I decide to get a coffee before getting the number 19 tram to the hospital.
I go to Mule cafe on Sydney Road as it is closest to the tram stop. The handsome barista is working. He stands at the till in a grey hoodie, chiselled jawline existing unnoticed by its owner. There is music playing through the deserted cafe that is familiar and makes me think of black and white music videos with a pale British guy mumble singing. I try to place the band as handsome Irish accented man, makes my soy mocha.
‘Is that the BabyShambles playing?’ I ask as he hands me my change.
‘It’s The Libertines.’ He replies. Pete Dempsy’s band before he started Babyshambles.’
I am pretty sure he means to say Pete Doherty, but is made nervous by the extreme cuteness of the lady to which he is speaking. It must be said I choose my outfits for hospital visits quite carefully – just because I am required to, endlessly these days, pee in small plastic jars with my name and birthdate on them, and get blood tests, does not mean I cannot do these things looking excellent. I am the kind of girl who can do a lot with a little.
The small white cup holding my fresh smelling coffee is placed in front of me. No chance of fingers brushing, which does throw a spanner in my theory that he is flummoxed by my cuteness.
‘Have a great day.’ He says making my heart skip at the sexy way his voice inflects on the word ‘great’.
‘Well I am getting a blood test so hopefully apart from that my day will indeed be great.’
I have started this fun little activity of telling random strangers, usually the people who make me coffee or sandwiches, a personal thing about myself. Lately it has been the blood test thing. Because it is at once an over share but an intriguing one. The person I tell does not know why I am having a blood test. It opens up so many avenues for their imagination to wander down. Am I in the midst of a pregnancy scare? Do I have AIDS. Do I have cancer? Am I just a girl about town being conscientious with my sexual health? They do not know! I walk in as just another coffee happy customer but I exit, as a riddle wrapped in a question wearing a killer outfit and rocking awesome glasses that put Jarvis Cocker to shame.
Outfit today is a tight black and white striped long-sleeved top under a tight grey dress with no sleeves. Black fishnets, black ballet flats and my leather jacket. My Mark Rhyden Rose pendant around my neck. So it is with a bit of a spring in my step that I board the tram. I am not getting a blood test because I am any of the things I mentioned as a possibility. I am getting yet another blood test because I am in need of a kidney transplant. You have no idea just how much your little kidney beans do until they stop doing all the things they are supposed to.
I found out a few months ago because of huge stomach cramps I was getting. The pain was intense and made it almost impossible to stagger to emergency. Where the nurse took a urine sample and found there was protein and blood in it. Not good. Now, my kidneys have never been the most well behaved of my internal organs. One being so obnoxious it deemed the proper position boring and decided in utero to takes its place to the front right of my abdomen. There it sat smirking and biding its time until all out war on my system could be announced. Little bastards that they are. The renal clinic waiting area is full of overweight and elderly people. It seems that being my age and suffering from renal failure is not very common. The first time I sat there waiting to get the first set of results I looked around perplexed. I did not belong here surely? My quota of hospital time had surely been filled in by now? I had spine surgery. I had growth hormone needles every night for 3 years, when a child. They did nothing. I did not grow any taller. It did teach me some things though. Books are your friend and words a sweet distraction.
I sat there with my boyfriend beside me, filling out the form I was so sure I had filled out countless times before. Under the section to put your in case of emergency, I wrote my boyfriend’s name in blue bic pen and his phone number. I do not know his number off by heart so had to get him to write it as I could not be bothered getting my phone and finding his name and all that boring hassle. Where it asks your relationship to contact, I giggled to myself and wrote in capital letters LOVER.
So yes, the news was bad and here I was again for the bleed and wee test. This time I drank my coffee before getting to the hospital. The last time I rocked up not expecting the urine test so was empty bladdered and light as a helium balloon. As a result I had to hang around the hospital for an hour and a half. Drinking water from the water cooler in the renal clinic waiting area, until I needed to wee.
This time the pathology waiting area is quiet and almost empty. I walk through the opening and to my right is the admin desk where a striking looking black woman in a green checkered coat is speaking quickly and gesturing with one elegant hand as she answers her phone with the other. The administration attendants and the pathologists all seem like friendly aunts and mothers. They call me sweetie and lovey and it is a comfort. In fact one time I came here for a double blood test and one of the pathologists were so intent on saving me the pain of a second blood test, she called my kidney specialist to try and get me out of it. I never expected her to be able to get me out of a compulsory blood test, but it was so sweet watching her try.
I am pretty good at blood tests in general. It comes from extensive experience and knowing that to get stressed is the worst way to face a blood test. You need to be calm so you do not strain your muscles and make it difficult for the needle to go in. In addition to this, I just have really awesome veins in my arms. The pop up like plump little rivers running through the pale whiteness of my skin. I could have been an excellent junkie were it not for the fact I was too busy getting needles for an array of medical reasons. It really left little time for me to become reliant on an extracurricular type injection, just for kicks.
When I was waiting in the waiting area of pathology one time recently. I was sitting on one of the navy blue chairs, reading my Diciplin art journal when someone said, ‘hello.’ I looked up and saw a person I knew from poetry book club. I could not remember her name at all. It was awkward because the waiting room of pathology is not really a fun place to do the run into conversation. Worse than the supermarket. She suffers from a skin condition and so her face is rather red and skin is peeling like a very bad sunburn that will never go away. I do not want to make small talk. I want to read my art journal.
‘How are you?’ She asked me.
‘I am at the hospital and so are you, so to say great would be a bit untrue.’ I say.
She sits down next to me. I close my reading material and rest it on my lap.
‘I am O.K. ‘ She tells me.
‘At least we are both used to blood tests by now, eh.’ I comment cheerfully.
‘Oh, no. I do not like blood tests.’ She says. ‘I still get very anxious about them.’
The number 87 is called out after a rather rousing bell sound. I look
‘That is me.’ I say, standing and gathering my bag and unfinished art journal.
As I sit in the chair and display my arm for bloodening. It creeps up from my feet and tiptoes up through my spine. It makes my hands go clammy and my heart start to beat faster. I am scared. That silly bitch! I think in a panic, she has transferred her fear onto me by the power of pre blood test conversation. I had no idea I was so susceptible. The pathologist is a young woman with such shiny black hair and natural red lips. I try to appreciate her prettiness in an attempt to calm the raw fear that has taken over as she expertly pulls the tourniquet tight around my upper arm. I breathe in deep as she swabs my inner arm. The familiar smell of sterile pure alcohol stings my nose and hands continue to sweat. The needle goes in and a barely controlled cry escapes from my throat. The seconds feel like hours as the blood gets taken. Goodbye little cells, thanks for giving up the dreamy existence of living in the safe little tunnels that are my very veins. You have done a noble deed and the remaining blood cells thank you.
When I go to leave she is still waiting for her number to be called.
I say see you and make a hasty escape to the open elevator.
On this day I am left alone and do not even need to wait, thus my Juxtapose magazine, with Tom Waits on the cover, does not even get pulled from my penguin classic tote. I would just like to say that in the past few months all the pathologists that have taken my blood have been women and extremely brilliant blood takers they have all been. This time is no different. She sets me up and asks which arm.
I pull up my sleeve and present my right arm… Little Miss Righty has had a good rest and is now back in business, I say. The pathologist laughs and begins preparing my arm.
‘Would you like to see a picture of my birthday present?’ I ask her as she slides the needle into my plump vein. After she has removed the needle and pressed a cotton ball to the tiny wound and taped the cotton ball in place. I get my phone and show her a photo of the 3-inch spine that now sits in the corner of my desk on its own stand. The oddest birthday present I have ever received.
‘Oh that is nice.’ She says in an accent I am unable to place. ‘It is very educational?’
‘And how!’ I respond cheerfully.
That night before bed, I stand in front of my mirror in white t-shirt and knickers and look at how bad ass my skinny arm looks with the cotton ball taped on my arm. I could be in a horror movie or a medical thriller.