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  • Jo

Express Yourself


 

Seth is fine. Do not worry about Seth. Yes, it’s a pretty rare medical condition but it's treatable and he was only in serious discomfort for a dozen days. The cure? A bi-weekly “release.” Down there. Oh, now we’ve got your attention? Ok, great. This is a story about a perfectly normal guy named Seth, who had a testicular infection. The only way to treat it was for his doctor to inspect a fresh sperm sample for a couple of weeks to see if the antibiotics were doing their job as Seth did his. First, Seth needed to clear his work schedule. His work was boring. He’d been there for years but never had the push to leave. Because he worked for a large, global IT company, he had to clear his absence with HR. But, there was a problem with HR.


See, Seth was a little bit in love with HR. Not Human Resources in general, but specifically Sharon who ran the department. She was stunning by anyone’s standards along with being simultaneously authoritative and very, very kind. Everyone knew that she’d gotten divorced the year prior and had three young children to wrangle and still managed never to miss a single deadline or email. At the Cincinnati branch, she was a bit of a legend. And Seth’s stomach did the tango whenever he saw her. He’d wanted to ask her out for months but assumed that HR would frown upon it. (That being, the department of HR, not Sharon specifically. He thought she smiled at him more than other people in the office.)


So he was not at all pleased to have to notify Sharon of his upcoming doctor’s appointments. They would be short (Oh God, he worried, what was the right amount of time for this specific kind of situation?) But he would need his schedule cleared and her approval. As he sat in front of his standard-issue beige desk, he wrote and deleted an email way too many times. 


Dear Sharon,  Wait- “Dear?” did people write “Dear” to HR? He didn’t know. The only times that he’d ever spoken to Sharon were around meals when he would find an excuse to walk by her door or accidentally be milling about the ladies' room. Wait, that sounded creepy. Seth wasn’t creepy. He had a crush. So he was doing his best. Did she want anything from Chipotle? Could he grab her a coffee? He’d accidentally bought the entire box of chocolate bars from the kids fundraising in front of the 7-11, would she like a dozen?


Now he needed to interact with this colleague for purely professional reasons. He needed six windows to be out of work and decided to go speak to her in person. He could just call it ‘routine testing’ and say that he didn’t want to get into it, right? She was an HR professional, she would respect his boundaries, right? Isn’t that what Human Resources did? 


Seth shot off (haha) a quick email asking when it would be a good time to stop by her office. His Outlook notification almost instantly popped up on the screen. How about in an hour? His heart said FUCK YEAH but he wrote back, sounds good, because Seth was adept at both professionalism and self-restraint. That gave him sixty whole minutes to stress about the conversation. During that time he went into the men’s room to floss (in the stall, privately. He was so grossed out by people who brushed their teeth in the communal bathroom.) He also played seven games of Solitaire to calm his nerves and Googled (on his phone, in stealth mode) how to speak to women. When Outlook finally alerted him of his meeting, (Sharon had added it to his calendar. Her thoroughness and organization were so beyond attractive to him,) he smoothed out the front of his dockers and took his minty-fresh self down the two corridors to her door.


“Come on in,” Sharon waved with what Seth would have described as World’s Softest Smile. He shuffled in and sat down on the plaid chair adjacent to hers.


“So nice to see you, Seth. What can I do for you?”


Seth racked his brain for his recent Google search but came up empty. So he smiled back at Sharon, pulled up his email from his GP’s office, and shared the appointment schedule to clear the PTO. 


“It’s not a big deal, just a small medical thing that I have to deal with. These next weeks are really busy.” Seth tried to keep his voice as even as his sweaty palm would allow.


Sharon entered it into her calendar with slim fingers that flew over the keyboard with cherry red painted nails. Seth took all of this in.


“It’s fine, that’s what we’re here for. I’ll make sure your schedule is cleared. And,” she turned on her spinning chair to face him, a halo of an angel glowing around her kind face. He swore he heard Foreigner crooning I wanna know what love is but he couldn’t prove it.


“If there’s anything that you need to talk about or need assistance in handling, that’s what we’re here for. Please, don’t be a stranger. The next two weeks, with the kids out of school. I’m trying to get as much done as possible, too.”


She smiled again. Seth melted, floating out of her office. Was she just being friendly? Her job description was literally to make people feel comfortable and that’s what she’d done. But was there something else there? A lingering glance? A more sincere smile? She gave him an extra hour on either side of his requested PTO. Was that standard operating procedure or a thoughtful gift from her position of power? These were the thoughts that danced around Seth’s head, consuming him until the following day when his calendar told him that it was time to go to Mercy Medical Center on the other side of the highway.


After checking in, Seth was escorted to a sterile room by a large and very stern nurse who didn’t seem to think he walked fast enough.


“This is the room,” she pointed to the room in a gruff voice, easily an octave lower than Seth’s, “These are the periodicals,” she pointed to a stack of porn magazines arranged in the corned by the metal chair, “and this is the screen,” she said, gesturing to a television with a stack of X-rated DVDs underneath it. Seth had to wonder if this was just this specific woman’s specific delivery, sick of doing her mundane job like everyone in his own office, or, if he truly looked like a complete moron. 


“Thanks,” he said, avoiding her eyes.


“And here is the lubricant, should you need it,” she opened up a white cabinet and pulled out a gallon-sized plastic tub of generic lube with its own pump. This was the tipping point of poor Seth’s discomfort. So, he did what he always did, he made a joke,


“Oh nice, my favorite brand.” Surprise, surprise, this did not land well. Nurse Ratchet huffed and let herself out the door, stomping down the hallway. Seth turned the lock, pulled out an old issue of Penthouse, and took care of business cleanly and efficiently. He labeled his specimen container, washed his hands with the yellow antibacterial soap, and left. He did this four more times over the next two weeks without any fanfare. 


On the third week, for his last appointment, Seth was old hat at jerking off in a hospital room to outdated pornography. He parked on the side of the building near the exit ramp where he could easily slip in and out without seeing anyone, signed in at the reception desk, and grabbed his plastic cup with the green top before anyone could tell him what to do.


“Not so fast,” Seth jumped as Nurse Ratchet seemed to appear out of fucking nowhere. “We don’t have any rooms available. You gotta wait.”


Seth looked at his watch. He couldn’t wait. He was primed and ready to go and didn’t want to take advantage of Sharon’s generous time. But the way this imposing figure in Scooby-Doo scrubs looked at him, he knew that he didn’t have a choice. He’d left his phone in the car since it was usually such a quick, um, experience. So, he read an old health magazine urging him to take cranberry extract supplements and walk something like fourteen miles a day. He read all the signs in the room and counted the tiles on the ceiling. He looked at the time. Shit, he’d already been there for close to fifty minutes. He was usually in and out in seventeen. He willed the courage to walk up to the reception desk. Nurse Ratchet peered at him from her perch behind an old Gateway computer.


“Yes?”


“Well,” Seth glanced behind him to make sure that no one was listening. They weren’t. “I really have to go. I have to get back to work.”


The glare he received in return for this request didn’t quite bore holes through his head but it was close. Seth took a step back. He was already feeling better. His last labs had come back 90% normal. This uncomfortable infection was almost a thing of the past. And, obviously, Seth was happy. He was happy that he no longer had to worry about a very personal pain, he was happy that his balls would be functioning perfectly normally into the foreseeable future, and he was happy that he no longer had a bi-weekly date with a medical professional who probably spent all of her free time practicing MMA.


Just get through this one last time,  he told himself, clearing his throat.


“Please, is there any way that you can fit me in?”


Nurse Ratchet made a big show of moving her mouse around its Disneyland pad. Seth strained his brain to imagine what that woman would do at The Happiest Place on Earth. He chuckled involuntarily.


“What is it?” she growled.


“Nothing, nothing.” Seth stammered. “I was just thinking about Mickey Mouse.” Judging by her reaction, this was a very wrong thing to say.


“Well, in that case,” Nurse Ratchet stood up abruptly, “come with me.” She walked out from behind her glassed-in area, and marched across the waiting room, stopping momentarily to gesture angrily for her charge to follow. Which Seth did. And, we won’t lie, he was truly scared.


He trailed the lumbering woman in front of him with a knot in his stomach. Where was she taking him? Some secluded room where no one would hear his screams? Was she going to bring him into an unscheduled surgery? Donate his living body to science? It was almost a relief when she walked him past the glass doors into the pediatric unit. Then, that relief evaporated when Seth remembered what he had to do and where he had to do it.  


There were children screaming and literal snot on the cartoon-adorned walls. There were stressed-out parents and puzzles littering the floor. Identical twins shrieked as they each held onto one of those wooden bead games where you pushed the beads across the rigid metal tubes.


“MINE MINE MINE,” he shuddered at the screeching. 


“This gentleman is here to deposit a SAMPLE,” Nurse Ratchet allegedly told the receptionist but in reality yelled to the room, as she slammed down his folder under the plastic partition. She was handed a key on a very large plastic spatula and basically goose-stepped down one hallway, turning into a room three doors down on the left.  


“THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL PUT YOUR SPERM,” she bellowed, holding up a plastic cup, identical to all the others that he’d, well, ‘deposited’ in.


“Thank you,” were the only words that Seth was able to eek out. 


“I DO NOT HAVE ANY PORNOGRAPHY HERE FOR YOU,” She basically yelled, gesturing to the room painted with cartoon farm animals and a height chart that came up to his shoulders. 


“That’s fine.” Seth replied too quickly to be cool. And now, because he was uncomfortable and this was his default, Seth made a bad joke. He gestured to a Sesame Street magazine,

“Ernie and Bert totally do it for me.”


With a face of utter disgust, she spun on her heel, letting the door slam behind her.


Now, Seth was up to his own devices. He had seven minutes to get back into his car if he was going to make it back to the office on time. This company was impossibly rigid with every second he wasn’t sitting in his windowless cubicle. Now, he really regretted not bringing his phone. He rifled through the brightly colored cabinets for anything adult. There was, of course, nothing. He pulled down his pants, pouring some bubble gum-scented hand-lotion on his palm. Of course, nothing was happening.


He ransacked the magazines. There were Highlights and Nickelodeon and Ranger Rick. The stack fell to the ground. I’ll get them in a minute, Seth thought to himself.  The sweat began to bead on his forehead as his hair fell into his face. He tried sitting down, standing up, and then sort of bending over onto the bench.  This position started to work. This position also, well, failed him. Because he was not looking at the door, he didn’t see the knob turn.


And, the nurse opening it had her back to him as she was explaining the vaccinations to the mother with her three young children.


“This year, we are the most worried about Influenza-A OH MY HEAVENS-”


Why didn’t this nurse slam the door? Who knows. We all respond differently when confronted with a half-naked strange man in the middle of the afternoon at our place of work.


It wasn’t until Seth had turned around, pants around his ankles, dick in hand, children’s magazines spread out as if they were, in fact, getting him off, that Seth got to come face to, well, penis, with… Sharon. This wasn’t how, in his many, many hours of daydreaming, that he’d imagined meeting her family.  But there she was, face placid as a Buckingham Palace guard, hands clamped over her two youngest children’s eyes.  She stared at Seth. Seth died. Not really, but he swears that he did see his life flash before his eyes. His life in a cubicle, in a boring apartment, where the highlight of his week was jerking off at a doctor’s office. It was way, way, WAY too late for this thought, but he did wonder why he couldn’t have brought the sample container home and just done it there?


As I’m sure you can guess, the number of horrified adults only multiplied as the nurse’s screams drew attention from everyone in the office. And poor, poor Seth had never pulled up his pants or run faster in his life while Sharon, ever the professional, stayed perfectly calm. She was perfectly calm back at the office when Seth didn’t return, and perfectly calm when he (e-mailed) his resignation letter. 


Seth got a new job pretty quickly. He never went back for his final appointment, but his balls seemed just fine. He switched doctors and even moved apartments. While signing the new lease, he couldn’t help but notice how funny and patient the real estate agent had been. He asked her out for a drink. She accepted. He had two beers. He told her this story. She laughed so hard that she fell off her barstool and cut her lip. He did not take her to Mercy Medical Center but to an ER another town over. We all have our scars. 



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