I'm sitting in a cubicle of sorts. Participants and staff alike are stressed out because we are behind schedule. Even though the clinic seems to have good procedures and people are well trained, it just seems they are trying to do too much to fast.
A doctor came in screaming that everyone should be wearing a mask in the blood draw area, I pointed to him that I asked for a mask and they had none, I had to go back to my bed to reuse a disposable one I kept from yesterday. He barked back that "he was just stating the rules". I had a retort but I kept quiet, it's just cortisol all around.
They are drawing blood from our veins four times in the first hour, then twice the next three hours, then it tapers off for a total of 15 blood draws in a day. The needle pricks are painful and my right arm bruised on the first draw.
I just drew blood again. I'm supposed to hold the cotton ball against my arm, but I won't be able to write. It's all dehumanizing, we are called numbers, everything is abstracted from its humanity. I suppose this would not be unlike prison.
People distract themselves on their phones. I see people on social media or youtube. They are asking us to "pay attention" because sometimes they call numbers and the participant is immersed in a different world. Perhaps if this reality were not so ugly we would be more present.
They gave me a breakfast of two fried eggs, two hash browns, bacon, two toasts of bread and a cup of milk. This breakfast is specific for the study, a high fat meal to see how the drug (naproxen and paracetamol) interacts with a high fat meal.
This is the second time the attendant asks me to uncross my legs. "It's not good for circulation" she says. She suggests to cross at the ankles. I agree with her, but it's a habit I've had since forever. It's so difficult paying attention to undo habit, very soon we fall into our old patterns.
On the partition next to me there are participants of different study. They are having the "standard" breakfast: a cup of milk, a banana, a cup of yoghurt and two pieces of toast. That this is considered a "standard" breakfast is laughable. Hospital meals are laughable. BMI is laughable. So many things in medicine are laughable. Doctors know this all too well but things have been standardized and to change things within medical institutions is even more difficult than changing them in government institutions.
Things seem to have calmed down, as we are past the 15 minute blood draw periods. Just as I was writing this came another blood draw. The medical attendant, an attractive tall lady with green eyes and french accent mumbled something as she was drawing blood and felt pain. She pulled out the needle and drew from a different part in the same vein. "This part of the vein is foolproof" she said, then quickly corrected "it's easier here". Being beautiful is the ultimate privilege, we go so easy on them and we don't even notice it. She had broad shoulders. I don't know why I find broad shoulders on women so attractive.
The top bunk bed where I slept was a huge improvement over my normal sleeping conditions. My situation is too pitiful to describe at this time. I don't think anybody except the roughest people I know would be able to bear it. I sometimes prefer sleeping on my yoga mat because the air mattress is terrible, but if I do that the cockroaches wake me because they crawl on me at night. And that's not even the worse.
This experience will make it into a piece of fiction when I grow old and I have collected all the experience necessary to become a writer. It's more of a retirement plan than it is an objective. When my body gives out I will know I have collected enough experience and it will be time to write down what I have learned. What I do now is not writing, it's collecting experience.
But it's so strange, despite the rough nights and my squalor conditions, most of the time I'm unreasonably happy and glad to be doing what I'm doing. I do yearn for the more mundane things of the world, sex especially, but I love my freedom and in my freedom my poverty means nothing, I'm rich because I have time.
Here I am writing about my freedom when I am locked up in a clinic being drawn blood every 15 minutes, but it is inner freedom I am writing about at this time (I also love physical freedom, don't get me wrong). I would describe inner freedom as the capacity to think and feel whatever you want to experience. Inwardly I feel a vast expanse that I have explored, and still much remains to be discovered. Many great minds have flourished in prison: Malcolm X, Oscar Wilde, Nelson Mandela, Pepe Mujica... Blood was drawn again. Both of my veins are hurting and bruised now. The beautiful lady has gone and I have less patience for the young black man. I just notice.
I've vomited out all I needed to expel in writing at this moment. There is no conclusion and no narrative, I just write what comes to mind. I'm tired and sleepy now. I don't want to read anymore, not online, not in the book I brought. I don't want to write anymore.
I will meditate.