Peter Kispert


“Blue? Blue looks sort of like a healing black,” I say, filling two glasses with water in the sink.
     Clark is colorblind, or so he’s telling me. It is three forty-five on a Sunday morning, two weeks to the day since my mother passed, and he’s bleeding on my floor, brown dots on the hardwood—something I didn’t actually notice until just now.
     “It’s just those two: blue and red,” he says, rewrapping the towel around his hand. “I can see everything else.”
     Clark and I met a few hours ago on the dance floor at a gay bar during Indianapolis Pride. I dropped my vodka tonic and he picked up the glass, then someone bumped into him—that’s his embarrassing version of it. As the bartender waved everyone outside, I heard somebody say It’s like a fucking murder scene. That was before I noticed the blood on my shorts, before Clark refused a drive to the ER, or any medical attention. But the worst of it: How do you leave someone like that? How do you say Sorry, I’m partially responsible for your injury and not interested?
     “So, LA?” I say, giving his free hand the water.
     “It’s not good,” he says. “The students are so dumb.”
     I look at his hand. The blood has turned the tan cloth almost black.
     “You’re studying rocks, right?”
     “Geology PhD,” he corrects, as if I should be impressed by the credential. “Yeah.”
     Someone in the street outside my apartment yells Don’t jump the fence. Dude, you’re gonna kill yourself! I move the trashcan from my bathroom next to the couch.
     “But sure, rocks,” he says. “Essentially.”
     I’m called back to the memory of my mother taking my siblings and me to a cavern when I was young, sifting bagged dirt through a sieve, looking for gems. In her bag she found a rare ruby. The staff couldn’t understand how it had even got in there. It was worth thousands, shined with the glint of a human eye. I want badly to transfer the feeling, so I try to explain it to Clark—the entire scene—but he interrupts when I get to the part about the rocks my mother found us in the gift shop.
     “Geodes,” he says, swallowing the water fast to get it out. “They’re really gorgeous,” he adds. I fall silent. I’m more present in that memory now than I am even here: the hot wind of the August night against the window, his shoes near the door, the red print of his hand on his jeans. I rip a paper towel and lay it over a spot of blood. It expands rapidly, like a dilating pupil.
     “They’re really beautiful,” he says.
     I can tell he wants me to agree, to pin this down as the point of the story. I’m not going to get to the part about how my sister, now backpacking alone in Brazil, tried to open hers with a hammer, or how my mother—buried hundreds of miles northeast—kept one, uncracked, in her sock drawer. I suddenly feel like I can’t tackle it at all. “They are beautiful,” I say. “Do you work with them?”
     “They’re actually not that interesting,” he says.
     “You’re bleeding a ton.”
      “I’ll be fine.”
     “Can you see what color this is?” I say. I lift a soaked paper towel. The light from my bedroom backlights it, a horror-movie red.
     “It’s red,” he says.
     “Can you see it, though?”
     “I know it’s my blood.”
     “So you can’t see it. Jesus, you need stitches.” Another drop falls from his pinky finger. “You really do.”
     “I’ll be okay,” he says. He laughs a little, trying to convince me. I bend to spray the floor with cleaner, and I briefly wonder if okay is different than fine.
     ”It’s just a temporary puncture,” he says. There is a pause. “Hey,” he adds. I can hear him smiling. “Do you want my number?”
     Down the street, an ambulance screams.
     “Do you want more water?” I ask.
     “Are you okay?” He furrows his brow.
     “Of course,” I say. The blood smears on the wood. It doesn’t lift as easily as I think it will. I toss the paper towel in the trash and tear a new sheet. “But look at you.”

Peter Kispert is the incoming editor-in-chief of The Indiana Review and a regular blogger for Ploughshares. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Journal, Slice Magazine, Tin House, and as a Kindle Single. He has worked with Electric Literature and Narrative Magazine.