The nurse can’t find a vein.
Or, rather, she can’t find a vein she can get in to, the needle being repeatedly blocked by unseen scar tissue somewhere inside of his “beautiful veins.”
He smiles graciously at her, but his feet give him away, twisting and kicking with each exploration of the needle.
It’s a small sign of his mortality in spite of the superhero performance he puts on every day. He’s been poked so many times in the past 15 months that his body is fighting back not just against his disease but against the things that hurt as much as they heal him.
She pokes him so many times that my own veins start to hurt, my body feels hot and my head gets so light I have to excuse myself to the one bathroom in this unit, where I sit on the cold tile with my head between my knees and hope that nobody opens the door.
When I get back, his veins have been conquered and the nurse is asking him how he feels.
“Great!” he says, and bang! Pow! My superhero is back again.