Every Five Weeks

Every five weeks, I head up to “the Reege,” which is my way of trying to make the Regional Hospital sound cool. (Do the cool kids even say “cool” these days?) In any case, the Reege and I have regular dates, as I have a medical condition that requires monitoring. No big deal, except …

I. Hate. Needles.

The anxiety is real. I get a little woozy just thinking about it, truth be told, and if I actually see the instrument of collection — even if it’s nowhere near me — … TIMBERRRR!

However, since I am something of a frequent flier, the vamp– phlebotomists, I mean — are used to me now, and I am used to them. And, truth be told, as long as I wind up in a familiar person’s chair, things are usually pretty good.

Well, today my husband also had to have routine bloodwork done. This complicated things a little.

I craned my neck to see who was calling patients in. With everyone behind masks, it was a little hard to tell, but I recognized My Favourite’s voice right away. (The fact that he is usually the lone male narrows things down nicely.)

“Oh, good,” I said. “Jeff is here.” (Note: Not his real name. Because he has enough to deal with on a daily basis. He doesn’t need Internet fame on top of it.)

My husband looked around. “Jeff? Jeff who?”

“Jeff the Blood-Taking Guy,” I replied. “He is really good.”

My husband looked at me quizzically from behind his mask. “You know his name?”

“Of course I do.”

My husband rolled his eyes at me. “Of course you do.”

In one of the aspects of my life, I’m a tour guide. This would have been my 30th consecutive season, had COVID-19 not gone on a world tour. So between that and being a writer, it’s a running joke between us that I will talk to anyone about anything.

Another number was called, so I swung my head around. “Ah!” I said. “Tracey! She’s really good, too.”

More and more minutes went by. I hope I get Jeff … I hope I get Jeff … I hope I get Jeff … The anticipation is what really gets me. If I could just drive up to a window, stick my arm out, get stuck, and drive away, it would be so much easier. Except for that fainting thing, I suppose.

Finally I heard the magic number: “41?”

I stood up, waved bye to my husband, and followed Tracey. Through a door, past a curtain that is swung across behind me, and into the chair. And so the wooziness began.

“You okay?” Tracey asked. (That’s not her real name either, just so you know.)

I stared up at the fluorescent light fixture to keep the needle out of my line of vision, doing my best unintentional impression of a brave four-year-old. “Yup.”

Then I heard it.

My husband’s voice.

Talking with Jeff.

Ten minutes later, walking back to the car, my husband marvelled about his experience. “I didn’t feel a thing! That guy was really good!”

“Uh huh.”

I love my husband. I am glad that he had an easy time of it. But I still felt cheated somehow.

As we drove up to the parking payment booths, my husband paused. “Which one do I …?”

“The left one,” I replied without thinking. “That’s Debra.”

“Of course it is,” he replied.

About the author

Karen J. McLean

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  • The voice in this slice is so delightful—I laughed out loud. Love how the story reveals truths through your husband noticing those things about you (and not being surprised). I’m so glad you stopped by Two Writing Teachers Blog today and gave the Slice of Life Challenge a go! It’s a wonderful community—I hope you’ll be back!

  • Karen, what a wonderful story! I’m sorry that it had to be about something you’re not too crazy about, but I smiled my way through it. I love that you’re willing to talk to anyone and that you take the time to learn names–that’s awesome. I’m also a talker, but it’s a defense mechanism for me. I’m introverted, but the silence is even harder than talking as far as I’m concerned. “Of course…” is a fantastic line that pushes a good story even higher–I’m glad he says it, and I’m glad you included it!

    • Thank you, Tim! I, too, am an introvert, believe it or not. I just hide it very well. I think it’s from all of those tour buses. (Once I get home, I curl up with my pets, tea, and a book, and don’t say another word until I leave the house again.)

  • Karen, your first foray into this writing space has revealed your capacity to capture the essence of small moments. There is also ample voice in your writing. A delightful sharing of an event in your life and a revelation as well. Your gregarious inclinations are shining out of this piece. Thank you for being a brave writer!

  • Though the bloodletting isn’t fun for you, this was a fun post for us! It’s also a great example of how the familiar takes the sting out of the scary. We got to be friends with our daughter’s primary nurses and doctors in the NICU, and those smiles made all the difference during the two months we “lived” there. Making friends everywhere is a nice skill to have! Loved the use of dialogue and side notes in this piece, too.