I’m walking back to work carrying a bag of office supplies in each hand when I hear my phone ring. It’s beautiful out, sunny but cold and crisp and I look up at the sun for a moment before putting my bags down and reaching for my phone.
My caller ID reads ‘Dr. Miller’. ‘That’s strange,’ I think, and then ‘I forgot to buy black ink’ and then ‘Maybe Bria will meet me for a drink after work.’
“Hello?” I answer casually, without a care in the world, as though this were any phone call.
“Please hold for Dr. Miller.” The receptionist’s voice is smooth and warm and the sun is so nice on my face and isn’t it strange that my doctor is calling me and not the other way around and maybe I’ll get drunk after work and then it hits me. And then a sharp searing pain in my forehead and then a wave of nausea. I feel the blood rushing to my head and my knees dip. I had a pap test. I had a pap test two weeks ago and my doctor tested for STDs.
The tears come immediately, as though they had been on standby for the phone call. My bags have tipped over and packs of paperclips and staples are falling to the ground and I am standing in the middle of a sidewalk on a busy street in Toronto and I am full out sobbing.
“Amanda? This is Dr. Miller.” Her voice is a little too stern, like she’s trying to cover something up or hold something back.
A soft “yes” is all I can vocalize. My phone is covered in snot and is slippery against my ear.
“Amanda, where are you?”
My heart drops into my stomach. This is really happening. I’m dying. I can hear it in her tone. It’s the tone that says ‘Amanda, you’re dying but I want you to remain calm about it.’ I wrap my hand around my neck.
“Amanda, I need you to come to my office right now.”
I hang up the phone and swallow hard, picking up my things with shaky hands, so ashamed that my last task at work will be purchasing binders and ballpoint pens. A new wave of tears come as I think of how horrible it’s going to be to tell my boss why I have to quit.
I slip back into the office and quietly collect my things. Luckily he’s so busy that when I say I have to leave early, my boss barely looks up from his desk.
My doctor’s office is just blocks away, something I have never been more grateful for. I take slow, deliberate steps because everything around me is rocking.
The men. The poor men. The ex-boyfriends that I’ll have to track down just in case, that I had never wanted to speak to again. The one night stands whose phone numbers I had kept in my phone for a rainy day. And then the men I won’t be able to find, the ones who’s numbers I never took, who’s last names I never knew, who’s first names I’ve forgotten. Who are walking around right now having no idea of what their insistence on not using a condom has led to. All these men who had graciously offered me pleasure and affection and even love were now being punished for having been seduced by me.
When I get to the doctor’s office, I can’t bear to check in. I take a seat in the corner of the waiting room, as far away as I can get from the only other woman there. When I’m finally able to lift my eyes from the floor and look at her, I realize she’s pregnant. I start to cry again.
“You’ve tested positive for Hepatitis C,” my doctor tells me once I’m sitting down in front of her.
Because I have no idea of what Hepatitis C is, I can imagine the worst. Itchy red hives all over my body, a throat filled with mucus and blood,chronic diarrhea and hemorrhoids. I’m so caught up in my worst nightmares that I miss my doctor’s proper explanation of the disease.
She reassures me that false positives are common, that this could easily be a mistake. But I know I have it. I’m positive.
My doctor sends me upstairs for a retest. As the lab technician draws my blood, I see into my future. In and out of hospitals, needles and IVs and tubes coming in and out of all the intrusive places. And my parents. I’ll have to tell them. It’ll kill my dad. His little girl has an STD.
I’ve been careless and hedonistic. I like sex too much. I like men too much. The sexual prowess I had seen as empowering and liberating had been stupid and meaningless and had made me a target for disease. This happens to people. This happens to people like me who behave like I behaved. My life story will be used as a morality tale on the dangers of casual sex.
And then I’m sure that I must be having a nervous breakdown because I think of God. Of the God I hadn’t thought about since I was a kid. ‘Is this what a spiritual awakening is?’ I wonder. Typical that mine would come in the form of an STD. Is God is doing this to me? Is God teaching me?
When I get home, I leave off all the lights. I sit on my bedroom floor and close the door, wrap my arms around myself. I close my eyes and I pray. I pray to the God I haven’t spoken to since I was 7 years old. I apologize for not having been in touch, and for skipping the family seders the last few years. I apologize for not having always been the best person, and for making mistakes. I apologize for the sex and the drugs and the rock n’ roll and the tattoos and my verbal abuse of Benjamin Netanyahu. And I pray for forgiveness. I pray for things to turn out okay.
The next day I get a phone call that my test results came back negative.
And with that news comes a reparation of all that had disintegrated the day before. My confidence in my sexuality is reinstated. The guilt about my sex life disappears. My conviction that Benjamin Netanyahu is a schmuck and deserves everything coming to him returns. And as for that weird God moment?
I can’t help but feel a shift in perspective. Maybe I’m not the resolved atheist I thought I was. Maybe I’m more undecided than that.
Plus I love to announce at dinner parties that I found God by way of a pap test. And when I did find Him, His message was to always use a condom.
Lick My Knish is a forum for sex-positive feminist expression with a bissel of Jewish neurotic sparkle and political incorrectness.