Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ghosts of Christmas past

One of my co-workers turns 30 next month. I can't tell if she's fretting over the age or not. Thirty isn't the milestone it used to be (if it ever was), but she joked about having a month to get to Africa and run a marathon. She was looking for an adventure.

I offered to take her shoplifting. 

Across the aisle, another of  my co-workers, who is a good five years from 30, said she could get the 29-year-old to Africa for about three grand. All she had to do was harvest some of the eggs from her ovaries.

That sounded good, except, of course, it sucked. There's pain, weirdness, loss of eggs...

The 25-year-old told the 29-year-old she could sell plasma.

"It's a waste of time," I said. "I did that."


"Yeah," I said and then spent five minutes fielding questions about the process, explaining what was done, showing the scar in the crook of my arm and fending off disinterest and disbelief.

"I could never do that then," the 25-year-old said. "I've been to Africa."

I nodded and pressed down the sad envy boiling through my guts.

I tried to tell her that didn't really matter. There were rules. You couldn't use drugs, show up drunk, have a criminal record or be a gay man (lesbians, however, were apparently welcome), but nobody was really checking. I'd see plenty of guys come in who were either clearly drunk, high or were sporting the kind of tattoos you only get from a guy who gets paid in candy bars and postage stamps.

Plasma donation is on the honor system, which is absolutely nuts.

I told her they'd take her as long as she could prove she had an official residence. They don't let you "donate" if you're homeless.

In the end, she wasn't all that interested in the subject and I was maybe a little too interested. I don't know why I wanted to talk about it, why I wanted to prove that I had done this --maybe because she said she'd been to Africa, maybe because my girlfriend has been to Germany, and I've only been to Ohio a few times.

Finally, I sort of shrugged and said it was something I could write about next year. Maybe.

I don't want to go back there again. I still dream about the plasma center sometimes: the needle in my arm, the clinical, contemptuous way some of the drones looked at me as they harvested my dark, red blood to make rich, golden plasma.

Sometimes, I think about what I did with the money I made there. I converted it into gas for the car, spent it on cat food, bought Christmas presents nobody gave two shits about, and paid phone bills, water bills, gas bills, daycare.

Just remembering makes me feel so cold and alone all over again.   

I don't know what to give the 29-year-old for her birthday, to acknowledge this milestone that may or may not signify anything, but it ain't going to be much.

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