For the past few weeks, I've been in and out of the hematology clinic. In fact, as I write this, I am sitting in a clinic with an infusion of iron and B-12 being pumped into my veins at the rate of too-fucking-slow-get-me-out-of-here.
I've lived with anemia most of my life, but it has worsened exponentially in the past month. Today I receive iron--tomorrow, blood. Being forced to sit in a sterile vinyl recliner for hours on end, held to the whims of my fickle insides, has given me ample time to read. Reading has always been my pastime of choice--and at times my occupation--but there is something about forced stillness and quiet which begs at my mind to distract it with printed words on paper.
I share this "lounge" as they call it with six other patients. The patient on my left is another anemic. He is living with Sickle Cell Anemia. He is hilarious and full of life. He loves to listen to the most explicit rap you've ever heard, and has a soft spot for My Little Pony comics. So much so that his mom knit him a hospital snuggie and embroidered it with the same cutie mark as Rainbow Dash. He's the least likely Brony you've ever met, but after several hours spent in his company, it makes total sense. They're so fantastical and silly. They're the opposite of sterile and sick.
The patient most frequently on my right is a woman in her mid-fifties undergoing chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer. She is an elementary school teacher who loves writing 50 Shades fanfic. Her fanfic is better than the original. She should be an author. We can sit and discuss romance novels for hours. Our combined knowledge of the genre seems to fill the room. We can have entire conversations comprised entirely of euphemisms for genitalia. We could span the globes at long length. She's currently reading one of my favorites--A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. When she gets her remission sticker, I'm going to gift her my autographed trilogy. Her hair fell out last week and we joked she should get wigs to match the different phases of Diana's hair in the trilogy.
She says she only wants to read fantasy and paranormal romance while she's in treatment. Again, it's so out of the realm of possibility. It's so much not cancer, or the pain of gaping wounds where there once were breasts, or the lack of a full head of mahogany curls--that it helps her forget, just for the span of the story--that she's here.
As for me--I guess I'm more of a typical emo English major than I want to believe. Because, yes, I'm living with a life-threatening blood condition which causes me to sit in this squeaking and cold hellchair, but here I am, reading vampire story after vampire story.
Just not Twilight.
My red blood cells belong on the Island of Misfit Toys, and I'm strangely attracted to reading about their consumption while I'm being replenished.
Last week I re-read Dracula, the week before--Vermilion--now? Prince Lestat. Hundreds upon hundreds of pages of blood-sucking fiends from beyond the grave.
People say that in the age of the internet and twitter and blogs--that books are dying. It's easier to get our information, our entertainment, in under 140 characters. Those people have likely never sat in the shaded land of pharmaceutical Hell. Looking around me, all but two patients are currently reading. Those two patients are asleep or trying not to be sick. I'm so grateful for the writers, the editors, my fellow readers. They keep me in pages.