I was up early and ready to go before the sun had risen. I was prepared. I drank plenty of water the night before and this morning. I ate pork chops for dinner yesterday evening. I needed to pass the protein test. I took half a Klonopin to calm me down. I was going to make a little cash today.
I arrived ten minutes early and sat in my car so I could work on my breathing. Deep breath in, deep breath out. I thought about peaceful things like beaches and love and music. I had to pass the pulse test, which I usually failed. I felt confident this time. I wasn’t nervous, my heart wasn’t beating fast or anything. I finally walked in the plasma center at the appointed time. There was a swagger in my walk.
I went to the computer and used my fingerprint to log in. I answered all the questions about medications I may or may not have taken. Places I traveled and whatnot. Easy stuff. Step one was a success. Step two loomed like a storm cloud.
I sat in the chair across from the technician. She took my temperature. Another success. She then wrapped a blood pressure cuff around my arm to test that as well as my BPM. I could feel my heart pounding like a jackhammer. 115. Dammit. I failed. You have to be under 100 to donate plasma. I don’t really know why, but that’s just the way it is. Luckily, you get a second chance. A last chance. Before that, I did pass the protein and hydration tests, so thank you pork chops and water.
I sat in the reception area. They give you eight minutes to get your heartbeat under control. I scrolled social media to chill out a bit. I worked again on my breathing and tranquil thoughts. They eventually called me back up to be tested again. 98. I passed. Jackpot. I would make forty dollars today, which meant forty dollars to gamble with today. See, I’m a degenerate gambler. I’ll do anything to make a bet. Anything from stealing to conning to donating plasma. Gambling had made me homeless numerous times in the past. It had destroyed my relationship with my children. It had taken everything from me, yet here I was trying to make some easy money to go the the track with and blow it on longshots.
I went back to the donation section of the place. I took off my coat and laid it on my waist and legs. She stuck a needle in my vein and I began pumping my fist like a piston on a Corvette. I was on cruise control until I wasn’t. It takes me about 45 minutes to donate, but I knew I was in trouble after twenty minutes. I had to go to the bathroom. Dammit. I would lose my money if stopped now, or at least I thought I would. So, I tried everything. I kept crossing and uncrossing my legs. I rubbed my legs. I squirmed. I brought my knees to my chest. I did the peaceful thoughts thing again. It wasn’t working. I had to go so bad. I shouldn’t have drunk so much water that morning. Plus the pot of coffee. I made it until I was almost done donating. I raised my hand. The technician came over and asked what I needed. I told her I had to pee and couldn’t hold it any longer. She said as soon as the pumping was done, she would unhook me. I asked her if I would lose my money. She said no. I was relieved but still had to go immediately. I stopped pumping and she started to take the needle out. I grabbed my crotch. I couldn’t hold it any longer. Then it happened. I let loose. Urine spread across my jeans like a giant ice cube melting in Death Valley. I pissed myself. Luckily, my jacket was covering my embarrassment. She told me since they couldn’t return some vital fluid, I would have to sit in the waiting area for fifteen minutes. I got up, my jacket hanging over my front, and walked away.
I sat down and waited. I don’t know if anybody knew I peed myself. They brought me a Gatorade and some crackers in case I felt woozy. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. When the time was up, I left and went home and showered and changed my clothes, then headed to the track with my forty bucks.
I was broke in less than an hour. I bet longshots who didn’t have the breeding to win a sprint race. I wanted big money, but only got a big loss. Back to square one. Busted.
Two days later, I was back at the plasma center. I had made adjustments. No water the morning of, just the night before. And no coffee. I wasn’t going to pee myself again, and I was going to win at the track after my donation because degenerates never think they will lose. Never. I’m sick like that. The longshots would fly down the stretch like hooved lightning. Oh yes, I was going to win. I had to win.
But first, I had to pass the pulse test.
Chris Milam lives in Middletown, Ohio. His stories have appeared in JMWW, Jellyfish Review, Lumiere Review, X-R-A-Y, Molotov Cocktail, Lost Balloon, and elsewhere. You can find him on Twitter @Blukris.