I apparently have none, or at least they're buried like turtles in mud and show little interest in showing themselves. I went to a walk-in clinic to have my blood taken for some tests.

"Wow", the intern says, "I've never seen such deep set veins before, I mean, you can barely see 'em. Hm, ok, squeeze on this ball for a while and I'll be back in a sec."

So I squeeze squeeze squeeze for like five minutes, while my heart starts thumping just a little harder by the minute, in anticipation of the trauma I know is to follow. She comes back and, surprise, nothing, flat as paper. She says don't worry; she's a good stick. Most of my body tenses up as I concentrate on relaxing my arm. Stick, pain pain, she wiggled the needle, don't cry don't cry.

"Ok, ya know, I think I almost had it there, I'll try once more and if I don't get it, I'll call the head nurse and she'll definitely be able to do it."

Stick, feels hot, more pinching, tears. The intern, in mild surprise, says, "I had a grown man throw up on me this morning, but I've never had anybody cry. Would you like some juice?"

Great, I'm in pain and I feel like a big weenie. She pours us both a Dixie cup of Cran-Apple and sends me into a side room with a couple of hospital beds while she gets the head nurse.

The head nurse is a thin, blond woman who looks frazzled in every way except her eyes and smile. She smokes, I can smell, and I'm getting big single mom vibes. She takes my arm, smiling, and smacks the joint briskly, as if to call my veins to attention. She sticks my other arm, finds no hint of a vein and scans my white joint, with its little bead of blood from nowhere, with a look of confused concern. She suggests we try my feet. My face goes white, and then I blush. My hands turn cold as my blood panics, rushing from my digits towards my heart, looking for somewhere to hide.

The blood has to come from somewhere, and the nurse already said they can't punch me in the face and hope for a nose bleed (I asked), so I kick off my shoes and socks...ready? The head nurse sits on the floor and grabs my foot without hesitation at sock lint or the possibility of other foot funk.

"How about there?" I say, pointing to a raised line.

She says, like I'm seven, "Honey, that's a bone."

The head nurse begins to rehearse the puzzled, "Never in my life ..." comments and tells the intern to go get Dr. Kerr.

"Who's that?" I ask.

"Dr. Kerr's the ER doc, the supervisor of the clinic. She doesn't fool around. She'll get the blood sample one way or the other."

The nurse leaves the room and I seriously consider running, but before I can live out that fantasy fully in my mind, I hear, "So, you're the pain in the butt."

I laugh nervously, "Yep."

She's in a purple nurse uniform, a woman about to enter grandma years. She takes each arm and quickly looks me over for possibilities.

"Geez, they stuck you good."

The other nurses come in. I'm starting to feel like a medical freakshow. They start mumbling options to each other.

Dr. Kerr says, "Well, let's just do a femoral." The intern looks taken aback.

I ask, "What's a femoral?"

"It's in your leg, well, in your hip really. We take a stethoscope, find a pulse and plunge. It's fast, a definite hit.", Dr Kerr says without batting an eye.

She says that she'll try to stick me in the arm herself, and if she doesn't succeed on the first try, then femoral it is.

She lays me down and is getting the needle ready when the intern says, "Why don't we try doing a radial?" Dr. Kerr shrugs like, why not.

"What's a radial?" I ask.

"It's in your wrist." Dr. Kerr says.

"Will it hurt pretty bad? Or, which one hurts worse?" I ask.

Dr. Kerr says, "Oh, they'll both hurt; it's just a matter of preference."

I vote radial, with femural as my last resort. She says to me what another nurse said to me a few years ago at a bone marrow drive:

"This needle is just about size of your vein. Do not move - you can scream and cuss or faint, but don't move."

One hot stick and I let out a moan like a cornered cat and my tears stream out as if in answer to this new steady flow.

Dr. Kerr says, "Ew, um, don't look. I got a good pulse on that second vile. Uh, lift your butt so you don't stain your clothes."

I start to feel light-headed as I feel my muscles relax with relief.

"Huh," Dr. Kerr says, as if impressed with my sudden vigor for bleeding, "You're a real bleeder, once you get down to those dang veins."

Gauze...bandage...a hand on my shoulder. The head nurse smiles her frazzled, comforting smile.

"No, Hon, don't stand up just yet. You're liable to keel over."

I nod and sit for another minute. One hour and forty-five minutes have passed from the time I arrived at the clinic until the blood vials are filled. I turn and look at the vinyl bed and see the red-to-brown remnants of my blood that spurt fiercely toward the nurses, as if in protest.

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