Marriage and the Phlebotomist

Marriage

Getting my blood drawn ranks right up there with vomiting on the list of things I hate.  After putting off some follow-up blood work I needed to get done for far too long, the dread had become more all consuming than my distaste of the procedure. So I decided to pull off the proverbial band-aid last week, which is why I was found dutifully sitting in a crowded lab office.

My fellow blood-letters were mostly from a previous generation. The powerful scent of aftershave and Chanel No.5 filled the space not taken up by walkers and puffy jackets. They make conversation with each other about their Power Ball lottery losses, raising gravely voices over the morning news playing on the TV above our heads. While I decide whether to distract myself with Instagram or let all the ambient noises lull me into a false sense of security, I hear my name called from around the corner.

A woman my own age ushers me down the hallway. She reminds me of a girl I knew growing up. Her trim, athletic figure looks enviably good in scrubs; their plumb hue complimenting her unadorned olive skin and bright eyes. We turn into an empty room. I slide off my jacket and take a seat in the chair trying not to stare at the lone vial of someone else’s blood standing sentinel in the collection tray. The phlebotomist asks a few preliminary questions. When I tell her my birthdate, she looks up and smiles, “I’m a five too.”

Pleasantries aside, I push up both sleeves and we begin the banter that always ensues when I give blood…

“Do you have an arm preference?” She unwraps a needle and gets some tubes ready.

“No. I tend to be a difficult stick.”

“What’s your dominant hand?”

“Right,” I reply.

“Dominant sides generally have bigger veins. Do you mind if I do your right arm?”

I clench my right fist and she feels around for a few seconds.

“I think I’ll use a different needle.” The cold sweat begins.

She goes back to the drawer and unwraps another package. Taking off a glove, she hones back in on a spot in the crook of my right arm.

“Well, I think I found one. It’s a little rolly. I bet most people don’t find it because they won’t take off their gloves.”

I can feel my face blanch at the mention of rolly and I don’t hear her finish the sentence. I’ve already been doing deep breathing to keep my heart rate normal, but the thought of her having to fish for my rolly vein makes me feel nauseous. I don’t want to experience the two things I hate most in the same day.  

I’m not sure if she sensed my panic or if she was just being courteous, but she turned around to close the curtain separating the room and the busy hallway, muttering something about privacy. I am thankful that if I do happen to pass out vomit there will be only one witness my shame.

“You’re doing great.” I let my eyes drift away from the glove boxes I’d been staring at over my left shoulder and look at her in surprise. I hadn’t even felt her put the needle in.

As she attached the last vial to be filled, she asked what I had going on the rest of the day. She worked steadily – sliding the needle out of my arm, holding a cotton ball to the puncture site, taping the cotton ball in place –  and listened quietly as I explained I’d be hanging out with my 3 month and two year old.

Her next question took me by surprise.

“Do you like being married?” She paused and before I could answer, added, “Marriage kinda scares me.”

“It’s good. I really like it,” I said lamely.

I’m not sure if she felt a special camaraderie with me because we shared the same birth month or I looked like someone she could confide in, but she continued her line of questioning.  “Marriage kinda scares me. I’ve just been hurt really bad, you know? How did you know he was the right one?”

I stared at her for a moment, wondering how we jumped from what I’d be doing this afternoon to how I knew Tim was the one. While she threw away needles and added my vials of blood to the collection tray, I replayed June 10th to October 30th, 2011 in my mind as quickly as possible, searching for a decent answer. I wasn’t sure I actually had an answer.

Was Tim the right one because he met all the criteria on my list? (Yes, I had created a physical list that I still possess.) Was Tim the right one because our relationship survived a week long camping trip with his family? Was Tim the right one because both of us happened to be available at the same time?

My brief replay of history didn’t yield much fruit, but this felt like one of those God-ordained opportunities to have a meaningful conversation and I didn’t want to blow it. I wish I could say I came up with a profound answer that gave this woman hope and enthusiasm for future relationships. In actuality, my response was lacklustre and riddled with the religious jargon I was meaning to avoid. I slid my jacket back on and walked into the hallway a little reluctantly, feeling like I had indeed blown it.

How do you explain to someone that marriage is created by a God who loves us and wants to be intimately involved in our lives; that marriage is hard and doesn’t preclude you from getting hurt; that marriage is less about finding the right one and more about finding a person who always points you to the Right One

I guess you say just that.

Here’s to hoping she becomes my regular phlebotomist.

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