A man moved away from me on the train today. He was sitting next to me and then suddenly, he turned his whole body in the opposite direction. And then as if to punctuate the gesture, he slid over the little tackle box he had on the floor in front of him. I wondered if he was put off by the bandage on my arm. I was at Cornell this morning for my bi-weekly blood test. Maybe he saw the bandage and for some reason thought I was a drug addict. I tend to leave the bandage on several hours longer than I have to. It makes me feel special, like I’ve been through something terrible, and here I am, plowing ahead with my life, brave face and all that. I get queasy at the sight of my own blood, but I’m sentimental about the byproducts of my medical procedures. I had open heart surgery when I was 11, to repair a small hole in the wall between the upper chambers of my heart, and somewhere in the far reaches of one of my closets is an envelope that contains the green cap from that surgery, a card from my hospital roommate Stacey Stoddart, and the gauze and snipped sutures from my incision.
I looked over at the man to get a better look at him. As I turned toward him, I glanced down at my bandage and was horrified to see it was covered in blood. I must not have put pressure on it long enough. The blood had stained all the way through. I looked like a hemophiliac. I felt like a leper. I wished I had a sign that said, “”This is from a blood test. And I have nothing you can catch,” the way Canadians wear their national flags on the back of their knapsacks so no one will think they’re American. But then I thought, what the heck? I could have been in trouble here, bleeding to death, and this guy’s first response was not to help but to run.
I glanced down at his tackle box and noticed several of the compartments were filled with multi-colored pushy-pins, like one might use on a bulletin board. Oh, boy, I thought, you must be very, very important. What are you, head of the Department of Pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey? No, wait. I know. You’re trying to get back on your feet after having been laid off three times, and unable to afford high-tech software, you figured nothing says Power Point presentation like a box of pushy pins. Oh, no, I’ve got it. Your wife walked out on you for being such a wuss, and she took your son with her, and the only thing she left behind was a map dotted with hundreds of pushy pins and a note that said, “We’ll be moving here.”
I then sat back in my seat, content I had wounded him as he had wounded me.