by Ryan Werner
With the same hot blood burning in our veins
— “Adam Raised a Cain,” Bruce Springsteen
I don’t know how he traced everything back to me, but Rick showed up at my house one day and told me it was his blood that saved my life. This was a full decade after the thrombocytopenia I had in my early twenties. I bruised so easy that the pads of my feet were purple. My heels looked like tiny plums. When I wore new underwear, the elastic would leave a faint yellow bruise around my waist. The transfusion I had really did save my life. I invited Rick in for a drink.
We looked fairly similar. That was my first thought. Our hair was identical in both color and cut. We were the same height, our fingers the same length. It was as if one of us had been photocopied directly from the other. When my wife, Mary, came home I was fixing drinks in the kitchen, and after a brief glance toward Rick on the couch, she asked him how his day had been. When I walked back into the living room, she did a double-take, like a cartoon.
Later, after she had left me for Rick, Mary told me that we really were identical. I thought of the sex parts right away, but she had meant more. When she grabbed his wrist in the dark, it was of a familiar thickness. She went on: the chest hair, the hunching of shoulders, the rate and position of sweat accumulation.
Rick continued to visit after his original arrival. He liked our selection of liquor, our dinners, and our company. At first, time spent with Rick was fascinating, a chance to see how I was, but after several weeks of Rick coming over, I made a comment in passing to Mary that Rick makes me feels deflated. She said that she felt the opposite, that Rick and I complemented each other well. She was speaking of social chemistry, but the idea of one thing complementing another meant something was missing from one and found in the other. I tried to notice it the next time Rick was over, but saw nothing except our exactness. Smacking our lips after a big gulp of gin. Outlining a pocket with our finger when idly talking. The height of our knuckles. The bulge of a wallet. To diagram our positioning and angles while moving from sitting to standing would produce a single path, an old map to be followed by a blind man.
They’ve been together for years now. I drive by when they’re not home. The pictures on the walls are the same. They’ve changed nothing. Was it Rick’s blood that Mary loved? I yelled this to them one night from outside the house. They were drinking my booze, breathing my air. Rick came to the door and said nothing. He opened it as if to let me in, but I only stood in the rain. I neither turned nor moved forward. It was like this we stood: me fevered with anger, Rick’s cheeks that flushed with heat.
RYAN WERNER has got a body built for sin and an appetite for passion. See him work his magic, turning other songs into other stories, over at Our Band Could Be Your Lit.