Marrow in the Bones
Squeezed between a bail bonds place and a nail salon, there’s this antiseptic-clean plasma donation center. They put up fliers all over the block: donate a couple hours of your time, and you can walk home fifty bucks richer. They used to angle more for the “save a bus full of innocent orphans” deal, but that wasn’t getting them nearly as many volunteers. Money talks.
When I told Sage I was thinking about it, she said no way am I allowed to stoop that low, and I’d better tell her this is a joke. She said it’s got to be cursed or something. At least, if it’s not cursed, it’s going to give me some nightmare infection I’d be lucky to survive.
I don’t go for the curse thing, but she’s got a point. The whole building is steeped in slimy depression. You go in there and it smells like Clorox wipes -- and not the fancy green-cap ones. Generic brand. You see people missing half their teeth, and you wonder if maybe it’d be best for members of that particular demographic to hold onto their plasma.
God, though, I shouldn’t judge. It’s not like you end up getting your fluids siphoned out twice a week if you’re sitting atop a wealth of options.
That’s how I end up watching their little tape on Here’s Why You Can’t Sue Us If We Give You A Parasite On Accident, and nodding my way through their little spiel on Don’t Even Think About Giving Us Your Plasma If You’re A Homo.
It’s not my first rodeo selling bits and pieces of myself to offset the cost of modern living, but this just feels skeezy. Writing ad copy is one thing, but it hits me what kind of dystopia I’m living in when they’re telling me to make sure and come back twice a week so they can really wring me dry. There’s some joke I want to make about vampires, but then they leave me alone to sign papers and promise I’ve never rubbed infected blood into my gaping wounds, and there’s no more audience for it.
From the room where they ditch me, I hear a couple having a fight outside. Or it could be in the salon, or the bail bonds place. I picture the clinic in my mind, trying to map out what side I ended up on after all the hallways, but it doesn’t matter. The kind of argument they’re having, it doesn’t matter if one of them’s a felon or a cheater or forgot to put milk on the grocery list.
There’s a little free-form box at the bottom of the forms asking why I want to donate blood. I’m thinking about some witty rejoinder to drop in there, like, “I really don’t, but I feel like a provider when I tell my girl I’m going to Trader Joe’s to do the shopping instead of Ralph’s,” or, “I have way too much blood, so you’re doing me a favor -- sure beats getting it all over the house!” but I can’t choose, so I tell the truth: my bike’s held together with duct tape, my job pays shit, and with my looks, prostitution wouldn’t shake out.
And maybe, if I’m lucky, this will piss Sage off enough to finally dump me. But I don’t write that down.
The forms go from page five to page seven so I start leafing through them, looking for page six like a crazy person. I just saw it, it was just there: the signed acknowledgement I don’t have blood-borne diseases or lead a ‘high-risk’ lifestyle. I don’t lead a high-risk lifestyle, whatever it might look like. The highest-risk thing I’ve done in the last four months was some performance art bullshit.
“Would it kill you to just give a shit about something?” screams the arguing woman through the wall. “About me? Just once? Could you pretend?”
Page six. Page six.
It was this thing with a buddy of mine, where he needed someone “ugly as shit” for a “dumb stunt” -- his words, not mine. Oh, did Sage throw a fit about that. I didn’t care, but it was sweet to watch her go incandescent over me the first couple times.
The idea was, I’d get down on one knee in front of some gorgeous model somewhere public and offer her flowers. I’d make a whole big show of it, and then she’d pick the tops off, chew them up, and spit them onto the ground. Or onto me.
Again, his thing, not mine. He’s in an art collective.
The high risk there was Sage finding out about it and killing me for even considering it. She thinks I should have a little dignity about that kind of thing, that it’s demeaning, but he offered two hundred bucks to get chewed-up flowers spit on me. Hourly, that maths out to Way Too Much To Turn Down, dignity or not.
Page six is on the back of page five, double-sided, and turns out there’s twice as many of these forms as I thought.
I just about shit my pants when they knock to see if I’m done. It’s this gorgeous, twinky, European model type in lavender scrubs, and for a second, I can’t tell if he really looks like that or I’m just wallowing in self-pity, that’s the kind of walking Boucher painting he is. He searches my face, what’s left of it, for signs of life.
Can’t blame him.
“Road rash,” I say, falling into my walking-safety-PSA bit. It comes with the territory. “Everyone asks. It’s from road rash. Wear a helmet.”
“Ma’am-- Is that-- Are you finished?” he asks, one hand hanging outstretched between us. His mouth works silently, forming the words, “Is that bone?”
“Yeah,” I say, handing over the wrinkled stack. “But don’t worry. My blood’s fine.”
Hanna Rosenheimer is majoring in mathematics at Chapman University, where she is a sophomore. She has published short fiction in two of Chapman's literary journals, and a flash piece of hers is forthcoming this spring in Split Lip Magazine. She writes on themes of isolation, internalized homophobia, and lesbian identity as they intersect with appearance and self-image.