As some of you may be aware, in the not so distant future I will be packing up my troubles in my old kit bag and hitting the road for destinations unknown and unbooked. In preparations for such things I have been seeing my regular General Practitioner in Melbourne to immunise myself against dreaded lergies and prove to one and all that my blood is so clean you could bottle it and use it as a low-fat Napoli sauce. Well, maybe not Napoli.
Over the past six months I have been poked with needles and injected with fluids of unknown origin reminiscent of my primary school immunisation shots. There we all stood, stripped to our underpants as children waiting for the rather large nurse type person to check us out then stick a needle in various body parts. Not one of us knew what we were doing there but it was apparently for our own good. Like lambs to the slaughter we were jab and then sent on our way down the conveyor belt, the colour of our undies exposed embarrassingly for the entire world to see. Because at the age of seven, the last thing you want anyone to see is the colour of your cottons. An irony which is not lost on me today with the amount of fashion labels and waifish androgynous youths who seem obsessed with exposing such things.
Fortunately all injections this time were in the arm, although I did have on a pair of freshly laundered Ralph Lauren White Ribbed Cotton Briefs just in case.
Upon the last of a series of three immunisation injections, I decided that it was probably also time to have the old STD check. This may imply to some that I lead a rather wanton bohemian lifestyle where one’s apartment is a writhing bordello of lustful sin and orifices. To those of you who believe this to be the case, I simply say, “If only!” To quote that bastion devoted to English piety, Absolutely Fabulous, “Night after night, dry bloody sheets!”
Now for those of you who have never experienced a full STD check, I say book yourself in for one right now, because remember the embarrassment of standing in your underpants at school ….
My GP likes to be thorough. He has such an anal retentiveness to duty that it would make the Germans look like they are skiving off and having a tea break. One would think that this sort of test would be like giving a little bit of blood and then being merrily on one’s way. Let me dispel the myth. No. It most certainly is not.
The blood bit I can handle. I don’t like to watch the needle going into the vein, but I am fine with watching the old claret poor forth into the little glass vial. Yes, human after all! Next comes the swabbing. Yes, swabbing. So out come the first of the overgrown, steroid induced cotton buds. Open wide and say ahh! Next thing you know the tip of that cotton bud is dancing on the back of my throat. Gag! For me this is probably the most uncomfortable of all. I have a very sensitive gag reflex, which makes my doctor smile a little too wryly at times. Years and years of singing lessons have taught me to be able to open up the back of my throat and lift my soft palette. But the gag reflex never left. I tell you, with a few pushes of some stomach muscles and a slight lift of the soft palette, I can gag and induce vomiting so readily that it would make an anorexic stare on with green eyed envy too weak to stand up and take a knife in her bony little hand to slash my throat with.
Next come the *gasp* anal swab. For many of you like me, just reading this statement automatically makes your buttocks firm and tense. My GP did offer to assist if required. Errr … I so don’t think so. Because then I could never look him in the face again and would have to find a new doctor. Embarrassing enough in your undies, but full moon exposure? No thank you Sir. I am quite capable of sticking an oversized cotton bud up my own rectum myself, thank you!
On my way to the lavatory he also thrusts a urine sample container as well. Oh, you have got to be kidding me!
So there I stand in the cubicle, stripped from the waist down, with clear urine cup in one hand and swab in the other. How very demeaning! Regardless, I soldier on at this point. The swab hand reaches round. Don’t tense. Don’t tense. Don’t tense. Jiggle it about. Done. (I refuse to avail you of any further details lest my dignity completely shatter.)
Next comes the sample cup. I should point out at this point that I am notoriously pee shy. I could be swollen like a hot air balloon on the inside, but ask me to pee on demand or in a crowded urinal, and suddenly it’s a drought like no other. So … thinking about taps running … thinking about waterfalls … come on … come on … I start pushing my internal organs down down down to push against the bladder. Nothing. I push again. My face turns instantly the colour of beetroot. Yes … No …. Maybe … what’s that? …. Ahhh. It’s not the rains of the great wet season in the Kakadu, but at least I can muster up a slight drizzle. Cap on jar (now awfully warm and too familiar).
All implements of my personal shame were returned, bagged, labelled with skulls and cross bones like nuclear waste, and off I went into the wide blue yonder dragging behind me whatever semblance of dignity I had left. Appointments were made for the following week to have tests results posted. I hoped for a least a Credit average.
Now we come to the actually point of my ordeal.
I didn’t think about any of this again until I received a reminder SMS from the clinic the day before the appointment. And I joked to myself, “I’ve probably got a whole array of clinical diseases!” hahaha …. haha. …. ha …. ummm …
Oh my god, what if I do have a whole array of clinical diseases!
I was raised in the era of the AIDS and Grim Reaper advertising campaign that saw bowling alleys across Australia vacant and unusually clean. For those of you unfamiliar with this icon of fear mongering, I draw your attention to this happy little film for further education. Who would have thought that a Grim Reaper could get that much back spin! We grew up learning that sex was bad because you could suddenly lose your limbs to a man in an oversized coat with a perfect 300 game. Syphilis was just unheard of except for dictators with a penchant for wild hand gesticulations and train timetables. And Chlamydia was something only transmitted from koala to koala. Yes, non-Australians, koalas are the trailer trash of the eucalyptus tree!
Also being raised in catholic school by nuns back in the 70’s, I was indoctrinated into the wonderful world of “catholic guilt” from a very young age. I cannot walk passed a policeman in the street or pass one by in a car without thinking, “What have I done?!?!” And no, this isn’t the remnants of guilt brought on from years of committing sin after sin after sin. This is the strongly held belief in the catholic faith that you must have done something wrong, so you’d better atone atone atone. Years of my childhood were spent in the confessional making up sins that I had done that week, because quite frankly I couldn’t remember actually sinning. But you have to be guilty of something so that the good Lord above can make you clean and sparkling new again through penance. So if you didn’t sin, then lie about it. At least you’ll have something to honestly confess next week!
It has been some time since I have practiced the catholic faith, but this rigid part of my education is still buried deep within and will never be erased. Which on a lighter note, is great for all you people out there. Get yourself a catholic lover. Boy, do we know how to sin. ‘Cause if I’m gonna go to hell for it, I’m gonna make damn sure it’s worth it!
But I digress. The little catholic puritan inside me started to whisper, chanting at those rosary beads. I was bad, and this was how God was going to punish me.
The next day the countdown until my 11:15am appointment was on. I facebooked for distraction. I sang along to well worn itunes favourites like Candy by Iggy Pop featuring Kate Pierson, and I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats, later covered in a sensational version by Tori Amos.
Yet, still I digress and procrastinate from the point at hand. What would the results be?
Trembling, I walk into the clinic and alerted the front desk that I was there. They looked at me and asked my name and then turned back to the computer. What did it say on that computer? Did her eyes just widen then, just a fraction? Does she know? Is it blazoned on the world for all to see that I was now sinner of low?
“Just take a seat, Troy, the doctor will be with you shortly.”
Was she being overly sympathetic just then? I’d have to keep my eye on her.
Nervously I took my seat in the waiting room, surveying the others around me. They peered back at me over the tops of magazines printed in the early 1980’s. They new. They knew that because of my lustful wickedness I was about to be brought low by the one Almighty, the One who on that last day will Judge the living and dead, who shall wield the Flaming Sword of justice and righteousness upon the murders, idolaters, fornicators and adulterers.
My doctor had summoned me. We walked the corridor in silence to his consulting room. He won’t look at me. He won’t speak to me. What does he know? Does he feel the guilt of having to tell me that I was to be brought low through my own wickedness?
I took my seat, sweating like a barn yard animal being led to the slaughter. Was that a sharp pain in my arm? Is it deep vein thromboses, where a clot is about to inevitably shoot all the way up my arm and burst forth through the grey matter in my brain leaving me a vegetable requiring fundamentalist Christians who have never met me to stand outside picketing my ward in a vain attempt to save my life when they come to switch me off because all life is sacred except those that are on death row but they don’t like to talk about that?
“So, what were you here for today?”
“My test results.”
“Oh, of course.”
Without further ado, I a) am immune to Hepatitis A and B, b) had a negative reading for Syphilis and other blood related STD’s, c) had a negative reading for HIV antibodies and Hepatitis C, and d) had a clear screening for all STD’s in my throat, urine and anus.
Nope. All clear. Very healthy indeed. Passed the test.
Phew! My mother would be proud.