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Essays by Karen Anderson: T.B. Test

Illustration by Kacie Brown

When I was in sixth grade, an announcement was made that we were all going to get T.B. shots in a couple of weeks. This had never happened before and suddenly the school was full of frightening rumors.

“I’ve heard that the pain is terrible,” we told each other. “I’ve heard that people get sick, they throw up, they die!” Two weeks later, we stood in a long line in the hallway next to the library where the tests were being done, inhaling the alcohol smell of medicine.

When I reached out my forearm for the quick pinch, I was too full of terror to notice whether it hurt. I immediately felt sick to my stomach, dizzy and faint. So I grabbed my coat out of my locker and walked home.

It was a cold winter day and I took deep breaths. By the time I arrived in my own back yard, I realized I felt fine. Completely fine. So I turned around and ran back to school, hoping nobody would notice my brief absence. Nobody did.

“How did the T.B. Test go?” my mother asked at the end of the day.

“No big deal,” I said but I never forgot my secret trip home. Never forgot the power of fear and rumors to make trouble. They still do.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.