Stephanie’s Blood

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Stephanie's Blood by Michael Bahler


There was a fresh blood stain on my sheets by our groins. Just a smudge, but
vivid on the white-and-green checkered pattern. The blood reminded me that
we had had sex, and underscored that I didn’t know Stephanie so well and
even a properly rolled-down condom left that bottom base part unprotected. I
was scared, but it was also Steph’s blood. Her blood. She was going to leave
soon — she had Sunday plans — but the stain would stay there on my

Strangely, I couldn’t see any blood on my penis. Lying next to her, I wasn’t
in the best position to examine for it, but there wasn’t even a trace. I
sneaked a look over the side of the bed to where I had dropped the condom.
Fluids, but not red.


“I cut my toe,” she said.


I turned back toward her.


“The blood. I cut my toe. I’m sorry,” she said, almost contrite.


“You cut your toe while we were having sex?”


“I must have reinjured it.”


I was confused. When was her foot in the middle of the bed? And there was
something filthy about toe blood, on my sheets. “Is it still bleeding?” I
asked her. “You need a Band-Aid?”


“No.” She flopped over onto her side. “Are you passionate at work?” she


“Do I yell a lot?”


“No, are you passionate? Do you care? Do you act like you care? If the
building blew up and you were dying on the ground would you feel like it was
all worth it?”


“I’d have to say no.”


“Yeah, that sucks, doesn’t it?”


“How many jobs actually pass that blow-up test?”


“You were passionate before,” she said. “You were very passionate. Out of
all the people I’ve been with, you might be the most passionate.”


“Really?” I stared at her face. “Which part?”




“I hope it’s not just the kissing. Is it just the kissing?”




“Just the kissing,” I grumbled.


“Now who’s asking for too much?” She feigned a smile. “Tell me something


“How did you injure your toe?”


“That’s so uplifting.”


“Is there a story behind it?”


“No, not really. Nothing interesting.”


Her feet were hidden under my bunched-up blankets at the end of the bed and
I started to question whether the blood had really come from her toes. Where
had it come from, I worried. “Can I see the cut?” I asked her.


“Why do you care so much?”


“I don’t care. It’s not my business. I just want to make sure you’re not
bleeding to death because — I don’t have apartment insurance, and
you’re the only person who thinks I’m passionate.”


“I bite my toenails.”


I stared at her.


“I don’t want to bite my toenails, it’s just there’s only a finite amount of
fingernails and I’m not into biting the skin off my knuckles like some


“Who does that?”


“Grow up,” she said.


I glanced down my bed toward the red mark. The juice from Steph’s toe
hangnail. Far from endearing, it was like a squashed bug right there on my
sheets. I wanted her to leave so I could throw them out.


She sat up.


“What are you doing?” I asked.


She lifted her naked leg up toward her mouth.


“Please don’t,” I said.


Her foot was suspended by her mouth like a can of soda. But she didn’t bite.
Not yet, she pressed a bloody toenail to her lip. A vinegar smell wafted up
from her vagina.


“Stephanie, what are you doing?”


“This is me. It’s not just a bad habit. This is me. I’m nervous and fucked


“Put down the foot.”


“Why should I put it down? You want me to be fake? You want me to pretend to
be a girl who doesn’t bite her toenails — that this blood came from
somewhere else? Well, I can’t. It didn’t. It came from a hangnail. And you
think that’s disgusting. You can’t handle that I actually live and bleed and
am so fucked up that I bite my toenails when I run out of fingernails.”


“This is not such a big deal.”


“How can you say that?” She began to sob. Her body shook. But somehow she still managed to keep her leg up and her foot against her lip. A heavy tear slipped down her silver toe ring.


“Bite,” was all I could say. “Stephanie, please bite.”


After she left, I went back to my bed and swept aside the blankets. I
counted three more stains in addition to the big one in the middle. I had to
laugh. I brought my nose down to the sheets and was disappointed when the
stains had no smell. My parents were coming later that day, and I
straightened my blankets and tightly made my bed.

Michael Bahler and