Thursday, March 03, 2011

Notes from a blood donation

The nurse files the form in a drawer and rises and ushers me to a room behind the desk, a small vestibular affair, with a narrow desk crowded with ampoules and instruments, and three straight-backed chairs circling it. Another door at the back, frosted glass plate embossed with the wing logo and trimmed with steel. Niranjan hesitates to follow us and balks at the door. The nurse ignores him and pulls a chair near me and, in a smooth flurry, shakes and slips a thermometer shaped like a schoolmaster’s paddle inside my mouth, straps the cuff of a blood pressure instrument tightly to my upper arm, reclaims the thermometer and notes my temperature in a small slip, works the machine, pumping the band around my arm and then releasing the air, notes the reading from the monitor in the same slip, removes and rolls away the cuff and then, taking my hand in hers, cleans the pad of the middle finger with a spirit-soaked cotton ball – all without looking at me once. I examine her face with unconcealed challenge: the oiled wispy curls fallen from the tightly-pulled bun beneath the cap, the dark pitted brow, the fixed eyebrows, the surprisingly long lashes, the thick wings of the nose, the clefts at the corners of the thick lips, the full and healthy juts of her breasts. We sit so close, her face bending into mine, that she must surely sense the trespass of my eyes, but she remains frigidly indifferent, the cold clamp of the palm wrapped around my wrist. The lapel pinned to the sari announces her name –
‘Are you from Bangalore?’
‘The eyes lift for a moment, ‘Kochi.’ They fall and that is it. None of the commingling affinities of the world outside, here, only the unmixing water and oil of the nurse and the subject.
The prick startles me but does not sting. She squeezes a drop from my finger, coaxing it like a much-used tube of toothpaste, onto a slide and slips it inside a small lidded box. She rises without a word or a glance at me, and opens the door at the back and steps aside. I turn to Niranjan who smiles and gives me a thumb up.
 The door opens to a vast white room, a row of donor chairs in blue vinyl running along the wall, each with its own set of stainless steel cabinet and IV stand and as snug as a private bed in an opium den. I take the chair she points to me; my neighbour, the only other donor in the room, looks up and nods; in his early fifties, strapped, the cuffs of his shirt rolled up and one hand spread on a luscious armrest. An orderly in shapeless light-blue pyjamas straps me with the same practised brusqueness as the nurse’s. My nerves tauten under the tourniquet like thin vine spreading on a wall. The dab of the spirit and the poise of the needle, the keen precision of its cold tip the very antithesis of the blue warm gurgling artery it moves to insinuate: it enters anticlimactically with the faintest sting.


Tangled up in blue... said...

Just one warm gurgling vein we never puncture arteries, the walls are too thick and the pressure too high..

And it's remarkable that that nurse is so quiet, all the three times I donated blood, I was brightly jabbered at the whole time. :)

ramya sriram said...

:) you know, even if it's all made up, I can picture you go through this whole thing.

Bland Spice said...

@tangled. Thanks. I will make it a red warm gurgling stream.

Hmm, they are? damn.

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