14B - The Michigan Daily - Literary Magazine - Thursday, March 11, 1999
Continued from Page 138
ing a little power now.
"Wow, that's impressive, this is such
a conservative area. Have they talked
to you about the risks?"
"Um, well, my dad is a doctor, but
no, I mean, what risks? Wait. My part-
ner and I are safe. We got tested for
HIV, not because we were worried,,but
just because I feel it's a good idea.
We're both negative, we're safe."
"Yes, that's good, but how do you
know your partner wasn't with five
other people last weekend?" Her eyes
fixated on my forehead.
We went to see a movie and then did
homework together He was with me.
I almost slammed my fist down on the
little table. "But how is that any differ-
ent in a heterosexual relationship?"
"Please, keep your voice down. This
needs to remain confidential, for your
safety. The statistics are higher that
homosexuals have multiple sexual
partners all at once."
"But we're monogamous, he is the
first boy I've ever been with, and-"
"Are you the first boy he's ever been
"Yes." I lied again. But what right
did this nurse have over Steven's sexu-
al history? "Anyway, isn't that question
a bit outdated? I mean, 1977? Isn't it
true that heterosexuals are the highest
risk these days?" I was getting louder
"Sshhh. Actually ..." and she
droned on about statistics and suggest-
ed I discuss the current risks with my
father. I began to tremble ...
who is this boy from California? my
first sight of him is at the dance club.
ben introduces me to him, and I never
think he'll remember me. but today, he
just shows up. somehow,'he finds out
that I am performing tonight. playing
piano and singing, even. is that really
him, in the audience? steven. what a
after the show, we are walking, talk-
ing. now it's four a.m. I walk him
home. we stand underneath jills rusty
fire escape and exchange a handshake.
he holds on and smiles, asks me what
I'm doing the next day. nothing, I say.
do you wanna do something? he says.
I can't believe it but I say yes. he is
making gentle little circles with his
thumb on the top of my hand. minutes
later, I walk home in the moonlight
we meet in late afternoon. we walk
towards the arboretum, safety among
the trees. we skip stones along the
huron river we play with dogs, we lay
in the grass, talking, talking, talking.
so much to say. so much to share. it's
always been inside of me, Isay. but for
years I've been afraid to let it out. got
beat up in eighth grade, they called me
a faggot. so I stuffed it down and
packed it away. but still fell in love
with men, fell in love with women too.
it burned. I say all this. steven listens
and tells too. of course it is a sunny
day. we skip stones, we play with dogs,
we follow trails. we listen
we meet for dinner he brings me a
sunflower. Ilove sunflowers. we talk in
my bedroom. we are listening to tori
amos. "oh, these little earthquakes,
doesn't take much to rip us into
pieces." hours later we are laying on
my bed. he is talking, I am trembling.
my lavalamp is casting pink glow. I say
I don't know what to do. he says what
do you mean? I say I don't know what
to do now he smiles, looks into my
eyes and says, matt, you can do what-
ever you want, but you don't have to do
anything at all. I think about this. I
think about this more. I lean forward,
rubbing my head sideways against my
pillow and touch his lips. I move away.
his socked foot making gentle little cir-
cles on the top of my foot. he does not
blink. I lean forward again, lingering a
bit longer. I move away. he does not
blink. my hand molds to his shoulder. I
pull ever so slightly and lean forward
again, lingering even longer. I stay
there. he moves away ever so slightly,
says are you okay? I answer by leaning
forward again and staying there. he
closes his eyes. I close my eyes
minutes later I am sobbing. I rest my
head on his chest and I am making his
white t-shirt damp. he holds me, rests
his hands on my back and pulls the
"So, I'm sorry, but I didn't make
these guidelines. I must enforce them
in order to ensure the blood supply is
safe. I'll need you to sign the bottom of
Holding back tears, I gave up my
"Now, understand that you will
never be able to give blood again. I
suggest you call this number if you
have any questions regarding the mat-
ter. I hope things go well for you."
the bitch tricked me. but I don't even
care enough to rip up that goddamn
waiver. now the fact that I've had sex,
even fucking once with another male
since 1977, the fucking year I was
born, is attached to my goddamn social
security number. there goes running
"Here, have a Kleenex. Oh, and
this," she pulled out a role of stickers.
She unpeeled an oversized red cross
that bore the statement "I TRIED."
(This is in contrast to the "BE NICE
TO ME, I GAVE BLOOD TODAY"
stickers they give to their successful
donors.) I took it, and numbly placed it
over my heart.
"If anyone wonders," she loudly
whispered, "just tell them that your
temperature was too high."
I was speechless. I wanted to say,
"no, if anyone asks, I'm going to tell
them the truth. I'm going to tell them
you wouldn't take my blood because
I'm gay." But I stood, and quickly left
the room as the tears started sizzling
down my red hot cheeks.
Aimlessly, like a disembodied soul,
I floated around campus. I laid in a
patch of dead, headless dandelions. I
cursed the clouds because they looked
like sterile cotton balls. I wished they
would just produce a little snow to
cover me. An- old acquaintance from
high school walked by, then stopped
The Michigan Daily - Literary Mag
Blood and Water
By Matthew Schmitt
and turned back. I stood up, forgetting
what the word embarrassed meant. I
burst out in tears again, he leaned for-
ward and hugged me. I pulled it
together enough to tell him what had
just happened. He gave me his phone
number, told me he would be willing
to listen more later, but his girlfriend
was waiting for him so that they could
go and give blood together. He wasn't
sure if he wanted to anymore, but I told
him to "do it in my spirit." We laughed
a little, and later I would appreciate the
significance of how easily I came out
to him, the quintessential Jock of my
high school. I never would have
dreamed of sharing this, and yet, he
was incredibly supportive.
Later that night, that strangely warm
February night, my college house-
mates, Steven and I would be working
through this event. We discussed the
possibility of a lawsuit, but after
research we would find that despite the
negative sentiment from the nurse, my
legal rights had not been violated. I
played it out for them several times. It
was a process.
"And then she said, 'well, how do
you know your partner wasn't with
five other people last weekend?' and I-
"I think I'm going to go give blood
tomorrow," Steven interrupted, "and
I'm gonna ask for that nurse. When she
asks me that question, I'm gonna say,
'does it count if I had sex with your
husband five times last night?"
The laughter that followed cooled
me down. Oh, Steven.
Two nights later. Irony crept in
through a discharge. First I noticed a
small spot on my favorite pair of box-
ers. Then an incessant itching. I told
Steven at 2 am.
The next day I did not go to class. I
had not slept. He brought pamphlets
and literature back.
"Is it clear or is it yellow?"
"It's pretty clear. I don't know." My
voice is remembering it's higher pitch-
"Well, then it's probably not gonor-
rhea. It could be syphilis or chlamy-
"Do you have any symptoms? Have
"No," he answered, "and it says that
chlamydia can be dormant, and never
show symptoms. But it's still conta-
gious. Are you sure you didn't have it
"I doubt it, she was tested for it right
before we started dating, and she did-
n't have anything."
We arranged to go and get tested
ourselves the next day. The doctor
started us on antibiotics for chlamydia,
and told us the other test results would
be ready in a few days. I slept that
it was antonio. and jim. and an entire
fleet of red cross nurses. we were in a
boat. it must have been sinking since
everyone was wearing life jackets and
jumping ship. they looked back at me
before they went overboard. some
were crying, some were looking con-
cerned, but many were waving their
fingers back and forth and tsk-tsking. I
started running towards them but I was
sliding backwards. the ship was tip-
ping up. I slid down into the water and
the sinking vessel sounded like hissing
laughter. it went under, and the water
turned to blood....
I woke up.
"Steven! Wake.up!" He was clear on
the other side of the bed. We had been
avoiding all physical contact with each
other while we were on medication.
We still slept together for some sort of
See BLOOD, Page 15B
June 7, 1998
In the spring of my twenty-first year,
I find myself taking comfort in the pres-
ence of Lake Winnipesaukee. Here at
the heart of New Hampshire, a place
I've never known, I've found a natural
space to allow my mind and my soul a
little time to catch up with my body. The
lake's contained vastness, the hushing
quiet it promises, the moist taste of pine
in the air. On the surface, insects glide
like figure skaters and the sunlight scat-
ters into millions of dancing flares. A
mist, somewhere between cooling and
chilling, rises and sprays my face. It
mingles with my sweat. The water is
everywhere. It dampens the inside of my
temporary home, a cabin fifty feet
behind me, and it clings to all of my
clothes. Even these books feel a bit
heavier, these voices from New England
saturated with a little bit of the lake. I
carefully close Dickinson, Emerson,
Kinnell, and Doty. I gaze beneath the
bright insect show and listen to the
beckoning rhythm of the waving peb-
bles. They silently echo ancient truths,
resonating like a memory I've never
known. I sit here, on the dock, and pon-
der evolutions, ponder relationships. I
pick up my fountain pen and begin to
Such as, for instance, maps of the inti-
mate trails between water and me. I
know of the pumps and pipes that run
like arteries out of the undulating lake.
The water travels through the filters,
then winds around this camp and out
these faucets, into my flask, into my
mouth. Water, with a capital W, does not
come from some magical and distant
city factory here. It is right in front of
me. It surrounds and numbs my left
foot. And I know that it allows me to
drink, clean, and survive. I speak with it
everyday. It reminds me of its gift, and
then whispers past secrets about wombs
and births. In the ripples I see an embryo
with tiny neck slits.
And I wish we had not lost our gills.
I know not to enter the lake alone. I
know not to drink the warm water. I look
around, after having learned of the
severe ice storm that hit New England
last winter, and notice the lingering
aftermath of tree carnage rotting along
the forest floors. It is 1998, the Titanic is
on my mind, and so is Thoreau's descrip-
tions of shipwrecks in Cape Cod. Pieces
of dead bodies washed ashore. In the
back and forth of the waves, I see the
give and also the take.
A mosquito interrupts my solitude
and I startle her halfway through her
feeding. She frantically alights off my
skin, but leaves behind an open hole in
which a tiny glistening dot of blood is
exposed to the fresh air. I am fascinated
by its color in the light of the sunset. It
is almost orange in the pink ambiance.
My thoughts turn to inner landscapes.
This blood currently holds molecules
of the lake. It carries Winnipesaukee
around and visits each one of my cells.
It keeps me breathing, thinking, writing.
And yet, they say my blood is dangerous
Well, it's been said before, so to
speak. My dad, the doctor, fascinated
my sister and I with bedtime stories of
the human body. Sometimes, he showed
us medical journals with detailed dia-
grams that looked like maps. It was my
introduction to poetry, the flowing vital-
ity that courses through our veins that he
explained was like trains carrying cargo
to each part of our bodies. I fell in love
with blood. But when I was six or so, I
was cutting apart blue construction
paper to make a card, or maybe just cut-
ting. I paused, picked up the mirror
sharp scissors and carefully opened and
closed the two blades, back and forth. I
was so entranced by the perfect move-
ment, the impossible nearness with
which the two edges passed each other,
that my fingers lost their concentration
and loosened. As gravity would have it,
the scissors fell sooner than my ankle
could get out of their way. I cried out as
the bright red streamed down my leg.
The blood immediately darkened when
it reached the beige carpet. My mother
must have heard because she was in the
room shortly thereafter.
"Matt! How did you get those? Oh,
come quick, to the bathroom!" I got up,
and on the way she picked me up and
carried me, little droplets falling here
and there. Within minutes she had
stopped the bleeding and was explaining
to me that I would be fine, but "those
scissors are my sewing shears, you
should not use them at all, okay honey?"
I nodded. Later, I would hear her talking
on the telephone as she scrubbed, "my
brand new carpet just got stained ...
blood, yeah, Matt got into my sewing
drawer." There was a downcast tone in
her voice that hinted for the first time
that my blood was not always like poet-
In 1984, or somewhere thereabouts, I
learned about AIDS. It was the year the
Detroit Tigers won the World Series, and
the photograph of Kirk Gibson growling
on the cover of the papers in victorious
joy inspired me to play baseball. I was a
small boy in grade school, though I also
remember the photographs of Ryan
White marching away from seas of bold
yet frightened reporters, his mother at
his side. He was also a small boy in
grade school. The headlines panicked
and, in large print, warned a nation that
there was something new to be afraid of.
They discussed blood, and introduce
me to words like transfusion and que
and straight. Overnight, my love f
blood disintegrated and I was terrified
Once, during recess, Anton
Rodriguez and I were running dov
the hall. He tripped and hit his nos
on the base of a large crucifix. H
blood dripped down off of Jesus' fee
and since my immediate reaction wa
to reach for him, that blood drippe
all over my hands. I paused in th
middle of helping Antonio up, gaspe
and like a zombie, searched for th
nearest bathroom. Completely forge
ting about my friend, I scrubbed n
hands senseless, all the while prayir
to God that I would not become tl
Ryan White of Our Lady Queen o
Martyrs Elementary School. I did n
want to see Beverly Hills, Michiga
printed in the national papers. Mr
Ryan took care of Antonio.
Later, I would play baseball. With
few minor stints as a second-baseman,
usually wound up playing left field.
was not horrible, but I often four
myself pondering the dandelions out i
the grass more often than the count, o
my stance, or what inning it was. I fout
the little yellow, spongy-petaled head
beautiful, and wondered why they wen
considered weeds, why they were s
despised. But no one knew this. I wa
able to snap out of it with every crack o
bat hitting ball.
A special edition of Weekend, etc. Magazine
Editors: Aaron Rich, Will Weissert
Literary Magazine Judges: Jessica Eaton, Aaron Rich, Christopher Tkaczyk and V
Photo Editor: Margaret Myers
Photographers: Louis Brown, Bohdan Damian Cap, Jessica Johnson, Kelly McKin
Cover: Photo by Bohdan Damian Cap
Arts Editors: Jessica Eaton and Christopher Tkaczyk
Editor in Chief: Heather Kamins