Micrograms

What dose are you taking? the doctor asks me.

A hundred… I can never remember what the ‘mg’, or whatever it is, stands for, I say.

Micrograms, she says, and writes it on the pathology order form.

It seems ridiculous that I am so reliant on such a small measure.

Later, in the pathology collection room, the nurse sits next to me typing the details from the form into the computer. She has her mobile phone on the desk in front of her, playing Australian coverage of the US election.

I can’t believe it, she says. I lived in New York for twenty-seven years, and this just makes me so sad.

I think of my recent trip to the US, in the midst of the election campaign, and of the people I met there, the culture I barely glimpsed. I am sad too.

Is it milligrams or micrograms? she asks me.

What the doctor has written on the form is unclear.

Micrograms, I say.

Then she tightens the strap around my upper arm and pushes the tip of the needle through my skin and into a vein. The veins on my right arm are always bigger and easier to access. The needle burns. I watch the blood from my body fill the body of the syringe. Dark, coppery red. A result of the reaction between iron and oxygen inside the dark and mysterious parts of my body. Like rust.


Are you reading anything good at the moment? she asks me.

I laugh. Completely coincidentally, I’m reading a book called ‘Micrograms’.

She laughs too. I tell her it’s a book about small things. Small things that matter. About connections between things.

Fascinating, she says, I’m really interested in finding connections between things. I’m studying tarot cards at the moment.

When she pulls the needle out of my arm, the very end of it catches the tiny thin edge of my skin. I feel the microscopic tear in my skin as a stinging sensation. Two tiny spots of my blood drop, one onto my arm and one onto the arm of the chair. I fight the urge to apologise and immediately wipe them up. Instead I watch them sit there, shining and wet and warm. 

She syringes my blood into a vial. I have never seen it done this way before. Usually the vial is attached to syringe and the blood is collected directly. I do not ask her why she has done it differently, or why she is not concerned about my spilled blood.

The drops of my blood darken, thicken a little, against the outside air, reacting to the invisible oxygen around us.

Tarot cards are supposed to be all about seeing connections you might not otherwise, she says.

She rubs an alcohol swab over my arm, slowly back and forth across the pin prick in the crook of my elbow, and then, finally, down towards the outside of my elbow to wipe up the spilled blood on my arm. Last, almost as an afterthought, she swipes the swab over the drop of my blood on the furniture.

A cotton wool ball taped across the puncture wound, she sends me back out into the world with my tender elbow crook. I can feel the sticky tape pulling on the hairs on my arm, the memory of the burn of the needle running down along the veins and into my right hand.

The radio coverage of the election is the last thing I hear as she shuts the door behind me.