Jemma learned the morning of my appointment that she would be unable to drive me. Not a big deal; I had initially planned on going solo. But, while in the shower, doing the customary full-leg shave, I began to panic.
“You’re fine,” I told myself, rinsing off the hair conditioner I’d used in place of shaving cream. “Stop being such a baby. It’s going to be fine.” But, despite my best efforts to man up and grow a pair, I’ll admit to a few tears that I was unable to talk down from the ledge.
An hour before leaving my apartment, I took two Advil. Thirty minutes later, I split a Valium in half and swallowed what appeared to be the larger portion. I slathered lotion over my stubble-free stems and covered my feet in fresh cotton socks. No makeup today. No contacts. No perfume. No frills. It’s not as if the good doctor would notice anthing above my pelvis or below my knees.
“You’re looking very casual today,” he said, relieving me of the Elle magazine I’d yet to tear into, offering me his ungloved hand.
Lying back, looking up at the ceiling, I smiled. Orlando Bloom still held the top spot, but was in danger of being squeezed out by an Antonio Banderas cologne advertisement, ripped from the pages of a Lucky Magazine.
“Oh, that’s right,” the doctor mused, “You like the more rugged guys. Viggo Mortensen, right? Not the pretty boys. Okay, now. Are you ready? You are going to feel something cold and wet.”
I’d known this was going to happen, having refamiliarized myself online with a procedure that I’d had nearly two decades prior. The inserted fluid would highlight any potential cell abnormalities, giving them a whitish tint, which, if present, would then need to be biopsied.
“Looks good,” he announced, from between my hairless legs. “Looks really, really good!”
I exhaled, making direct, relieved, eye contact with Orlando Bloom. Was that a new picture? It seemed larger now and, he, more attractive. Handsome, almost.
“Oh,” he paused, as I wondered silently whose idea Banderas had been, “Wait. There’s something there that I’d like to take a look at. I’m sure it’s nothing, but we should check it out. Okay, you are going to feel some pressure and a pinch. Ready?”
Pressure and pinching were felt for longer than they should ever be felt, as the doctor collected more and more white-tinted bits for biopsy. This was not light pressure, nor was it light pinching. I held my breath and looked up at the smug face of Orlando, answering through gritted teeth as the nurse asked if I was okay and the doctor proclaimed me such a good patient, in the very same way that I reassure my dog when giving him a bath and pouring a pitcher of water over his soapy head.
“Such a gooooood patient. You’re doing sooooooo well. Almooooooost done. Hang on. You’re doing great.”
When he’d finished, the nurse advised me to lie still for a few moments before sitting up, to sit for a few moments before standing, and to come out whenever I was ready. I lingered on the padded, papered table, eyes fixed on the ceiling, as they exited the room.
And then I cried. Quietly and sparingly, and with some level of embarrassment, I paid tears to the pain that I’d felt minutes before, to the trauma and stress that comes with not-knowing. I cried because I was alone in a room, naked from the waist down, with no one but Orlando Bloom and Antonio Banderas to keep me company. I cried because, when I left, I would have no one to come home to, no one to make me tea or wrap their arms around me. I cried because I knew that I would be okay, but feared so much that I wouldn’t. I cried because I felt sorry for myself, felt scared. I cried because I felt weak and, to me, weakness can be far more tragic than any lab result. I cried because I didn’t want to be broken, in any capacity.
I emerged when I was ready, clothed and dry-eyed, smiling at the doctor and his staff as we scheduled the one-week follow up. I made a joke about not wanting to see Orlando upon my return, and thanked them for everything. I giggled gamely at my doctor’s advice to go home and get sufficiently drunk, and assured him that Happy Hour was imminent.
I managed to make it to the elevator before I completely fell apart.
I should’ve taken the whole Valium. I should have loaded up on booze and mixers. I should have steeled myself more successfully. I shouldn’t have cried on a table, with only Orlando and Antonio to bear witness to my momentary lapse of resilience.
I should have met those pinches with more pluck.