This is the most embarrassing doctor’s visit ever.
I’m sure there have been more embarrassing doctor’s visits in the history of the world. Like, if I had stuffed a lightbulb up my butt and it broke, that would probably be more embarrassing than this. That said, this visit is pretty bad. It would have to be, because I’m definitely not the kind of chick who goes to the doctor with a runny nose or something dumb like that. I haven’t seen a doctor since I was in high school. But I finally had a symptom I couldn’t ignore.
My breasts are itchy.
Specifically, the area right under my breasts is itchy. At first it wasn’t so bad—something that I could ignore. But I can’t ignore it anymore and I definitely can’t sit at work scratching my boobs all day. The itch is driving me absolutely crazy. Crazy enough that I actually had to find a doctor through my insurance company, and go through the mortifying process of explaining to said doctor’s receptionist that I needed to be seen for itchy breasts.
So yeah, here I am, sitting in Dr. Richmond’s examining room, naked except for a blue gown, waiting to be seen. The room is freezing, but I’m not cold. I’m never, ever cold.
Dr. Richmond bursts into the examining room without even knocking. He’s older, maybe in his fifties, and stick-thin with buzz-cut graying hair. He’s got a clipboard in his hand and he barely looks up at me as he reads off, “Emily?”
“That’s me,” I say. The girl with the breast itch.
Dr. Richmond lowers the clipboard to look at me, and I can actually see the disgust dawning on his face. I know that no matter what the cause of my tit itch, I’m in for a lecture today. This is why I haven’t been to the doctor since high school.
“So what’s going on?” Dr. Richmond says impatiently, still standing in front of me.
“I’m really itchy under my breasts,” I explain. “Like, super itchy. It’s been going on for about a month.”
“Do you have a rash?” he asks.
I take a deep breath. “I think so. A little bit.”
The Good Doctor does not seem thrilled with my answer. But the truth is that I can’t see all that well under there. I have only maybe 50% under-breast visibility. Especially since I don’t own a full-length mirror.
Dr. Richmond heaves a long sigh. “Okay, let’s take a look.”
He couldn’t look less thrilled if someone told him to eat a big bowl of dog crap.
I open my blue gown for the good doctor and bear my breasts to him. As I’m doing it, I struggle to remember the last time I’ve shown my breasts to another human being. It has been a long, long time. Also, that person was probably my mother. Or another doctor.
Dr. Richmond prods and palpates my breasts while wearing a set of blue latex gloves. I don’t need to struggle to remember the last time a man has touched my breasts without gloves on—there’s no point in trying to remember something that’s never happened.
“It’s fungus,” Dr. Richmond says.
I nearly start choking. “Excuse me?”
“You have a fungus infection under your breasts,” Dr. Richmond says. He removes his rubber gloves with a loud snack, then picks up his stupid clipboard and makes a few notes. “Probably from sweat and heat.”
Holy shit. I have fungus on my breasts? That is just… ugh. How could I have fungus growing on my body?
Well, I think my chances of having a man ever touch my breasts just dropped several percentages.
“I’ll write you a prescription for a cream you can use,” Dr. Richmond says, scribbling something illegible on a prescription pad he pulls from his white coat. “But I could expect you’re high risk for this to come back unless you lose some weight.”
Yes. And there it is. “Uh huh,” I say.
“Ms. Davison,” Dr. Richmond says, “at your weight and height, you would be considered morbidly obese. It’s incredibly unhealthy to maintain your current weight.”
I squeeze my hands together. “I’m not really morbidly obese, am I?”
“You’re quite a bit over the cut off, actually,” he tells me.
Well, that’s news to me. Christ. Morbidly obese. Morbidly obese. I mean, it’s not like I ought to be shocked, considering I had too much fat to even see under my breasts, even with a mirror. But hearing it said to me makes me feel… well, disgusting. Morbidly disgusting.
“I’d also like you to go for a blood test,” Dr. Richmond adds. “I’d like you to be tested for adult-onset diabetes.”
I remember my grandmother had that in the years before she died. “Don’t only old people get that? I’m only 24.”
“Your extreme weight situation puts you at very high risk for insulin resistance,” Dr. Richmond explains. “And the fact that you developed a fungus infection makes me concerned that you could have early diabetes.”
“I don’t have diabetes,” I say. “I don’t have any symptoms.”
“You most likely wouldn’t know it if you did,” he tells me.
Instead of actually handing me the prescriptions, Dr. Richmond drops them on the counter, like he’s too disgusted to even risk touching me. We wouldn’t want to catch morbid obesity, would we?
Dr. Richmond tells me that I need to schedule a follow-up visit with him to go over the results of my test for diabetes. But I walk out the front door without bothering to even say goodbye to his receptionist. I mean, what’s the point of scheduling the follow-up if I’m not going to go for the test?
So you figured out my big secret. I’m fat.
No, not just fat, morbidly obese. Christ, it’s hard to wrap my head around that one.
This isn’t, like, a new thing. I’ve never been skinny or anything. Pretty much ever since I was born, I was always overweight, always on one diet or another. That was just me. As much a part of who I was as my brown eyes or the mole on my left shoulder.
But then when I went off to college and finally got away from my mother’s nagging, things sort of escalated to a new level. Like, I wasn’t morbidly obese when I graduated high school. Somehow in the last six years, I’ve gotten to be the kind of girl that people stare at on the street. And not in a good way.
So yeah, I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t partially my fault. I know my metabolism sucks—my sisters always ate the some junk I did, and they are both skinny as rails. I could never be thin, even if my diet consisted of nothing but air. But look, I’m not going to lie and say I eat nothing but carrot sticks and I just don’t know why I can’t lose any weight. I eat what I want, and frankly, I’m sick of defending it.
I’m sure you have some stereotype in your head that fat people are all lazy and unmotivated. Well, I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case, at least not for me. After I spend my entire day working, I go to night classes at least three days a week—I’m taking two advanced courses this year. I’m working on getting a Masters in Computer Science, as an adjunct to my bachelor’s degree. I’m sick of working in a cubicle—I want a window, damn it! And this is the only way I’m going to ever be able to advance in my career.
I actually really look forward to my evening courses. My evenings are pretty empty, and going to the local college gives me something to do. And I really love to learn, believe it or not. When the Masters is done, maybe I’ll go for a doctorate or something ambitious like that.
Right now, I’m starting a course called Software Engineering for Web Applications. It’s curiously crowded. I figured there’d be about five people in the room like there were in the last course I took. Instead, the small classroom is nearly filled with students. Most of them are older than me—probably trying to retrain or looking to get ahead in their jobs.
I groan when I see the seats in the room. The seats are the kind with little desks attached, and I’m pretty sure the desks don’t slide to the side. I hate those kids of seats. If I’m lucky, the desk presses against my stomach and makes me feel like I’m going to throw up. If I’m unlucky, I don’t fit at all.
The question is, am I feeling lucky today?
Who am I kidding? I’m never lucky.
There’s a part of me that is actually considering switching out of this course. I really, really don’t want to deal with these stupid seats twice a week. But this class sounded so interesting, and there were no others that fit as well into my schedule. Anyway, I don’t want to switch out of a class for no reason other than I’m too fat to fit into the seats. Speaking of first world problems.
I look around, making sure nobody is watching me, and I suck in my gut as I slip into the seat in the farthest corner of the room. And… drum roll please… I fit! It’s a little miracle. Granted, I don’t have even an inch of wiggle room, but at least I am physically in the chair.
As I wait for the class to begin, I watch the other students doing in the class doing their little socialization thing. Hi, I’m Steve, nice to meet you. Hi, Steve, I’m Tim. I don’t bother to introduce myself to anyone. I’ve never been what you’d call a social person. I don’t expect to meet anyone new in this class. You know, every endeavor in life isn’t about meeting new people. You can take a class without meeting anyone new, and still learn something from the class.
About two minutes before the class is scheduled to start, I hear a noise coming from behind me. I turn my head and am momentarily startled when I see this giant wheelchair rolling up beside me. Well, it’s not just a wheelchair. There’s a guy in it.
Now it’s true that since my descent into morbid obesity, I’ve noticed that I get a lot more stares than I used to. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that every single person in the room is looking at this guy in the power wheelchair. The room actually goes completely silent for a good sixty seconds before they all get busy pretending like they weren’t staring.
I look too. I mean, I’m only human—a big power wheelchair just busted into the room and parked right beside me. It seems fair that I should be allowed to take the tiniest of glances, right?
So it’s a guy. Around my age—like mid-twenties. His giant black wheelchair has what looks like a joystick attached, like from the good old days of Pac Man. Loafers, khaki slacks, blue dress shirt. Short brown hair with a hint of red. Actually, from the neck up, he’s pretty good-looking. I wonder if people tell him that, the same way everyone is always tripping over themselves to tell me that I have a pretty face, even though I have a totally ordinary, unremarkable, non-pretty face. Although this guy actually does have a pretty face.
Wheelchair Guy notices me looking and he smiles in my direction. And I do what any normal person would do and I look away. Permanently.
The lecture is good—really good. I feel like this is one of those classes that actually might have the potential to be useful for my job, although I may just have been fooled by Dr. Nichols’s repeated use of the word “applications.”
But then when the lecture is over, things get real. And by that, I mean that I’ve got to figure out how to get out of this goddamn chair.
The chair didn’t break, at least. So that’s a plus. But it seems like during the last hour, my rolls of fat have molded themselves to the wood of the chair, and now I am firmly wedged inside.
It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. I knew it was a possibility before the lecture started. I’m fairly sure I can extract myself, but then again, there’s always a chance I won’t be able to. And that will just be the absolute worst way to start a class.
I plant my two feet firmly on the ground. I grip the desk with one hand, and the seat with the other. I suck in my gut as much as I can, then do my damnedest to stand up. I can feel my face turning red with some combination of exertion and embarrassment. A bit of sweat actually breaks out on my brow. Who needs to gym when you’ve got chairs to stand up from?
And then, with a loud pop, I am suddenly free. The chair has lifted slightly from the ground during my efforts and it falls over to the side. It’s not the best possible outcome, but it’s not the worst either.
I reach down to right the chair, and that’s when I realize that Wheelchair Guy is looking at me. No, not looking—he’s staring. Like I’m as big a spectacle as he is in his giant power wheelchair. Well, screw him. Unless there’s something wrong with his brain too. In that case… well, fine, whatever. I’ll just ignore him.
Except Wheelchair Guy apparently isn’t going to allow me to ignore him. “Hey,” he says.
I look up at him for a minute and nod in acknowledgement, then turn to my backpack. I stuff inside the notebook where I’ve been taking meticulous notes for the last hour, like the good little nerd I am.
“Hey,” Wheelchair Guy says again.
I throw down my notebook and turn to him this time. He smiles apologetically at me and some of my irritation melts away. Wheelchair aside, this guy is a little bit adorable. Okay, more than a little bit.
“Hey,” I say back.
“Listen,” Wheelchair Guy says with a cough. “I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”
A favor? I don’t like where this is going. My experience with “favors” seems to be that it involves other people taking advantage of me.
“Uh,” I say.
“I was wondering,” he continues, “if there’s any chance I could get a copy of your notes from the lecture? I’m not so great at taking notes myself.”
With that declaration, he holds up his hands. He definitely wasn’t kidding around. His arms are skinny as sticks and his hands hang limply from his wrists, his fingers slightly curled. I can’t imagine him attempting to take notes.
“I couldn’t help but notice you have really nice handwriting,” he adds.
I was right—nothing good ever comes out of someone asking me for a favor. Now I’m stuck having to make photocopies of every lecture for this guy. I mean, yes, he obviously has a serious disability and needs help, but why do I have to be the one to help him? Where does one even make photocopies in this day and age? Do we have to go find a Staples or something?
“Uh, sure,” I mutter. Crap. Why am I such a pushover?
“Thank you so much,” he says. And he smiles up at me—that’s an adorable smile he’s got going for him. “I really appreciate it. Really.”
Well, at least he’s nice.
“Do you want me to bring photocopies to the next lecture?” I ask.
Wheelchair Guy shakes his head. “No. There’s a copy machine down the hall. You’re not in a rush to go anywhere, are you?”
No, I’m not. He really scoped that one out. I’ve got the whole night to spend making photocopies for crippled guys.
I follow Wheelchair Guy out of the classroom and down a hallway, then down a second hallway to this alleged copy machine. He’s crazy fast in that damn chair. I actually start getting winded running after him.
“I’m Brody, by the way,” he tells me.
“Oh,” I puff. I’m starting to sweat a little bit. Good thing I’m wearing black.
He gives me a crooked grin. “This is the part where you tell me your name.”
“Right,” I say. My cheeks turn red, but I swear, it’s mostly because I’m so winded. “I’m Emily.”
“Is this is your first class here, Emily?” he asks me.
“No,” I say. “I took Database Management Systems last year.”
“How was it?”
“Not the best,” I admit. “Sort of dull.”
“What a shock.” Wheelchair Guy, a.k.a. Brody, laughs. And you know what? He actually has a very cute laugh.
After we’ve been wandering around for what literally feels like half an hour and have practically toured the entire building, we find the damn copy machine. As we come to a stop in front of the machine, I hold my notebook out to Brody, who looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. “Could you make the copies for me, please?” he asks me.
Yeah, I’m dumb. Obviously a copy machine would be challenging for him.
“Right,” I say, trying to hide my embarrassment. I lift the top of the copy machine and put the first page of my notes face-down on the screen. I press “print” and it prompts me for a password. Before I can ask, Brody recites, “4-2-6.”
I type it in and the machine whirs to life. “How’d you get the password?” I ask him.
“Oh, I know people,” he says, winking at me. “Now you’re not going to abuse it and make like a zillion copies, are you?”
“No,” I say. (Although between you and me, I had been thinking I might be able to use it for occasional photocopying needs.)
“Because if you do, I may have to turn you in to the campus police,” Brody says, grinning at me. “Abuse of the copy machine is a pretty major offense around here.”
I know he’s kidding, but I swear, after he says that, I’m too scared to even consider using the copy machine for my own purposes.
There are three pages of notes, so I get them copied and try to hand the pages to Brody. He starts to take them from me with his limp wrists, but then thinks better of it. “Do you think you could put them in my backpack? Please? It’s on the back of my wheelchair.”
There’s a small gray backpack hung on the back of his wheelchair, which I unzip to slide the notes inside. I notice the back of his neck has a long well-healed scar that starts just below his hairline and disappears into his shirt.
“Thanks a lot,” Brody says to me. “I really appreciate it.”
“No problem,” I say. Even though it actually was sort of a pain in the neck. My thighs are feeling chafed from running after him, and my breasts are itching up a storm. If it were socially appropriate, I’d start scratching right now.
We face each other for a minute, and I know I’m staring but I can’t help it. Brody’s wearing a gray T-shirt that’s got a hole in the sleeve. There’s a thick belt that goes across his belly, which I guess is to help hold him in the chair, although he doesn’t look like he’s in any danger of falling out.
“How are you getting home?” he asks me.
“Bus,” I say.
“Oh, me too,” he says. “Uptown or downtown?”
“Downtown,” Brody says regretfully.
I let out a quiet sigh of relief. I mean, Brody is a nice guy and all, but I’m tired and all I can think about is going home. I’m not a social person, and it’s not like Brody and I are going to end up being great friends or anything. Better to keep thing simple.
Although there are some New Yorkers who have cars, most of us rely on public transportation. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and you don’t have to worry about cab drivers flashing you the finger during midtown traffic.
I’d prefer to take the subway. The subway clientele are several orders of magnitude crazier than the bus clientele, so it’s easier to blend in. After all, why would anyway stare at me when there’s a demented guy humping a pole? But—and it’s really hard to admit this—in the last year, it’s become a bit of a tight squeeze to get through the subway turnstile. I’ve actually gotten a little worried that I’ll get trapped in it at some point, which has made me shy away from the subway. Anyway, there’s a bus line that runs straight from the university to my apartment.
Today, the bus ride home is miserable. Usually after my classes, it’s pretty empty on the bus, but maybe there’s some event or something going on in the city, because at least three-quarters of the bus is filled when I get on it. I examine the remaining seats, contemplating my options, and finally squeeze into the outer seat of a double front-facing seat. I don’t like the front-facing seats because they don’t give me as much room, but it’s really my only option if I don’t want to stand. And after working all day and taking classes all night, I don’t want to stand.
Of course, it’s too much to hope for that I can just have a quiet bus ride home.
About halfway home, these two adolescent boys board the bus. By now, almost all the seats are taken, and one of the only empty ones is next to me. But I’m going to be honest: there isn’t really room in that seat for another person. I don’t take up two entire seats, but I definitely take up at least a seat and a half. Maybe a small child could fit in next to me. But definitely not an adult.
So anyway, one of the boys pokes the other, and they start snickering. I know they’re laughing at me—I have a sixth sense about this sort of thing. But I just stare straight ahead and hope to God that they just keep it to themselves and don’t feel compelled to say anything.
But like I said, I’m never lucky.
After about a minute of giggling, one of boys says to me, “Hey, how many fares did you pay for?”
I turn my head away from him and don’t answer, hoping he’ll give up when I ignore him.
Yeah, that doesn’t happen.
“Hey,” he says again. “Did you pay for two fares? Because you’re taking up two seats!”
Ha ha. Hilarious. I never heard that one before. What a creative and brilliant comment.
“I think you should pay a second fare,” he continues. “One for you and one for your fat ass.”
I wish I were the kind of fat girl who could speak up to a jerk like that. I could tell him that he’s short and that his soul patch makes him look like a pathetic loser. Or I could just say something about how I’m proud of my body, no matter what anyone else thinks of it.
But I’m not that kind of girl. So instead, I just sit there, my heart pounding. I’m actually a little nervous that everyone else on the bus is going to rally up and make me pay a second fare. The truth is, I wouldn’t mind paying for two fares on the bus if it meant I’d just get left alone. But it’s not about that.
Finally, I hear the voice of an elderly woman speak up from the seat in front of me: “You two kids leave that poor girl alone right now! What the hell is wrong with you?”
The boys just laugh again, but they don’t say anything more, and move to the back of the bus. I feel relief wash over me. They’re gone. It’s over—at least for now.
“Don’t let yourself be bothered by stupid kids like that,” the old woman says to me, turning halfway in her seat. She’s solidly built, and feisty, despite her white hair. Even though she rescued me, I cringe. The last thing I want is to talk about what just happened. Also, I know where this is going.
“Yeah,” I mumble.
“You’re such a pretty girl,” she continues, beaming at me. “Beautiful face. You just need to lose a few pounds and you wouldn’t have to deal with losers like those kids.”
“Yeah,” I mumble again.
“And then maybe you could get a nice boyfriend,” she adds.
Christ, this is almost worse than the two kids harassing me. Why does she assume I don’t have a boyfriend? Just because I’m alone on a city bus at nine o’clock at night and I’m (apparently) morbidly obese? Maybe I do have a boyfriend! Maybe I’m dating some wonderful, sexy guy, and I’m on my way to see him right now.
Except obviously I’m not really.
The sad truth is that not only do I not have a boyfriend, but I’ve never had a boyfriend. And here’s my biggest confession of all:
I’ve never kissed a boy.
That sounds bad. But then again, I’m only 24. I’m not 50. There are plenty of years ahead of me for boy-kissing. Although between my morbid obesity and my boob fungus, I really don’t seem to be moving in the right direction.
Plenty of fat girls have boyfriends. But I’m not some outgoing girl who knows out to flirt and how to wiggle my big ass. I’m shy, especially around boys. And since they’re not exactly falling over themselves to get to know me, that means I’ve been perpetually single. I’ve been on dates, thanks to set-ups by my friends and family, but none resulted in even a second date, much less a romantic good night kiss.
Do I want a boyfriend?
Sometimes. Sometimes I want it so much, it’s physically painful.
But at the same time, I’ve never known anything besides being single. I’m used to it. I have plenty of diversions to occupy my time. It really isn’t all that bad.
To be continued....