Friday, October 5, 2012

The Exam

The following story is true, inasmuch as my memory is reliable. So, I guess it's true-ish.

This is the result of a writing experiment at October's Indy WordLab meetup.

In retrospect, I was totally unprepared. I blame my parents, as all children do.

I recognize but don't know the white-coated man feeling my neck, listening to my heart, pushing on my stomach to feel my innards. His fingers are frigid. I don't know what I'm supposed to do, so I lie there on the cold exam table and try to be as still as I can.

More than anything else, I hope he doesn't bring out any needles.

So I play statue on the table in the center of a mostly dark room, a harsh white light shining on me, whiter than white, like the lights they use in spy movies when they're interrogating the secret-agent protagonist, and you just know that sometime in the next five minutes, he will kill all the shadowy men sitting comfortably in the dark.

The room smells antiseptic, a word I wouldn't have known then. When I was that young, I would have said it smells like a hospital. Even then I hated hospitals. Too deep into the cold tiled halls of a hospital and I could always feel my lunch trying to make its way back out, one way or another.

The only sound in the room is the heavy breathing of Dr. Whatshisname through his thick moustache. Is that cigarette smoke I smell? It's slightly better than the hospital smell, but still makes my toes curl.

waiting in the exam room
Waiting in the exam room (Photo credit: massdistraction)
My mouth is completely dry, and has been since we left the waiting room. I want to ask for a glass of water but don't want to break protocol. And since I don't know what protocol is, I don't want to do anything in case it's the wrong thing to do. So I lie there, stock-still, while he pokes and prods.

It takes forever. And just when I think he can't possibly check any other nooks or crannies on my body (except the feet — feet are never part of the routine), he utters the words I wasn't expecting: "Pull your pants down."

Had I known the word fuck at that young age, I would say it three or four times in the string of questions and exclamations I want to scream at him. But, of course, I don't. Don't know the word fuck, and don't say the things in my head.

I'm not prepared for this.

What I know about all this medical stuff was that he is a doctor. You trust your doctor. He knows what he is doing. So, reluctantly, I pop open my pants, pull down the zipper, and slowly — like a caterpillar who wants to stay a caterpillar thank you very much — inch my jeans down. If toes can blush, my toes are probably the color of ripe tomatoes. (TomaTOES. Tee hee!)

As I see it in my mind's eye now, decades later, the harsh light is shining directly on the tiny things dangling like three ugly grapes down between my legs. But that light produces no heat. My nuts are freezing. (I knew what nuts were at that age.)

And then — and I can't believe it — he touches them!

I had convinced myself that he had only wanted to check that my twig and berries were still hanging, or, at worse, that he, like had happened way too often in my platinum blond past, had thought that I might be a girl and just wanted to check.

But no, he touches them. His hand is warm in a way that is both soothing and disturbing. I don't look down. I look around the room without seeing the pictures on the wall, the cabinets, the furniture. I just can't watch him fondle me, or examine me, or whatever it was he's doing down there.

And just like that, it's done. I pull up my pants as fast as I can and try to put the whole thing out of my mind.

It seems I mostly succeeded. The details of that day — the decorations, the lighting, what the doctor said, the doctor's name even — are all forgotten or mutated by time.

But that one moment, that moment will live forever.

It was just a routine checkup, of course, but it sticks in my mind like a lighthouse, and I just can't seem to steer away from that coast whereon lives my fear, and angst, and general nervousness around doctors. To this day, I hate hospitals.

I blame my parents.
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