Aug 21, 2009

I am David's White Blood Cell

I am David’s white blood cell. Just one of a million or so – probably more, if you believe the propaganda – little white blood cells just like me, doing our job. No need to thank me. Though, just between you and me, a little gratitude wouldn’t be a bad thing. Sure, it’s a thankless enough job, running around the veins and arteries and capillaries of this guy day after day, night after night. But I suppose you could say, just like any job, that it has its own rewards.

Long as I can remember, this has been me: microscopic little entity, floating among a stream of other white and red cells, just patching things up as we see them. Been doing this since the beginning, and it’s good enough work, I suppose. Though, originally I really wanted to be one of those guys up in the optic nerve. Now THERE’S a job with a view.

Let me tell you – since I have your attention – about my day. I don’t really sleep – we don’t need to – but I do like to kind of keep track of the days and nights. See, during the night, David’s pretty boring. Not a lot of activity in here, and it gets pretty quiet – but it’s peaceful and means we usually don’t get called up to head here or there, lay some smack down on foreign intruders or whatnot. Some of the bits of the innards get a bit creepy – lots of weird sounds that no one can explain, long miles of, really, nothing to do. You get that much time with nothing to keep you company, you start to really think about stuff. So I do a lot of pretending: I play like I’m a virus and beat up on some of the new Reds - that always screws with the other whiteys, who really don’t know what to make of that. Or I head down to the stomach and count the bubbles. David’s stomach has a lot of bubbles. It’s almost hypnotic, really, all that acid. Makes me wish I could eat an Oreo.

Then David wakes up and it’s back to work. My favorite days are when I get to go down the arms. David has a pretty low-impact job, so really I just watch as he types on his computer – the fingers all move in this weird little dance of language, and when he gets into a groove, that place really gets jumping. The places I don’t like? The ass, as you might expect, is pretty bad – but I haven’t been back there since I was on a written warning from the boss for trying to fake my timecard. I don’t like heading up to the brain, either. Too much electricity from all those neurons, it screws with my iPod. Last time I was up there, it erased my entire Nine Inch Nails playlist. So now when I get called up there, I just phone it in and hang out around David’s thyroid with some enzymes I met last year at a rave in David’s liver. Those girls really know how to party, man.

Hmmm – hold on a second, I need to check something out. Ah, never mind, just a shadow. Today, they’ve sent me down to check on the lungs for a bit, just kind of an employee exchange program they’ve been initiating lately. There were a lot of cut backs last year when David had some work done on his right knee, and everyone’s been really nervous. Turns out they brought in some outside help – cheaper, more affordable labor – but I personally believe that once you start outsourcing, it’s just a matter of time before they outsource everyone. Much as I might dislike my job, it’s the only one I got, and I’m in no hurry to try and spruce up my resume.

Buddy of mine found out that the whole outsourcing plan works both ways – he found an ad for donations, and made his way down to the testes. Never heard from him again. I hope he’s okay. Me, I don’t care for the kind of riff-raff you generally find down there. Maybe when I was younger, sure, but I’m no spring chicken any more – I get enough excitement from surfing the aorta. Honestly, that whole region is trouble, if you ask me. Any time you get too close to the exits, you’re running a pretty big risk of unemployment.

The lungs are a pretty fascinating place. I don’t really understand how this whole “oxygen transfer” thing works, but they come in cold and go out hot, and it seems to work out nicely for them in the long run. It’s pretty odd, really. I can’t imagine being a Red. “Red”. Heh. As if it’s all so easily defined. But anyway, they have such a simple life – from my elevated perspective, right? At least as a white, we’ve got some choice, some sense of variety to our menial existence. Not like the reds. Pick this up. Take it there. Drop it off. Come back to the lungs. Pick up another one. Blah blah blah blah. God, I’d have to shoot myself if that was my job. Ooh. Speaking of my job, I need to be heading back to the chambers again. Come on, we can talk on the way.

This job’s really not too hard. It’s just keeping an eye out for trouble, most of the time, calling for a few special forces teams to show up and take care of any undesirables, or to help patch up the occasional leak. Brain gets wind of an ache or twinge or something, they tell us to go check it out, make sure it’s all on the up and up. We don’t have to make the Big Decisions; we just follow orders, write up the reports, and let folks know if things need to be given more attention. Sometimes, we have to hang out on a crime scene, clean things up or whatever, but we usually just boss the little Reds around and make them do it. No, don’t make that face. It’s totally fine, they like to help.

Okay, hold on, we’re hitting the heart now, it’s my favorite part of my day. It’s all in the timing. Just – yeah, lift your feet just like that, keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times - - and YEAH! God, what a rush. I love that place.

Hmm. Okay, see, here’s what I was talking about. A little spot of concern down nearDavid’s left kidney. It’s probably nothing. He had an infection there a couple of years back, and now whenever it’s about to rain, everyone gets all in a huff. A bunch of Nervous Nellies, if you ask me. Now, that over there is the digestive system – that big bloaty part is David’s stomach, like I told you about earlier. It may not look like much from the outside, but if we had time, I’d take you by there for the full effect. I heard someone say earlier that David was thinking about having sushi for lunch. Sushi is the best, I’m not even joking. If this turns out to be a false alarm, I’ll try to swing us back by.

All right, now this is exactly what I figured. See? That whole area ahead of us? That’s where the so-called “Pain Report” is coming from. And….nothing. Not a goddamned thing. Kidney’s fine, no unusual lumps or shapes, no leaks, no breaks. Just business as usual David’s Kidney. After a while, I just don’t even want to show up any more. It’s been nothing but false alarm after false alarm the past few months anyway. A guy never gets a chance to kick his feet up, take a breath, throw back a beer or whatever. And that’s no way to run a body, if you ask me.

We’re going to have to swing the full loop around, now that we’re down here, I might as well show you the sights. That bit over there is the whole “exit” area I was talking about. Nothing but piss, shit and the occasional ejaculation: nothing to write home about. And we’re gonna hang a right at the femoral artery. About this time of day, it’s just bumper to bumper there, and no one ever signals. It’s just an excuse for a hemorrhage, waiting to happen. Mark my words, there’s trouble there.

Now, that’s weird. That, over there – that finger-looking bit of nonsense? That’s David’s appendix. I heard from a guy who said he had to deliver a couple skanky endorphins there a year or so ago, said they’re some top-secret shit that goes down in there. No one ever likes to talk about it, it’s all pretty hush-hush. A couple years back, I might’ve hopped the fence and taken a look about, but, you know, I got myself to think of; a guy can’t take that sort of risk anymore, if you catch my meaning. Anyway, maybe it’s just the beer talking, but I don’t remember it looking quite that…big. Eh. It’s probably nothing. Besides, they don’t pay me to be proactive, that’s a job for David’s Brain.

Moving on, we’re making good time, so let’s head over to the stomach a bit. You hear that – that low rumble? That means the show’s starting. We’re pretty far away from David’s esophagus, but that’s the best view to check out the inbound arrivals. Some Whites buck for that kind of job – up in David’s head. They like to check everything out as it comes in – air, liquids, food, whatever comes down the pipe. I got offered a job up in Customs, but I’m not that ambitious. I prefer to just kind of handle stuff as it happens. Guy can work every day of his life and still not get anywhere, no sense in killing yourself just to try and get a medal pinned on your chest. “Most heroes are awarded posthumously”, as they say.

Geez, there’s a lot of traffic around here, all of a sudden. Seems like everyone’s always in a hurry these days. See that group over there, the bunch of Whites? You can see it in their eyes, the clenching of their jaws – they’re on the job. Got a bunch of their pet platelets along with them, too. I won’t bother asking them what’s up, they’re too busy to sit and chat. Kids. Full of dreams and optimism. Ready to change the world, one little symptom at a time.

Good way to get turned into a scab at an early age, that’s what I say. See? Take a look at those bubbles. That’s a good sight. Mmm… baked salmon rolls. David has good taste.

Damn it. Just when it was getting good. That’s a message from upstairs. Looks like they’re not ready to call that kidney pain a wash just yet, and they want me to go back and check it out again. No, don’t get up just yet. I’m on my lunch break. The kidney’ll still be there after David finishes his food, and we’ll go back for a closer look then. Besides, there’s a million other White Blood Cells, let one of them be the hero today. I’m no hero.

I’m just David’s White Blood Cell.

by Ren Cummins

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