The darkest evening of the year.

When I was a kid--no older than five or six, I suppose--I cut my finger while we had a babysitter over. There was quite a lot of blood, and I was quite inconsolable. The babysitter asked me if she could kiss it and make it better, even though she knew that it wouldn't stop the bleeding. I let her, and it didn't, but I realized then--do you ever wonder about how perfect and clear some things are in childhood memories?--that she was, for lack of a better word, drinking my blood. I didn't understand, and that just made it worse.

Eventually, electrical tape and what used to be a clean rag solved the problem kissing wouldn't. I don't remember much after that. It was a singularly strange moment and it stuck with me, though. I know we had dozens of babysitters, and I don't remember most of them, but I always wondered about her as I was getting older. Raised as I was in a house with neither a mother nor sisters, she became an iconic female figure in my life, someone who would one day come in and make everything okay.

Of course, I never met her again, but I liked to imagine that the girl I dated through college looked just like her. Maybe she was a cousin or something. I never told her, of course, but I would come to her with my injuries, and she would tend to them. They were seldom bad, but after a particularly nasty accident on my bike, she was covered in my blood and insisting that I go to the hospital.

Instead I put a bloody finger to her lips, and she, understanding, kissed the blood off it, then the rest of my hand, then the oozing road rash on my legs and shoulders. Later I showered, the water flowing pink from my body, and she helped put salt on the wounds so they'd scab, and I never did get to the hospital. Some time a few months later we broke up in a quiet sort of way--no fights or official declarations, we just both realized that we hadn't seen each other in a while and didn't really want to. She never understood why, she told me years later as we met again at a class reunion.

I said that some people just drift apart, but that was a lie, like so many other things.

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