Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blood: Hurt

I knew there was going to be trouble when I told them to go with the right arm. The last two times I'd offered up my left.

With the cuff inflated, the technician poked and prodded, looking for a good vein. I could see them and didn't think there would be a problem, but she was slow about it. She seemed to be deliberating.

"Is there a problem? You want to use the other arm?"

"No, it's fine," she said, though I doubted it. "I was looking for the marks from last time."

"I asked to switch arms," I told her. "You know, just to let the other one rest."

She nodded and told me it wasn't a problem.

"I've got a good vein," she said. "It's just crooked."

She slipped the needle in, plugged me into the great, blood sucking machine then bumbled off to plug someone else in or take them off the line. Saturdays are pretty busy and the staff was discussing the pros and cons of ordering fish sandwiches, the pros and cons of substituting an extra order of fries for the coleslaw and whether the oil spill in the gulf would ruin their chances of ever having a decent fish sandwich again.

They talked about this things with each other but only chatted with those of us reclining and bleeding. The conversations happened simultaneously, but were at very different. When the farmer sits on a stool milking his cow, he speaks only to soothe, not because he particularly cares what the animal bleats back. Communication isn't really the goal.

I tried to read and listened here and there to snatches of conversation. A couple of guys across from me talked basketball. I watched a pair of lesbians come in and get plugged in, which still amuses me.

Gay men are specifically barred from donating (selling) plasma. Men who have had sex with another man... even once (maybe after too many beers while watching season one of the Dukes of Hazzard)... are not eligible. However, women who dig women are fine.

It's a curiosity. You'd think they'd have worked the issues with that out by now.

Anyway, the machine took it's time. It beeped and stopped and stalled. The bottle of yellowish fluid, the plasma, was only slowly filling up. My arm started to hurt and I was afraid the tech had fucked up, speared the vein and maybe ruined the donation.

This was only my third time (officially, a habit) and already I'd heard plenty of horror stories about what happens when the machines malfunction, when the staff makes a mistake or if you move too much. If the process fails, it can eject you from being able to donate for weeks, even months, and pathetically, I'm counting on every dollar.

I toughed it out, though the process was going slowly and the soft crook of my elbow, where the needle was buried, ached. It was all I could think about. My arm hurt, but I didn't want to lose the donation. I didn't want to have to come up with another way to fund my luxurious, sophisticated lifestyle.

One of the new technicians, new because they were training her last weekend, noticed the machine acting up and called someone over to help.

"It's blocked," they said. "The feed is blocked."

I didn't know what this meant, but they looked worried, which made me even more worried.

"Let me see if I can..." the more experienced tech adjusted the needle. The machine stopped sputtering and complaining. The bottle started filling up.

"Better?" The young woman asked.

I nodded. It still hurt, but at least it was going. At least, it wouldn't take so long.

I was never so glad to get out of that place, to collect the cash and just be anywhere else. I wanted to go blow the money on something fun, on something to make me feel good again, something to make me feel like less like a whore --you know, someone who sells his body for money?

You can't buy anything like that for $25. It can't be found. They don't make it. It doesn't exist.

Instead, I spent the money on groceries. 25 bucks went for cat food, trash bags and some odds and ends meant to last just a few days. I got two boxes of macaroni and cheese for my youngest because I promised, picked up a bunch of bananas, a cheap roast and some canned vegetables to turn into stew. I also bought bread and a bottle of $3.00 wine whose only use is for cooking --and maybe not even that.

For me, I splurged on a bag of pinto beans, the cheap kind you have to carefully pick through for rocks and wash twice to get the dirt off.

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