I’m not afraid of needles, but I am terrified of giving blood. The phobia stems from an incident in my early teens, in which a an ogre of a nurse withdrew blood while laughing at my obvious distress. Ever since this incident, I’ve taken great care to save up all of my blood tests into a lump sum for some poor pathologist’s harvest. The last time this occured, three vials were given. And it was an alarmingly erotic experience for me.
It took all the emotional wherewithal I had to drag myself into pathology that morning. It usually does. Once I limped over the doorway and triggered the bell, though, I knew that it was foolish to walk out again. Barely ten seconds had elapsed when he sprung from a back room, smiling. It was a sincere and inquisitive smile, as though every strange person who came into the waiting room was a delightful specimen to behold. Or perhaps it was merely that it was 10am and he was bored, bereft of veins to tap. Whatever the case, I was starting to feel increasingly awkward and trapped by the gaze of a handsome young man. I began mentally juggling the sting of embarrassing myself in front of him with the sting of the needle. I thought about creating an excuse. “Ask him for directions to a place you’ve no intention of going to.” I’m quick on the draw sometimes. But something about his handsome face and his sincere smile inculcated a bizzare urge to forego lying to him.
“Listen…” I began. “You’re not going to like this, but, you have to take blood from me.”
“Alright. Why don’t you come in and have a seat, and we’ll make this as quick as possible…” His voice was already becoming muffled by the sound of my emerging heart palpitations.
“No, you don’t understand.” I stammer. “This makes me anxious. I usually have to lay down, a-”
“Why don’t you just sit down first, and I’ll look at your forms?”
He has cut me off at this point, and I felt myself physically wither. Fine, I thought. I am used to people minimizing or even outright dismissing my phobias. Defeated, I sit down as instructed. After taking my forms, he asks me some questions. I reply flatly, but still within the bounds of politeness. Mostly I’m attempting to magically dissociate myself from my surrounds, as if I can will myself to do just that.
He then moved towards my arm with a tourniquet and some cotton wool. “No.” I state. I won’t let him fail to hear me this time. “I need to lay down.”
“Shhh.” Dumbfounded by his refusal, I look up at his face. “I just want to take a look at you.” he says.
He makes good on his word by moving no other implement towards me. He starts gently drumming his fingers, with a purpose I don’t immediately discern, on the area around my inner elbow. His touch is so gentle that it hardly feels that there is any other purpose other than to arouse my sensations. I squirm inadvertently. After a few moment of delicately brushing his fingers over me, he speaks softly.
“You have such lovely veins.”
Embarrassed by my own arousal, I balk and retort with the most obvious and clumsy response in the known Universe: “I bet you say that to all the girls!”
“No. Just you.”
I swallow hard. My face is flushed, I can feel it. He tugs lightly on my elbow now, urging me off the chair.
“Come and lay down for me.”
It isn’t even a question that I will comply at this point. I stand and allow him to guide me to where he wants me. I feel my dress rising up a little as I clamber onto the bed. He places an arm behind my upper back and gently lowers me down before stepping away to procure instruments. I’m left laying there, gazing at the phosphorent lighting and writhing on the paper sheet. I must look like a meal, or a garden. Something to explore, to use, taste, harvest from, even. He wraps the tourniquet around my arm gently and then yanks it tight at the final moment, as though to remind me that he is in control of this scene. He starts talking about something – about what, I have no idea. Perhaps neither of us do. He raises the needle to my flesh and, holding his breath with me, he plunges it in.
I gasp. Audibly. It’s so invasive and so uncomfortable, but it is a violation that makes me feel raw and warm and sensually overloaded. I want to grasp at him, grasp at myself, whimper and beg for him to stop if only so that he will say “no” and prolong this violation a little longer. I’m conscious of my toes wriggling, my hips bucking just ever so slightly, and a heat spreading from my neck to my thighs.
He uses his free arm to stroke my arm and instructs me to keep breathing evenly, but I can’t seem to do anything but hold my breath while he pins me down and robs my veins of three full vials. After the last tube is darkened with red he gently withdraws the hungry needle and pushes his fingers down over the wound, ending the unrestricted flow. I finally exhale, a little nervous whimper of exhaustion leaving my throat at the same time. He pats me again and instructs me to remain laying down. In a state not unlike post-coital attachment I watched him take my sample away and dutifully mark, label, and code it with my name and particulars and the details of my examination. I can’t help but feel extremely vulnerable and awkward. After all, I don’t even know his name.
After five minutes I tentatively swung a foot over the edge of the bed to test my feet. The floor felt strange after this experience. I don’t even remember the words that were uttered at this point. Eventually after some small talk and parting words were exchanged I wandered out into the sticky morning heat, returning to the day and its demands.
But my mind was restless. I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew, somehow, that he’d irrevocably cut another facet into the strange ruby of my phobia. If he knew that he’d created a duality of anxiety and arousal so antithetical that it was just begging, BEGGING for another test.
And so I am now waiting. Waiting for the next harvest.