Got Ourselves a Bleeder

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Street art on a closed sliding door; a painting of a monocle-wearing man's face whose beard is made of letters.

And now, a personal anecdote from my travel in Spain.

In Madrid, the streets are narrow and sidewalks accommodate one person, maybe two, at a time. It’s hot and you’re ill and wandering around. The perfect way to spend a vacation. For a moment, you stop to consult your GPS and that’s when it comes on. The nosebleed actually announces itself.

You can feel the blood sluice down your nasal passage, thick and warm. You turn your head skyward but it’s a little too late – several drops of blood escape onto your arm and the pavement. It’s fortunate that you’re wearing a rust-colored dress. You close your eyes and with one hand pinch your nose. With the other, you fumble for your bag. No tissues. Not even a crappy napkin from the coffee shop you’d just left. You don’t know any Spanish and can barely walk two steps without shooting blood out of your face. You resolve to pace back and forth ineffectually.

Someone taps your shoulder. “I saw you!” Suddenly there are a stack of paper towels in your hand. The shop across the street has a glass storefront window and the very kind woman inside has run across the street to help you. You can’t thank her enough, smiling through a mound of reddening paper.

You soak through all the towels in minutes.

Hurrying along the curling streets, you pass an older couple who tells you (in Spanish, with gestures) to go to a church nearby. She adds a lot of explanation that you can’t understand. You wander off in the direction of the church, but when you get there it is closed. A couple is standing in the doorway, looking a bit concerned as you approach. They point towards a bar across the square, but it also looks closed. Then you see the water spigot at the edge of a nearby playground.

The little kid who holds the lever for you is your new best friend. He gives you enough time to wash the blood off your arms and face before bounding away. You thank him with a thumbs up sign. You’ve never used the thumbs up as often as you have off of US soil. It’s not a universal symbol – not by a long shot – but people can deduce a lot from it. That you’re American, that you’re content with something, that you probably don’t speak their language… You have to throw away the towels you’ve been holding, but that means you’re back to square one. As you calculate the distance between your location and the metro, you’re worried the blood will come back.

Someone makes a noise and you turn around. The bearded man from the couple has come up to you with a half empty packet of tissues. You give another thumbs up sign.

“Broken?” he asks.

You smile, wondering if you should make up a story. “No, just dry.”

I’ve been processing some of the images and experiences I’ve had while traveling, and I’ve come to realize that I’m most inspired by the small moments. I’ve been dying to tell this story of my Epic Nosebleed, otherwise known as the day I made many temporary friends. I’ve been struggling with a less image-based piece of writing for a few days now and so it’s nice to return to something that’s a little more concrete.