Friday, April 3, 2009

Blood Extraction Junkie


It helps that I have an HMO that covers the procedure. In days where I feel low or frustrated, or feel fat, ugly or unwanted; or I have an unexpressed rage or self-loathing—I don’t binge on fatty sisig while bathing in (as my friend, Luna Sikat, refers to as) selfpitypathos. I turn to the needle.

Before, I used to walk the black and blues away. Malate, Recto or Chinatown were my favorite destinations. But the city has become so polluted. Last time I walked, I turned—I kid you not—into a quasi-taong-grasa, in two hours. The road asphalt literally stuck on my hair, face, shirt and exposed arms. The malls don’t offer any relief, either. The Hollywood movies are bland; the sale items are stale; the food offerings starchy, oily and overpriced; and the crowds are far too noisy and restless.

So, instead of browsing the fake blue ray porno disks at Makati Cinema Square, I walk, hop and skip over to the Makati Med and get a doctor’s approval for a blood test. I am telling you, it is safer than bungee jumping.

Usually, I start thinking about the blood test on a Saturday night when the week’s frustrations weigh heavily and clear. I’m in my room thinking, “What am I doing in my room thinking? I don’t have the energy to find out where my friends are hanging out. Most often, earlier that day I baled out on an invite to play badminton.

Come Monday morning, I’m up and chirpy. I skip breakfast to continue the 12-hour fast I started at 9 p.m. the previous night. I make sure I make the early trip to avoid the parking lot glut at the hospital. Once I’m inside the hospital, I calm down. I walk briskly to the blood extraction department, settle on a chair along the narrow hallway, making sure that I don’t sit opposite the comfort room. (This is also the section where urine and stool samples are given over the counter. So please excuse my paranoia. I always imagine the whiff of piss and turd whenever the comfort room doors swing open.)

When my number is called, I stand up like I’ve been called valedictorian. I smile and acknowledge the applause from the crowd—except that it’s just in my mind. I push the door that says “Blood Extraction Patients Only”. Most of the time the room has three people sitting side by side in various stages of distress. There are times when a child will be there sitting on the lap of a concerned parent.

I wait for my turn. The medical technologist confirms my stats. I extend my arm trying not to smile too much. The flat rubber cord is tied around my right upper arm. I clench my fist. Tap, tap, tap goes the med tech sweet-talking my veins to appear. The disposable syringe is undressed from its anticeptic wrapping. A final dab of alcohol on my skin. The needle is unsheathed from the protective covering. Then my favorite part of the ritual. The prick is poised above. The instruction to take a deep breath is given. I look as the sharp point connects. The thinnest and sharpest of metals slides into my skin as smoothly as a fork tong slides into a caramel colored leche flan. A vortex of feelings rises over me.

Whereas before, I was only capable of entering into one state of sensation at a time—pleasure stored in one box, in another, pain—needle piercing skin produces a relentless barrage of information that produces all feelings, all at once.

The physical self yields to the reality of mortality and eternity. I am no longer a mere human experiencing ice cream on the tongue on a hot summer day at age 6. The needle inside my skin finding its way to into the minute cavity of the vein triggers memories and realities and in all time frames. I am young and I am old; in the past and in the future. Emotions spurt and gush like blood filling the syringe. I am pulled by the hair and kissed at the same time; I am tied and let loose; I panic and cannot breath, but I also fly and am free, no longer dependent on air. You want it to stop, but you also want them to take more blood. It is penitence and charity mixed in the same pot.

And that’s what makes it addicting.