Hell and blood

by Cristina Nemerovschi (Morgothya) (Romania)

Translation from Romanian by Christine Coleman and Mircea Filimon, MTTLC student

edited by Robert Fenhagen

pentru versiunea română click aici

Today I started spitting blood.

The first thing that I thought was that I might have tuberculosis, which, actually,  made me feel alright, because after all, it’s a disease which sounds good; it kind of gives out  a romantic aura:  tuberculosis; mononucleosis, well,  at least, I think so, and I don’t die too quickly— the worst case scenario, I  have a few months to live, which is plenty of time for me to write a novel, or a really good short story, or, at least, some poetry, or, at the very least, an essay–something that will be found after I croak, of which people will say, “He was a prolific writer; we’ll miss him.  He died of tuberculosis, you know.” And the other person will say, “Oh my, I had no idea.”

I was glad that something was happening to me that was not in my control, even though, of course, my control over my universe is very dubious.

As it turns out, I don’t have tuberculosis–I have pneumonia, which is so much less glamorous, but I could still die, which is something.

You see, I have this mind which tends to exaggerate and dramatize everything, so that I can possibly use it in a novel or story–I’m a writer.

Maybe I should just shoot myself in the head, which would stop me from thinking too much, but there I go dramatizing again.

I wake up at night with my mouth full of blood, so I spit out the clots–they litter my floor, those damned blood clots.

I next fill my bathtub with water so I can soak and bathe, light a cigarette to enjoy, but, no.   NO MORE CIGARETTES!

I’ve always laughed at people who are trying to quit smoking, because why quit if you enjoy it? You’ll die anyway, and even though I don’t want to get better (don’t forget) and want to die as soon as possible, I can’t take a draw from a cigarette as carelessly as I used to do. It’s bad for me, but I thought that I wanted it to be, but the smoke stays in my throat stinging and scratching, and won’t go further, even though my lungs are drooling for it.

Admittedly, ignorant on the subject, I began reading everything that I could on the Internet about pneumonia and haemoptysis.

I’ve seen pictures as well– they’re awesome. They’d fit perfectly on a hardcore album cover!

After I’d gone through all of the websites, even the foreign language ones–which I translated using an on-line translation service, I purchased a medical book about lung diseases. It’s great; I’ll hand it down once I’m dead, but I don’t know to whom.

I haven’t told anyone I’m going to die–there’s still time. I’ll spring the news on them in a very theatrical way. I have to direct this drama somehow. Maybe I’ll even write a screenplay. They haven’t realized I’m spitting blood, and if it happens at night at a party, I’ll go to the loo, and if someone catches me, I’ll tell them its fake blood and that I’m disguised as a vampire, or, maybe, that’s its real blood and I am a vampire! I’ll have a pair of fake vampire teeth with me all the time so as to be more credible, whichever I decide.

Spitting blood blends in with my recurring panic attacks. Of course they have recurred– I won’t be able to die without them; I believe that at the moment you die everything you’ve ever suffered flashes before your eyes, and that way you can let go more easily, but not forget who you are, so you can keep your soul straight.

If what my friend, who is obsessed with finding out if God exists, says is true, and you keep your soul after death, then you need to mark it very clearly so you don’t mistake it for someone else’s. Because there should be some sort of little border to cross, a tiny rupture, during which you and your soul are separated for a short time. It’s like putting it on a plate while you go through the metal detector. You must know which one it is, so you pick up the right one. Who knows what the souls that have shed their bodies look like; who knows,  maybe they look alike, but marked by suffering, there is no way that one could mistake one for another, and proceed to your cell in Hell with a stranger’s soul.

What hell!

In my dreams, the blood I spit is almost black. I feel sorry for it, after it reaches the floor. I feel sorry that it left my body and it is condemned to emaciate, to evaporate, to stop living;  a tiny part of me that is gone forever. What bits of pain were there in these millilitres of blood? What am I left with? And when will I lose it all?

The panic attacks are as violent as they were in the past, but they’re more unexpected, and strike at the most inappropriate moments.

One time, I was riding to the seaside with a friend in his car, and we were passing by Colentina Hospital when he remembered that he was out of cigarettes, and deciding that he couldn’t wait until we reached a gas station, stopped the car,  asked me to get out and go to the little shop by the hospital to buy of pack of Camels, and a two litre bottle of Cola.

“Sure”, I said, “it’s no bother at all”

I got out of the car, and that’s when it struck! I felt I was melting; that I was going to faint.  I had lost control of my legs, and put my hand on my forehead, wanting to chase it all away, not wanting anyone to see me; I wanted to just go into some room for five minutes and wait for it to pass. It would pass, it always does—these fainting spells. But While it lasts, though, it’s horrible;  I imagine that all of my blood will leak out, and gather in a huge solid clot, and then  I will explode.

I leaned on the hospital wall, trying to focus, but couldn’t. Everything was spinning, so I pulled a lock of my hair, but the pain, instead of bringing me around, seemed like a distant echo.

I couldn’t feel, but knew that I was melting, and was leaving my body, leaving my life. I was dying!

Just when I was in the mood to go to the seaside…

‘Are you OK baby?’ asked this old lady with a big reed bag.   She had crooked legs and galoshes on her filthy feet. She was from the countryside and had come to Bucharest to get medical care.

“Are you sick baby?” she asked insistently. I didn’t mention to her that I was dying.

And that was it. The hag pulled me out of the arms of the devil, which was having his way with me, so I joyfully hugged and kissed her, and pulling back, she mumbled a prayer, convinced that I wasn’t sick, but only pretending.

I could feel my arms and legs again, I could move them, and the blood had started its normal circulation through me. I wasn’t exploding anymore. That was all. I walked away safe and sound, that day at least. I was full of joy. I bought the packet of Camel, the Cola and two croissants.

“What the fuck took you so long?” my friend with car demanded once I returned with his smokes, so I kissed him as well, and then handed him the pack of smokes.

Only two days after that, it struck while I was in the water.

It was morning; I had been drinking a lot, and was bathing in the sea– feeling better than ever. I hadn’t spat out blood since the previous morning, and maybe because I hadn’t slept and was swimming in cold, clear water, I felt great, but that was when I felt it again– it was like a huge fish had hit me in the stomach. A sticky, wet, moist thing had spread all over me and it seemed to suck out all of my insides, so I tried to grab hold of something, but all I did was splash around helplessly. First, my legs went numb, and then I slipped under water, swallowing a great deal of water.  Maybe I could have drowned, but survived and managed to crawl to shore, my lungs filled with water. I lay on the beach for about an hour, with my knees shaking and my hands turned blue. I threw up.

A chav  couple passed, and shouted, “Bloody Satanists! It’s eight a.m. and you’re already drunk and high! You just can’t get enough drugs and booze!”

Then I started to spit blood again, which was like coming home.  Something familiar.

In the mean time I changed my mind, and wasn’t sure that I wanted to die anymore. Tomorrow, I’m going to have some tests done.

Maybe I’ll be fine.

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