A phalanx of phlebotomists is a sobering sight before breakfast. Five black women await five white men. They will draw our blood to sample the ore for impurity and excess. The chief steps forwards and reads from the list, “Mike, Mark, Randy…Randy?” Mike and Mark jump up and go, pairing off with purple scrubbed technicians to room one, room two, room–“Randy?” Randy just sits there. He appears overwhelmed by this efficiency. He says to the chief, “I’m Randy.” “Then why aren’t you moving?” She replies. Her tone puts the spurs to him and off he goes for a little pre-prandial desanguination.
I mumble to the man next to me, “I’m going to be ready when she calls my–” Juancho?” Yes Ma’am!” “Room Three, no Four, it looks like Randy still can’t get it together. Right here sir”, and she leads Randy by the elbow to a chair where his steward is already posed with a needle.
Mark was red-faced and cursing at the television when I sat down. “Eight years of this shit.” He fumes at the screen, talking of a government shutdown. “Eight years of this bullshit!” Mark’s blood sugar is going to run high with an attitude like that, and his lipid panel is going to be off the charts. I take a few deep breaths and try to will my blood to comply, to bring me back good news, but I’m concerned. Not enough lazy days and hunger to keep my blood clean, so there is bound to be some evidence of lifestyle, of progress, of success to scare the wits out of me.
The chief is going to handle me personally, and I try to soften her up with a good morning, and how was your weekend. “Fine.” She says, too professional to ignore me, and too professional to not process me quickly. She will draw the blood of dozens today, and it does not appear that she dislikes the task. She grabs my right hand and turns my forearm up, then snaps a rubber tie beneath my bicep. Patting my vein to bring it up she asks, “You okay?” and I wonder why she asks.
“Sure.” I say with a dismissive wave of my unbled hand, “take what you need there’s plenty.”
The pinch of the needle, the release of the tourniquet, and the tap flows a rich red, telling all of my secrets.