Sophie Hilker ’20
The Words is proud to present the work of Jackson Ullmann for the first installment of Wordplay 2020.
Jackson Ullmann ’20 is a senior English Literature major and Classical Languages minor with a burgeoning interest in accounting. Born outside of Saint Louis, MO, he gladly makes the seven-to-nine hour drive up to Macalester to pursue a cooler climate. As a literature major, Jackson has taken only one Creative Writing class at Macalester but has used that foundation to publish a collaborative anthology on disability titled See Our Truth. When he does read, his favorite authors include Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, and Franz Kafka.
Please enjoy Jackson’s work!
You in Me
I remember the walks most of all, first when I learned who she was, and then who we are, and how we were going nowhere but forward into each other with every step closer to the heart, and I remember the overload, the beads of sweat and beating chest, how I couldn’t think or breathe, stumbling taking my first steps away. I remember the frustration and accusation, pointed fingers, stuttered thoughts, frantic words, a storm before the calm as utterances of apologies earned their breath, no longer niceties or pleasantries or indication of mere hospitality but Truth clawing at fear and honesty. I remember the lights fading and the sidewalk vanishing, the moon hiding and the cardboard dinner box slipping out of my hand as reality made way for Her as She became the world. The goosebumps have never left my skin.
A coffee carafe.
At first I didn’t know what she was talking about, thought maybe her words had gotten lost in the surrounding chatter. The cacophony of the campus center wouldn’t make way.
She said it louder:
A Coffee Carafe. That’s How I Understood What Was Happening With You.
Madison then explained that when I disappeared to the hospital last October, she wanted to know what shape I was in. To those who knew the most, I carefully instructed what they were allowed to share, but Alex overheard Sophie and I talking about my blood number. About how I had been hovering around seven. How if it dropped below seven I would need a transfusion. How my hemoglobin dropped almost a whole gram per deciliter every night and built back up every day. Madison didn’t know what Ulcerative Colitis was, or why it meant I was bleeding so much, or why I needed to be in the hospital for eighteen days to get it under control. She did know from Alex that my blood number would drop a whole point, almost seven percent of how much there was supposed to be, every night, and that my body would do some weird shit to replenish that blood throughout the day.
Madison didn’t remember the plane ride home winter of 2016 when we realized we were both from outside Saint Louis, the talks about the Delmar Loop, the lunches and dinners with shared friends, even my name. When Alex told her about my hospitalization, she went home and did the math, thought about what a point of blood actually looked like, and realized that a coffee carafe of blood left my body every day. She remembered that. She remembered that when at the silent disco, remembered that at our next meals, and remembered that at founders day when she proceeded to explain that she knew I lost a coffee carafe of blood every day, that she knew me as Blood Boy in her head.
Last semester was supposed to be my comeback. The semester when I proved I deserved to be here, the semester when I chose my major. The semester when I didn’t have to cry in front of my mom again because of how I handled myself. The semester where things didn’t go wrong. I suppose it’s irony that I was so caught up in those goals that I forgot myself. A few weeks off my medicine and I wouldn’t just shit ten times a day but I’d shit blood another ten. A few weeks off my medicine and standing made me dizzy, walking made me tired, and lying down made me hurt. So instead of any kind of comeback, any triumphant moment of control over myself, my life, I was begrudgingly taken to the emergency room at the suggestion of Jason, and the Assistant Dean, and the entire staff of Health and Wellness.
I came back, but I still hurt. I came back, but I still don’t have my shit together. I came back, but I’m still Blood Boy in Madison’s head, even if she doesn’t say it anymore.
“Oh. I don’t drink coffee.” I stood up and turned. No one would question me going to the bathroom, no one would guess it was to hide until my voice and hands and body stopped trembling.