It started in the morning as Hannah was leaned over in the tub and shaving her leg. She was swiping the head of her razor over her skin in an almost careless way. Her husband Brinson was brushing his teeth by the sink when the phone rang in the other room.
I’m just tired of all these calls, he said, pausing his brush. It’s these telemarketers, always looking to bother you and try and sell you something. I’m done talking with them, he said.
Brinson, Hannah said, your nose is bleeding.
He turned slowly, as if he didn’t believe her, and looked in the mirror.
Hannah finished her leg and rinsed it off with a quick jet of water. She stepped out of the tub, wrapped herself in a towel, and joined her husband by the mirror. In the reflection she could see a single red line of blood dripping out of his left nostril.
Sonuvabitch, Brinson said.
Here, Hannah said, pulling a piece of toilet paper, put this on it and lean your head back.
I know how it works, Brinson said, taking the toilet paper from Hannah and pressing it against his nostril. He leaned his head back. This isn’t my first nosebleed, he said. Used to get them all the time when I was little.
All right then, Hannah said. You’vre the expert.
He said, No, I didn’t mean it like that. Sorry. Just got creeped out there for a second.
It’s fine, Hannah said and walked out of the bathroom and into their bedroom. She dropped the towel on the floor and got dressed for work by the closet. A few seconds later Brinson came in with the tissue still pressed against his nose. Has it not quit yet? Hannah said.
I’ll be damned, Brinson said. It’s getting worse.
He removed the tissue and Hannah could see it was already saturated with blood. The nosebleed had increased, the line of blood seemingly doubled in size and speed. Oh honey, Hannah said, that looks bad.
Don’t I know it? Brinson said and put the tissue back in place.
For the next half hour the nosebleed continued and Brinson moved back and forth from whatever room Hannah was in to the bathroom, and he’vd reemerge with a new fistful of tissue. When she reached for her keys on the nail by the door Brinson stopped her.
Honey, he said to her, should I go to the doctor? I mean, I can’t go to work like this.
I don’t know, Hannah said. She didn’t know if nosebleeds were that serious. She tried to remember a time when her nose had bled, but couldn’t. Do you think you should go to the doctor?
I guess not, Brinson said and sighed. He looked at the floor. Can you do me a favor? he said.
Okay, Hannah said. But I have to get ready to go.
I know, Brinson said, but can you call me in? I mean, I guess I could, but I’vd rather you did it.
Brinson, Hannah said, you can call yourself in.
He raised his head from the floor and when he did Hannah could see the tissue he had was soaked through like the others before it. The look in his eyes was pitiful.
Please? he said.
When she dialed the numbers to Brinson’s work a man picked up and asked who she needed to talk to. I don’t know, she said. My husband’s sick and he can’t come to work today.
There was the sound of the man shuffling papers. Who is it? the man said.
Peter Brinson, Hannah said.
What’s the problem? the man said.
He’s got a nosebleed, she said.
The man coughed and said, He’s got a nosebleed?
Yeah, she said. And then, It’s a bad one, I guess.
He’s got a bad nosebleed, the man said. You guess.
That’s right, she said and looked at the clock on the stove. She was already running late. You’vve got that down? she said into the phone.
I’vve got it down, the man said.
Good, she said. Goodbye.
Brinson was standing a few feet away and when she hung up the phone he looked at her with wide eyes. What did they say? he said.
They said all right, she said. I don’t know.
All right, Brinson said. Thank you, honey. That was great of you. I mean, I feel crummy. Just about as bad as I’vve felt in a long time. You get to work. You’vre already late, honey. You get to work and I’m just going to camp out on the couch until this sucker lays off.
She leaned in to give him their customary kiss goodbye, but as she grew closer to him all she could see was the bloody tissue. She pulled back. Okay, she said. Get feeling better.
Sure thing, he said, the phone starting to ring again. You have a good day, honey.
After fighting through traffic Hannah got to the lawyer’s office where she worked as a receptionist. The clock in her car told her she was already six minutes late. She gathered her purse and keys and ran across the parking lot and in the door. By the time she sat down behind her desk she was covered in a light sweat.
Morning Hannah, her boss Mr. Brown said, peeking out his door.
Morning Mr. Brown, she said. She pressed the button on her phone that turned off the automated message. Sorry I’m late.
It’s fine, he said. Everything all right?
Oh, she said, yeah, everything’s fine. Peter had a nosebleed this morning.
A nosebleed? Mr. Brown said. He got a nosebleed?
She nodded. He was just brushing his teeth and it just started.
How about that? Mr. Brown said.
The phone rang and Mr. Brown ducked back into his office. Hannah answered and said, Theodore Brown, Attorney-At-Law.
Hey honey, came Brinson’s voice. I’m glad you made it in.
Brinson, Hannah said, what’vre you calling me for?
It’s this nosebleed, he said. It’s driving me nuts. I’m just pacing around the goddamned house. I’vve got my head tilted back and I’m just staring at the ceiling. I’m telling you, I’vve never paid so much goddamn attention to the ceiling before.
Hannah took a deep breath. Do you need anything? she said.
No, Brinson said. I guess not. Just thought maybe I’vd call. I’m frustrated, honey.
Well, she said, just try and sit still. It’s just a nosebleed.
You’vre right, Brinson said. I mean, you’vre really dead-on, honey. I’m going to go and lie down. Maybe that’ll do the trick.
Hannah hung up the phone after saying goodbye and got to work sorting through paperwork. There were bills to send out, bills to pay, and she divided the invoices into two separate piles. When that was done she filed them into folders and labeled them appropriately. Those would be her afternoon task and it was important to compartmentalize tasks because the office was very slow most of the time. Mr. Brown was not the best lawyer in town and barely made barely enough to keep her employed.
Next, Hannah did what she did most mornings when she was trying to pass time and logged onto her computer. She checked her mail and her messages and then the news. When that lost its entertainment, she typed in the address she had gotten so accustomed to. It was a video for a Ford dealership the next town over. The man who owned it was named Tex Winters, Hannah’s high school boyfriend.
She’vd first seen the video when a friend of hers named Val forwarded it to her a few months before. Val had said, Get a load of what Tex has been up to, and then Hannah and her had traded a few sarcastic remarks about how embarrassing the whole thing was. But Hannah couldn’t help but watch the video time and time again.
Come on down to Tex Winters Ford Automotive, Tex said into the camera. He was wearing a white tank top, running shoes, running shorts, a red headband wrapped around his forehead. It was an outfit she was used to seeing on him as he’vd been an all-state track and field star when they dated. The scene then cut to him running full-speed across the lot of the dealership and jumping over a quick succession of hurdles. His form was perfect and the leaps he took masterful. When he was done he looked into the camera again and wiped invisible sweat from his brow. We’ll jump any hurdle, he said, to get you into your dream car.
Hannah paused the video then. Tex’s handsome face stalled in a healthy grin. She looked at him and felt, all at once, a combination of nothing and everything. He was a stranger now, but she could still remember how it had been to be near him, to feel his strong body atop hers, to feel his breath in her ear. Once, after a track meet, she’vd gone home with him, still clad in his uniform, and made love on his parents’v couch. Looking at him, a grown man in the same uniform, she was both confused and exhilarated.
The phone rang again and shook her out of her thought. For some reason, she guiltily clicked off of the video of Tex before picking up the phone. Hello, she said. Then adding, Theodore Brown, Attorney-At-Law.
Oh god, Brinson groaned. It got worse.
Damn it, Hannah said into the phone. Brinson, she said, you can’t keep calling me like this. I’m at work. Don’t you understand what that means?
I do, Brinson said. I do, for sure. I’m sorry, honey. I’m just so mixed up over this nosebleed.
Well, Hannah said, that’s fine, but you need to leave me alone. Do you understand that? she said.
I understand, Brinson said with a sad tinge to his voice.
Tell me you understand that you can’t keep calling, Hannah said.
I understand, Brinson said. I understand that I can’t keep calling.
Good, Hannah said. If it gets worse then go to the doctor. Okay?
Okay, Brinson said.
She hung up and took a long and angry breath. As she released it the door to the office opened and a small, frail-looking old woman came inside, wearing a faded blue dress and a pair of dirty tennis shoes. Is this the lawyer’s? she said to Hannah.
Yes it is, Hannah said. Theodore Brown. Do you have an appointment? she asked, knowing there were no appointments that day or the next.
No, the old woman said and plopped into a chair. But I was hoping I could talk to the lawyer.
Okay, Hannah said and got up from her desk and walked toward Mr. Brown’s door. Just get comfortable and I’ll see if we can make that happen.
Yes ma’vam, the old woman said.
Hannah knocked on Mr. Brown’s door and then heard him say to come in. She opened it and found him in his usual position – legs up on his desk, his arm throwing a blue racquetball against the wall to his side over and over again. There’s someone here who wants to see you, Hannah said after closing the door behind her.
Who is it? he said, catching the ball and pausing.
Hannah said, An older woman. She doesn’t have an appointment.
Ah hell, Mr. Brown said and drug his feet off his desk. He opened a drawer and put away the ball. He straightened his tie. Bring her in, he said. Fuck it.
Hannah returned to the reception area and told the woman she could go in. The woman took her time navigating the few feet from her chair into Mr. Brown’s office. Every few seconds she’vd stop in her tracks to gather her breath. After what seemed like an eternity she reached for the knob and disappeared inside.
For the next twenty minutes Hannah sat and ruffled needlessly through the remaining papers on her desk. There was nothing to do, no task until that afternoon. She thought of Brinson and his nosebleed and it made her shudder. She wondered why people got nosebleeds and she got on the computer again. A quick search later and she was reading through all the possible causes. Some were small and meaningless, others terrifying.
She clicked off the page about nosebleeds and typed Tex’s name into the search bar. She found the video she’vd already watched a few dozen times and with it was another video she hadn’t seen. It was pretty much the same ad – Tex in his uniform – but this time he was running laps on an actual track. Hannah recognized it as the one at the high school, where Tex had won so many of his awards.
As he finished his workout, Tex looked into the camera and smiled. We’ll go the extra mile, he said, to get you into the car of your dreams.
Hannah instantly thought of a race she’vd seen Tex run their junior year of high school. It’vd been the 1500 Meter in Sectionals and Tex’s rival, a long and gaunt boy from Sullivan, ran the next lane over. Hannah had sat in the stands with Tex’s mother Dorothy and as they’vd neared the final stretch, neck and neck, she had reached over and grasped Hannah’s hand. She remembered how she’vd felt right then, Hannah did, Tex striding in the fading afternoon sun, that other boy falling quickly behind, Dorothy’s hand getting tighter and tighter in her own, the whole thing, the whole picture, growing clearer and clearer.
She had thought, with great clarity, This is my future.
Sitting in her chair behind her desk, Hannah could still feel the warmth from the sun, the pressure in her hand. She felt herself smiling, and then noticed the button flashing on her phone. It was Mr. Brown’s signal to join him in his office. Hannah picked up her notepad and a pen.
Mrs. Brinson, Mr. Brown said, won’t you sit and take notes for the duration of my meeting with Ms. White?
Absolutely, Hannah said and sat in the chair next to the old woman. She smiled at her and then pressed the tip of her pen against the paper. All ready when you are, she said.
All right, Mr. Brown said. Ms. White, if you would, please start your story over from the beginning. Mrs. Brinson here is simply going to jot it all down for further reference.
Sure, the old woman said. I was just telling Mr. Brown here that my good-for-nothing son took off a few weeks ago with my car and I’vve got to do something about it.
Good, Mr. Brown said. Could you state, for the record, your son’s name?
Harold, she said. Harold White. And don’t get me wrong, I love him to death. Just love him to death. But sooner or later you got to open your eyes and see what a person’s like. You got to look through all that love and get down to the meat of it.
Okay, Mr. Brown said. And what’s the situation with your son?
Oh, the old woman said and settled in her seat. Harry’s been no good for a long time. Since he was a teenager. Used to get in fights and smoke dope with his friends. He was drinking by the age of sixteen.
That’s all fine, Mr. Brown said, but what’s the current situation?
Is she getting all this? the old woman said and pointed at Hannah.
I am, Hannah said. No worries.
She’s fine, Mr. Brown said. Go on, Ms. White.
What I’m trying to say, Ms. White said, is that Harry’s been taking my money for as long as I can remember. It was a few bucks here, a few bucks there. He’vd get in my purse and help himself to whatever there was. And I let that go on a little too long, Mr. Brown. I should’vve stomped that out the first time I ever noticed. But I’m his mom. You got to understand that.
Mr. Brown said, I do.
And I guess all that adds up, the old woman said. Cause I got up a few weeks ago, made my coffee, had some breakfast, and when I looked out the window at my carport I saw that my car was gone. Now, I don’t drive anymore, but that’s not the point, Mr. Brown. It’s the principle of the matter.
It is, Mr. Brown said.
Hannah wrote THE PRINCIPLE OF THE MATTER on her notepad and underlined it for good measure.
The old woman huffed and said, Now he’s down in Kentucky. I know just where he’s at, Mr. Brown. Got the address and everything. She reached into her purse and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. Berea, Kentucky, she said. He’s even called and said he was sorry. Said he’vd met some woman and they’vd run off. Even said he was gonna pay me back for the car. But I haven’t seen a check since. You tell me what a mom’s supposed to do, Mr. Brown. Because I’vve prayed and prayed about this and I just don’t know.
Hannah, having worked for Mr. Brown for two years, knew how these matters worked. Mr. Brown wanted nothing else written down but the necessary pieces of information. He had told Hannah, many times over, that clients liked nothing better than to go on and on about their plights and misfortunes. They want a lawyer, he’vd said to her once before, but they want that lawyer to be a psychologist too. Just write down what matters and leave out all the junk, he’vd said.
So Hannah quit taking notes after getting down the important parts. She sat there in her chair while the old woman went on about what a disappointment her son had been and all the heartache he’vd caused. She sat there and nodded her head, drawing her pen close enough to the paper to make it seem as if she was taking notes, but never made another mark. In her two years Hannah had learned how to switch off like a lamp when clients got to rambling.
Instead of listening, she let her mind wander. Again, she thought of Brinson and pictured him lying on the couch, tissue pressed against his nose. But the more she thought about it the worse the nosebleed got and she was imagining it growing out of control and covering Brinson and the couch and then the room with blood. That was too much, so she backed out of that thought and found herself on Tex again. The couch that Brinson had been lying on with his nosebleed turned into the couch she and Tex shared after his meet. She was remembering how he’vd felt, how he’vd smelled, how he’vd tasted of dried sweat when Mr. Brown got her attention again.
I think we’vre good, he said to her. Hannah noticed he and the old woman were staring at her, the latter with a sense of confusion. Okay, Hannah said. Good.
She carried her notepad back to her desk, where the message light was blinking on the phone. She picked up the receiver, pressed the button, and listened.
It was Brinson. Hannah, this thing won’t go away. I’vve been doing everything I can. Laying down, laying my head back. I looked in a book and it said to pinch your nose, but that only made it worse. Work called and left a message. I guess I’vve got to meet with the head honcho tomorrow. Jesus, he said. I’m going out of my mind here.
Hannah pressed the delete button and waited for the next message. It was Brinson. Again.
Honey, he said, it’s not slowing down. What if I’m dying? What if this is it? Do people die from nosebleeds? I mean, you only have so much blood. Right? I wish I could hear your voice. I bet you’vre busy. I’m sorry, he said. I just wanted to hear your voice.
She pressed delete before he finished and sat at her desk.
A nosebleed, she said to herself.
The old woman came out of the office a little while later and hobbled out the front door. She stopped before she did and gave Hannah a strange look. She didn’t say goodbye, or thank you, just opened the door and disappeared outside. Mr. Brown wasn’t far behind and he peeked out from his office and said to Hannah, Hey, you all right?
I’m fine, she said.
You sure? he said.
Sure, she said.
Okay, he said.
Okay, she said.
She wasted no time then diving into the bills and invoices in the folders. She wrote checks and addressed the letters going out. She finished all of that within a half hour and sat there at her desk with nothing else to do. She got on the computer but had no desire to look at anything. So she logged off and knocked on Mr. Brown’s door.
Come in, he said.
She popped her head in and saw him with his legs up on the desk. He was throwing the ball against the wall and catching it. I’m not feeling so hot, she said. The schedule’s empty the rest of the day. You care if I head home?
Mr. Brown caught his ball and looked at it. Sure, he said without much feeling. Get better.
I will, she said.
After gathering her purse she went outside and got in her car. She turned the engine over and looked at the time. Twelve-thirty five. It was still early. She knew she could drive home, but the thought of it made her sick. She’vd spend the rest of the day taking care of Brinson and listening to him complain about his damned bloody nose.
Instead, she drove to a nearby pharmacy store and walked inside. She went straight to the cosmetics aisle and bought some mascara, eye shadow, lipstick. They were all shades she hadn’t worn in years. Ones that were too bright or dramatic. She paid for them and went back to the car. In the rearview mirror she painted her eyes dark and her eyelashes thick. The lipstick, a strong shade of red, framed her mouth.
The drive to Tex Winters Ford Automotive was a little under twenty minutes, but it took longer for Hannah because she kept losing her nerve and pulling over into different gas stations to reconsider. Each time she did, three in total, she’vd give herself a pep talk in the rearview mirror.
Come on, she said to herself. You only live once.
Or, What’s the problem? You’vre just going to say hello.
But when she looked in the mirror she saw herself painted in the makeup and knew she was lying. The fantasy had already started to take shape. She was going to find Tex at the dealership and pretend to be in the market for a new car. They’vd catch up, fire up the old flame, and maybe go for a test drive. Already Hannah could see herself in some cut-rate hotel room, Tex huffing and puffing on top of her like the old days.
Eventually she pulled into the parking lot for Tex Winters Ford Automotive. There was a field of cars, their prices marked on their windshields, streamers and banners emitting from the top of the office and zipping to the four corners of the lot. Next to the entrance was a cardboard cutout of Tex, decked out in his track and field uniform, a dialogue balloon hanging above him that said, We’ll Go The Extra Mile.
Hannah pushed open the door to the dealership and was hit instantly by a wall of cold air. She shivered and looked around. There was a blue minivan parked in the center of the building and behind it a group of desks and cubicles. A heavyset man wearing a blue windbreaker was already approaching her and plying on his salesman’s grin.
Can I do you for? he said.
Hi, Hannah said, looking around. Is Tex here?
Huh, the man said. I think maybe he is. I can help you out with whatever you need though.
No, Hannah said. Tex and I are old friends. Could you let him know there’s someone here to see him?
The heavyset man cocked his head and looked Hannah over like he wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. Sure, he said. Be right back.
He disappeared past the desks and left Hannah by herself to look over the minivan on display. It was sharp, a dark shade of blue, the interior leather, the whole thing tricked out with chrome and all the bells and whistles. On the front windshield somebody had written, in a starburst, Perfect For A Family Or Just For A Cruise.
Can I help you? came a voice.
Hannah turned and saw Tex standing on the other side of the minivan, wearing a red polo shirt that had the dealership’s name on the breast. He looked healthy and fit. The boy she’vd known grown into his full frame. Tex, Hannah said. Hello.
Hey, Tex said. Walt told me you wanted to see me?
Hannah circled around the minivan and reached out to shake Tex’s hand. It was strong, though Hannah could tell he was sparing her his full grip. It’s Hannah, she said.
Hannah, Tex said. He looked at her. Hannah, he said again, finally placing her. It’s you?
It’s me, she said with a laugh. You got it.
Oh god, Tex said, smiling broadly. Hannah, I can’t believe you’vre standing here. My god. It’s so good to see you.
He held out his arms and she flung herself into his hug. It’s so good to see you too, she said in his embrace.
Holy shit, he said as he let go. What’vre you doing here? How are you? I’m sorry, he said, I’m just so surprised to see you.
Yeah, she said. I’m fine. I just saw your ad on TV.
Oh no, Tex said and feigned embarrassment. Then, just as quickly, he adopted the pose he’vd struck in the video and pointed at Hannah. We’ll go the extra mile, he said in his TV voice, to get you in the car of your dreams.
That’s right, she said, laughing. That’s the one.
That’s terrible, he said. I should’vve known that was going to come back to bite me.
No, she said. No, no, no. I thought it was charming.
He said, Well, it’s something. That’s for sure.
They stood laughing awkwardly for a moment and Hannah took the chance to look down at Tex’s left hand. She saw a plain gold ring on his finger and felt her stomach churn. So, she said, feeling deflated, what’s new with you?
Oh, he said, you know. Got this business. Just trying to hustle and keep the lights on.
I see, Hannah said. Wife? Kids and a dog running in the yard?
Yep, he said and lifted that left hand up as if he were admitting some kind of guilt. Got a ball and chain and a couple of rugrats.
That’s good, Hannah said. That’s really good.
Sure, Tex said. It sure is. How about you?
Hannah thought of Brinson then and saw him bleeding on the couch. Yeah, she said weakly.
Well all right then, Tex said. Look at us all grown up.
No doubt, Hannah said.
Speaking of, he said, you come in here to catch up or to look at a motor vehicle? If you came to chat we could go grab some lunch.
No, Hannah said without thinking and then lied, I came for a car.
Oh, Tex said. Okay. What kind?
Hannah quickly turned her head and looked at the minivan in the showroom. This one, she said. This minivan.
It’s a good one, Tex said. That’s for sure. Pretty good deal on it too.
All right, Hannah said. I like it.
Tell you what, Tex said, let’s take her for a spin. You’vre going to fall in love with this baby.
Sure, Hannah said. Let’s do it.
Tex excused himself then and walked into the back to get the keys. Hannah stood and waited nervously by the minivan while the other salesman, stationed at their bullpens just off the showroom floor, watched her. When Tex reappeared, keys in hand, she forced herself to smile.
Ready to give her a run? Tex said.
You bet, Hannah said.
She got into the minivan’s driver’s seat and waited for Tex to slide in. As he did Hannah heard the rumbling of an ancient-sounding motor overhead. The wall in front of her started to lift like a garage door and she could see out into the lot and the highway just past it.
All right, Tex said. Let’s get going.
Hannah put the minivan into drive and slowly rolled out of the showroom.
You’vve got everything you need in here, Tex said, reaching for the buttons on the console. All your music and navigation. I mean, he said, this thing’s fully loaded.
Hannah turned onto the highway and merged with traffic. The minivan felt good to drive, smooth and comfortable. Tex turned through the stations on the radio and found one that was playing something by The Stone Temple Pilots. It had been his favorite band in high school and Hannah had spent many a day and night listening to their albums while the two of them kissed and sweated together.
Now that’s an oldie but a goodie, Tex said.
Down the road Hannah realized she was feeling better. She had left Brinson, the office, Mr. Brown, behind, if only for a while. It was one forty-seven in the afternoon and she was miles from anywhere she would’vve normally been. She felt lighter. She looked in the passenger seat and saw a grinning, glowing Tex.
How’s she feel? he said.
Couldn’t be better, Hannah said.
I tell you, Tex said, it’s a dream to drive. That’s for sure. It’s got all the gadgets and things you’vd want. And let me tell you something. Most of these minivans are pretty pathetic. They’vre no fun to cart around, that’s for sure. But this one? he said. It’s a fine looking automobile. Just what a beautiful woman like yourself should be driving.
Hannah looked again at Tex, who was still grinning. It was the look he’vd given her all those times when he’vd had something in mind.
I got an idea, Hannah said. Let’s just drive off. You and me. We’ll just skip this podunk town and head for hills.
Tex laughed. Yeah, he said. That’s the ticket. Just drive west and start over.
That’s what I’m saying, Hannah said. Hit an ATM and get a bunch of cash and start over.
Hasta la vista, Tex said.
Hasta la vista, Hannah said and laughed. She felt a sudden burst of confidence and reached across the leather console. She touched Tex’s leg and felt the taut muscle beneath his khakis. Sounds pretty good, she said.
Tex immediately sat up straight in the passenger seat and moved his leg from her touch. Uh, he said, Hannah, we ought to bring this baby back to the dealership. We’vre getting a little far out.
What about driving west? she said, gripping the wheel with both hands now. What about starting over?
C’mon, Tex said, looking down at his lap. C’mon, Hannah.
Hannah didn’t say anything. She waited for the next chance to turn around and headed back in the direction of the dealership. A few minutes of silence later, she pulled back into the parking lot and near the still-open door.
This is fine, Tex said reaching for his door handle. I’ll have the guys get it back in place.
Sure, Hannah said. She turned the engine off and removed the keys. I’m going to have to think about it some, she said.
Tex stepped down onto the lot. Yeah, you should probably talk to your husband about it.
I probably should, Hannah said.
After giving the keys back to Tex Hannah hurriedly walked back to her car and got inside. Tex wasted no time hurrying into the dealership. She looked back to see if maybe he was watching but saw only the cardboard cutout with the dialogue balloon. We’ll go the extra mile, it said.
Without turning the radio on, Hannah drove back into town and into the driveway of her house. She sat there in the car for a long while and ran through the drive with Tex over and over. She wanted to go back and stop herself from touching his leg. She wanted to go back and stop herself from driving there in the first place. She wanted to go back and stop the day from ever starting.
When she opened the front door the first thing she saw was Brinson sprawled out on the living room couch, twisted and contorted with one of his legs hanging off the back of the couch and the other on the floor. His face was scrunched as if in agony. He was still pressing a ball of tissue against his nose while a crowd of bloodied and crumpled ones lay beside him and on the coffee table and the floor. Everywhere Hannah looked she saw bloody tissues.
Oh thank god, Brinson said, sitting up. I’m so glad you’vre home, honey. It’s still going.
Still? Hannah said. She dropped her purse and hung her keys on the nail by the door.
I’m telling you, Brinson said, I don’t think this thing’s ever going to end. Come here, he said and got off the couch. She followed him into the kitchen where the table was similarly covered with tissues caked in dried blood. At the center of the table though was an open copy of an old medical textbook. It’s all right here, Brinson said. I think maybe I’m cursed.
Brinson, Hannah said. I’m getting a headache.
Well, Brinson said, pulling the tissue from his nose and examining it. It was scarlet with blood and Hannah could see a new trickle making its way out of his nostril. I’m sorry, honey. I’m sorry you’vve got a headache. Can I tell you what I’vve been thinking about?
In a little while, Hannah said and walked wearily toward the bedroom. I think I’m going to lie down.
All right, Brinson said and followed her into the room. He went into the adjacent bathroom and got another stretch of tissue for his nose. You lay down, honey. Get some rest. When you get up I’ll run you through it. I mean, this thing is driving me crazy. This nosebleed. I don’t think it’s ever gonna stop.
Hannah laid down on the bed and put her head on a pillow. It was the one Brinson usually slept on and it smelled sour like he did of the morning. All right, she said. Just give me a few minutes. Just let me rest.
She closed her eyes and tried to sleep but couldn’t make herself go under. She stayed still in the blackness and listened to Brinson in the other room. She could hear the couch springs squeaking when he laid down and when he got up. She could hear him going back and forth between the living room and the kitchen. Sometimes she could even hear him frantically flipping through the thin pages of the book on the table.
Eventually sleep came and she had a quick and strange dream. She and Brinson were on a trip somewhere, maybe their honeymoon, and they were sharing a bottle of red wine and talking about the future. It wasn’t a place they had been though, the restaurant they were sitting in, and they had never had any conversation like it on their actual trip. Just as that thought occurred to Hannah she looked across the table at Brinson, in the dream, and watched a stream of blood the color of the wine pour of both of his nostrils.
She woke with a start when she heard the phone ringing in the other room. Brinson answered it and she listened to him speak into the receiver. No, he said, we’vre all fine here. We don’t need anything. Then a pause where she thought she could actually hear him thinking. Listen, he said after a moment, you don’t know anything about nosebleeds do you?