The first thing you notice is the taste. It enters your nose and settles on your tongue like a bad memory made of bleach, metal, and despair. You try to swallow it down as you take your seat, but it only gets worse.
The blue recliners are cold and hard. The blanket they give you is scratchy, and the pillow is flat. They’ll have to do.
The nurse comes by to prep you with saline and heparin. Her face is kind, but her eyes have seen too much. She knows how much it hurts. You ask her to inject them slowly, but it doesn’t help. You gag anyway.
She tries to draw blood, but the blood doesn’t leave your body. So they twist you and turn you upside down before they can get enough. Vampires. When they’re through, you burrow into the blanket and await your sentence.
Another nurse comes by. This time, he’s carrying bags of clear fluid that he attaches to a pole. “Try and relax,” he says, knowing that you never could. His hands are gentle, but the needle is still sharp when it enters your chest. Now, the fun begins.
The taste increases, and you begin to gag on the air around you. You suck on Jolly Ranchers and Lemon Heads to combat the taste, but they barely make a dent. Your stomach tightens and rolls with every beep of the machine, and your bladder fills up every half hour.
For two hours, you’re in agony.
Fatigue sets in and your very bones begin to ache. Sleep or death seem like your only options, and you’re ready to do whatever it takes to make the treatments stop.
When the machine finally signals your release, you feel relieved. The nurse returns, but she doesn’t unhook you. Instead, she plugs you into a portable machine and gives you a stylish fanny pack to carry it in. It’s not ideal, but at least you get to go home.
At home, you rely on others to keep you alive. The television is your best friend because you can’t focus on anything else. There’s a glass of milk next to you because everything, even water, makes you sick, and eating solid food is out of the question.
At least your recliner is more comfortable.
After three days, your fanny pack beeps. You get a ride to the facility because you’re too weak to drive yourself, and you find another blue recliner to wait in. The same faces greet you, and you know it’s because no one else is strong enough to do this job. They’re heroes.
A nurse comes by eventually and unhooks you from the fanny pack. She flushes you out with more saline, and you gag harder than before. Saline is almost worse than the treatment. She pulls the needle from your chest and releases you, but not before saying the words that you constantly dread:
“See you again next week.”
(Sorry for the crappy audio, but this is my reading of “Treatment Day” at the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, Ok.)