I’ve been in Omaha for a few days and having a largely splendid/relaxing time. Potentially too relaxing. There’s something about being at my parents’ house that allows me to fall asleep on just about any surface—a couch, my bed, the floor—and get better, more productive, harder sleep than I get anywhere else. I used to think it was some sort of random carbon monoxide leak in their house. But now I think it’s just because I’m not working when I’m here, I have no deadlines and there’s air conditioning. Whatever. It’s been great. Last night I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. and didn’t wake up until 8:30 the following morning. That’s kind of pathetic and sick; but it’s also kind of incredible. I’m like a teenager again! (Actually, sleeping in my room is much like being a teenager again, since my Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and Tori Amos posters are still on the walls/ceilings. It’s a very strange yet comforting atmosphere. Even more so if I can manage to ignore the doll I have with the eyes that flip open. But I just turn her on her stomach most nights or put a pillow over her head. No big whoop.)
|My writing spot: parents' backyard. Imagine cicadas chirping and warm wind. And usually I'm sitting in the chair. Perfect.|
Anywho, today I went to donate blood. I’m a really amazing, saint-like human being, so every 5 years or so I give blood. On the years in between I try not to litter and occasionally donate clothes to Out of the Closet. But every now and then, when and only when I’m in Omaha, I’ll hook the Red Cross up with some of my precious, precious whole blood.
Today I showed up for my appointment and got right in. It turns out that I was the only person that had shown up for her appointment, so I felt pretty special (read: self-righteous). They put me through the whole rigmarole of asking about whether or not I’d slept with the entire US and Filipino armies or if I was a hooker or had spent five or more years in Eastern Europe (I wish) or in jail and then got me set up for the big donation.
Enid, the woman taking my blood, asked me if I was related to a Rouse that was a school teacher. I told her she was probably thinking of my Uncle Jim. Somehow this led into a conversation about Catholicism. See, it turns out Enid was all set to be a nun, but then she opted out of taking her orders or whatever after she wrapped up her convent schooling, and she went to nursing school instead.
I asked if she was raised Catholic. She said yes. She asked if I was raised Catholic. I said yes. But then it became clear that only one of us was still going to Mass. Guess which one?
So as she’s giving me a very gentle hearted but determined lecture on going back to The Church and spending more time at Mass, she starts poking around for my pathetic, slippery vein. (Disclaimer: my blood is really awesome, but my veins are weak and spindly, and almost impossible to get at. So usually when people tell me I’m going to feel a “slight stick” I brace myself for something MUCH worse. It’s okay. I can handle it. Once, after a lactose intolerance test, I showed up to my table-waiting job looking like I had a serious heroin problem.) So after she told me to get ready for the stick, she said, “Uh oh.” And then she kept saying it as I proceeded to feel about 14 separate jabs in my arm.
[Here’s a brief side note for all phlebotomists and LPNs and RNs, etc. of the world: don’t say “Uh oh,” while you’re sticking a needle into someone. It’s not soothing. It’s panic-inducing, torturous, and gut wrenching. If that person has a fear of needles, it’s absolute hell, I would imagine. Luckily, I don’t care too much.]
|Ooh...look how arty this photo is!|
|Enid put the hurt on me. But don't fret, the top two are freckles, not track marks.|
So while she stabbed me in the arm and told me I’d probably end up getting a bruise (she was right!), she asked me why I’m no longer going to church. I explained that I didn’t really like the fact that the Catholic Church was/is extremely homophobic and doesn’t treat women that well and isn’t too keen on people that can’t keep up with their tithing rates and disallows the “right to choose.” She acted all appalled and asked me where I went to church, as though MY church were the problem, and not the Catholic Church at large. Fine. It was definitely just my church and not the Vatican, the Bible or the numerous Catholic textbooks I read throughout 13 YEARS of Catholic schooling that espoused these things. I just signed up at the wrong church. My bad.
At that point, I was intentionally looking away from my arm and focusing on the latte in my left hand. So Enid starting telling me about her roommate, Barbara, that had just died from what sounded like a combination of the flu, cirrhosis and the Ebola virus. Things were getting kind of awkward. Luckily, I enjoy things that are awkward, so I delved into the fate of Barbara like it was the last thing standing between Enid and I getting to know each other a little bit and me giving Enid a taste of why, exactly, I am no longer a Catholic (a story which would’ve probably made me into a hateful, vicious little bitch à la Regan in The Exorcist and made her intentionally spill my blood out all over the floor until I died à la Annie in Misery).
After she FINALLY took the needle out of my arm, a very brusque, scary nurse approached me and told me to raise my arm over my head while she went for an ice bag. I didn’t feel sick, like I have in the past, because my dad told me that feeling sick during a blood donation is psychological and not physical. I AM A MASTER OF OVERCOMING PSYCHOSOMATIC ILLNESS. But then nurse number two wrapped my arm in red tape while talking on her cell phone and got mad that I wasn’t holding my arm in the right place.
Meanwhile, Enid helped her strap an ice bag on my arm and recommended that I start going to Church again. I don’t think she meant that was going to make my bruising go away.
I felt like if this were a movie Enid had to watch she would think it was about Mormons. She’d say things to Barbara (before Barbara died) like, “We Catholics would never push our religion on people like that.”
Then I thought, well, Barbara’s been Enid’s “roommate” for 13 years. Maybe they were more than roommates and maybe that’s why Enid left the nunnery.
And then I felt kind of sad for Enid. Maybe she’s been a closeted lesbian for all her life, and she couldn’t hack it in the convent because she knew she was homosexual. But then why didn’t she leave the church? In either event, the woman she’d spent the last 13 years with had died. And I felt bad for her.
Then I pictured Enid telling Barbara that the Catholics would never have acted that way while snuggling up to her little, frail body with a big bowl of popcorn and some Twizzlers. (Enid did say she had to get back to Weight Watchers, though.) And that made me feel like maybe Enid had been really happy with Barbara. Or not.
Chances are, Enid’s just an uptight Catholic with a needle and a message. And, not to sound like a bitch, but I’m already vaccinated.
*Monty Python's Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979). Of all the "greatest stories ever told," this ranks among my favorites.