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Blood Simpleton

This morning before work, I had to get a blood test. The laboratory opened at 8am. I arrived at 8:02am, on the heels of an elderly man whose darting, frantic expressions made me wonder if he was a needle-phobe like me.  Soon after the elderly man was called, my name was called by a heavy middle-aged medical assistant with a dripping townie accent. She pointed me to chair #3 in the communal blood-sucking area.

“Can I lay down in the blue chair?” I asked, referring to the curtained-off reclining padded blue chair, specially for the fainters.

“Sorry, it’s occupied,” the medical assistant told me. “Do you want to wait?”

I peered through the barriers of sheet and saw the elderly man laying in the blue chair in such a way that indicated he was not getting up until it was time for The Price is Right. “No, I have to get to work. So let’s give it a try,” I said, sitting down on hard, cramped chair #3 surrounded by syringe paraphernalia. “I should be okay as long as you talk to me.”

“Sure, I’ll talk,” she said kindly. “Let’s talk about the beach. Aruba. You ever been to Aruba? The beaches there are beautiful.” As she prepared the syringe and tapped my veins, she told me all about the vacation that her and her husband just took to Aruba. “In fact, this is my first day back at work in over 2 weeks.”

With my eyes glued to the ceiling, I affably encouraged her banter by asking questions about her vacation (“Did you stay at a resort? Did it have a nice pool? Did you do any crazy water activites?”). As she pontificated about life at the resort, I could feel the pinch of the needle. “My husband would go comatose on the beach every day,” she was saying, “so Carol and I would do Zumba and then go to the — Okay! All finished!”

“Whew!” I said, surprised. It was one of the easiest blood draws ever and I didn’t even need the blue chair. “Thanks so much! Your talking  really helped me.”

She fell silent, studying the blood vials in front of her. “Oh no, you’re not going to like this, but I have to do another sample.”

“What?” I hoped she was joking.

“Yes, this is the wrong vial,” she said sheepishly, pointing to my freshly-drawn blood. “Sorry sweetie, that’s my fault. Too much vacation, I guess.”

My mind began to buck frantically. No, no, the test is over! This sudden reversal of fortune stirred that familiar crazy faint feeling and I rocked back and forth in the hard chair with my head in my hands.

“Do you want the blue chair?” she asked, rubbing my hand. Another medical assistant walked by, took one look at me, and fetched an ice pack, which she placed on my neck.

“No, no, just hurry up and do it,” I moaned, holding out my arm that still smarted from the previous draw. “It’s better if I don’t stand up.”

I could feel her tapping my vein, tying the rubber string, preparing the vial. “Do you still want me to talk?” she asked quietly.

“It’s okay, I have a joke,” I said, rubbing my forehead with my free hand and trying to calm my mind. “So there’s this rich lawyer, and he’s driving past a field of grass, and he sees this family of poor people, eating the grass. He can’t believe it, so he tells his driver to pull over, and he asks why they’re eating grass, and they say they’re hungry, so he tells the family to get in his car because he’s going to help them. The family gets in the car and tells the lawyer that he’s so kind to help them, and the lawyer says, ‘No problem. There’s plenty of grass at my house!'”

When I got to the end of my joke, I could feel the medical assistant pressing the cotton onto the puncture wound. I looked down from the ceiling to find her laughing with crinkled eyes. Behind her, the elderly man who occupied the blue chair had stopped on his way out to listen to my joke. When our eyes met, he turned and walked out.

Still dazed, I made my way to the subway. It was 8:40am, so I squeezed onto a crowded inbound train and pulled out the New York Times. My arm ached from the two needle attacks that it had just sustained, a constant reminder of the event, and I fought to keep my mind on the New York Times Business section. Then, I came to an advertisement, and stared at it in wonder.


What a total fucking mind-fuck (please excuse the foul redundancy). It almost inspired a sort of Dwayne Hoover egotistical madness a lá  Breakfast of Champions.

What kind of game is being played here? What did it mean? But, why not? Why not reintroduce yourself to yourself? Why not question who you know yourself to be, and who you know them to be? Why not tell a joke to the vampire as she leeches away your blood, and why not let her give you a hug when she’s done?

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