out. It was like my brain was said, “F@#k this, we’re getting out of here!” No explanations.
So I’ve been plagued with this hemophobia since then. My brother, who I’m guessing all of you are worried about, was fine. He got stitches and grew to be unafraid of blood and many other nasty things most kids get freaked out about. While this experience set him free, I’m left to experience fainting spells and hyperventilation whenever someone bleeds. I also have a fear of knives too. Especially ones with brown handles. I wish my brother could have just picked a pomegranate or stalk of celery. Damn you apple and the serpent you rode on!!