Donating Bad Blood
She asks me if I like to watch. My face goes warm and I notice that I’ve been watching her the whole time.
“I, um. I don’t mind.”
The nurse, at least she looks like a nurse in that white coat of hers and those latex gloves, is a cute Indian woman. Her accent is Americanized, but I still notice a residual Hindi as she takes caution to fully pronounce each word.
It’s a little rousing for a celibate man of three years.
She then takes out the needle.
I look away, feeling like a peeping Tom.
Watching a nurse stab me was something I thought I wanted. I wanted to see her drain that basic part of my body out. To fill her quota of liquefied soul. The tube is thrusting inside me when I let my eyes take another peek. Then I see the blood stream through the tube. I have to look away again.
“Keep squeezing this handle every five to ten seconds,” the nurse tells me. Her accusatory eyes express the gravity of the task at hand.
Failure is not an option.
I do as she commands, even though the stress is uncomforting. Still, this is what I wanted. To feel that piece of metal in me. Feel that sweet misery of jubilant self-mutilation that involves nothing short of Good Samaritan deeds.
With a slow breath, I give my eyes permission to watch again. The entire tube is painted dark red. The iodine still stings. I then notice a woman through porthole of a standard hospital door. There’s some sort of monstrous medical machine that guards her like a centurion. The device is a rustic-brown to give it that homely appearance, but it still looks like something reserved for prisoners.
The woman behind the door is anything but.
She wears a green blanket and thick rimmed glasses. There’s a metallic tree supporting bags of blood that drip into the woman like sap.
St. Vincent Health was right when they said they needed blood. Students are the only folks I see going to these blood drives.
At least when I did it last, during my freshman year at Indy Met High.
That must have been fifteen years ago.
Regular people aren’t allowed to take off work to save a life. And kids have been particularly eager to kill themselves off this school year. Bad for supply and an increase on demand.
Suddenly I want to ask the nurse questions. What happened to that woman? Is she going to receive my blood? I have O positive blood type; that’s what most Americans have. It’s also transferable to any blood type. The problem is that only O type can be used to replenish a person with the same type. O type is like water: you can make Kool-Aid with it, but you can’t use Kool-Aid to make water.
At least, that’s what Wikipedia told me.
This woman must have O type. Why else would St. Vincent beg me to donate? Before I know it, the nurse is pulling the needle out along with a pint of blood. After she patches up my wound, I go to sit at a white table and drink orange juice. My hands are still shaking a little, I notice. Just as the nurse noticed when she pricked my finger for the procedural sample.
The nurse asked me why I was shaking. A question I could only answer as, “I don’t know.” I don’t think they would like it if I said I had a chronic coke addiction.
Suddenly my subconscious is assaulting me with an endless barrage of unwanted sympathy. Sympathy over this woman being inflated with foreign cells in that chamber of medicinal captivity. Out of the corner of my eye I notice that her head is turned ever so slightly toward my general region.
I sip my orange juice before I steal another glance. She doesn’t stare directly at me. In fact, she’s not staring at all; her eyes are closed. Receiving blood must be incredibly monotonous. Then I think maybe she died and nobody noticed. Lord, that’s what must have happened. She seemed awake a second ago. They put my bad blood in her before they could test it. They somehow never got around to rejecting my promiscuous juices that have un-doubtfully killed this woman.
But then I see her come up from the covers. Not her body exactly, but a second form that floats up and sits down at my table. Like a hologram on some science fiction show.
There’s a tense pause that only my nerve-wrecking breath can interrupt.
I notice I’m still alive after that risky breath.
“How did you die?” I finally ask this specter.
I can’t look her in the eye.
“Infectious blood,” she says.
Another pause envelopes our existence as I sip my juice.
“How did you get in that position?” I ask.
“Car accident. Drunk driver hit me.”
My stomach flexes.
“I’m so sorry,” I say, remembering all those times I got behind the wheel after one too many. Not a thing of the past really.
“It’s alright,” her holographic hand tries to touch mine, “I’m glad I got to see you today.”
She smiles, “I like you. I like your… style. I like the way you look. You’re that person that is filled with so much recklessness and bad blood that . . .” her shoulder-length hair shakes a bit for emphasis, “that it’s just thrilling. It’s the reason to live and I have no regrets.”
I want to feel that hand of hers. I want to sleep with this woman. This ghost. The type of woman I fell in love with while I was working on my Master’s. The type of woman who can discuss things like A Rage in Harlem while she sips on chardonnay and I drink my whiskey. This woman who dilutes the poison in my blood.
Then I ask her, “Do you have any kids?”
I don’t know why I ask such a question. I have no kids of my own.
“Yeah, one. She won’t leave much of a legacy though; died during the first trimester.” The woman grabs a small creature from beneath the table and holds it up to her chest. It’s so small it barely covers her palm. I can nearly see through its pink skin as it tries to look up with its alien eyes. Out of some strange urge this phantom lady has, she goes ahead and grabs my hand as though she is mine and I am hers, “Oh, that’s funny. You two have the same eyes.”
I look down at my trembling hands.
She’s gone when I look back up. I finish my orange juice and leave. The little donor’s pamphlet says that a pint of blood is extracted. One fifth of your soul is gone when you leave St. Vincent Health.
I hope it’s the bad part.