on following a trail of blood

an essay on the nature of romantic involvements ]

It is not uncommon to fall upon—strictly by happenstance—a trail of blood. Most who read this will know exactly what kind of situation to which I am referring. It need not be delineated in an inauthentic fashion; rather, it suffices merely to mention these things, similarly to how the word happenstance, a turn of phrase:trail of blood, and so forth, conjure automatically the correct mental images & attendant emotions or trails of “thought” to communicate effectively and deeply this kind of human experience.

Belonging to these bloody trails is another being, a being that others will also recognize but almost barely, as if one is standing in the darkened kitchen washing dinner dishes late at night, noticing absently his reflection in the window over the sink when suddenly a stranger’s face appears behind the glass, superimposed with the image of the self, and there is a moment of reckoning, disorientation, intense fear, & curiosity. At this moment, one cannot breathe, but merely looks and exists within that looking, which is a reach both outwards and inwards towards the unknown and the reflection of the self, for in this moment the two are completely conjoined.

We call this experience ROMANCE, and it is this experience that also overlays the experience of a blood trail, however opaquely. I must reiterate, if I have not been explicitly clear thus far, that happenstance and romance are not the same entities, and nor is mystery; rather, happenstance is the more visible moon revolving inside illusory vacant space, the latter which is akin to mystery & romance though this metaphor takes us far beyond the scope of what kind of particulars we are exploring in the present discourse.

Now close your eyes, or if not your eyes, then your ears & all sensation that would be wont to distract from the imagery we are about to move through together. And breathe, deeply, for there is a strange smell in the air—a smell that you have encountered “by accident” before, not often, and yet it is eminently familiar.

Looking down you see the first red blotches on the packed dirt road, which is sandy in color. You remember momentarily that you are in the country (something you’d forgotten due to heavy daydreaming, conjuring diners & streetcars & leather jackets of all things), and overwhelmingly you focus on the first specks gleaming in the dim overcast autumn daylight, slightly past noon. The blood therefore is fresh, so you’ve arrived early to this trail, or some might say, precisely on time.

This is the most pivotal moment, the moment that will determine how the rest of the trail evolves. It is also the most misunderstood aspect of blood trails, for many feel that these kinds of paths are predestined; this belief is a grievous and unfortunate mistake. You will not fall prey to this for now you are seeing with your eyes almost as clearly as you have smelled the scent of this blood before the moment of seeing the glossy adolescence of its position on the ground.

There are two directions to move in at this juncture, and you will choose wisely for you have surely experienced what could befall your heart, mind, & soul if the wrong steps are taken this early in the encountering of such a trail. One must not saunter illogically or without one’s wits about them (powers of observation) or other such important technical tools. Rather, decidedly, one must choose one of two directions to move in for to seek out the beginning of the blood trail.

This decision is pivotal, for one rarely enters a romantic encounter in the beginning, but rather in the middle—somewhere after the foundation has been established (and this early learning arises, falsely, as “a priori knowledge” of the trail though in fact it was learned in real time (actuality) but was later (or presently) forgotten through, again, happenstance); nor does one enter at the end, for then there is no trail but merely a body, or more usually, nothing at all (see disappearing acts in part two of my book The Battle of Hearts). No no, more precisely (and most frequently) one trulyenters into a romantic scenario smack in the middle of it, if we are referring to any real kind of entering as the term applies to cognizance, sensory awareness, & mind-body alignment.

At the same time, this moment of middle-entering is perhaps the most precarious, for one realizes suddenly, “By God, I’ve stumbled upon another trail of blood.” And at this point there is no turning back for the smell has already permeated one’s nose, and thereby particles from the blood have permeated the membranes inside that nose and absorbed into the blood stream of the smeller. Even if one is to remove themselves from the physical body of the blood trail, the trail would inhabit their body on a cellular level and therefore there is no real turning away. In this sense, smell is perhaps the linchpin of romantic encounters, which bodes well for those born extra-sensitive in this area.

And so you use your nose, and must follow the scent with your eyes. This is an unfamiliar practice to many who have not recognized that they exhibit this kind of mating behavior on a daily basis (sublimated, often, to eating rituals when mating is impractical or impossible), but once you recognize its potential the power of this practice can be quite overwhelming. The beginning of the trail is what you’re after at this point, so as to undo the afore mentioned sense that one understands the romantic situation from an a priori position, for you must stringently re-learn that which has been already learned and then taken for granted in order to make it to the end of the trail. The beginning, not surprisingly, quite smells like a child being born—greasy & fresh in equal measure. The metallic scent (similar to that of a loaded shotgun) which will try to mislead you (towards the end of the trail) should be ignored completely until after the beginning of the trail is located, and if this scent comes across more strongly at this point then simply move in the direction opposite from whence it is drifting.

Though some prefer to move with extreme care & caution along a blood trail, analyzing every speck of blood and conjecturing wildly about where the blood has come from, what state the body is in that has shed this kind of blood, where the body has gone, who inflicted the wounds upon the bleeding body, if there has been a death or a heroic “save” involved, etc, my advice is to move quickly and assertively towards the beginning of the trail, without regard for the finer smatterings along the way, nor the attendant questions accompanying all the blood you will be treading over as you make your way back. The reason for this is simple: retracing one’s steps is essential —for, if you haven’t caught on by now, the moment you notice this blood trail & believe you’ve stumbled upon it by happenstance is actually NOT the first moment you’ve encountered it; rather, you’ve already moved from beginning to middle in a kind of daze characteristic of those experiencing heavy loss and/or euphoria, and now is the necessary time to rediscover that portion of the trail which has already been unknowingly experienced). Some call this the “romance of the situation,” though disillusionment is quite natural, common, and a scientifically proven side-effect of these kinds of “encounters,” especially prolonged ones.

After finding the beginning of the trail, you must rely almost solely on your sense of smell once again, though the tendency will still be to allow sight to take over. Rather than pay attention to the markings on the ground (red on tan dirt, red on brown leaves, red on green-ish or mossy twigs), you must now avert your eyes from the fascination of the spray & the beginnings of it’s congealing process and raise them up towards the surrounding scene.

This move has a few different benefits. For one, you will become less mired in the lower, more trivial emotional moments of this blood trail based on the minute changes in splatter patterns indicative of small “bumps” in the trajectory of the wounded animal across a plane (in this case, the dirt road & embankments on either side); and secondly, the landscape, though seemingly insignificant in comparison, is actually much more telling than the actual appearance of the trail.

Is the wind blowing, or adjusting slightly, perhaps, a breeze? Is it ruffling the last leaves of autumn on the dwindling, brittle branches—or—might the moss be bursting unexpectedly off of small rocks lining the road, the road that leads all the way down to a small town with one restaurant with one fireplace burning, & a post office where an older, very cheerful woman spends her time; or might there be other animals about—a squirrel perhaps, nibbling away at this or that, scavenged, a crow, watching from underneath a tree, a deer or depending, a crocodile, or even just a small bleached skull with a long rotting stick poking through the gaping eye-hole, canine-teeth sharp & unused, the mark of other trails abandoned but not forgotten. These are the things one must take careful note of as you follow your own trail, using your nose as a guide to the end of your journey.

The second move along the beginning half of the trail will literally & figuratively “bleed into” the remainder of the trail, from middle to end, in a way that is almost imperceptible if the senses are oriented correctly, as I’ve described. You may be wondering, “What about my other senses?”—and I reply—“Touch is so as to not stumble as you make your way; taste is so as to acknowledge the state of the inside of your mouth, the center for remarking on & thereby creating this experience; hearing is so as to encounter the pace of one’s own breath (this is the most deeply connected with smell, so in some capacity, could be considered equally important, if only in an auxiliary way).” If all of these senses are, as I’ve mentioned, allotted their specific roles then one will glide pleasurably over the trail of blood until the end, forgetting about such abstract terms such ashappenstance or romance or mystery. For it will all happen so quickly even if the trek transpires over countless moments, and before you know it you will feel as if you are traveling in another universe, or perhaps are existing within a waking dream, such are the sights you’ll see, such is the scent you will pursue.

The second move along the beginning half of the trail will literally & figuratively “bleed into” the remainder of the trail, from middle to end, in a way that is almost imperceptible if the senses are oriented correctly, as I’ve described. You may be wondering, “What about my other senses?”—and I reply—“Touch is so as to not stumble as you make your way; taste is so as to acknowledge the state of the inside of your mouth, the center for remarking on & thereby creating this experience; hearing is so as to encounter the pace of one’s own breath (this is the most deeply connected with smell, so in some capacity, could be considered equally important, if only in an auxiliary way).” If all of these senses are, as I’ve mentioned, allotted their specific roles then one will glide pleasurably over the trail of blood until the end, forgetting about such abstract terms such ashappenstance or romance or mystery. For it will all happen so quickly even if the trek transpires over countless moments, and before you know it you will feel as if you are traveling in another universe, or perhaps are existing within a waking dream, such are the sights you’ll see, such is the scent you will pursue.

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images, music & edits by caitlin scholl