I am supposed to be fasting but wake up with hunger crawling up from below against the rawness of morning throat. Two hours until the lab opens. Maybe I can lie, I think. Or maybe it doesn’t really matter. I make a cup of tea and dip my fingers into a canister of roasted almonds.
“You have to fast 12 hours for accurate fasting blood test results. If you fast four hours or more the fasting blood test results may be accurate,” says the internet. In my search for validation I find only the guiding principles of a pervasive framework poised to inspire shame.
I go anyway. The sun is coming up and the parking lot is already full. A woman behind the counter hands me a sticker with my name written on it. “This will be your name tag. Wear it while you’re in the building and hand it back in before you leave.” What kind of a system are they running here? I sit across from a patient in the waiting area who looks like Johnny Sac’s wife from The Sopranos. She scrolls her iPhone with two hands, long curved manicure grazing the screen. I pick up a newspaper and read an article about the FDA changing nutrition labels, making calories more prominent and clarifying serving size. “Most of the nutrients are listed in grams, a basic unit of the metric system. People don’t really understand what a gram is.”
A technician calls my name and I follow her down labyrinthine hallways to a windowless room. Her hair is in tight rows and she sports a pair of outdated Nikes.
“Let’s see what we got here,” she says, looking at my sheet.
“I can do everything but the fasting tests. I didn’t fast.”
“Do you want to just come back and do them all at once?” I tell her I’m already there, so we might as well do the ones we can. She doesn’t seem to understand my logic, but concedes. Tourniquet, prick, drain. We make that warm, temporary conversation people make over medical procedures. My boyfriend passed out the last time he had blood drawn. This makes her chuckle and arrive at the conclusion that all men are wimps, a generalization I don’t believe, but she is filling numerous vials with my blood, and I want to bond on some level.
She hands me a urine sample cup and leads me to a nearby bathroom. “Don’t worry about that sign that says don’t flush,” she says. “It’s because we also use this bathroom for drug testing.” I lock the door behind me and look for the sign that says not to flush. I find only a xerox that says “IF YOU URINATE ON THIS SEAT YOU WILL HAVE TO CLEAN IT UP YOURSELF.” There is no sink.
When I return she’s on the phone tracking down a stool sample kit. “Should I give her the one with the orange lid or the gray lid?” I think about how there is really no graceful way to give a stool sample, how shit universally levels us.
She dumps me back in the waiting room and disappears into a door marked BIOHAZARD in search of my colorfully lidded sterile cups. Ginny Sacrimoni has been replaced by a bald guy with a tribal head tattoo. All the magazines are from 2011 and I find myself staring at a wall mounted photo collage of lab technicians, little portraits cut into perfect rectangles from Kodak 4x6s. They all look so nondescript. Are dull people drawn to lab work or does lab work suck everything interesting out of your life? Two women come out of the BIOHAZARD room laughing. “Just cleaned out my locker and found a wedding invitation from 2009,” one of them says.
The technician returns holding a brown paper bag. Inside are three color-coded vials filled halfway with unidentifiable liquid, and some foreign object she calls a “hat.”
“The hat fits right into your toilet. You poo into it and then use the little spoons to scoop out samples for each container.” Her voice lowers for the word poo. “Do you want the blue lidded cup, too?” She asks in such a way that implies I understand the significance of the blue lidded cup.
“Sure.” Can’t hurt.
She pulls a blue lidded cup out of her lab coat pocket. I like her, the way she prepares for all possible outcomes. She smiles and asks for my name tag. It makes a soft fabric hiss as I peel it off my coat.
It’s going to be a sunny day. I cradle my shit sample kit under my arm and the tinted automatic doors exhale me into morning.