I finally saw my therapist Caroline and got to relieve myself by talking about Jeremy instead of merely thinking about him all day long. “What should I do?” I asked, because I really don’t make any difficult decisions without her. I’m one of those people who are dependent on their therapists, it seems. It could be worse, though; I could be dependent on drugs. Oh wait: I am. Nevermind.
“I think you should call him,” said Caroline. After all, she pointed out, couldn’t I call and let him know STI the test results? He might still think I had infected him.
I groaned. “No, I want him to call me.”
After a full forty five minutes of discussion, we agreed that I would wait until next Friday, and if I had hadn’t heard from him by then, I would send him an email and dump him on the grounds of not contacting me for three weeks; though arguably I would be this time have effectively been dumped by him. “I don’t want to get in touch now,” I said. I wanted to hold onto the last shred of my dignity with Jeremy. Ever since Christmas I’ve always been the one to initiate contact, and I’ve always been the one to suggest we get together. Caroline suggested he wasn’t contacting me because he thought I wasn’t interested in getting serious with him: “I’d like to think that, too,” I admitted. “But, really, if he liked me, he wouldn’t wait this long to get in touch. I’m going to wait until next Friday. That way at least I’ll have the moral high ground,” I grimaced.
“I just don’t want it to be like with Michael,” I added. When we were dating, I always called Michael, and I always asked if he wanted to do something. I convinced myself that it was just ‘cause he’s a boy, but it was actually that he didn’t really want to be with me. I never want to do that again, kidding myself and excusing a guy’s behavior instead of recognizing the truth, and demanding what I think is proper and respectful behavior from a guy I’m sleeping with. Like, you know, not waiting two weeks (on Saturday it will be two weeks) to get in touch.
So I walked downtown and when I got home I composed an email to Jeremy and then decided that I would not think about it until next Friday, when it will have been three weeks since we saw The Children of Men and I will have the right to be angry instead of just hurt and bewildered. So when I think about him, I keep on reminding myself that I’m not going to worry about it just now.
Anyway, if he hasn’t gotten in touch with me by next Friday, then Jeremy deserves to be dumped and he isn’t the man I’ve built all these fantasies about – namely, he’s not a nice person. Because it’s rude not to contact the person you had sex with for three weeks. This isn’t high school; he could tell me he doesn’t want to see me. Jerk.
When I went to the doctor after Jeremy told me he had been diagnosed with “bacteria” I was given a “full STD panel,” which is a misnomer since it checks for Chlamydia and gonorrhea only. I also had blood drawn for an HIV antibody test.
They told me results would be available in a week, so in a week I called. This was, coincidentally, the morning after The Big Threesome. I called from Jefferson’s apartment. “Your results aren’t in yet,” said the voice on the other line.
“But I was told they’d be ready in a week,” I whined.
“No, it takes a week to ten working days for the results to come in,” said the woman, who was clearly used to defending the “ready in a week” claims against anxious patients’ complaints. “Don’t worry, if anything’s wrong, we’ll call you,” she added, menacingly.
That was nine days ago. I was going to call on Monday, but I was temping and was afraid that if I did have an STI, I would be too upset to work properly. I temped yesterday too. And today I left my cell phone at home. But I was confident that nothing was wrong, since, as the woman on the phone had told me, they would call if there was a problem.
Tonight I got a phone call. I didn’t recognize the number that appeared on my phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is Christine,” said a voice, and I thought, It’s the woman from the doctor’s office. It was a woman with a medical voice; I just knew. “From Dr. Smith’s office,” she added.
Oh, God. “Yes?” I said in a very small voice.
“We got the results of your Pap smear; it looks like you have atypical cell change.”
“Oh?” Well, not gonorrhea, anyway. The blood was beating in my brain. “What does that mean?” Did I have atypical cell change because I was a slut?
“Now, you don’t have cancer, and this doesn’t mean you can’t have children,” Christine said, and I gathered this was her usual spiel. Then she added that I was not to worry. I hadn’t even thought about cancer or sterility until she mentioned it, but of course I was going to worry now. Then Christine said that I might have HPV. Oh, great: a precursor to cervical cancer. “We’d like to run a biopsy,” she added.
“When can I come in?”
“There’s an opening tomorrow,” said Christine. “Since you sound like you’re about to cry, do you want it?”
I swallowed. “Yes, thanks.” Had I done this to myself with all this sex? “Is this atypical cell growth sexually transmitted? Do I have anything?”
“You tested negative for Chlamydia and gonorrhea,” said the woman. “Now, don’t forget to eat. Lots of women come in here for a test thinking they weren’t supposed to eat, and then they get sick. Be sure to eat something.”
“Oh, I’ll certainly do that,” I said heartily, making an effort not to sound like someone on the verge of tears. I had a Pap smear eight months ago. If Jeremy hadn’t felt some “discomfort,” I wouldn’t have gone for another four months and my atypical cell growth could have become a tumor. Even though I’m feeling hurt and angry that he hasn’t been in touch, perhaps I should thank him.
“If you’ve ever had really bad cramps, you might want to take some ibuprofen about an hour before the biopsy.”
“OK,” I said, wondering how many I could take.
I hung at the phone and stared at nothing. Never in all the time since I’d gotten the Pap smear 16 days ago had it occurred to me that there might be something wrong me that wasn’t an STI. There’s no history of cancer in my family. Of course, I probably don’t have cancer. But I’m very disturbed.
I eventually called Marc, I wanted to tell someone. I’m going to tell Caroline and maybe Daniel, and that’s it. I won’t mention it to my mother unless the biopsy shows I’m all clear. If I do need to have surgery, I can just picture her response: “Oh Lily,” she’ll sigh. “How are you going to pay for that?”