I Taste Blood by Rebecca Portela

I forget where we got it from. I forget where we got any of our drugs from. Adrian would make a call. He would sometimes be hesitant to make a call, like maybe he had burned that bridge a few times before. Eventually it was 4 a.m. and we got a few hits of acid. We sat on a bench at the 23rd Street subway station waiting for it to kick in. If you know anything about drugs, you know that after an hour, or what seems like an hour, you confidently decide that this shit is weak or fake because it hasn’t hit you yet. So you take more and then, immediately, the first drugs take over and you have a much longer night than you planned.

Starting an acid trip at 4 a.m. is not smart. And taking a second dose at 4 a.m. is what you do when you are with Adrian.

We took the train to anywhere and nowhere.

“We should have decided what to do before . . .”

“Let’s just stay in the city. Watch the sunrise and shit.”

We went to Central Park and Adrian took pictures of me as I played with breathing, pulsing, pounding blades of grass. The water under the bridge rippling and roaring back and forth.

“Hey! I really want an apple.”

“That’s going to be impossible. Let’s do it.”

I looked ahead at the swirling patterns and trees that went from huge to small and back to huge again. My legs were unmanageable, heavy and wavy and disconnected from my body.

“Adrian?” My check-in whenever I thought too much time had passed. Has it been hours? Minutes? Seconds? Where is he?







We made it to the street. We walked into banks, law offices, schools, retail stores, searching for an apple.

I walked onto a boat. It was really an Au Bon Pain, but you couldn’t convince me it wasn’t a boat.

“Ahoy, how did we get on this boat?” I asked as I swayed back and forth from the choppy waters of the sea.

“I don’t know, but grab that apple!”

I jerked my arm forward and mechanically spread out my fingers and hovered my robot arm over the apple like a claw in a stuffed animal machine.

I bumped into people in line because of the rough waters. I absolutely made comments about the unpredictable nature of the sea. The cashier told me a price, and I handed her a variety of coins and green bills. She handed most of it back and I shoved it into my pockets.

I bit into my green apple and the loud crunch played in stereo all around me.

Adrian was much better at being on drugs than I was. He was able to navigate the city and public transportation, reining me in whenever I got lost in the sidewalk or the walls or the veins in my arms.

“C’mon, we gotta go!”

Where did we have to go? Did we have an appointment we were running late for? Everything was immediately-right-the-fuck-now with Adrian.

We got back to our apartment in Astoria. We lived right above a restaurant that made breakfast at 7 a.m. every morning. I would be deep in slumber and inevitably turn to a person in my dream and ask, “Bacon?” I woke up to the rich, greasy smell of bacon coming through the window from the vent on the roof.

Adrian and I sat on the bed and stared at each other in silence. His caterpillar eyebrows wiggled around on his forehead. I put my mouth on Adrian’s and tried to remember how to kiss.

“I taste blood.”


I raised my hand and moved it robotically towards my mouth. I couldn’t tell my tongue from my teeth from my lips. I put my fingers in my mouth and twirled them around my tongue, teeth, and lips. I pulled out chunks and bits of bloody flesh.

“Is this yours, sir?” I said with a British accent.

Adrian put his hands to his mouth and coated his fingers with dripping red blood.

He smiled and ripped my shirt down the middle and kissed my bare chest with his bleeding mouth. We had sex sloppily and absent-mindedly, forgetting what we were doing in the middle, forgetting who we were, remembering things like condoms near the end and forgetting them again. Doing everything we could to feel more alive with each other—bleeding, fucking, fighting—epically, tragically drugged and trying desperately to hold on to the fleeting moments of the here and now.

We lay in bed, him smoking weed, me writing in my notebook. I stopped in the middle of my train of thought and turned to him.

“I ate your face.”

“I hate your face, too.”

I can pinpoint the exact day when everything shifted. Two months after I moved in, I decided to get somewhat cozy and rearrange some of Adrian’s things.

He had miscellaneous junk occupying every nook in an already cramped room. My eyes always met the bed first. It was the only soft part of Adrian. He had built a trellis with warm yellow lights winding in and out of the bars like a wild vine. Uncertain of where to begin, I picked up a mismatched pair of screws from the top of his bookcase and spun them around each other in my hand. The shelf below displayed a row of Adrian’s moleskine notebooks, filled with scribbled ideas that I had already pored over many times when he wasn’t home. His words rebelled against the printed lines. I imagined him running to catch a train, his thoughts racing around in circles, and suddenly the perfect line wiggles around in front of him and threatens to leave him forever. He must fish out his notepad and write it down before he forgets. And it is brilliant.

I rummaged through boxes and boxes of acquired junk mail, flyers, and garbage. I looked up to find even more boxes stacked on the top shelf of his closet. I rolled the computer chair to the closet and, holding it steady, I wobbled my way up to standing on the seat. The chair teetered back and forth. I reached for one of the boxes and pulled it from the front.

The box came down on top of me along with all of its contents. I grabbed the other box with both hands, trying to chair-surf as best I could, and eased my way down to set the box on the floor. Both boxes were filled with CDs and floppy discs from America Online, offering a free trial. Promising 5, 10, 25, 1000 free hours of connecting online! Was he a pack rat or just too lazy to throw them out? Who even used AOL anymore? Some of them were over ten years old—surely he had no reason to keep all of these. Surely he’d be pleased with me, that I spent all day cleaning.

I always knew he was home seconds before he made his entrance. I heard the heavy stomping of his boots charging up the stairs. The door flew open as if it were preemptively getting out of his way. But this time, the goofy expression that he always wore morphed as his eyes met the trash bags full of AOL spam. In a hurried frenzy, I shoveled the CDs back into the box. He grabbed my wrist, looking me in the eyes as he squeezed.

“Don’t you ever touch my things! They are not yours! They are mine! Are we clear?!” he bellowed.

I fumbled for words, trying to explain that it was just junk in the bags. He screamed so fiercely that I thought another, redder face would burst from his head. He rambled so fast that I was sure I misheard his long-winded rationale. His plan was that once he had collected a million discs, he would send them all back to AOL to “stick it to ’em, because FUCK them.” He scoffed at me for not recognizing the brilliance of his plan, the delicate irony!

After AOL shifted its business plan, these promotional CDs were rendered useless and were no longer distributed. Seeing that he only had about a thousand of them and no feasible way of acquiring more, I suggested perhaps he should give up his prank and just be an adult instead.

He left the room and rummaged through the hall closet. He clawed at my suitcase and hurled it into the bedroom. A stinging pain shot up my arm. I struggled to push the suitcase off of me, but my arm was limp. I mustered the courage to look at Adrian, fearful of what monster might be staring back, only to find a chilling insouciance.

“What are you waiting for? Get your shit and get the fuck out of here,” he said in a tone that was eerily lighthearted.

I struggled to gather my composure, my knees wobbling like a newborn giraffe, and hobbled toward my clothes. I grabbed them by the handful and moved them into the suitcase with my good arm. I sat on the suitcase and tried my best to zip it closed, while Adrian burned into my skin with his caustic glare. I calculated the permutations of people I knew and places I could go: tears welled up.

I had no one.

I had nowhere to go. I had turned my life over to Adrian without entertaining the possibility that he would abandon me.

I held my injured arm close to my heart and dragged the suitcase to the front door. I half-expected him to stop me, beg me for forgiveness. I even looked back, which is not something you’re supposed to do. He stood planted, his expression cold. I opened the door, stepped out, and heard it click shut behind me.

What now?

I stood in the tiny square between the door and the stairs leading to the rest of the world. I stood in the square where I always seem to stand, between comfortable misery and daunting unknown.

Adrian opened the door, knowing I would still be waiting for him, and said, “I don’t know how to live without you.”

My heart sank and pulled my dignity down with it. Adrian fed me apologies and empty promises—at that point, I didn’t care to analyze the difference. I just wanted it to be true. I stood in the square, understanding exactly how little I had to rely on. I had to blindly trust myself or blindly hand myself over to a maniac who I just happened to love.

At that moment, I had accepted my choice: I was this girl. I accepted that I was this girl who allowed suitcases to be thrown at her. And it made it easier to accept the rest of what was to come.

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“I Taste Blood” is an extract from Rebecca Portela’s upcoming memoir, Unearthed.

Rebecca Portela

Rebecca Portela is a writer and speaker for human rights and animal protection in New York City. She specializes in the genres of psychology and comedy writing. She recently finished writing her memoir, Unearthed, where she marries her unique humor with critical subject matters, including PTSD and sexual abuse. You can find her cynical idealism showcased on her twitter @veganbex.