Anesthetized and drowsy, I made my way through the tired eyes, empty seats and magazines of the hospital waiting room. I could see rain running down the automatic glass doors of the building, and beyond, the lights of a city too tired to sleep. As I walked my arms hung limp by my sides, and the bandages on my right hand were soaked, blood steadily running down my fingers and dripping on the floor.

“Sign out please, sir.” The receptionist passed a plastic clipboard over the counter.

I went to sign the sheet, but as I gripped the pen in my hand, a great numbness ran up my arm. My fingers contorted, the pen flew, and I folded up in pain on the floor.

“Sir? Sh-should I call a nurse? Sir?” I pulled myself up to the counter, and shook my head. I tried to take the pen in my left hand, but she just said she would take care of it, and looking down, I could see that I had smeared a good deal of blood on both the counter and the clipboard.
“You can keep the pen.”

Passing through the automatic doors and into the night, the rain felt warm, and the darkness complete. I had already called for a cab, but they said it would take another ten minutes before one would arrive.

“How will we know if you’re the one that called?” he had said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be the one bleeding all over the place out in the rain.” I suppose I could have waited inside, but it was too cold and bright in the hospital. They had to cut away my clothing when they brought me here, and all I had on now were the stiff blue paper scrubs they had provided. They did little to shield me from the chill. Sitting on the curb, I watched as my blood floated on the water and spiraled down the storm drain. It was like watching every joy I had ever known, every way showing light, extinguished before my eyes. I could feel the corners of my mouth turning upward slowly. I’m still unsure if I was smiling in resignation, watching my life pour down the gutter, or if it was only the intravenous narcotics taking effect. Either way I couldn’t help but laugh.

I could see the cab making its way through the parking lot to the pick-up lane, and I stood to greet him. The numbness and cold returned, and I swayed gently, staggering off the curb into the rushing water. The rain was coming faster, and it roared all around me, deafening, difficult even to see through. As I stepped up to the rear door, the driver eyed me with some trepidation. The inside of the cab was rancid. The smell of vomit and patchouli was thick, and a pane of glass stood between the front and back seats. I still wasn’t sure exactly where I was, and wasn’t sure where to tell him to take me. I gave him directions to my father’s house, and then let my head rest against the window. As we rode, I watched the water coursing down, the lights drifting by out in the darkness. I saw myself reflected in the water and glass. I could just make out the swollen purple contours of my face, the blood dried in some places, still flowing in others. The bridge of my nose was jutting out to the left, a sort of yellowish blue. As soon as I touched it, I wished I hadn’t. I could hear and feel it snap painfully into place, and the blood started running quicker. I didn’t know what I would do when we arrived, because I had no money to pay him. I could only hope that my father was home, and that he would be kind enough to help. As we drew nearer, I became more nervous, and the landmarks I knew in childhood became grim monuments, silhouettes in the unforgiving night.
When we pulled up to the curb at my father’s house, there were no lights inside. I told the driver to wait, and started up the path to the door. I knocked. I knocked again. I could hear the dog barking inside, but still no lights. The driver started getting anxious, and threatened to call the police if I didn’t pay, or find someone who could. I started regretting ever coming here, but wondered where else I would have gone. Just as I was getting ready to give up, the kitchen light came on, and through the window in the front door I could see the tired shape of my father. As soon as I could see him, I wished he wasn’t home. The door swung wide.

“Wh-what are you doing here? Do you know what time it is? Did you come here in a cab?” He rubbed his eyes and looked out into the street, and back at me, but still didn’t invite me inside.

“Yeah . . . I need help.” I could hardly bear to hold my head up, let alone look him in the eye. The pain, the shame, they were just too great.”What’s wrong?”

“Can I come inside? I’m soaked, and it’s cold.”

Now he stepped aside, and held the door open for me. Coming into the house brought a host of strange feelings and memories. The paintings I had done that were once proudly displayed were now just in the way, propped against a wall in the corner behind old furniture and boxes. There was an empty space on the wall where one of the paintings had hung. For a moment I couldn’t tear myself away from it, the hideous bare wall, leering at me. It was almost as if it were intentional, the work that had consumed my every thought and ambition, now cast aside. If I had been greeted with a dagger, I doubt it could have cut me any deeper.

“What is it you need help with?” My father sat down and started nervously turning over something in his hands. I didn’t want to sit on account of my drenched clothes, but could barely stand on account of my weary legs and narcotic anesthesia.

“I don’t have any money for the cab.” My father continued to stare at the table, picking up and putting things down, saltshakers, toothpicks, but still remained silent. “

“I was in a fight. They had to take me to the hospital. He tried . . . I stabbed . . . I don’t know what happened, it was sorta crazy.”

“You always do things like this, every time we see you, it’s something else! I can’t keep doing things for you, you have to learn how to live for yourself.”

“It wasn’t like that! He was going to kill me!”

“Then you shouldn’t put yourself in those kinds of situations.” The room was silent. He folded his hands and let out a heavy sigh. “I’ll pay for the cab.”

“Do, do you think I could stay here tonight? There’s nowhere for me to go, and it’s pouring out. All I have are these paper clothes.”
He still hadn’t looked me in the eyes, but I didn’t mind. He stood and walked into the other room without saying a word. I was still standing, looking over the empty spaces on the wall, and then back at the floor.

When he came back, he was holding a long black coat, looking it over until he was satisfied, then he laid it over the back of the chair in front of me.
“You can’t stay here tonight, we tried that before. But you can take this coat, and there’s an umbrella by the door.”

I picked up the coat. It was a long, black, imitation suede trench coat, and it looked like it had never been worn. When I put it on, somehow it made me feel even more like a derelict. I went to the door, picking up the umbrella on the way.

“I love you,” my father said, his eyes, for once, sincere.

“It’s nice to know who I can really count on. I love you too John.”

I stormed out the door and into the rain. I didn’t realize until after I had already said it, but somehow it seemed right. I had called him by his first name. The man I had just finished talking to didn’t seem like my father. He seemed so foreign, so strange. Like someone I might have known, but not very well. A friend, but only in fair weather, and right now, the sun was far from shining. It had been hiding for five years, and it would only shine when its light would serve to make my world more desolate, and its heat oppressive.

I started walking, no destination in mind. The rain was still pouring, and the trench coat did little to block the cold. The scrubs I was wearing were still wet, and they stuck uncomfortably to my body. I tried to put as much distance between myself and my father’s house as quickly as possible. I came out on Beauregard Street, a main road running through the neighborhood. The street was dotted with apartments and restaurants, but the normally busy street was now empty of cars.

Looking down the road, I could see every stoplight for the next quarter mile, and every one was red. The hazy distant lights seemed to me like an omen. This is as far as you go. No right turns, no more dreams.

The rain was starting to subside, but my body was still cold, and the shivering was uncontrollable. I had to find a place to lay down. Up ahead I could see a bus stop, the kind with a little canopy and a bench. Maybe not the most comfortable place to sleep, but it would have to do.
As I stretched out, I could feel every blow, every wound coming back to haunt me. The bench was too short to fully lay down, so I had to lie with my knees pulled up to my chest. The day’s events started making their way back into my mind. I thought about my father, and the dreary cab ride. I thought about the wound still bleeding in my palm. I thought about Victoria, and the way she wore her hair. The way she lit her cigarette, and the way she laughs when she is scared. My chin quivered as I fought back my tears.

I held my hand up in the dim lamplight. The wet gauze was falling away, and I could see the stitching on the cut. I unraveled the bandages, revealing the puffy, bleeding wound. The stitches seemed loose, and I could see down into my skin. The doctors said it was deep, and that they had to stitch the muscle back together before they could seal it up.

As I started to wrap it back up, a hard jet of water sprayed my back, my hand, and the side of my face. As I jumped up off the bench, the numbness and narcotics rushed back into my head, and I collapsed into a puddle. Straining to look over my shoulder, I could see a row of sprinklers rising out of the ground, rotating as they sprayed the flowers in front of the hotel behind me. The irony was just too much, and I couldn’t control myself. I exploded into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, tears streaming down my face as I rolled around on the sidewalk.

You must understand, this was not joyous laughter. This was the sound of my fiddle, playing as all of Rome burned down around me. This was laughter not of resignation but of mocking, laughing at the cruel manner of my fate. These tears were not of sorrow, these were tears of wine, bittersweet as fine champagne, a toast to every sleepless night, every lonely lover, every moment in every day of an entire lifetime of dying slowly. If this is to be my fate, then let it rain, let it bleed, leave me to my uneasy peace. These tears had fermented for five long dark years in a great oaken cask inside me, crushed from strange fruit that would have ripened on the vine if I hadn’t hidden them away. A rare bohemian vintage, meant only for the vintner’s lips, with the bitter taste of melancholy’s kiss.

I started walking again, aimlessly, down the middle of the street. The tears hadn’t stopped yet, but I was smiling now. Still cold. Still alone. But in good spirits.

The lights had turned to green, and the night had turned to sunrise. Sometimes all it takes is a taste. Nothing can cleanse the palate, soothe the soul, or keep you warm when you are cold, like tears of wine.

Seth Edwards’s personal essay won first prize in 2014 in the Second Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. A self-published author, he is a Fine Arts major in his second year at SVA. Most of his inspiration is drawn from real life experiences, expressed in a vivid symbolist style in a variety of visual mediums.