Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is everybody okay with the word "Vagina"?

            Piper visited the doctor in the spring. Dave only left a month earlier when she got the automated reminder call. Six months ago something came back abnormal. Now they wanted to do a biopsy. And that was as much as she knew. Abnormal and biopsy were bucket-words filled with a multitude of possible meanings, but in her resignation, she didn’t ask for clarification. She just showed up.

            Piper remembered to bring her own book for the waiting area. She’d forgotten enough times and had to restrain herself from ripping out page after page of the parenting magazines. So she stared at the book, and stopped listening or looking or receiving any information that her nerves may have sent her. This was also a part of the routine. Ever since the thing had started bleeding she was making more than regular trips to these closets of prodding. At first it was the debilitating cramps followed by the discovery of an unusual shape, invisible from the outside. The delicate ecosystem of her body was always in crisis. Bacteria at war with yeast. They couldn’t live together peacefully. Sometimes famine, sometimes pestilence, and sometimes even violence. Every new lover meant at least one trip to the doctor, whether for a UTI or birth control. She felt like it was a confessional with the lights turned way up, a place she was forced to debrief her shame, to silently admit that another one didn’t work out.

            Usually she went into the offices that like looked like hotel kitchenettes, but because today was a more elaborate procedure, she was led into a full sized room cluttered with carts and unhooked machines. She sat in the corner and waited for the nurse to come and take her blood pressure. Above the sink was a grid of small plastic drawers. Each drawer had a black and white diagram of the tool it contained. They all appeared to be variation on a basic structure: a wire loop on the end of a stick. The concept, Piper imagined, was very similar to the method used in her ceramic classes from college. Use the wire to circle the block of clay, then close it in on itself to lop off the head. This is what would be happening today.

            The nurse came in and balked when she saw Piper, red and puffy faced. She handed her tissue after tissue and said nothing except that the doctor would be in in a few minutes and undress from waist down please.

            Piper’s legs where white and blotched with yellow and rosy spots. She tucked the paper as best she could behind her and waited. The doctor asked her what was wrong; she answered honestly; she didn’t know. The doctor asked her if she could be pregnant; she told the truth. The doctor asked her if she had been smoking; she lied. The doctor was a stout and gregarious woman and talked openly about sex and vaginas and used the phrase “perfectly normal” over and over. But Piper was too far gone to appreciate it, wet faced and mentally choking the puppies on the poster tacked to the ceiling.

            Then something wasn’t perfectly normal. Something was different from the all too familiar routine. The doctor had retreated. They never do that, not without an announcement. (I’m taking my fingers out now…) From behind the tissue paper screen between her knees, Piper heard the doctor at the sink scooping up handfuls of water into her face and then spitting it back out. The nurse, the official tool-passer-offer, had shifty eyes and an open mouth. Splayed, she felt only annoyance at the delay, and because she had set aside her sharpness, she hadn’t realized what just happened.

            Piper was given permission to sit back up, and she did and choked down some more emptiness and readied herself for a cursory conversation, a handout and an insincere farewell. But the doctor returned to the sink, scooped up more water from cuped hands, swished it around in her mouth, and spit it out again.

            Piper crunched her face into a question when the doctor turned.

            The doctor laughed in a short burst. “Well, my tenaculum was hooked on something, and when I pulled it out, I accidentally smacked myself in the face... well, in the mouth. Job hazard.” She laughed again, and left in a hurry.

            When Piper got into the car, she took a moment to sit and gape. Then rested her head back and smiled. She didn’t feel so beaten down anymore, so wounded or damaged: a thrift store item. Her vagina had taken revenge, and deflated the doctor and the day with damp awkwardness. Piper was going to be fine, and the doctor was clearly having a worse day than her. She figured, okay, an undesirable insertion, so be it, but the price is a flying vagina lick. She started her car and began what would be an aggressive drive home.


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