Take My Blood, Don’t Shake My Hand

Webp.net-gifmaker (3)It was the odd party night in early February New York. The mix of a brutal door and cold weather can send two people home together faster than if they’d actually made it into the club and socialized a bit. My apartment at the time sucked, but it was centrally located and the woman who’d occupied it before me had tiled the entire wall above the headboard with mirrors. The person I was with insisted on her place, she lived alone.

Soon after we got there she asked “Can I take some of your blood?”

And I was all “No.”

She said “But I’m really good at it.”

“Still a no.”

“It’s really not a big deal, I have all the stuff.”

“All the stuff?”

She then procured “all the stuff,” which was held in a cigar box or something, they way you keep your weed stuff in a cigar box or something. She held up the stuff, raising her eyebrows, like she’d just found the obvious thing i’d been looking for at ten in the morning instead of three in the morning. I can only imagine what I must have looked like in this moment, overestimated, outmatched, sexually uninteresting. In the face of someone who knew what they wanted and asked for it directly, if a bit forcefully, I dismissed the hijinx out of hand, a JV benchwarmer dismissing an offer to go varsity.

The next morning, she asked again; “Can I take your blood?”

“Still no.”

She rolled her eyes, and showed me a vile of someone else’s blood, strung onto a necklace. I don’t remember why, but in the moment I began to suspect the blood belonged to drummer of my band, which would be fun, but was not the case, not that I asked in the moment, or particularly cared. She sent me out for ingredients. When I got back with blueberries (I think it was blueberries) it actually was ten in the morning, and she was making pancakes. She was wearing the hockey jersey I’d worn under my Barbour and above my hoodie the night before. I managed to work in something about how I wasn’t looking for a relationship at the moment and she laughed in my face, the way someone does when you say something stupid to them.

She had asked for a pittance of blood, then just been friendly, and I’d mistaken the whole bit for some long term mating dance, when I was just some boy in her world for a moment. She let me in a while longer. Somehow the hockey jersey meant we watched most of Chasing Amy, two Californians in the middle of a tri-state winter digging our heels in. Halfway through we paused the movie. I left and I came back with pizza. We never had a day like that again, which was OK by both of us I think, but I still feel a little stupid for not just giving her a bit of my blood.

Years later, after a bunch of different shit happened, I washed up at a dreary club’s bar, doing some bartending. Newly single, trying to function, drinking heavily and regularly, completely out of sorts, I’d just barely started trying to speak to people as a person who’s not attached to another person. And one day I asked for someone’s number. I’d just started doing that again. She said yes, and wrote it down on a piece of receipt paper, and two days later, when I was safely 3,000 miles across the country, I texted her, asking if she’d like to get a drink when I returned.

“I’d like to” she began her text, “…but you should know I have a serious boyfriend. We’re in an open relationship.”

My Mom asked me why I was doing a winning coach’s fist pump in the middle of the aisle at our Costco, the one in Richmond, by the dog run.

“I’m taking a selfie video in Valhalla.” I replied.

A week later the woman from the bar in the open relationship and I found ourselves in the corner of a dark Polish bar in Greenpoint (no longer a redundant statement with all the new spots, think jello shots not edison bulbs). Chatting through a date when you’re still emotionally dead inside, with notions of self having been on vacation long enough to get fired from their service job, is relatively easy. The stakes are low and so is your serotonin. Still, being numb isn’t a good state to do stuff to yourself in, you need to have your sense of feeling back to know if something feels is good or bad. After a couple beers we called it a night, but after a few blocks I realized she was walking me home.

In front of my brick building, under the red tin awning, I said some awkward goodnight thing, and my date extended her arm for a handshake. I dutifully reciprocated, but something was amiss. The grip of the handshake was soft, but she took her left arm to my shoulder like a proud Dad, using the leverage to pull me in for an open mouth kiss. She never stopped shaking my hand. As I gently and continually pulled my hand away from her grasp, she did not let go, but began to do the finger tickle on the palm thing. When this stopped, I went upstairs quietly, alone.

The next day I took a stab at ignoring the odd 30 seconds, and texted her;

“Wanna shake hands after work?”

“I have plans.” was her quick reply, followed by a lingering text bubble, the kind of ellipses that lets you know a text is being drafted and redrafted, until finally; “Any interest in MMF?” I told her that I appreciated the offer, because I am boring and am always charmed when someone thinks i’m not. Still, I politely declined.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the whole night before had just been a sales pitch sealed with the oddest handshake I’d ever received. In hindsight, it had all been a build up to an ask, and by the time the ask came, the request didn’t feel straightforward. As I deleted her contact information I thought to myself; “Go ahead and take my blood, just don’t shake my hand.”