without permanently damaging me in any way. Placing a cotton ball and piece of tape over the fresh hole in my arm, she then inquired. “Would you like some juice or a cookie? It helps to eat or drink something afterwards. Some people get a little dizzy after getting their blood taken.”

“No thanks, I’m okay.”

“I can’t believe this is your first time ever getting blood drawn. How old are you?” She asked as she labeled each of the six vials she’d just filled. Thick crimson liquid sloshed against the sides of the glass tube. It felt strange to be looking at something that was inside of me just moments before.


“Wow! Are you sure you’ve never gone to the doctor before?” Her expression was of amazement as she turned to me, felt marker in one hand and a vial in the other.

“Pretty sure.” There’d never been any need; really, I’d never been sick. Besides that, the reservation I grew up on didn’t have modern hospital equipment.

Tucking the six vials safely into a plastic container and sealing it shut, she turned to me and stated triumphantly. “There, all done. On to the next.”

Leading me out of the cubicle, she then pointed down the hall. “Just follow the yellow arrows and look for a sign that says x-rays. Okay?”

Nodding, I began walking down the sterile hall. My nostrils burned a little from the overwhelming scent of bleach.

At least it’s clean. I thought as I searched the walls for some visual stimulation.

There were several plaques lined up on the wall to the right of me, all dedicated to those who had generously donated large sums of money to Stanley University.

Following the yellow arrows, I could see a sign up ahead that appeared to say x-ray and a big black arrow pointing left.

At least this one shouldn’t hurt. I decided after the last test that I didn’t like getting my blood taken.

I approached a large desk with a student technician seated behind it. A bright smile upon his face, he inquired. “Are you a test subject?”

“Yes.” I nodded and returned a polite smile.

“Great! Just have a seat over there and we’ll get to you as soon as we can.” He said enthusiastically. “Would you like a coffee or orange juice?” He tilted his head as he asked.

“No thanks.”

“Okay, just let me know if you need anything.”

Sighing, I reached to my right to find something to read. After sorting through a few, I finally settled on a gossip magazine.

I scanned the pages half-heartedly, pausing to inspect the dresses worn by celebrities who’d recently attended an awards party. A few photographs made me shake my head.

Too skinny! These darn models and actresses, they don’t set a very good example.

Scouring the pages of the magazine, I read through the recent marriages, births, deaths and affairs of the rich and famous. Shaking my head often, I realized with a twinge of guilt that by merely reading this stuff, I was contributing to the source of the problem.

“Miss Tiponi?” A male voice startled me out of my thoughts. Glancing up from the trashy magazine, I was met with yet another warm pair of eyes.

“Are you ready?” The young technician asked politely.

“Sure.” Placing the magazine back on the pile, I paused for moment as I considered tossing it into the wastebasket. I weighed the pros and cons and decided that it was simply wasting precious paper if I were to throw it away, even if it did have garbage written all over it.

Seating me in yet another cubicle in a back room, the young man set a clipboard down and pulled a pen from the breast pocket of his lab coat.

“Okay. Name please.”

“Cassia Tiponi.”

“How do you spell that?” His face was pleasantly inquisitive as he looked up from the paper.

“C A S S I A T I P O N I.”

“That’s different. Is that Greek?” Considering my olive skin, I often received that assumption.

“No, it’s Hopi Indian.” I replied with a smile.

“Oh.” His response was quick as he returned to his questionnaire.

“Birth date?”

“February 14.”

Glancing up at me with a glint in his eye, he stated the obvious.

“Ahh, Valentine’s Day. Address?”

“Dorm 201, Stanley University Campus, Washington, DC.”




“Five foot six.”


I hated that question. Confused by my hesitation, the guy looked up.

“Weight?” He repeated, obviously unaware of the turmoil it caused within the female gender.

“One hundred twenty-five.” I lied.

“Any previous surgeries, body piercings or tattoos?”


“Okay then,” He scanned the page for any questions he’d missed. “Oh, just one more here. Any family history of diabetes, heart disease or stroke?”

I hated that question more.

“No idea, I’m an orphan.”

His cheeks and forehead reddened slightly as he stood up and gestured for me to follow him. Leading me to a row of change rooms, he pointed to a pile of neatly folded hospital gowns.

“Please remove all jewelry and anything metallic, gown open to the back and someone will be here to take you to the MRI shortly.”

“Thanks.” Entering the change room, I proceeded to remove my pants and top. Upon pulling off my sweater, it crackled and sparked. Looking at myself in the mirror at the back of the change room, I smiled when I saw that my long black hair had been filled with static and several strands were standing on end. Smoothing it down, I pulled the cloth scrunchie off of my wrist that I kept for just these types of emergencies.

Reaching around to undo my bra and letting the straps glide down my arms, my eyes were automatically drawn to the tiny birthmark centered between my breasts. A perfect star, it was definitely an oddity. While most birthmarks I’d seen or heard of were pink, red or brown, this one was white. Against my olive skin, the mark devoid of any pigment seemed to carve itself into my solar plexus.

Removing my underwear, I then slid my arms into the armholes of the gown and tied a bow at the nape of my neck with the strings provided. Momentarily self conscious as I felt a cool draft sneak through the opening in the back of the gown and graze my naked buttocks, I was relieved to find a clean housecoat hanging on a hook just outside the change room.

“Miss Tiponi?” A female voice called from outside the change room.


“Are you ready? Did you find everything alright?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Sliding the curtain aside and coming face to face with another chipper trainee, I followed her to the x-ray room.

Several other students were eagerly awaiting my arrival, their notebooks and pens in hand.

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