Pride and fame. Success and riches. All these bow down before the great equalizer that is a shot to the nuts…
by: Shiloh Whatley
For a long time I was one of those guys who laughed at every scene in a movie where someone got hit in the balls. Darth Helmet vaporizing a guys nuts for going over his helmet in Spaceballs? I’m laughing my ass off. Bigfoot from Harry and the Henderson’s getting kicked in the balls by that villainous hunter? I’m chuckling so much it hurts. Judge Smails getting a line-drive to the groin in Caddyshack? Well, you get the point. Then something happened to me in my twenties and I no longer laugh so easily at such things. Actually, I wince. And it’s for a very simple reason. I’ve been there. I can sympathize. That shit fucking hurts.
When I was twenty-three I moved back to the town where I grew up. Granted, college had been a blur of new experiences and youthful indulgences, but the excitement of living in a college town post-graduation quickly wore off. I eventually found a well-paying job back home, but not before going on a litany of painful interviews that went something like this:
Interviewer: We’d like to hire you. Really. You present great on paper but we feel you just don’t have any real-world experience.
Me: Well, that’s where you come in. I’ll learn as I go. I have a tremendous ability to master things on the fly.
Interviewer: We don’t feel like you would be a good fit. We’re looking for someone who can pick this project up right away and move it forward. We just don’t have the time to train you.
Me: So how can I gain any experience if no one will hire me to get this experience?
Interviewer: You could always intern for us and we could reevaluate you in say, ten months.
Me: Great! How much would that pay?
Interviewer: It wouldn’t pay anything, you’re interning.
Me: Sorry, that isn’t going to work for me.
Interviewer: Well, let us know if you change your mind.
So when I finally landed a job and found a person who would take a chance on me, I was ecstatic. I had entered the ranks of the gainfully employed and could finally begin to manifest my own destiny. I had become in the words of my mother “an adult.” My life certainly became much more stable after passing this milestone, but I can assure you that I was anything but an adult. My day consisted of waking up around nine, driving fifteen minutes to work, working, coming home around six, getting high, eating some sort of takeout/reheated dinner while hovering over the coffee table watching TV and then getting high some more. My work stayed at work and my time away from it was mine, free to do with it what I pleased. I was a bachelor with disposable income. I was untethered. I had a roommate who was my friend. I had a car and an element of confidence borne of my newfound successes. I had a city with a vibrant nightlife that was flush with girls and like-minded individuals. I was on top of the world. Then everything changed.
It all started one Friday morning with an unprovoked shot to the nuts from my roommates sixty pound Dalmatian, Ayla. One moment I’m lacing up my Nike’s for work, head hovering just above my knees and my attention focused on making those loops dance. The next moment I’m laid out on the couch, my head thrown back and my face buried deeply in the soft cushions, tears crowning at the corners of my eyes.
“Fuuuuuuuuccccckkkkk!” I managed to scream, my raised voice scaring Ayla so much that she pissed all over the hardwood floor. She always pissed.
“She’s got anxiety issues,” my roommate Rusty would often tell me as he cleaned-up Ayla’s piss with those super-absorbent paper towels and Windex.
“If she would just stop with all the nut shots she wouldn’t be so anxious all the time,” I remember saying.
“It’s just her way of saying ‘Hi’, that’s all.”
“I knew a girl like that in college. I think she’s a dominatrix in the city now,” I’d joke.
The pain of my unprovoked nut shot subsided eventually and I bounded off to work none the wiser to my rendezvous with destiny. It was to be a half-day at the office because my boss–an avid outdoorsman, the kind of guy who showed up to work late with a cooler full of freshly-caught trout that he intended to gut at this desk–had planned a “retreat” for the members of our team. It was a coastal day-fishing trip to the Long Island Sound. One of those trips where you can drink beers with the vessel’s collection of ornery-looking mates. Where the weathered captain presides with an iron fist over a lanky-boat with names like The Molly Rose or The Sea Queen. Where sonar is employed to maneuver the sputtering vessel in front of a school of advancing bluefish or stripers. And where, when the bell rings, the paying anglers let lose their heavy-test fishing lines, their baited hooks dropping through the school of fish like a runaway elevator through a shaft. Each iron hook coming back up time after time with a thrashing, wild-eyed wanderer of the deep upon its end.
It was also the kind of trip where your heavy, rented fishing pole spends about five hours of the day jammed intimately against your crotch, providing leverage so when you do eventually hook a fish, you can get some purchase on the rod as you reel-in that twenty-pounder fighting like hell to stay very firmly in the ocean. Let’s just say that my fishing pole and I had gotten to know each other very well that afternoon. And after a full-day of fishing, and a gorgeous sunset steaming back to harbor as the seagulls pestered the mates for the remnants of the days catch, I had a shower at home and a stop at Wendy’s for a bachelor’s dinner. Dinner flowed into a night out with friends and copious drinks at a bar. And except for the lingering nut shot from Ayla, one might be moved to say that it was the perfect way to end my week.
My friends and I were all tucked into a darkened corner booth at an Irish bar I’ve long since forgotten the name of. I was working on completing my tour of the Samuel Smiths beers they had on offer and was currently on Oatmeal Stout. Oatmeal Stout is delicious. It’s all dark chocolate and raisin with caramel and roasted malts on the finish but without all the sugary pretense of dessert and raisins. Because, let’s be honest, who likes raisins? I had been weaving what I considered to be a very humorous anecdote about my fishing trip to a table full of my guy friends and some girls we were all trying to hit on…
“He just kept reeling them in,” I remember exclaiming, slapping the palm of my hand on the rough-hewn table for effect. “I mean, the guy, by the end of the trip, he had like twenty bluefish in his bag. Twenty! And then when the time came to steam back home, and the ships mates had gotten to work filleting all the fish we had caught, this guy realizes that he has wayyy to many bluefish. But he’s just too embarrassed to throw the excess fish over the side of the ship in front of all of us strangers. So what does he do? He saunters up to the worktable with this bulging, blood-stained sack, and has the mates fillet like a hundred pounds of bluefish for him. It was crazy. I mean who eats that much bluefish? It’s fucking nuts!”
I said the last part as I stood up to go to the bathroom. I had been noticing an itchy sensation around my scrotum all night and I kept slipping my hand down to the fabric of my jeans to rub the irritated area on the sly. It was beginning to get pretty annoying and I figured I’d go check the situation out in the privacy of the bathroom. I had to piss anyway, and the girl I’d been making eyes at all evening had been eating my story up like it was Thanksgiving dinner so I figured I’d take a break while I was still ahead in the count. I thought I’d check out my nuts, grab a pint of the next Samuel Smith on the list, and then finish telling the rest of my story and making that doe-eyed girl laugh. That was my plan at least. But the rest of the evening didn’t end up unfolding that way. No, it went much differently. And then things went bad quickly. Very, very quickly.
You know that feeling you get when you start to realize somethings wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it? Or you’re too distracted, tired, drunk, upset or whatever to really follow your train of thought to its logical endpoint and figure out just what’s going on? Well, that was my initiation into a rapidly evolving world of pain and discomfort. When I flicked that light on in the musty bathroom at the back of the Irish bar, locked the door tight and pulled down my pants to get a good look at my nuts, I just knew something was off. I’ll spare you the lion’s share of the details, but let’s just say my initial reaction to what I saw was “Huh…” followed by a rapid, “That’s weird…” spoken aloud to no one but me and the porcelain receptacle.
There was definitely a small swelling on the left side of my scrotum and a redness that converged on a hard, raised point in the center of the affected area. It looked like a clogged pore or a pimple. I shuffled closer to the sink and the soft light that was emanating down from the fixture above the mirror so I could get a closer look. With my left hand I tugged at my scrotum, pulling it free from my body while I stood up on my tiptoes, bringing the affected area more into the light. On closer inspection it resembled a common pimple so I did what seemed natural, I tried to pop it.
That was the first of many mistakes I made throughout my ordeal. Trying to pop it hurt like hell. Almost as much as the nut-shot I had gotten from Ayla that morning. So what did I do? I did it again, wanting to put an end to whatever the hell was going on once and for all. I figured I could take it. All those beers were catching up with me and I was beginning to feel invincible. But I couldn’t of been more wrong. The second time hurt worse than the first and whatever I was trying to force out had dropped its anchor and was determined to stay very firmly in place. Where I once had an itching sensation I now had a burning feeling that was radiating all up and down my left thigh like a forest fire out of control. I made a decision then and there to call it a night. I’d sleep whatever was wrong off and reevaluate things in the morning. I made my way back from the bathroom, concocted some half-hearted excuse for leaving and then caught a taxi home. The last thing I remember before I drifted off to sleep was a worried voice in the back of my mind hoping over and over again that nothing was wrong with my nuts.
The next morning was Saturday. The weekend. Those two days we all work so hard for during the week to relax and enjoy. My Saturday was nothing like that. My Saturday was like Dante entering the Underworld. Except all nine circles of Hell were localized to the left-side of my scrotum. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here….
I woke-up with a start. It was early. Six o’clock or so. That period of time ruled by sleep-deprived parents with newborns and the elderly who have become bored with slumber. I had been having another nightmare about falling that would come to define my early twenties. I always woke-up before I impacted with the ground, but it left my heart racing and perspiration damp on my brow. This morning was no different. Ayla was there too. I was laying on my back and as I raised myself up on my elbows, I saw the top of her spotted head at the foot of my bed. She was just sitting there. Staring at me. It was a weird scene to wake-up into. As I tried to make sense of it all, that anxious voice in the back of my head got back to work, reminding me of my troubles. Instantly, I bolted upright, sliding my hand down to my scrotum. I felt around my groin and when my fingers danced across the left side of by nut-sac my body erupted in a spasm of pain.
“Fuccccckkkk!” I gasped, realizing too late that my outburst was a trigger-word for Ayla. Once again the poor animal was compelled to piddle, her piss leaving a trail across the rug as she ran out of my bedroom to go hide. “Just great!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands up into the air.
The piss was the least of my worries. As I swung my legs over the side of my bed I noticed that my balls didn’t fall into their usual position. They appeared to be at a loss for space between my legs and as I pulled free the elastic band of my boxers, I gasped at the sight of how large my nut-sac had become. Particularly on the left side. The side that Alya the Pisser had nailed me in with her paw. The side that I had jammed a soiled, rented fishing pole into all afternoon the previous day. The side that I had wandered, slightly tipsy, into the bathroom at a bar and tried to mess with with dirty hands like an adolescent kid trying to pop a pimple on his nose. My nuts were throbbing. I could feel my pulse in them. I could feel the sounds of the traffic in the street below vibrating off them. I could feel the moon tugging at them with her gravity. My scrotum had become a lightning rod for the invisible forces of the world and I was scared as hell.
Now you’re probably thinking, “this guy has elephantitis of the nuts” or something. Or maybe you’re making a crude joke in your mind about my nuts “riding shotgun” when I drove my car. Let me dispel that theory once and for all. I clearly had an infection going on in my scrotum, mediated by a perfect storm of nut-trauma over the course of twenty-four hours. My balls didn’t swell to the size of watermelons and my scrotum didn’t get so big that I had to carry it around in a wheelbarrow in front of me. But what did happen is that whatever opportunistic bacteria found its way past my bodies scrotal-defenses encountered the warm, nutrient-rich fluid environment that exists within all of us. Now, here’s an anatomy lesson friends: The skin is the bodies largest organ and at twenty-two square feet its main function is to protect all of our insides from the dangerous stuff that exists within our world. But it’s extremely thin in places, especially around your testicles. Now, allow that bad stuff an opportunity to slip past those defenses, in my case an innocent scratch to my balls by an overexcited dog combined with an intimate, all day interaction with a wet and dirty fishing rod, and you have created an opportunity for all that nasty stuff to do what it does best….thrive.
The first thing I did to diffuse my rapidly deteriorating situation was hobble over to the hallway phone and call my father. I didn’t know who else to call. It was the weekend so I couldn’t call my regular doctor. I didn’t want to ask my roommate for help for fear that he would never let me hear the end of it and I was in way too much pain to drive myself to the emergency room. In fact, I actually spent a few moments in my head debating if “swollen nut-sac” could be classified as an emergency. I imagined calling 911 and when the operator answered, the conversation going something like this:
Operator: 9-1-1, what’s your emergency?
Me: Ummmmm, I’ve got a swollen nut-sac?
Operator: Is that a question?
Me: Uh, no.
Operator: Is this a joke?
Me: No ma’am. You see, my scrotum….it’s enlarged.
Operator: Are you dying, hun?
Me: Er…no. Not that I….
Operator: Are you currently on fire? Bleeding from a gunshot wound? Choking, trapped under a building, in the process of being burglarized or incapacitated beyond your ability to help yourself?
Me: No…not yet. But…
Operator: Then I suggest you either drive or walk yourself to the nearest hospital and stop playing around on the phone.
Me: Yes ma’am. So sorry ma’am. Enjoy your Saturday.
Operator: Thank you. And sweetie….
Operator: Good luck with your nuts.
So I called my father, a man who I did not share things of a great personal nature with but who I knew to be an early riser. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” is one of his more favored sayings, as cliched as it may be. Where one may have danced around the topic, I got straight to the point. My nerves were decaying rapidly and it was way too early in the morning for me to put up a front. He listened to my story and then after several unspoken moments in which I envisioned him folding up the Sports section and taking a long pull of his morning coffee, he replied with the following: “Run some hot water and take a bath. You need to draw the infection out. I’m calling Eddie. I’ll be over in forty minutes and I want you dressed and ready to go see him.”
That was my pop. Dependable when you needed him. As solid as a wall when you lacked something to lean on. It sometimes got in the way of him letting people in emotionally, but I entertained the idea that despite my suffering, this might bring the two of us closer. He’d help me through this difficult journey with my nuts and maybe we’d come out the other end better friends because of it. We’d be two individuals sharing a secret. Father and son bonding over the one thing that physically defines us as men…our dick and balls.
I ran the bath and eased my way into it like an old man eating soup–slow and steady. Eddie’s a good doctor. He’ll know what to do, I thought as I sat there in the echoing silence. Once I got settled I bent my head down and stared at my nut-sac. Where it normally exhibited neutral-buoyancy, neither floating or sinking, it had now become dense and heavy, my reddened, expanding pouch resting firmly against the bottom of the claw-footed tub like a fleshy, swollen anchor. I tried to maneuver the epicenter of my suffering into focus and after several failed attempts littered with painful wincing, I was able to see clearly what had transpired while I slumbered.
My scrotal visitors had been busy. What once resembled a pimple had turned into a black disc about the size of a pencil’s eraser head. Even looking at it hurt and I could only imagine what was going on below the surface of that blackened disc. Welcome to hell, I remember thinking as I stared into that darkened abyss. They’re gonna have to take your testicle out, the frightened voice inside my head chimed in enthusiastically. “Yeah…both of ‘em are goners,” I remember whispering to the silence of the early morning house.
The warm water of the bath seemed to lessen the redness of my scrotum and the dark black disc on its left side had faded to a dull grey. The skin on my fingers and toes were beginning to shrivel from the soak and as a shiver passed through me I realized that the bath water was beginning to cool. In contrast to all the wrinkling of my digits, my nut-sac seemed to be getting smoother, as if the growing infection and mushrooming size of my scrotum had overcame the usually wrinkled nature of man’s jewel pouch, resulting oddly, in an intriguing look to my organ. Smooth, I remember thinking. Like a balloon.
My father arrived promptly forty minutes after we had spoken on the phone, screeching to a halt outside my apartment with a noise that violated the quiet of the still-slumbering street. He managed to help me hobble down the front steps of my building to his idling truck. It was a chilly October morning, flush with the smell of an impending winter, and I was dressed in the baggiest sweat pants I owned. A pair that MC Hammer would be proud of. I had thrown on a White Castle t-shirt without really thinking about it that read “White Castle, good in the sack,” complete with a cartoon of a fast-food bag seemingly bursting with their famous slider burgers. My dad took one look at my t-shirt and asked me if that was supposed to be a joke. Looking down I said rather weakly, “Yeah…something like that I guess.” Shaking his head my father helped me climb up into the truck and got me strapped into his hulking F-150. As we drove he told me with his characteristic military delivery exactly what was going to happen.
“Eddie’s agreed to see you. I’m taking you to his office in Elmhurst. It’s not the usual place I see him but it’ll do. He was out golfing so this is a personal favor. Eddie’s a good guy son. He’ll keep this between us. You be sure to thank him for helping you out.”
“Sure thing pops,” I remember saying as I pressed my forehead to the cool window of the truck. I could feel the raw, untamed power of my dad’s F-150 ripple through my enlarged scrotum every time he stepped on the gas. It was unpleasant, like John Bonham playing Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick” drum solo on my nuts.
Eddie, also known as Dr. Glasses to me and my sister because of the thickness of his spectacles, met us at the front door of his Elmhurst practice personally. He was dressed in tan chinos and a pink Tiger Woods Nike Golf shirt. I could see his white leather golf glove poking out the back of his pants pocket and when I looked down to his feet he was wearing only socks. “Left my loafers at the Clubhouse,” he remarked as he unlocked the glass doors to let us in. “Drove here in my golf shoes.” It was just past seven thirty and I could detect a faint hint of bourbon on his breath. Eddie had recently gotten divorced after eighteen years of marriage and had just moved into a studio apartment. Perfect.
“Yeah. Sorry about that Eddie. You know I wouldn’t ask something like this of you if it wasn’t a secret emergency,” my father said, wringing his favorite hat out between his hands like it was a washcloth he was trying to rid of water. He actually said the words “secret emergency,” like this early morning rendevous was all hush-hush or something. I could tell my dad was uncomfortable with having to ask someone to do him such a favor. It wasn’t my dad’s style and his words betrayed him. He was usually the beginning and end of any problem that came his way. It was a pretty rare thing for him to have to ask another person for help, especially someone like Eddie whom he respected, and to me that meant a lot. It taught me that my dad could be vulnerable. And that he cared. It was a side of him I didn’t often see.
Eddie showed us into one of his cramped examination rooms that smelled of Lysol and lilacs and spotted me up onto its central table, the waxen paper crinkling like the unwrapping of presents. He pulled down my sweatpants immediately. There was no exchange of pleasantries. No “How’s the new job treating you?” or “Do you have a girlfriend yet?” Eddie was in as much of a rush to get back to his morning round of golf as I was to have him tell me exactly what the fuck was going on. The initial expression on his face when he saw my scrotum however, no matter how hard I know he tried to hide it, was surprise.
“Listen son,” he spoke to me calmly and quickly, like he was reading off a mental checklist entitled: What to do in Case of Scrotal Explosion. “I want you to lay back and relax. Close your eyes and spread your legs apart.” His whole delivery had changed. Like he was no longer being inconvenienced and that caught my attention immediately.
“What’s wrong doc?” I remember answering quickly, my eyes going from his to my fathers. The look on my father’s face was one of uncomfortable surprise. Like even though he didn’t want to look at what Eddie was doing, he was still curious so he kept staring just to see what happened next.
“Everything’s gonna be alright,” my father said, leaning in to give me a reassuring squeeze on the exposed skin of my upper thigh. Things were getting weird really fast. Here was my dad, hanging out with his doctor/friend with my sweatpants dangling around my ankles on a Saturday morning and his hand resting in a loving manner on my never-before-seen-the-light-of-day upper thigh. Plus, there was Eddie’s head bobbing in and out of view around my groin like a prizefighter ducking and weaving about his opponent. I kept wondering if he should be messing around down there what with the bourbon he obviously had enjoyed for breakfast. I had my future progeny to think of.
The unsettling clink of metallic instruments and the opening and closing of drawers echoed in the confined space of the small examination room and it was beginning to be too much for me to handle. I could feel my vision blurring at its edges as I grew more and more anxious. And then, Eddie began to whistle “Puff the Magic Dragon” which very nearly sent me over the edge.
“Shit. It burst!” Eddie abruptly shouted a few bars into the song from somewhere hazy and surreal, just out of the reach of my swiftly declining focus. His hollow, far-off sounding words threw me further into disarray. “Quick! Over there. All that gauze Joe! Throw me that gauze,” he continued to shout as the yellowish walls of the room began to spin. “The wound’s opened up. We gotta get something to soak-up all this fluid.”
My father moved quickly as I flapped about on the table like a fish in a boat. He had been a medic back in Vietnam so he knew his way around trauma. I’m sure of all the situations he encountered there, nothing had prepared him for something like this, but he was calm and disciplined. Channeling tranquility, he handed Eddie all the supplies he called out for, all the while keeping his eyes locked on mine. My father had become my anchor, my rock, and every time my vision darted away to look at what Eddie was up to he would softly call my name, telling me to keep my focus back on him.
After Eddie had patched my scrotum up as best he could, which basically consisted of him manufacturing a gauze-filled sling for my nut-sac out of some adult diapers and surgical tape, he left my father and I alone while he called around to a few colleagues who might be able to see me on short notice. My heart was hammering in my chest and my brow was moist with perspiration. My scrotum however, despite the perpetual throbbing, seemed somewhat lighter, less dense.
“That was a close one,” my father leaned in to softly whisper in my ear once he knew that we were alone. “I think Eddie’s been drinking.”
I lay there with my eyes closed and nodded my head. I’ll have what he’s having, I thought.
“You’ve got an infection in your scrotum as you probably have already figured out,” were the first words out of Eddie’s mouth as he returned from down the hall. “There was a plug of solidified pus that was holding back all that fluid and bacteria swelling up within your scrotum. The bath you took must have weakened it and it finally gave way. Luckily, it happened here and not while you were at home or in the truck on the drive over. It doesn’t matter right now how you got this infection or where. What matter’s most is the now. That we take care of this today. We can figure everything else out later. Hell, even laugh about it over drinks if need be. But right now your dad here is going to drive you over to a urologist friend of mine in Benson. He’s agreed to squeeze you into his schedule because of the dire nature of your condition so make sure you go and see him right away.”
“Thanks for patching him up Eddie,” my father said, extending his hand in gratitude.
“Don’t thank me Joe. All I did was stabilize the kid. Thank Dr. Henry, your son’s new urologist. He’s the one’s that gonna get you through all this.”
All I could do was stare blindly out the trucks window as the words “dire nature” and “take care of this today” echoed about within my mind as we made our way up the interstate to Benson. It was about an hour away and I felt every inch of that highway in my nut-sac as we drove.
“I’m not going to be able to use any anesthetic so this is going to hurt,” Dr. Henry, who I had just met for the first time minutes before, said to me from somewhere around my feet. He smelled like Old Spice aftershave and he was a mouth breather, his breaths coming out in loud, hollow gasps that competed with the noises in the room for attention. He was the third person in as many hours who was getting a good look at my scrotum.
“What!” I exclaimed, raising my head off the examination table and attempting to see what Dr. Henry was up to as he moved about. I didn’t like the sounds I was hearing and his stool shrieked loudly on a stuck wheel as he slid wildly around the room preparing to treat me.
“You’ve taken Percocet for the pain right?” he asked, his head suddenly rising like a submarine’s periscope above the blue disposable gown he had spread across my torso and legs. It was cold in the examination room. There was a breeze coming from somewhere and my legs were freezing.
“Yeah. Dr. Glasses…I mean, Eddie gave me a few before I came over. Said I should take one every couple of hours for the pain,” Good old Eddie, I thought. The Percocet had been working like a dream but they were beginning to wear off as Dr. Henry prepared to work.
“Well, I don’t want to give you any more. It’s too late for painkillers anyway. We need to fix this problem right now so we’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way.”
“There you go again. You keep saying that phrase and I have no idea what you mean. I overheard you say it in the hallway to one of your nurses or something. You’re going to use a local right? A shot of Novocaine or whatever to numb my nut-sac before you cut me?”
“No, things are too far gone for that now. A local wouldn’t do anything. We need to clean this out right away.”
“Is it going to hurt?”
“Yes. But Sharon here will be there to hold you hand.”
“Sharon. She’ll help you get through this. Sharon, meet Mr. Whatley. He’s having a bad day. We need to irrigate his scrotum and then pack it full of antiseptic gauze so we can get out ahead of this infection”
“Hi,” Sharon said, her face drifting like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon into view above mine. Her breath smelled like Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
“Hi,” I managed to meekly say.
“Hold my hand darling,” Sharon cooed, running her fingers across my forehead and wiping the strands of sweat-stained hair out of my eyes as she maneuvered into place. Things were moving way too fast. A moment earlier I had been in this maniac of a urologist’s waiting room, perusing a dated copy of Time magazine with a ice pack in my lap and a MacGyver-esque scrotum sling between my legs. And now, I was at the mercy of a doctor saying things like “do it the old fashioned way” and on the cusp of being cut open as the painkillers left my body. Plus, I had too-much-time-spent-in-the-tanning-booth Sharon, who was to be my spiritual guide across this impending desert of pain, snapping Juicy Fruit scented bubbles off beside my head like someone going to town on a roll of bubble-packaging. I was screwed.
“Here, bite down on this honey,” Sharon said, opening a drawer next to her rounded frame and pulling out a plastic spoon with her free hand. It had bite marks on it already. I opened my mouth in protest but before I could get a word out Sharon thrust the handle of the spoon in my mouth, stifling my cries.
“Ready?” Doctor Demento asked, poking his head back up from below my waist. He had the scalpel gripped tightly in his left hand and I thought I caught a hint of horns and a devil’s tail flicking about the air as he spoke.
“Ready,” Sharon replied.
“Mmmphh…” was all I was able to muster before The Devil began to dig in.
What is that term people use to describe a place that is neither one thing nor another? That exists at the intersection of all that it Good and all that is Bad in this world? Is it Purgatory? Is it Nothingness? Oblivion? I’m not sure what exactly you call it but I’m almost certain that I’ve visited its rocky shores. Rested my head upon its sun-flecked fields of waving grass and stared up at its cloud-filled sky. And you know what? It’s not unlike this world here in which we inhabit. Except it’s devoid of sound. And colors. And once you go there and return, you’re never quite the same.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say that what I experienced pain and emotion-wise, as Dr. Henry laid into my tender nut-sac, was anything on the scale of say, someone who has been traumatically injured in a car accident or a woman who has given birth to triplets without an epidural. But what I can confidently say is that I’ve traveled that road. That I’ve marched down that bumpy path of physical and mental suffering for a few moments and gotten a taste of what awaits those who have walked much further down it than me. And I can honestly tell you this: There’s a certain point where the pain in which you are feeling doesn’t hurt anymore. Where you can push through whatever it is that is making you want to leap out of your body and scream for all eternity, and encounter a certain peace.
I believe it came quickly for me because time ceased to exist once the good doctor went to work. I could have been in that room for five minutes or a day and I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference. One moment I thought I’d break all my teeth I was biting so hard on that plastic spoon — the metallic taste of blood at the back of my throat devolving me into a wild animal, my body a lightning rod surging with a chemical electricity — and then the next moment, I had found bliss. It was like diving into a pool of water and never coming up and never needing to take another breath. It was all encompassing and safe and calm. I felt like a baby swaddled tightly in a blanket. I went in utero for a brief second and I was completely okay with that, could’ve sworn that I heard the familiar, powerful droning of my mother’s heartbeat that was my metronome all those many years ago while developing within her womb.
Things worked out fine for me in the end. Dr. Henry got the infection under control before it went global and took down my body. And after several difficult and uncomfortable months of healing, I made a full recovery. I didn’t lose any of my testicles and the nurses at the fertility clinic my wife and I used to conceive our first child many years later nicknamed me “Superman” because my sperm counts were so high. I have a small, crescent-shaped scar on the left-side of my scrotum that I’ve become very fond of but besides that, I guess you can say that I dodged a bullet. Things could have been much worse for me, you know? I could’ve had to eat a hundred pounds of bluefish…