Searching for Milo Stranger Part 1 Appointment at the Clinic

Art from South Africa

Milo Stranger was scheduled for 4:45, last patient of the day. The nurse was running late and he had been waiting long enough to fill the tiny exam room with his smell. It was not exactly the smell of fear, she thought, but an aggressive presence of man sweat. Aggressive in dress, too–a black muscle shirt and tight jeans, butch hair and heavy mustache. A little past the age for this, and a little past the season with November chill outside.
Milo Stranger had already read the form. The nurse peeled off a sticker # 07121899. She stuck it on a business card and handed it to him. “They’ve given you a number, and they’ve taken away your name,” thought Milo Stranger.
She ran through the standard instructions about the 2 types of test, window period, prevention. Pamphlets and handouts from various sources. Some coldly medical, some surprisingly erotic. The supply cabinet contained boxes of condoms, which she distributed liberally to any patient who wanted them.
Milo Stranger affected a casual boredom, which was so much at odds with the animal message of his smell and the hunch of his shoulders that the nurse felt a little uneasy alone with him. Not that he would turn on her, but that he might not be able to control a tension stretched so far.
She set out a tourniquet, alcohol swabs, needle, plastic holder and vacutainer. She showed him the numbered sticker she attached to the glass tube of the vacutainer #07121899. This was all the identification the Department of Health lab would get.
The nurse, in sleepless nights, had rehearsed every motion of the blood draw procedure. Most needlestick injuries are to the non-dominant hand, or from reaching into an overfull sharps container. She had concluded that there was only point of danger– the point of the needle.
She kept up a stream of inconsequential talk intended to help Milo Stranger relax a little. She didn’t want him to flinch when the needle went in. For the few seconds of inserting and withdrawing the needle from his vein she concentrated on love, because that was the only way she could get so close to mortality.
The vacutainer filled with warm dark red. She snapped the tourniquet off, pulled the needle out of his arm and handed him a gauze to hold over the stick. She took 2 steps to the sharps container. The bloody needle sat on the edge of the hinged cover, she tilted it in with her dominant hand and heard it fall into the box.
Come back in 2 weeks, she told him. Bring your number. You’ll get an answer then.

Milo’s story is best read backwards. If you started here follow the link below for Part 2.

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