Whenever I’ve had to have blood drawn in the past, I’ve turned my head to the side. The idea of a sharp piece of foreign metal piercing me to siphon out my vital fluids turned my stomach. It was the notion of this metal object — stern, unbending — that distressed me most. The body is soft, made to give.
Today, I had some blood drawn as part of a routine set of physical exams. I had to go to Quest Diagnostics for this procedure. Quest is a private enterprise, one that specializes in blood testing, and they have many centers ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. I found that there was one in practically every neighborhood of PIttsburgh as I made my appointment online.
The woman drawing my blood did not greet me. I think she looked me in the face twice. She waited for me down the long, dilapidated hallway with the horrid brown carpet, in a small room with the door open, face blank. I noticed that she had very thin bangs, despite having very heavy, long hair that was held back with a headband. This gave her face an unusual contrast…it emphasized how fleshy and padded her features were. She looked like she might tan, or smoke a bit. She had that leathery quality about her cheeks and looked like she was in her forties. I noticed that Bon Jovi was playing tinnily over the radio.
“Have a seat.”
She indicated the chair with padded arms. It looked almost like a high chair, made from laminated vinyl and bad dreams.
I wordlessly handed her the papers detailing which tests were to be conducted on my blood.
She kept looking at the computer monitor, her face turned away from me but with her arm held out.
I reached into my purse to find it for her.
She had me repeat my birthdate and address to confirm my identity, then looked me over.
“Right arm, left arm.”
It wasn’t really a question.
She stepped to my right where a small dresser leaned against the wall, expertly pulling on a lavender latex glove then reaching in the top drawer with her free hand to pull out several small vials and a needle.
She wound a large rubber belt around my arm and tied it.
I decided not to look away as the needle pierced my arm. It went in easily, like a casual lie.
She quickly snapped a vial into place. I was surprised by the force of my blood as it shot through the slim needle into this tiny chamber.
“Look at it spurt!” I couldn’t help but exclaim.
It reminded me of cow’s milk as it sloshed in its small glass. Dark blood, red black. Scarlet fugue, a storm. It didn’t make a sound.