On the day before Halloween 2015, I learned what blood looked like.
I had seen blood before, of course. Scrapes, cuts, bleeds from shaving nicks on my chin to crimsoned hair matted with clots after a woman got into a chain fight at a DMV when I was 16.
But until the old woman lying in a heap a few steps north of my doorway, I had thought of it as a slightly brown-tinged oxidized mess.
Until the old woman dripping pinot onto the sidewalk, I hadn’t realized blood was so red.
A young yuppie type hovered over her. I think he might have been one of my downstairs neighbors, but after a certain point of your 30s, all fratty young white boys look the same.
“She fell,” he said.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she said, as blood dribbled from her mouth and over her forehead.
I was wearing my new sunglasses, the ones that promised to fix my colorblindness. I had seen blood, but had never seen it so red.
“I have an appointment,” she kept saying. “I’m fine. I have to catch a train. I have to catch a train.”
The young man and I kept pointing out that she was covered in blood.
He ministered to her as I called 911. He asked if she was OK, if she knew where she was, if she knew the day and where she had been heading.
The dispatcher told me to keep her on the sidewalk until help arrived. The frat boy ran to the gas station a few steps away to buy a roll of paper towels to daub away the blood. I ran back to get a bottle of water. Together, we helped her wash her hands.
“I’ll be late for my appointment,” she said, touching her wrist in a gesture that would have been more relevant if she had been wearing a watch instead of an arm brace.
She wasn’t delusional or rambling. She was embarrassed, old, caught in helplessness and definitely did not want the ambulance to arrive.
A cop beat the ambulance to the scene. He helped the boy and me convince her to stay and wait, told her that she wasn’t fine, pointed out she was bleeding from her head.
The cop and I chatted for a few moments after the ambulance came and started stitching her up.
“There’s a reason old people don’t want ambulances,” the cop said. “They’re worried about medical bills.”
I had figured as much. Fixed income. Piss-poor Medicare or Medicaid if any insurance at all. She was bleeding from the head and an ambulance was the worst of her options.
The cop and I shook our heads sadly and moved on.
That’s my Halloween story. Simple and preachy and bound to be ignored as the elephantine half of the political spectrum cloys, pounds and shrieks that they would take medical care from this woman much much faster than the rest of the candidates.
No, we can’t start exploring universal health care. No, we’re not even allowed to keep the half measures of Obamacare if the millionaires on that GOP dais have their way.
Of course it’s not that simple. We shouldn’t have health care available for all. We shouldn’t have it because of some reason anyone not wearing a lavalier mic and a suit with an American flag lapel pin is just too stupid to understand.
We should have a political system where a bleeding woman is afraid to call an ambulance.
I guess I’m just too stupid to see why.
The old woman’s pinot blood clotted on the milky chalk concrete as the navy-garbed cop gabbed into his radio that there was nothing going on of note. Just another street in America, among the blue, white and pooling blood red.