Survival by Coordination
Demond J. Blake
Hungover in the fountain as the sun is just starting to get annoying but without getting hot I stretch out as much as possible and think about how they tell you you’re not supposed to donate plasma if you’ve been drinking the night before. If that was the case there’d be very little plasma donated period. Most of the donations come from folks whose lifestyles I’m sure the fuckers really don’t want to know about. I’m one of those fuckers. At least this week I’m yayo free not that that stopped me from donating before. As long as my protein and iron levels are straight it seems like the donation center could really give a fuck. Jesus how much shitty plasma is going out there? How much of my shitty plasma is going out there? These are things I probably shouldn’t be thinking about today.
I roll over look at my watch, it’s 7:36. Plasma center opens at 6:30. It’s always best to show up early and be in that first group, that way you’re in and out in 90 minutes or so. Otherwise it could be two hours. I fucked up, I’m fucked up. I curl into the fetal position and really don’t want to do shit today but get a cheap bottle of red and crawl back into the fountain. But being homeless can sometimes be a job in and of itself. I gather my shit and peek out real quick like. There’s business folk just starting their day along with bums who’ve just been let out from the Salvation Army shelter an hour or so ago and have found their way downtown heading towards White Park for a day of fucking with the asses that patrol it. Then it’s down to the church a mile up near the hospital for prayer and most importantly that first hot meal of the day. I get the shivers. I’m layered up as much as I can be with sweats underneath my jeans and an oversized hoodie with cardboard and newspapers laid around the concrete surrounding the nonworking fountain pump. Doesn’t matter much when it drops to below 40 at night and you’re a California boy.
I take another peek and see everyone involved in getting where they’re going with earphones on and leap out of the fountain in one swift veteran maneuver. I sit on the steps outside the fountain pump getting my bearings trying to act casual. I dig out an energy bar I found around Benny’s house then I’m on my way to the downtown terminal to catch the 1 down the street from the center. The only bad thing is that I have to go to the terminal and hang around the Mutates. The Mutates are those who’ve long burned their bridges at every shelter in the city and now spend their nights wandering the city in various states of disarray and madness looking like reanimated corpses. No one acknowledges them because that means you’ve got their attention and you’ll be remembered for as long as they live. The Mutates rarely ask for anything other than attention and perhaps the occasional cig. They’re not dangerous unless fucked with then they’ll rip out your jugular vein, expose withered genitals and dry fuck you or simply vomit on your shoes. Around this time of morning they come out of whatever holes they sleep in and wander down to the terminal and mill about shouting random shit, trying to slang grass and saying it’s herb, a little drool here and there. Mostly they just drift about the terminal looking fucked up beyond belief. I stand at my stop and wish I had a fuckin cig. My bus comes I quickly hop on happy not to encounter any Mutates before doing so but I know today I got off easy. When I get off the, 1 I walk to Jack ‘n’ the Crack order a ninety-nine cent Jumbo and grub it down the rest of the way to the plasma center hoping that this is enough to get my levels straight. Inside it’s not crowded surprisingly and I sign in and chat for a sec with Robin the RVN.
“What’s going on, Rob?”
“You shouldn’t call a women ‘Rob’ Evans especially one my age.”
“You’re like thirty-two or something who cares.”
“It’s just not how you talk to a lady.”
“Hey, you work at the Plasma Center in the asshole part of town, do you really want any of these fucks looking at you as anything other the person that better not fuck up my 25?”
“Rob, I mean Robin, you need to transfer to a nicer spot if you want that shit.”
She takes my forearm and gives it a squeeze.
“Evans, were you drinking last night?”
“Um, well maybe I had a beer before bed.”
“Go brush your teeth before I call you up for the finger prick.”
I immediately head to the bathroom. Good old Robin always had my back since I saw her freaking girls at the gay bar. I didn’t say anything to her then but when I came to donate the night after she was about to bring it up and I stopped her. That shit was her business which made it none of mine. I guess some of the senior nurse assholes and docs around here may think different. Whatever, if Robin thinking I’ll blackmail her means I get my 45 every week long as I don’t pull any weird shit then so be it. You’ve got to take whatever advantages that are there. After a good brush and a quick bum shower I change into something a little less bum like then go to the waiting room where they’re playing Pearl Harbor for umpteenth time. It’s early so the rowdy ones haven’t showed up yet. At this hour it’s the professional looking bastards with briefcases, cologne, perfume reeking that claim they only do this for gas money and to help out. Well good for you, now shut the fuck up read your Press Enterprise, LA Times, Wall Street Journal bullshit and try not to turn your noses up too much at the stench of those beneath you. Sorry sometimes I get riled up. Just when Josh Hartnett’s character is half-assedly courting Kate Beckinsale’s character after Ben Affleck supposedly ate it my name is called. First they weigh me (if you’re under 110 you can’t donate) I’m a healthy 132 then they shine the ultraviolet light on all my fingernails to make sure I haven’t donated anywhere else this week (you can donate twice in a seven day period long as there’s 48 hrs. between donations). I give Rob I mean Robin my middle finger to prick and as usual the blood’s a bitch to get out even though I drank a shitload the night before. Robin just sighs.
“Evans, why are your fingers such a ‘bitch’ to prick?”
“Um, you’re the nurse you tell me.”
“Just give me your other finger.”
I give her the index finger of my left hand with the same result but she just keeps squeezing and squeezing until the vial is filled and the tip of my finger’s purple. I thank Robin then go in the back so the trainee can take my vitals (blood pressure shit like that). During this they ask you about your sexual activities in the past week.
“Have you or your partner ever sold sex for drugs or money?”
“Have you or your partner done any skin penetrating drugs in the past month?”
There’s other’s that’re asked in equal rapid succession that if you had any time to think about them would be embarrassing but this is about $ not about sensibilities. After this you go out to the floor where the beds are and a nurse leads you to an empty bed where you lay watching the same stupid movie you were watching in the waiting room on five different TVs. If you’ve got one of those I-whatevers or a CD player you can listen to it with one earphone otherwise you’re left to dig the movie playing. I lay there with my bag full of shit barely fitting underneath the bed and wait for a nurse to come and ’stick’ me. Fifteen minutes and a piss later the best sticker in the joint Doc Amber strolls up looking as wonderful as ever. She’s half Korean, half Black with tiny freckles over the bridge of her nose that she tries to hide with foundation but you can easily see them as she eases up to you when it’s time for the sticking. Some stickers may be efficient but don’t know how to do it without blood oozing out or feeling like they’re jabbing a fucking rabbit ears in your vein. Before they stick you, the nurses put a splash guard over their face. With all the other nurses figured, who knows, this might be the time you’re stuck and squirt blood all over the place and you’re supposed to not go crazy or be weirded out just lay there ‘knowing any negative action can cost you your twenty-five for that day and possibly fuck you over for the rest of the month. But not with Amber, she was the pro of pros.
“Jim, so how are we today?”
“Oh y’know, Amber, same old shit.”
“Jim what’s with that language?!”
“Sorry, just the going through the motions.”
“You too young to be talking about going through the motions.”
“Perhaps but for today I’m simply going through them.”
“Well next time you come here I want to hear something different from you, alright?”
“All right, Amber.”
During all this she’s stuck me got the machine going and haven’t realized shit. A true pro. If you’ve got the gall you can request a certain nurse/doctor to stick you but few did that because that made the other stickers out there visibly pissed and if your particular sticker wasn’t there it meant that your arm was getting a little fucked up during that donation. Your best bet was to sit back and hope you got a good one. Today I lucked out but this was my first donation of the week, as for the next…who fucking knows.
Forty-five minutes and a Ben Affleck love triangle war epic later I’m all wrapped up strolling out the center twenty-five bucks richer and completely wiped out. I stop by the Del Taco next door grubbed down a couple of bean ’n’ cheeses then headed to Big Lots to get a couple of bottles of cheap white. Back when Big Lots was called Pic ’n’ Save they had cheap reds, don’t know what the name change really did other than cheat me out of my fave cheap reds. I buy a couple of bottles for a dollar then hop the bus to Jai’s to see what’s what. He’s chilling in the living room ½ sleep watching that Leo DiCaprio flick The Beach.
“So this is how the unemployed live. Lying around watching Leo tanned buff and shirtless.”
“Broken leg, broken leg, ”Jai says, then drifts back off tall boy in hand drinking it here and there even though he’s not really awake. His girl Ally must be at work which is good because ever since Jai got laid off he’s been laying around at home having tall boys instead of eating and hanging out with his good for nothing friends. Friends like me. But seeing him laid up stoned (probably) drunk (most assuredly) with no one around makes me feel like I accomplished something today and it’s not even noon. The main problem is to stay or go.
When Jai awakes he’ll be glad to see me. If he stays asleep and his girl comes she won’t be too glad about much. I decide to beat it walk two miles to the bad part of University Ave for lunch at the church around there. I arrive a little late but the food is still flowing a plenty, pinto beans, cornbread, coleslaw etc eat some and put the rest in this medium size Tupperware container Rachel gave me. Afterwards is the service they make you sit through. After a brief prayer the preacher stands before us and starts to blubber.
I fall asleep straight away but wake up just as he’s wrapping up. The preacher sends us off with a prayer and a bag of fruit and other little snacks. It’s a little after one and I’m still tired so I catch the bus down to RCC head up to the library to take a real nap. The students do it all the time and none of the workers bother them which means I should be left alone too. Not to mention it’ll be fuckin warm in there. Who knows what I’ll do when I wake up. Maybe read, maybe head back to Jai’s, I don’t know. One of the main problems with being homeless (after getting a little money and food in you) is what to do with all the fucking time.
About the Author: Demond Blake is a warehouse associate who has traveled the country working odd jobs, writing and meeting various artists, musicians and nonconformists living life on the fringes of society. He lives in Colton, CA with his wife and teenage son. Demond is currently seeking publication for Slackass, his first novel.