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Nosebleeds in the dark

by Sanjana Shankar​​

1. the last night

you said that you were bleeding. the lights were out and i thought it was a joke because you said it like you say everything else - a smile in your voice, the corners of your mouth upturned. but it was real, i felt for your face in the black of the night and i felt liquid and i smelled metal. i got up and brought you a towel while you laid there, the moonlight illuminating your eyes on me. afterwards, we laid there, eyes open, the only sound between us being the soft hum of the fan and the crickets outside. but that was enough.

2. the downfall

we had spent all of summer together. but even the best of times can get stale with the same four walls and the same tired faces. in the morning we burnt our toast paired with six pills and too-sweet coffee. afternoons were reserved for the armchairs on our porch, a languid comfort that only comes with complacency or familiarity. i could never tell which. love is a choice, you told me, a decision you have to make every day when you open your eyes and stare at the ceiling and wonder what the hell you’re doing with your life and with the stranger next to you, eyes shut, chest rising and falling. you said you loved me more when i’m sleeping. i didn’t know what that said about us.

i used to think that this -that we- were too easy. there was no adrenaline rush, just golden sun rays through the window and coffee in the morning, falling into routine and kisses on the forehead. and when you told me you loved me, i asked if you were joking, smiling so wide i felt like a fool. you smiled back and my chest hurt - i could have framed your face in the louvre. i never saw you smile like that again, but i suppose its beauty lied in its rarity. you wouldn't be half as impressed by a supernova if you saw it every day.

4. aftermath

we were doing the laundry together when you asked me if i hated you. it was all wrong, the way you stood; arms crossing like railway lines bound for disaster. you held the sheets that you stained the night before with your nosebleed. i wanted to tell you i didn’t hate you. i wanted to tell you that it was the opposite, really, and that was the problem; that last night i was sorry for the blood on your face, and i wished it were mine. and that terrified me. i wanted so many things, but instead, i took the sheets from your hands and began to scrub.

two weeks from then, we would part ways and never speak again. you always said too much and i said too little, and that was that. i never told you i loved you, but the closest i ever got was that nosebleed in the dark.

This piece was originally published in Volume III of The Borderline

About the author:

Sanjana 'Sana' Shankar is a young desi writer with a self-described an affinity for cats and coffee, as well as pinterest boards, YA lit and copious amounts of Ocean Vuong. Along with her best friend, she runs Filter Coffee Magazine (@filtercoffeemag)

Twitter: @infinitesmals

More of her work, including Biomagnification and Why I Hated Springtime, features in Erato, Issue I: Bloom.


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