Friday, February 15, 2013

The Male Nurse

         "Are you all right?" the nurse asked as I sat up, the needle removed from my arm. "You look pale," he added. "I've got a glass of orange juice and an oatmeal cookie here."
I'd been giving blood for years. It was never easy. I hated needles, but I'd never had a male nurse guide me through the procedure. I mean, a handsome male nurse—my age—thirty-five—with a wide, warm smile and penetrating blue eyes. "I'm fine," I said, wondering if his unexpected presence had added to my queasiness.
The tag pinned to the lapel of his white jacket said his name was Kent."You sure?" he asked, and handed me a cookie and a paper cup half full of orange juice.
"It's the needle thing," I admitted sheepishly, taking a bite of cookie, a sip of juice. "I've been afraid of them since my first school vaccination."
"Then you're a mighty brave person, Casey. I see from your chart you've been donating a long time."
I told him about the car accident I'd been in as a teen and how several blood transfusions saved my life. "That's when I discovered I'm type AB-positive, and my blood can be transfused to patients of all blood types. I just felt I needed to help."
Smiling, he nodded, and my heart bounced. I wasn't even standing, but my knees felt weak. "Your plasma," he said, "is always in great demand and in short supply. Besides being brave, you're a very special person."
I think we each glanced at the other's ringless left hand at the same time.
My face felt flushed. I didn't know what to say about his compliment except, "Thank you."
Cookie eaten, juice cup drained, I stood to leave. Maybe a little too suddenly. A flash of dizziness, a wobble in my legs—Kent secured my elbow in one hand and circled my waist with an arm, saving me from sinking to the floor. He eased me into a cushiony lounge chair. "Better stay here for a minute or two," he said.
I did stay for, like, maybe two minutes, but then I quickly said good-bye and left. I certainly didn't want Kent to think I was flirting with him and had faked dizziness so I could fall into his arms. That night I called my best friend, Melissa, and told her what'd happened. "A male nurse?" she said. "Probably a nice guy, but not your type. You're hot. You need someone rugged—I've always told you that."
"I've already dated an iron worker and a policeman, remember?"
Letting out a big sigh, Melissa said, "Sorry, I'm not feeling well tonight. Something I ate, probably. Call me tomorrow."
But I didn’t call her. She called me. From the hospital. Appendicitis. After work—I'm an office manager for an insurance company—I rushed to her bedside. She smiled and said she was fine. She could go home tomorrow. Then she added, "There's a doctor or two around here you might be interested in. Just your type."
"No thanks."
I promised to cook supper at her place tomorrow night, said good-bye, and headed for the elevator. And there stood Kent, waiting at the elevator door. I nearly dropped dead. "Are you okay, Casey?" he asked, smiling the biggest smile. "You left in such a hurry the other day."
My tongue felt tied in knots. If I was surprised to see him here, I was even more surprised that he remembered my name. "I—I'm fine. I never expected..."
"The hospital is my day job," he said. "I just started volunteering at the blood bank whenever they need me. You're really all right? I've drawn a lot of blood, but I've never had anyone fall into my arms before."
Heat rushed to my face, which, I'm sure was—well, blood red. "Sorry about that. It's really the needle thing."
"It's called trypanophobia. Don't feel bad. Famous people like Jackie Chan, Snoop Dog, and Conan O'Brien suffer from the same fear. Nearly ten percent of all Americans do, too."
My head tilted. "Really?  I think I feel better all ready. I mean, knowing someone else has the same problem. Famous people, even."
Kent said he was just coming off his shift and was headed for the cafeteria for a cool drink. Would I join him? My heart speeding up, I said, "Yes, of course."
At a table in the cafeteria, while we both sipped an ice tea, he said, he'd been an Army corpsman. He'd served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He'd dealt with lots of soldiers with phobias, and he thought he could offer me help.
"No pills," I said. "No tranquilizers. I'd rather go on as I am."
His smile grew wide. His blue eyes warmed my heart. "I'm simply talking about a date. Maybe if you could learn to trust the person with the needle...well, you might have an easier time."
I think my smile was even wider than his. Even better, I think I really liked this male nurse. "I'm ready for therapy," I said.
The End
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