My hands are folded in my lap. I’m looking at my fingers. The way that they fit together. The lines on my knuckles. I painted my nails dark blue so that I could still feel like myself here, in this place. The polish on one of my nails is already chipped.
The nurse just left. She got the IV on the first try. One pinch, breathing through my teeth. I like her.
I shift in my chair, holding my blue hospital gown in place. I can feel my knee through the thin fabric. It feels small. Not as solid as I’d want it to be, here, in this place.
I’m sitting in a long line of people. Staring straight ahead. Watching the clock. Tick, tick, tick. Waiting. All of us in too-big hospital gowns. All of our knees poking up through the fabric. Smaller and less solid than we’d want them to be.
We are The Soon To Be Probed. The world’s least popular club.
Nobody looks at the person beside them. We all look straight ahead, here, in this place.
Suddenly, there’s a shout, “SIR!”
I look up, away from my hands and toward the change room. A flustered nurse is running after a man who’s just marched into the prep room, a broad smile on his face, his wispy white hair a little wild. He’s wearing a hospital gown, like everyone else. He’s clearly supposed to be here, sitting in the line of The Soon To Be Probed.
So, I don’t understand why the nurse is yelling at him until she lunges at the two strings bouncing wildly along his thighs.
“SIR, YOU MISSED YOUR–”
The man stops, turning to look at the nurse who has just seized him. “Oh,” He shrugs. “Did I miss those?”
By ‘those’ he means the two very crucial strings that hold your hospital gown together and ensure that your pasty butt is only seen by one man in a white lab coat on this, the day of your colonoscopy.
By ‘Oh’ and a shrug, he means that he is apparently unconcerned by the fact that 75% of the prep room and one very flustered nurse has just seen 100% of his butt.
The nurse fumbles with the strings before knotting them together with a huff. Then, she stands straight, pushing back a strand of hair that escaped from her ponytail in the frenzy.
With a broad smile, the man ambles up to an chair and takes his seat, nodding at the woman in the chair beside him, who’s looking at him like he just told her that she had to drink another glass of Bi-Peglyte.
I want to laugh. I have to hold my breath to stop myself. I have to look back down at my own hands. My dark blue nails. You can’t laugh. Here, in this place. To laugh would be absurd.
Because, here’s the thing: a few feet away from me, a woman is lying in a bed. Alone, wincing. Staring through the slats in the blinds to the blue sky beyond. She’s clutching her blanket, her hands criss-crossed with ropey veins.
And it feels like such a contradiction. My shoulders are shaking, because I’m holding in a laugh. And her hands are shaking, because she’s holding herself together.
It all feels wrong.
And, you know, as I’m writing this, I know that the tone of this post is as unbalanced as that moment. But, that feels right. That feels true. Because, isn’t that what disease is?
There are moments when lab techs hold up your stool sample for the entire world to see, and there are moments when you have to make eye contact with the man who just probed you. And there are moments when you wake up in the middle of the night and your side is flickering with pain. On and off. A broken light. And you feel this deep, all-consuming fear. What if I’m not going to be okay?
And it’s a mess of contradictions. Laughter and pain.
It is painting your nails dark blue and sitting amongst The Soon To Be Probed and hoping that your nurse gets the IV on the first try. It is watching a nurse chase one bold man and his exposed butt through a hospital ward.
It is both.