“Lukewarm” by Alex Branson

I could wear the gray pleated slacks (with that bizarre, stain resistant feature where the liquid beads right off of your pants) with the light purple button-up (fitted) and the black shoes with a black belt but that would essentially be too formal, I think, for a drug test, making me appear too eager to make a good impression for the drug test, causing the nurses present to believe that I am cheating at the drug test by having a Ziploc bag full of phony urine taped underneath my testicles.

But no shorts. I will not wear shorts to a drug test. I do not want to sweat until the duct tape’s adhesive fails in some chemical way I do not understand and the urine falls to the floor and explodes all over my shoes and everyone is looking at me like I am the world’s most despicable idiot that is so pathetic that I am worthy of enormous pity but am so morally decrepit that I receive none.

I will wear jeans and I will not tuck my shirt into them because I am not a middle school shop teacher.

The dress shoes remain. No, can’t. No dress shoes without tucking in the shirt. Maybe half tuck with front of shirt? No, never, I am not an asshole. No sneakers though. No sneakers to a drug test. Boat shoes? Do I even own boat shoes?

I am wearing (a little too loose) jeans and a slim purple button-up dress shirt and some white leather shoes I found in the back of my father’s closet. They are amazing. I cannot stop myself from constantly adjusting my own appearance as I wait in the lobby of a for-profit semi-medical facility located in a North St. Louis strip mall that, according to their advertisements, specialize in vaccines and treating broken bones for the chronically uninsured.

And I see a man have a coughing fit I mean really having a coughing fit so intense that his beard is swaying wildly back and forth and I begin to think about how insane for-profit healthcare really is and by the time the nurse takes me into the back to pee in the cup for her I am thinking about human rights and how it is illegal for an employer to make you take a lie detector test but they can demand to test your piss for drugs legally and it is okay.

She tells me to fill up the cup to a certain line and stands outside the door. I poke a hole in the bag to simulate urination despite her not even paying attention. As I fill it up I stop for a second to check the level, holding it up to the merciless fluorescent lights and staring through it like a sommelier, checking the level one last time before topping it off with a dear friend’s clean urine and emptying the rest into the toilet with a big ‘sploosh’, as if my urethra were large enough to let it fall out like a bucket, but I’m confident no one is listening and besides, it could have been from me emptying some of the cup into it, so I’m not worried and I’m more focused on the constitutional difference between drug tests and lie detector tests swirling around in my head like ghosts or harpies or something.

I come out like a child holding a trophy, completely unsure of what to do with it, and she tells me to put it on the counter as I release the lukewarm sample from my fingers, feeling sad and terrified and invulnerable.

Profile: Alex Branson

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