July 23rd, 2014
I pondered how it could have happened. I mean, guys, I know that facts of life. But it has been TWO MONTHS SINCE I’VE TOUCHED A PENIS. Deep breaths, deeeeep breaths. A weekish after I slept with Andrew the last time, I felt a tingly bump in my mouth, which I hassled on the street but didn’t take back to the station for interrogation. And I had also maybe sorta kissed my friend who is a stripper a little—barely. I know, I know, you’re thinking I’m blaming the stripper because misogyny. No, I’m just stating the pertinent facts. And it is a fact that her lips were on mine briefly a few days before the alleged mouth bump appeared. Now let’s move on. (Spoiler alert: Body Horror, Part 4).
HSV-2 lies dormant in the sacral ganglia at the base of the spine near the pelvis (as opposed to HSV-1, which lies dormant in the trigeminal ganglia of the cranial nerve near the ear). Maybe this is far-fetched: yesterday when I went to physical therapy for the first time, they stimulated my back with electrodes. Bizarre speculation and it could be due to stress, of which I have a lot. Do you think it is possible that, just as Andrew had resuscitated me, physical therapy awakened a latent herpes infection? Chemical stim, electrical stim: same difference. Sex is merely a summation of action potentials. Are we not men? We are devo…lving.
The first person I thought to contact was Annie, my friend who not only had SCABIES, but transported them across state lines. Which is practically a federal offense.
Me: Annie, I think I have the herps. I’m a real woman now! This is my first social disease. Is it wrong that I’m excited? Feel like I just sprouted my first pube and we need to have a coming of age party.
Annie: Type 1 or 2?
The real kind
Only have 1 bump so far
Awaiting her reply, I thought, “I’m a real woman now! I mean, I was always a real woman. Now I’m a real slut: sullied! Marred! It’s official! If only I could make it facebook official—put a ring on it!” Natural Woman played in the background of my head, near the trigeminal ganglia where herpes may or may not be dormant, asleeep. I’m Every Woman followed. With an inspirational soundtrack evoking video montages, I planned my coming of age party, which I wished to go exactly like the First Moon Party in the HelloFlo ad. Someone hire a vagician!
Annie: yeah the real kind.
Do you have a doctor appointment?
Cause sometimes shit just gets weird and it’s nothing serious.
She was a great herpes coach. I should see a doctor. Before it bursts and heals there is no fluid to swab. I have midterms tomorrow. Tomorrow, after midterms, I will hobble right over to Planned Parenthood. Which is walking-distance from NYU for a reason. In fact, I had considered wandering to PPNYC a month back when I had moral crusader activist aspirations. My landlord started knocking down trees in front of my building because they were outgrowing their planters and would eventually swipe pedestrians a la Little Shop of Horrors. I was terrified that they’d remove the sweet cherry blossom in front of my window. And then I would be naked, bare—without even a fig tree to cover my naughty bits. Call to action—protest! Needed some signage: “Every life is sacred!” Especially mine. For serious though, there is one thing and one thing only I think of when I think of PPNYC: Davey lives basically around the corner. Sometimes I envision him walking to work innocently, ignoring food delivery trucks, which are actually FETUS DUMPSTERS. Guys, this is gruesome, the fetuses have to be transported somehow with other medical waste. Now imagine a crash on the highway. I’m sure Chuck Palahniuk has already written something to this effect.
Here is the most disturbing part of the entire piece. Ladies and gentleladies, take your seats, hold your stockings and knickers: the Planned Parenthood, in New York fucking City, did not have any appointments available in for TWO WEEKS for STI testing—in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or The Bronx. Holy fucking Christ almighty. We have a national health care crisis. Politely, I was told to call 311 and inquire about women’s health appointments. Um, 311 is the number you call when your neighbors are being noisy or there is an unattended chainsaw on the street. To be fair, my vagina is often a noisy neighbor when I take out instruments that sound like chainsaws. But my vibrator’s activities are always supervised by a real, qualified adult!
The nice, apologetic operator at Planned Parenthood also suggested City MD. So I ended up at Medrite Urgent care, where my Jewish mommy directed me a few months ago when I had a sinister sinus infection.
As I walked over there, I contemplated the whole “isolating the area” thing. Which I had been trying to do, conscientiously. Like, no hands in your pants. NO TOUCHING! It’s hard, man. When I wiped, I took precautions to not get vag fluid on my asshole, which, to tell you the truth, is normally exactly how I wipe. I mean, dab. No back-to-front AND no front-to-back: NO TOUCHING! Fuck, man, I was ready to break out my Lindsay Bluth slut t-shirt and lock myself in my own jail cell. Here is where it gets dicey, though: How are you supposed to get your lips not to touch one another, besides being so aroused all the time that they are always fanned out? Hey, something I am good at! Is this why thigh gaps have become trendy? Labial gaps are the next big thing! Because of my herniated, degenerative disk, I hobbled to the clinic, vaguely conscious of how I was rubbing against myself. The image that played on my brain’s big screen: when one of my close friends waddled like a Pixar penguin after her cervix was dilated overnight via laminaria placement (stick of sterile seaweed) in preparation for her late-term surgical abortion. The herps seemed trifling in comparison!
It was so weird how easy it was to have someone inspect my vagina: No appointment. Appear. Present health insurance card and photo ID. Don’t fill out any paperwork myself. Disclose embarrassing problem to cute medical assistant. Display genitals. What a dream!
The adorb medical assistant, who also did my intake when I had a sinus infection, asked me confusing questions, because vaginas be confusing. He asked whether it was on the inside or the outside, and I thought it was technically on the inner labia, though I feel like my two sets of vag lips aren’t that distinct. Then he specified, “vagina or labia?” Ohh, internal or external. Lastly, he asked if it hurt when I peed, to which I responded that it did, but I was pretty sure that that was just because the sore was in my stream of pee and not because my urethra hurt (which is disappointing, because I wanted an Eminem anthem to apply to my life, for once).
Here is one for the ages: I guess they don’t see many serious problems in urgent care. Steven, the cute medical assistant, consoled,” I’m sorry for what you are going through.” Ha, if only you knew! This is just a literal bump on a road to nowhere in a car with the engine rusting out and wheels about to spin off. Having a mundane medical problem would be NORMALIZING. When I had the sinus infection, I thought, “How bizarre, how bizarre: finally, a problem that doesn’t puzzle even doctors.”
The PA entered with his nurse, broke out his high-powered flashlight, and asked me to point to the offending bump. I imagined that he was a detective examining a crime scene. Which, to be fair, was my bed. As it is a fucking crime to masturbate in bed post-college: gross! He asked me if I had been with someone who had genital herpes. Ha ha ha, he thinks I know whom I’ve been with: precious! So, I replied honesty, “I wouldn’t know if I had.” My legal defense, “Not that I know of!” I’ve practiced this in Medicaid court in front of my “representatives,” i.e., my parents. I sat on the edge of my seat (ha, obviously I was in stirrups—giddy up!), ready for the PA to present me with my Slutster Merit Badge. Acyclovir in lieu of a lollypop or sticker. Instead, he assessed, “This doesn’t look like a herpes legion.” It wasn’t blistery, ulcerated, or red enough. He believed it to be a Bartholin’s gland cyst. (Those are the glands beside the vagina responsible for lubrication at the entryway, and they can get clogged). Treatment: hot compresses. To placate me, he had the nurse swab it. I felt as if it were play currency, like we were exchanging a one-sided dollar bill for plastic fruit.
And I felt like a fraud. An unaccomplished slut. Already deemed incompetent for not being able to handle monster cock. (Hey, I’m a small girl!) Am I some sorta wannabe? Should I quit while I’m ahead? How have I managed to evade disease for so long? To be fair, I never brush and certainly never floss before giving BJs, and I always do dick checks like I’m in a high-budget porno. I’ve always wondered what job title is ascribed to that task. Fluffer, jizz-mopper, dick-checker? If so, is that the porno equivalent of fact-checker—quality control?
Not to sound entitled, but if there’s one thing I deserve: it’s herpes. I’ve earned it, gosh darnit! Like a character in a cliche porno, I’ve been a naughty, naughty girl. I see it as a clear-cut case of Just World Therapy. I mean, Theory. That was an honest-to-god Freudian slip…prey slope of slippery penises. Dangerously safe, I’ve been. Now, for the reckless revival. The herps: it’s only fair!
But instead I am applying for a job as an elf. Even worse than applying is the very real possibility that I will not be hired, that I couldn’t even find work as an elf. That’s when you know you’re a failure.
—David Sedaris, Santaland Diaries
Contemplating my plight, I felt a certain kinship to David Sedaris. Except he landed a coveted job as an elf, and I am still only an “aspiring” slut. That’s when you know you’re a failure: when you can’t even find work as a slut. Who does a girl gotta blow to get a disease in this town? Oh, and for the record, I also could not find work as an elf. (New York City stories!) Though I did bump into someone I knew at my elf audition. Because life in NYC is an episode of Sex and the City. Only racier and less glamorous. So, basically, HBO’s Girls.
Me: Not the herps. Just a bartholin’s gland cyst. What a letdown. I’m not a real slut. Siggh.
Annie: I’m sorry but glad for you. Any treatment required.