Every Wednesday morning at 9:00, Dennis sat on the edge of his tub. Spread across the sink vanity was an arrangement of sharp utensils. Sometimes, he used a sewing needle to prick his arm. Others, he sliced his flesh freely with a buck knife. Whatever the method, he’d let the blood pool in a jar.
By his records, he’d been accumulating blood for nearly two years. Surely he didn’t need so much. But what to do with it?
A quick “blood bank” Google returned mostly options for the American Red Cross.
Too much of a contribution would probably scare them, so Dennis loaded two jars into a cooler, surrounded it with ice packs, and set out. He flipped between hard rock and easy listening, confused how Elton John could be on the former and Aerosmith on the latter. When he reached the Red Cross headquarters, he made sure nothing shifted in transit. Satisfied, he took his contribution from the car.
A security guard worked the front desk while white lab coats appeared and vanished. Some medical person entered, read a name and escorted a chubby woman to another room. Dennis set his cooler on the counter.
The guard didn’t look. “Sign here. Read this.”
Dennis cleared his voice. “I’m just here to make a deposit.”
She shrugged one shoulder. “Great. Sign here. Read this.”
Dennis surveyed the assortment of sign-in sheets. One was for plasma, one for double red cells, one for platelets. He didn’t even know what blood type he was.
“I can’t stay. I’m just here for my own little fire drill. You know, stop, drop and roll.”
She showed her tired eyes and frowned. “Mister, are you here to give blood?”
“Yes, ma’am. That’s what I’ve been trying to say.”
“Then sign here and read this.”
She slapped a pamphlet atop his cooler. He took it and sat in the waiting area among a variety of day-old newspapers and a Cosmo. Dennis didn’t care about 20 Ways to Entice a Man, so he read the pamphlet and waited.
An attendant summoned Dennis and led him through a maze of cubicles. She moved a cardboard door aside, told him to sit, and closed it behind him. “How’s your day going?”
Apparently, Red Cross employees had instructions to avoid eye contact. He caught a quick flash of her name badge and wondered if Maya’s disposition would change once she learned of the enormity of his donation.
She reached for his finger, swabbed it and pricked it. He smirked. She wasn’t going to get much from that pinhole. If she was willing to wait, Dennis had a hunting knife under the passenger seat in his Toyota.
She touched the red bubble with a tiny straw and filled it an inch. Neat trick. If suction worked with something so small, how would it do with a Pixie Stick? A segment of garden hose?
Maya recited questions as she tested his blood. No, Dennis wasn’t currently taking antibiotics. Yes, he felt fine today. No, he never accepted any money for sex. What the hell did that have to do with giving blood?
Finally, Dennis asked, “Do you want my blood or not? If you don’t, I’ll find someone who does.”
“I need to ask these questions to discern whether you’re a viable candidate for a donation.”
Straight from the manual. How considerate.
Dennis stood. “I know you’re doing your job, but how ‘bout we cut the chase?”
He opened his cooler and set a jar next to her monitor. Maya backed against the partition. Dennis noticed her eyes were hazel. She gasped, “What is that?”
Dennis confirmed the image on the cardboard divider read “American Red Cross.” It did. He looked over the cubicle wall and saw donors hooked to tubes and bags filling with red. He lifted one jar to verify it was the same as when he packed the cooler this morning. It was. “It’s blood, Maya. My blood.”
Dennis repacked his jars in his cooler as the counter guard entered. What a ridiculous organization, he thought.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.
Maya shrieked, “That man has jars of blood!”
“You’ve got bags of blood all over this place, but you don’t hear me bitching about it.”
The security guard blocked the exit. “I’ll need you to come with me.”
“That’s not going to happen. Please move.”
She didn’t. Dennis sighed. “If I came in here with a Coke, you’d let me go and take it with me.”
“That’s not Coke.”
“You’re missing my point. It was mine when I came in and it’s mine now. I offered it, but you turned it down. Your loss. Now I’m asking politely to leave. If you won’t let me, I may not stay so polite. So, one more time. Move. Please.”
Maya nodded at the guard, who stepped aside. Dennis opened the front door and stepped calmly down the stairs. What a waste of an afternoon.