The Nurse

January 20, 2011

It’s that once-every-twoyears-day when women lie back, grit their teeth and hope that a) it won’t hurt and b) that everything will be normal. I put as much thought into what to wear on these days as I do on dates: long singlets or skirts are good. Both make me feel like I’m holding onto some scrap of dignity while a complete stranger reaches inside me with a stiff pastry brush. And the sensation. I can’t even describe it, but I have to shift in my seat when I think about it. Like I’m trying to back away from something. The nurse isn’t much older than me and has a tattoo across the top of her foot. Her name is Sara and it seems she likes ivy and pretty black flowers.

Her: “You’ve never had any smears in the past that came back with any issues?”
Me: “No.” (As I take off my pants and drape them over the chair.)
Her: “Have you had any unprotected sex in the past two years?”
Me: “No.” (Suddenly struck, with my undies halfway down, by the complete falseness of this statement.) “Actually, yes. Just not in the past six weeks.”
Her: (gearing up for some form of sex based responsible behaviour talk) “Was this in a relationship or…”
Me: A relationship. (Placing my undies on top of my pants and standing awkwardly, so awkwardly, in the middle of the room.)
Her: But it’s ended?
Me: Yes. (Instantly I burst into tears)

Her face melts and her beautifully small hands flit around her face, through the air like she wants to hug me but isn’t sure if she should.

Her: “Oh god, oh god. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t even have asked”
Me: (sobbing, naked from the waist down and pulling my tank top down as far as it will go) “It’s ok, really, I never know how I’ll feel day to day. Don’t worry. It’s ok.” (I press the heels of my hands into my eyes.)
Her: “Did he end it?”
Me: “Yes”
Her: “Do you think you’ll get back together?”
Me: “No. He’s a stubborn mule.”

We stand and stare at each other. I’m so thankful I wore this long tank top. I have no dignity, but I can fool myself into thinking that I do.

Her: (face reddening, crumpling, falling) “Oh god. I’m going to cry too, cos the same thing happened to me.”

Tears fall down her face and we stand in this tiny room weeping into each others eyes.

Her: (sniffling) “Ok, lie on the edge of the table with your legs falling apart.”
Me: (voice shaking, flooded with tears, shifting my legs) “Like this?”

As she reaches inside me I brace myself for the usually present pain. She’s very good. I feel nothing. I hear nothing except for both of us weeping, sniffing, lost in our own worlds of disappointment and regret.

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