I wrote Crimes of Passion and True Failure in the midst of some deep, solitary thought that I could not escape. The thoughts haven’t stopped, and I’ve been writing and thinking more about those things. However, I need some levity in my life at the moment, so I’m presenting you with a more personal entry, but one that resonates depth on a different level. A soul and asshole sound similar enough, so at least I’ve continued with some thread of consistency.
On Wednesday, around 8:42 A.M. I sat in the examination room of my new primary care physician. We talked for twenty minutes, mostly about medical stuff, what’s happened over the past, oh, decade since the last time I had a physical.
“The scar on your face?”
“You’re pretty muscular for a guy who’s lost thirty pounds.”
“My biological father was black.”
The doctor runs his finger over my stomach. “What’s this from?”
“Surgery. The one I told you about that happened when I was four.”
“Jesus. It looks like they gutted you. Usually, they make a vertical cut where there’s no muscle.”
“They were pretty sure I wouldn’t live past twenty. I guess they didn’t think it mattered or perhaps they thought, Hey, it’d be neat for a guy to have a five-pack. Fuck symmetry. Let’s gut this kid.”
“This one?” He points to the small, neat line next to the surgery scar.
He asks me to turn around. “This one? Let me guess, meat cleaver?”
“No. Boot knife.”
The doctor looks at the tattoo across my chest. “Looks like you’ve paid enough, so far.”
“Is that foreshadowing?”
The doctor embraces my sense of humor. He chuckles, and I make it my goal to get a laugh out of him before it’s over.
“So, how did you get into teaching?”
“I really wanted to get a paper-cut scar for my collection.”
Another chuckle and he asks me to get on the table, lie on my side, and pull my knees up to my chest. I put my thumb in my mouth for good measure.
I know it’s coming, and I’m much less excited for it than I was the few minutes before. Secretly, I pray I don’t get a boner and second guess my choice of opting for a male physician. Somehow, at that moment, I felt it would be less awkward to sport wood with a woman’s finger up my ass. I think back to my last year of grad school, when I went to visit my father in Old Orchard Beach and he handed me a beer and told me to sit down.
Then he told me he had cancer.
I’m thirty two. My prostate is suspect already, lurking in the warm darkness of my guts waiting to murder me slowly, and take away my morning stiffies that I’m always tempted to photograph for glossy 8 X 10’s to display at my funeral if I do die of prostate cancer. Instead, I take pictures of shit and send them to my old roommate.
The doctor sticks his finger up my ass (I’m thankful the use of the verb, shoves isn’t necessary here) and I think of all the little-boy-in-my-trunk jokes that I’ve told over the years. I imagine those fictional characters snickering in the corner of the room, except they’re not little boys, but the Lollipop kids from the Wizard of Oz combining an A-O-K hand gesture with pudgy, index finger penetration.
I shudder. My abs tense. I hold my breath. I don’t get a boner.
“Everything seems normal,” the doctor says.
“Maybe for you, buddy.”
And finally, he laughs.
When the exam is over, the doctor and I chat for a while. The doctor offers me a handshake before I leave.
I shake his hand, and I find it awkward for a moment, that I’m shaking hands with a man who got closer to me than any cell mate I ever had, but maybe that’s why I never shook any of their hands.
“It was good to meet you,” he says.
“You too. Let’s not do this again, ever.”