A man's follow-up procedure proves as frustrating and humiliating as his previous visit
Appointment: Part 2
Four months ago, I had a bad day. A mind-numbing waste of time in the outer corral of my doctor's office, anticipating the indignities of a rectal exam that went way too far and took too long in my humble opinion. In fact, after the two-minute mark, I'm certain it strayed into the relationship category.
"Hmmm," was all the doctor kept saying. Not a "Hmmmm, did I leave the coffee maker on this morning," more like a "Hmmm, I've never come across one of these in a grown man's ass before."
So here I sit, four months hence. Another waiting room, my hand wrapped in white tape to secure the javelin they placed in my vein. A clear plastic tube protrudes from under the tape, ready to speed drugs to my hypersensitive bloodstream.
A colonoscopy is a simple procedure, I'm told by the admin lady at check-in. Simple being defined as natural, almost wondrous in its breathtaking beauty. Just like nature intended. Photographic equipment snaking its way up the intestines intent on producing 8 X 10 glossies of your molars.
This smaller waiting room is full of men with facial expressions ranging from annoyance to homoerotic fear-based puckering. Typical of most modern hospitals these days, the room is unwelcoming and overheated, favoring the dominant demographic in the 90 to 110 age bracket.
This being my first rodeo, I'm unclear on the rules. I take a seat, the only one left in the faded yellow room, gown and sport socks my only defense against nudity. I smile at the other inmates. "How's it going, gents?" I announce, swiveling my gaze around the room.
Broken rule number one, never speak to the condemned.
I was met with a broad range of answers - from icy silence to hey and one bonjour. An odd response since this was obviously not a good day.
I was actually thrilled to be there, seriously. Nothing, I surmised, could be as bad as the previous day. A day spent fasting with the exception of juice (I hate juice), water (I hate water without scotch), and several pills and potions prescribed by the doctor to clean out my system.
And clean it was! Solid waste long-gone before lunchtime. Followed by an afternoon spent playing anal firefighter, the overkill of cleansing producing butt showers every ten minutes. At the peak, I was barely finished wiping as the next wave of yellow tsunamis hit the shore. Wiping? More like dabbing after a while. Wiping had become an exercise in how raw one can make a man's asshole using two-ply friction. I achieved the level of Grade A hamburger by nine PM, resulting in a delightful sleep with a make-shift maxi-pad made of old socks.
I've been sitting here for ninety-minutes. I had arrived at 9, where I was prepped and properly fitted with the knitting needle in the back of my hand. Then I swallowed a sedative, the first solid food in twenty-four hours, which felt so good it might as well have been a Big Mac. Afterwhich, I changed into the pale blue gown of humiliation.
After yesterday, this should be a treat. It doesn't take long, they said, and I've already planned a first stop at the coffee shop in the lobby for a half dozen cream-filled donuts. If possible, cheese and bacon on top would be a bonus.
Several men have gone ahead of me and never returned. I assume things went well. There were no code blues or wailing alarms. Can you die from a camera up your ass?
The air is thick with anticipation. Every one of us has made a mental note of who arrived first, calculating how close we were to go time. Every door that opens, every voice, every single heel-click was cause for optimism, a lottery that one lucky bastard always won.
A nice-looking nurse with a glass eye stepped in and read my name from a clipboard. I leaped up with excitement and followed her across the white tiled hall into an operating room fronted by a green metal door that I suspect they acquired from Alcatraz.
"Hop up on the table, please," she said without looking at me. She was preparing a tray of various metal instruments I recall seeing at my dentist's office. I hate the dentist! Might this whole thing simply be Butt Halitosis? If so, it seems like a lot of fuss for nothing. I examined the instruments in greater detail. Apparently, I was about to receive one hell of a scraping and flossing. With great embarrassment, I realized I hadn't brushed down there or used any Listerine this morning.
She attached a tube to the plug that stuck out of my arm. The tube wound its way to a pole where a big bag was suspended. The bag was full of clear liquid; gin or vodka, I couldn't tell.
"Lay in a fetal position with your back facing me, please," said the nurse, as if that isn't exactly how I intended to lie in the first place.
She placed a warm blanket over me, so only the back of my head and butt were exposed. Not exactly my best side.
I faced a wall of monitors and machines, all of which came to life as the doctor walked in. He stopped partway through the big green door to finish a conversation surrounding his weekend schedule, providing a dozen passers-by with a splendid view of my white ass protruding from the black covers. Must have looked like two small moons rotating around each other, locked in eternal gravity, a cosmic tango against the inky blackness of space.
"Good morning, Mr. Hailey, you're looking well," said the doctor. I assumed he came to this conclusion based on the rosiness of my cheeks.
"Hey, Doc," I slurred, looking over my shoulder.
"Ah, good, looks like the sedative is working." He smiled and walked to the sink, where he proceeded to wash his hands which I thought was a very good idea.
"The nurse is going to add a drug to your intravenous, Mr. Hailey. This will put you in a very relaxed state and you won't feel any discomfort, in fact, you'll probably fall asleep, most people do. But if not, you can watch what we're doing on the monitor in front of you." He toweled off and struggled with his latex gloves.
"So, it won't hurt?" I asked, as macho as I could mumble.
"Oh, you'll feel a little pressure, like cramps, but nothing you can't handle."
How the fuck does he know what I can handle?
The nurse lifted my head and placed a pillow under it, angled so I could see the monitor. The heavy black blanket felt warm and protective, like a two-ton bulletproof vest.
Suddenly, the video screen danced and spun wildly, displaying bright focusless images of various parts of the room. Shoes, nurse, table, nurse, ceiling, nurse, my ass! I instinctively knew it was my ass, it might have belonged to someone else, but somehow I just knew it was mine.
The drugs hit.
My brain instantly surrendered, willingly, happily and with pleasure. The drug narrowed my focus and added infinite mass to my atoms, melding my body into the table, disconnecting my thoughts from my circumstances.
And then, there it was, in front of me, a perfectly focused screenshot of an ancient cave in France. What a sight. Nature at her finest. Chiseled walls, curved and pockmarked in pink and rose hues, welcoming the intrepid spelunker to the twisty caverns that lay ahead. The floor looked damp with random puddles breaking into streams, but the cameraman, undeterred, moved further on into the abyss.
"How ya doing there?" A man's voice startled me. Was it emanating from the cave, or was it from the unseen cameraman behind his mobile equipment?
How am I doing where? I thought to myself, straining my mind, pushing it to the barrier of understanding. I decided that little response was needed. I only wanted to get back to the marvelous documentary. But I made a meagre attempt to appease my disembodied inquisitor. "Wgrah tooing yep!" This seemed to suffice. No further inquiries followed.
Back in the cave, things were getting interesting. We'd stopped at an area where it looked as if there'd been a rockfall, or perhaps some ancient society had built a fire pit. This mini Stonehenge stretched across the floor of the cave and partway up the right wall. Fascinating! We stood stymied.
I believe several hours passed, and it's possible I had a nap, but suddenly from behind the cameraman, a black snake pushed forward into view, in its mouth, a metallic lance with pincher attachment.
Apparently, the Army Corp of Engineers had arrived on scene. Heroes, I say; all of them.
They worked furiously on the rock-slide, but progress was slow. A rock or a boulder would be dislodged and carried out of sight behind me and then we'd wait for the snake machine to return. At times a small puddle would form along with steam or smoke from the mining equipment. One by one the obstacles were removed and the road ahead cleared.
I took another nap. National Geographic documentaries can get a little boring after a while.
When I awoke, we were far into the tunnel. Walls had opened up and turns were less frequent. Admittedly, the movie had become quite predictive and I'd completely lost track of the plot. Audio would have helped but there was nothing beyond excessive pings and chimes emanating from nowhere and everywhere.
It now seemed imperative I eat a Filet-o-fish. The craving was overwhelming. But it also seemed obvious that I couldn't leave, and there was a cold draft where I kept my wallet.
The videographer in the cave was now apparently running backwards; his camera still focused on the winding grotto from whence he came. The rapid frantic retreat coincided with a sudden feeling that I just lost a bet with a roadside enchilada. Whatever was coming out of me was apparently taking my spleen, liver and vertebrae with it.
I rose up on my elbow, but the nurse pushed down on my shoulder and held it there. Somehow, I thought, my middle-aged body had just completely failed me. I'm being pinned down by a one-eyed senior citizen while my spine is removed from my ass. This was not a pleasant sensation.
Suddenly, nothing, no sensation. Scurrying sounds surrounded me, and my movie had come to an abrupt end with no plot conclusion. Probably a Tarantino flick, I never could understand the point in those.
A pat on the shoulder. "You did just fine, Mr. Hailey," said Methuselah, "can I get you to lie on your back while I take out your IV?"
The heavy blanket was still warm. How do they do that? Perpetual blanket warmers; why don't we have these at home?
As the doctor came into view, all I could think was, what a shitty job you've got, buddy!
"Mr. Hailey, you did great!"
"We found several polyps and elected to extract them while we were in there. Very common, most likely benign. Do you understand?"
"Yes," I said
"The lab will have the results in a week. Otherwise, looks great up there."
Looks great up there? Huh, I have the bowels of a supermodel.
"Do you have any questions?" The doctor was at full pace, moving toward the big green door.
"No," I said instinctively.
"Have a great day." And the doctor was gone.
"I'm gonna wheel you into recovery now, Mr. Hailey. Do you have a ride home?"
"Ya," I said, feeling a little violated and used after putting out for a really shitty movie. Wham bam, thank you, Stan, huh? Is that what this is? "Friend is picking me up."
"Excellent, if you need anything, water, juice, just let us know, ok?" She wheeled me to a stop and handed a clipboard to a young Latino nurse roughly twelve years of age.
"Hello Mr., umm," she paused until she found the name on the chart, "Hailey. Can I get you a juice?"
I hate juice.
I crab-walked on my elbows until I was sitting upright on the stretcher. "Umm", I smiled at the grade-school nurse, "I don't suppose you have a Filet-o-fish on you?"