My eyes focused on the illustration of the fallopian tubes as Dr. Marquez fingered me with two digits and a pencil light. Poking and prodding at my cervix, I spread my thighs like I was back at cheerleading practice warming up for a jump sequence. I wondered what she might find down there…a rash? A tear? Old remains of a cheap tampon? In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised. In fact, I’d be thrilled to know it was my own stinginess which rendered sex impossible, and not the Judas-level betrayal of my vagina. I needed an answer, some form of explanation as to why my butterfly was dryer than the charcoal-colored dust framing my ceiling fan. Not only for me, but for my boyfriend playing Pokémon in the waiting room.
The doctor’s face peeked above the hem of my paper dress. “There’s definitely some scarring of the tissue down here.”
“Really?” I replied. I wasn’t surprised, but felt that I should respond with something.
“Yes. You said the pain was closer to the surface?” She continued to nudge the skin.
“Right. It hurts more on the outside, like closer to the labia I guess?”
“Yeah, it’s definitely inflamed and it looks like there’s some minor abrasions.” She stood up, removing the non-latex gloves which took her over fifteen minutes to find. I was willing to wait, though—not eager to discover how my latex allergy would manifest on the inside.
With naked hands, she returned to her clipboard and sighed. “I don’t want to say this is herpes but…I’m going to go take a look at your urine sample and then I’ll know for sure. It should just be a couple of minutes.”
“Okay…” My insides tumbled like the contents of a drying machine. HERPES?!? Did she really just say that?!?
She took her clipboard and shut the door behind her with a half-smile. It’s the same face my therapist makes when the session’s over but I’ve only just started sobbing. Could I really have herpes? Did I know anyone who had herpes? Did I look like someone who would have herpes? Seeking an ally in Google, I reached for my phone in the chair next to mine while testing my torso’s ability to stretch over sky-blue tile. The sweat that had been collecting at the base of my palm now appeared as a cloudy film, coating my phone in puddles of moisture.
Ten minutes ago, my greatest fear was a surprise pregnancy, a vision of all the nurses huddled together, gawking over my cup of pee. But now I was typing ‘genital herpes’ into a search bar, judging the images against my own appearance like it was inspiration for a haircut. Some of these images were like alien mutations, a peculiar prop for an Escape Room. I realized my boyfriend had seen far more than I had. Perhaps I’d underestimated his politeness.
I always had a sneaking suspicion my life would turn out like this. Just a girl, ~trying to find her place in this world~ until one day, life inflicted a twist so colossal, she was forever changed. I always thought I might get stabbed or something, maybe lose a limb in a horrible accident. At least this option involved less pain. In fact, I didn’t even itch down there with the exception of my in-growns. Maybe this wasn’t so bad after all. My boyfriend probably had it now too, or perhaps he even gave it to me. Either way, we’d be stuck in this together now. An early engagement in the form of an STD.
My shoulders sank as I studied the glass jar full of wooden sticks placed like an art piece on the counter. My hands were dry again. My breath steadied. Relief... For months now, I worried that something was wrong with me. I hated my vagina. I loathed its moods and inconsistencies. I cursed at it for its wild temperament. It disgusted me and yet, it was a part of me. I wanted to control it, to mold it like clay. But now…it was all out of my control. My vagina wasn’t at fault for the pain I experienced during sex. I wasn’t at fault either. It was simply the bacteria. I hated myself for shaming myself, for thinking my genitalia’s happiness defined me. But none of that mattered now. NOW, I was off the hook.
I heard the door knob rattle before I saw it fidget. Then, a second later, it swung wide open, interrupting my epiphany. It was Dr. Marquez. She had returned with her clipboard.
“So, we got the results and it turns out it’s just a yeast infection. I’m going to prescribe you a cream to use twice a day and you should start feeling better in a week or two.”