"Leah, I think I might be having a medical emergency?" Sebastian asked me.
I sprung out of bed, immediately considering our money. We were broke, and he didn’t have insurance.
“Jeezus, what did you do?” It was two A.M. He was mildly drunk, and clutching his hand, blood was pouring out between his thumb and index finger like an open faucet.
“I just wanted a sandwich. I didn’t know I was actually cutting my hand instead of the bread?” He asked again, as if everything that was happening to him was a mystery I needed to solve. A bloody serrated knife the size of my forearm lay beside him next to half a bloody Ciabatta roll.
First, we wrapped gauze around the cut, but the blood continued to seep through it. We used up a whole roll, then we upgraded to wash cloths. But when those weren’t working, we pulled out our beach towels. It didn’t take long for the beach towels to turn a wet reddish purple, and soon, his towel-wrapped hand began to drip again. At this point, our bathroom looked like a vampire's dining room. I debated whether or not to throw our comforter around his hand. He sat on the toilet saying, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
“Keep applying pressure!” I shouted, as he loosened the grip on the towel. The shouting was loud enough to wake up our roommate, who tip-toed around the pools of blood to take a pee.
“Uh, you guys should go to urgent care,” he yawned, then skipped back to his room like a schoolboy trying not to step on sidewalk cracks.
Urgent care seemed out of the question. “We’ll be in debt forever! I’ll never stop being a nanny, we’ll be stuck in this hot little hallway of an apartment for the rest of our lives paying for this.” Sebastian agreed.
I checked the clock, it was nearing three A.M. We were moving in fast forward, time slipped as fast as his blood spewed, and all we could do was watch.
We continued to wrap towels upon towels, as we talked ourselves into circles about urgent care. His face was growing pale. I sat him down on our filthy IKEA sofa in case he passed out. I couldn’t make up my mind about what to do.
“Um, hey, maybe we should do something about this cut. Like maybe we should go to urgent care.” I finally said to him.
He just stared back at me, sighed, then said “Let’s just get some sleep, we can figure it out in the morning.”
The floor around the couch was turning red, so I snuck off to the bedroom to call around to some urgent care clinics. I Googled “Cheap Urgent Cares New York City.”
I found a couple suggestions on Yelp reviews that said they were able to negotiate a cheaper rate. But when I started looking at their websites, I realized none of them were open in the middle of the night. In fact, there were only two urgent cares in the city that were actually open. I rehearsed my call to them. I’ve never been good at haggling.
“Hi, I think I have a potential patient for you,” I said to myself, “How much would you charge someone with a bloody hand? It’s not too big of a cut. Perhaps you have some fancy gauze? Or maybe you could just give us some advice on the phone about how to clean up the great lake of bodily fluid that is taking over our apartment.”
No, no, that was ridiculous. I started rehearsing a new script. Maybe I should just be more direct.
“Hey, I know this is totally uncool and everything like that, but we’ve gotten ourselves into somewhat of a corner here. Can I bring my bloody boyfriend by? The only trouble is, he can’t really pay. Can you give us a deal?”
“Leahhhhhhhhh. I think we might need a new towel?” Sebastian babbled to me from the living room.
“Right, right!” I called. I searched around the bedroom floor for another towel. We were out.
“Come here,” he said. I ran out to the living room with the phone still in my hand. “Who are you calling?”
“No one… nothing.” The clock on my phone now read four A.M. Had another hour really passed?
“Are you calling urgent care? Leah, come on, it’s fine, it’s fine. Let’s just go to sleep, and tomorrow I’ll head to the pharmacy and get some Band-Aids.”
If we waited just four more hours, we could go to a cheap clinic, or the blood might already have stopped. It didn’t seem that long, by this point. I thought it might be a good idea to throw saran wrap on the bed so his blood wouldn’t stain the sheets as we slept.
We looked at each other and laughed.
“This fucking sucks.” He sighed.
“I know. Whatever,” I said back.
He didn’t seem to be in pain, just tired of cleaning up the blood. I was tired, too. He was emptying out all over the apartment. It couldn’t be long now until he was clear out of blood, withered like a dried flower; eventually he’d just turn to dust.
I tried to remind myself of this, but I didn’t really care. I almost wanted to pull out the computer, put on some Netflix, maybe fix myself a sandwich. A faint thought crossed my mind that he really could die. But since death can come at any silly moment, it’s hard to take it seriously when it’s actually right at your door. I tried to make myself panicked. He could bleed out, I tried to convince myself. This could literally be his stupid, sorry end. It was all too hard to imagine.
Then out of the blue, as if he had just seen his hand, and the blood, and the towel for the first time, he suggested, “Leah, maybe we should go to urgent care, maybe fuck the money, let’s go.”
I immediately called one of the only urgent cares, and asked them for a quote. “At least $400,” they told me. Whew! Was it worth that? I hesitated, then told Sebastian. He hesitated. Our roommate got up again.
“You still haven’t gone to urgent care? Just go!”
We took a deep breath, carried his gigantic tumor of a beach towel to the street, and hailed a cab.
When we got there, he dripped blood onto the chairs of the waiting room. The nurses offered him clean towels, then they took us back quickly, lifted the towels, and the spewing started all over again.
“You’ve cut an artery,” they explained.
“He’s been bleeding for a few hours,” I added.
“Oh, then we have to give him an IV. It’s going to cost at least a grand. Why did you wait so long?”
After they gave him the IV and cauterized his wound, we stepped out to a beautiful sunny morning. Time finally began to slow down. Every day that week, he returned to the urgent care, passed the bloody waiting room chairs, and coughed up more money. He spent a week staggering through the East Village high on painkillers, wandering into movie theaters, then not remembering the movies. At home, he jerked off just to relieve the pain for a few seconds. That’s where I found him most evenings that week: in bed, writhing.
He bounced back a week later, about the same time that I finally scrubbed up the last of the blood. Within a few months, we did move out of that hot hallway of an apartment. It was a bummer to lose all that money to urgent care, but it really wasn’t that bad. We were still immortal young punks. It was as if life and death had never met, and we went right back to pretending they never would.