S c a t t e r b r a i n e d

Fragmented thoughts.

Ideas like shooting stars, streaking across the darkness that is the inside of my head. Little flares of light, imploding into nothing. Leaving only faint imprints of what once burned so bright.

Disconnected words, dancing, interrupting my stream of thought.

A foreign feeling in my chest that might be fear.

Men and women in clean white clothes.

The scent of antiseptic.

Dry throat, cold hands.

Disjointed conversation.

Sitting on the examination table, taking off clothes.

My ears acutely aware of the rustle of cloth, the whisper of silk.

Strands of my hair stick to my cheek.

My necklace gets caught in a button.

I try to turn away.

“Where did you get these bruises?” He asks.

I look at him. Silent. Unyielding.

He sighs.

He inspects me. He checks my heart rate, my breathing, how my eyes respond to light. He asks me about symptoms. He takes note of what I’ve been eating, of how much rest I’m getting.

He asks about bruises and petechia. About nosebleeds and headaches and fatigue. About medications and vomiting and chest pains.

I answer as perfunctorily as possible, and the silence between us is deafening.

When my clothes are back on, the awkward conversation stops. He allows me to root in his refrigerator for chocolate, and drops me off at the lab for blood tests.

I wait again.

I don’t like being bored.

I read signs next to doors and in the hallway, I try to translate them into German, and then into Spanish, and then into Mandarin Chinese.

I try to make anagrams out of the word EMERGENCY.

My thoughts are shattered, like words falling off a page.

Then it’s my turn and I’m ushered in.

Arm swabbed with rubbing alcohol.

Tourniquet on my arm.

Hand squeezing a rubber ball.

Then the needle is in and my blood is filling up the empty space inside the syringe.

I start to gasp slightly.

My eyes are wide and staring.

My heartbeat picks up the pace.

I bite on my lip so hard it bleeds.

Calm down, Jen. Calm down.

I can’t.

I’mscared iImscared I’mscared I’mscared.

I’m sca—

“We’re done.”

Relief courses through me and I sit back, feeling drained.

The med tech shakes his head in amusement and pets my head.

“After all these years, all these extractions,” he laughs. “I can’t believe you’re still afraid of needles.”

I get out.

The cold disappears, and the sun is so hot that I feel the back of my neck prickle with goosebumps.

I want to sleep.

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