By Lily Mulholland
I screw the lid on the flask, being careful not to spill the contents. It took a lot of effort to fill it and I didn’t want to waste a drop. Wrapping the flask in foil to keep it warm, I place it securely in my messenger bag.
Skipping down the stairs, two at a time, two at a time, two at a time, I descend to the basement where I store my bike. The apartment is too small to hang even a hook on the wall. Fortunately no one else in the block seems to ride. They all take a bus or walk. A lucky few have a car. Well, I sometimes think they’re lucky, but they pay for the privilege, that’s for sure.
I carry my bike up the stairs to the foyer and wheel it out the door. Making sure my messenger bag is sitting in the middle of my back, so it won’t swing around when I mount my bike, I push off and dive out into traffic. As I dart between cars and zip around buses, I can’t keep the stupid smile off my face. I’m wondering if anyone else threading their way through the city is carrying millions of sperm on their back. Then I think of possums – the way they carry their young, clinging tight with a concrete hold to the folds of their mothers’ skin. Then I feel silly. I’m not a possum. I’m a guy hoping to make a buck from tossing off.
I pedal faster, knowing I only have fifteen minutes to get the little fellas in the door and processed. I make it to the clinic with a couple of minutes to spare, park and lock my bike outside and head in to the collection counter.
Damn. There’s a hot chick behind the counter and I feel my cheeks start to ping. That’s not all that’s pinging either and I’m wearing cycling pants. I slide my messenger bag around in front of my crotch, like a shield.
Making eye contact with the clerk, I retrieve the flask and place it up on the counter.
‘Been here before?’ she asks.
‘No. I registered online and this is my first time.’ I feel like an idiot when I realise our conversation sounds exactly like an RSVP first date.
I give her my details and she looks me up on the database.
‘Fine. Your blood test and initial sample results are here. So you received your donation kit?
‘Did you fill the flask up to the line as specified?’ she asks me.
‘Line?’ I ask.
One plucked eyebrow ascends and she looks at me the same way Mrs McGurk looked at me in Grade Three.
‘We can’t take your sample if it’s not up to the line.’
‘Oh,’ I say, ‘I didn’t notice a line. I filled it.’
She stares at me.
‘To the top?’
I look at her, unsure what to say. The moment is rather awkward, as we continue to stare at each other. I look at my watch. She fixes me with one last look, trying to work out whether I’m pulling her leg or in earnest.
‘Yes, and I worked really hard to get it here within the fifteen minutes,’ I say, trying not to let my embarrassment strangle my epiglottis. It wouldn’t do to be talking like an eight-year-old, as well as feeling like one.
Her eyebrow descends; she’s made up her mind.
‘Okay Mr Scott, thank you for coming in today. If your specimen meets our criteria, you’ll receive your cheque in the mail,’ she says in a bored tone. She places my carefully wrapped package on a turntable and spins it round so it disappears behind the partition. My little fellas have begun their journey.
Understanding I’ve been dismissed, I head back out to my bike. A little tear forms in the corner of my eye; I feel like I’ve just waved off a child on his first day at school.