We are pleased as hell to be the first to share this little taste of Tommy Gaffney’s untitled memoir in progress with you:
Three toddlers, three transfers, three stabs trying to find the vein, three hours for the blood to make its way back to the body. From our broken end of town, it took only one hour to get there, after jaywalking to catch up with buses leaving their stop early, but almost three hours to get back home because the frequent service routes stopped running so frequent after dark. Even with fistfuls of tiny hands, there were some close calls. Cars honked but rarely slowed down. Jaywalking’s not quite parting the Red Sea and rumors of miracles certainly ain’t the same as miracles, but faith kept us leaping out into the streets for years, no matter how thick the traffic. There was always money to be made at the Plasma Center. Not much, but some. Only you had to lie to yourself to believe that selling blood was an honest wage. Lie that it would only be this one time, or just one more time, or just for a little while longer until you get back on your feet. You had to lie to the front desk when they asked if you had donated anywhere else since last week’s donation or if you had eaten a nutritious meal that morning. Lie when they made you promise to wait three days for your bloodstream to rebuild itself before dumping booze into it.
It was best to get there early, before the drunks stumbled awake and began to cram themselves into the lobby, soiling every ounce of air. Even then, there was always a wait, up to three hours sometimes. And the only babysitters provided were a couple of Highlights magazines with fading covers and the occasional Jelly Bean Journal with all the puzzles irrevocably solved in blue ink. Blue ink was just enough to cause meltdowns for those just learning to read who had gone through the four books that constituted the home library and were looking forward to sitting down with their Jelly Bean motherfucking Journal, the only thing in the entire world they didn’t have to share with younger sisters. I could never throw the kind of fit I wanted to, though, because the Plasma Center was policed by every mother in there. Dozens of almond eyes scanned the lobby like searchlights over a prison yard. White mothers, black mothers, mexican mothers all waiting their turn on the gurney and any opportunity to yell at children that weren’t theirs. The excitement of it all only added octaves to already piercing lectures. “Don’t put that nasty shit in your mouth” or “quit poking that man, can’t you see he’s asleep. And drunk as shit.” An unwritten rule but one carved in stone, poor folks take care of poor folks, or at least good enough to keep them as bad off as they are