San Francisco, California
Last week on my way to work I noticed what looked like a trail of blood drops on Judah Street. I was distracted, playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone and also listening to a podcast. I walk every day the same 20 blocks to work, so I can basically do it on autopilot. I’m not sure how, with those distractions, as well as watching for traffic, that I actually noticed the blood spatter… but I did. At first I thought, oh, somebody cut their hand and must have dripped on their way into the house.
This morning, I noticed the blood drops again, near 18th avenue. It’s been a week, and the blood has turned a brownish-black:
This morning I was struck, somehow, by the fact that the blood was still there. It hasn’t rained, but it’s been foggy and misty. I would have thought that the blood would have been washed away at this point… but there it is…
and there it was again, halfway down the block…
So I kept watching for it….
And there it was again, between 18th and 17:
And again, between 17th and 16th:
I started to question what I was seeing… is this really blood? What else could it be? Paint? Chocolate Syrup?
But it really looks like blood, and whatever happened, it happened a week ago, and whomever it happened to has now been walking at least four blocks leaving these drips and splatters every few feet.
Judging by the way the splatters are distended toward the West, I’m guessing this person was traveling East– maybe headed for the hospital, which is at the top of the hill, about 16 more blocks. But then I noticed that the blood was very close to the houses, rather than in the middle of the sidewalk, where most people would walk, like this poor bleeding being was hugging the walls.
Then I saw this between 16th and 15th, and it occurred to me that it could be an injured animal, maybe a dog. For some reason, this made me more upset than thinking it had been a person. The dog might have been hit by a car at 19th, which is what Highway 1 is called as it passes through the western edge of San Francisco. It’s a dangerous, loud road, and the cars travel fast.
So is this what a dog would do if it were bleeding? I have seen animals hit by cars- they usually keep running if they can, and then either collapse or go hide under something.
But this animal has been moving in a straight line for four blocks, and at a steady but not panicked pace, from the way the drops are spaced out.
At the corner of 14th, the trail continued…
and again, midway through the block:
And I’m starting to feel… this strange mix of feelings: curiosity, disbelief, concern, wonder, doubt, worry, bafflement. I’m starting to try to find a story in this trail. What happened? When did it happen? Who did it happen to? Why did it happen? Was it an accident? Was it self-inflicted? Was it inflicted by one person an another person, or by a person on an animal, or by one animal on another animal? Was it during the day? Did anyone see it happen? Was it at night? Was it cold outside? Was there fear?
Is this person, or animal, still alive?
Midway between 14th and 13th (which is called, maybe superstitiously, Funston, rather than 13th) the trail of blood paralleled the hedge and manicured grass beside St. Anne of the Sunset church.
A woman walking her dog seemed curious that I was taking pictures of the ground, but the two of them passed by without comment. I wished I could ask her dog if it was really blood. So much would be solved by having a nose that could tell me if I was making a mistake, if my worry could be foundless, and instead I could wonder why someone would walk all this way dripping some substance other than one that signals a significant injury.
When I crossed 13th (Funston), to the next block I lost the trail. I was just beginning to feel relief, when it appeared again, halfway to 12th avenue:
Again, right against a doorway and a fence… the way a dog would… sniffing at every little object, every little chemical story.
Somehow that made me feel better. If the dog has time to sniff, maybe the injury wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was just bleeding a lot. And the drops look a smaller. Maybe, at this point, it was stopping.
Midway between 12th and 11th, I found this:
Somebody’s bloody right hand.
And then the trail of drops continued between 11th and 10 avenue:
And on 10th, amid the flattened gum and coffee stains and garbage and general dirt, they disappeared.
Nothing outside Dash Cafe. Nothing outside the Donut Shop…
except people at 9th avenue in scrubs and tennis shoes, on their way to work at the hospital, like me.
Nothing more from 9th all the way up to the hospital. Just a relatively clean sidewalk:
We are blasted daily by one crisis after another. They bloom like violent flowers, or fireworks, or solar flares, and are quickly replaced by the next crisis. I am trained to pay attention to things because they are recent, because they just happened, or are happening right now. Once the fresh injuries, the pain, the drama of the unfolding has taken place, attention shifts to something else. Try looking for new information about a story that is a week old.
Like this blood trail, you will find mostly just the original trauma reiterated, and beginning to fade.
But something happened, and I don’t know what to do with that. I feel compelled to reach some level of explanation, some understanding. It seems like we are all compelled to find out certain things: who, what, when… and then guess at why… until we reach a point where some internal need is satisfied. A need to identify things, to make sense of things.
I have to keep walking past this trail of blood every day. I have no idea how long it will take to be washed away by the world moving on. But it won’t get washed out of me.