It seems my entire life has vomited itself out again. Here I am slowly piecing everything back together, finding what goes where and it’s just not fitting. I’ve always had this vision of my life in the long term. Maybe a beautiful nuclear family. A partner who loved me, a sweet child to love and cherish. A house that never was quite finished being renovated, dogs running in the yard. The fat happy cat that would curl up in my lap on the porch. My S.O. and I loving one another and our other partners. All operating smoothly some days and a thunderstorm on others. But we would all be safe in the knowledge that just inside those walls, love lived there.
It lived there and was good. Monday morning while my flight from Houston landed I turned airplane mode off on my phone. It took a minute and I half expected a dozen text messages from people I love exclaiming how much I’d been missed. There was only one. From a girl I’d dated a year ago. All it said was “Got my annual, came back positive for a few things. Get tested.”
Few things stop life on a dime, that text dear friends. That text is one of them. Like a movie reel the partners I have made a list in my mind. My stomach flipped, my vision blurred. How irresponsible I’ve been, potentially exposing them to this. As the details and ramifications exploded my heart beat a thudding funeral march for life the way I love it.
I made an appointment for Wednesday and focused on the long week ahead of me. Something in the back of my mind, something in my heart, my stomach, my psyche telling me I’d never go back to the way things were before Austria. Wednesday morning presented itself to a voice mail saying my appointment had been rescheduled. Dandy.
Thursday I walk through the office doors after hardly sleeping at all. Fill out intake forms and wait. Pregnant women stroll in, low income, multiple children, piercings and too tight clothes. Knock off Chanel, Coach and LV handbags being rifled through by bored children. I wait. Finally they call my name, my real name, only they say it wrong. No one has called me that name since January. No one says it right anyway. Bile rises in my throat and I’m weighed, I’ve lost 4 pounds, my blood pressure is taken, it’s a bit too high.
“Do you feel safe in your relationships?” I laugh, my husky voice coating the room. “Safe. In my relationships. Yes, I mean as much as I can be.” She laughs, “I know these are crazy questions.” I look at her face, used to dealing with women who milk the system. Families with more mouths than money. Here I am, getting tested because my ex girlfriend said I needed too. Because now people I care about and their families are at risk. Because now even if I could get pregnant I don’t want too, because who knows the effects my indiscretions will have on an innocent soul. Then one face comes to mind, a face I’ve come to adore. I see it quickly fade away, fear creeping in that I’ve never been that important anyway. I stare at the toe of my flats, “I’m not in an abusive relationship” she scrolls down on the screen. “Are you sexually active with: men, women, or both?” I think of the shelf I need to buy for the second room I’m renting out. “Both”
“You’ll need to take your bottoms off and cover yourself with this.” Her hand hovers over the paper blanket on the table. “The nurse practitioner will be with your shortly.” I shed my skirt and climb up, imagining: scoot closer to the edge, down, down, a little more. Remembering the dysfunction happening at work. The dogs at home and how I forgot to pick up the puppy pad. How it doesn’t matter anymore if I shave my vagina or not. How I can’t imagine ever being comfortable with someone touching it again. I cry. Hot tears pooling in the shell of my ear. I pull my hair, hard. Shiver. My phone lights up, a million miles away. There is a knock on the door. Two women enter. A student and the nurse practitioner. Student comes around and sits to be eye level with me. She’s kind and I can sense nervous that she will have to break my heart. Her hand rests for a moment on my arm “So what are you concerned about today?”
There’s some fumbling at my feet, stirrup. A tap on the bed. “Scoot down, just a bit more. That’s good.” A question I can’t hear, not meant for me anyway. A feel it though, the discovery. I know the answer before their heads even clear my blanket. My heart stops all together. I say a prayer it never starts again. That the morgue can just come and get me. No skirt and all. Sympathetic eyes, two pair. Two women who are witness to the death of my dream. Two women who have seen countless other women on this very table. No pants and a broken heart.
We talk about treatment options. I don’t shed a single tear, my hands shake. I’m reminded again “This can be managed.” They step out. Leaving me in my paper gown. I hear the nurse congratulate the student for doing such a good job. “You did really well, made her feel like you cared and that you had hope things would be fine.” I want my momma. I slowly walk over to the chair that’s holding my skirt. Step into it and my shoes. A few moments later the nurse comes in, hands me two papers stapled together. Says kind words and wishes me luck. She walks out and I find my way to the front desk. I wait.
My sister, all concern, asks if I need her to leave work. I remember the things she’s had to say about people I share this diagnosis with. I have a virus. My best friend “Fuck. I’m so sorry.” My vaginas new name is Death Valley. It’s where hope goes to die apparently. No more compliments about someone loving it. Or the way it tastes. No one calling it pretty. Just as I’d come to accept it for what it is. Scars and all.
So this is my new life. Learning to live in 2014, a single woman with herpes.