Creative Nonfiction: The blood we spill and the blood we keep by Madeline Anthes

I see the white brick walls and huge windows of your house on the news; inside a man has killed his family. You don’t live there anymore. Now, neither does the family that bought the house from you.

Life doesn’t stop, and I need to go.

I warn the woman drawing my blood that I get faint. I do not tell her I’m thinking of a man with a gun pointed at his family two states away.

She talks to me and fills the room with dull questions. I appreciate the noise.

I picture my blood spilling into a tube in her hand. I picture the blood on the walls. A gun cocked, the geometric window filling the room with light. A teenager crying.

I answer her automatically, the kind of mindless chatter I hate. The kind that’s void of authenticity, emotion. The kind I’m good at.

She flicks the tube and her nail makes a click against the glass.

A gunshot would echo through that house with its marble floors and high ceilings. A scream would, too. The room would taste of smoke and rust. Of ash.

I can feel the color draining from my face, a dizziness settling into my eyes.

We cried in those rooms, two girls. The kind of teenage girls that are more sisters than friends. Blood was the only thing different between us.

We stole your parents’ vodka and filled the bottle with water. We had parties and slept over and told stories about the house and the people who’d lived there before us. Your brother and his friends haunted other rooms; we floated around each other in a haze of hormones and fear and exhilaration. We loved so hard in those rooms. Could the walls feel it?

I know about poisoned homes and how much blood a body can hold. A house is absorbent like a heart; the walls can only hold so much horror before they start to leak and destroy those who live inside.

We are living with that poison in our blood. We made it out alive.

My color returns and I sit up in my chair. I see stars and my blood is on the counter.

When I turn to go, my mouth tastes like ash.

Madeline Anthes is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at

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