Thursday, October 23, 2008

There Was Blood

The following is comprised of the faint recalling of an incident, probably best left buried in the bottom drawer of my memory, and a dash of literary license to flesh out the details.

It was the winter of 1998. A Monday morning. I sat in the waiting room of our local GP, my mother on the chair next to me. To everyone else in the doctor's office, she seemed completely engrossed in the celebrity gossip rag she was reading, but to me, her expression was saying two distinct things at the same time. Number one, "I hope nothing terrible is wrong with you", and number two, "You'd better hope something is actually wrong with you for me to leave work and pull you out of school for this." She managed to communicate this without even as much as a glance in my direction. I kept quiet and thumbed through an old Reader's Digest. The feature article was about the Statue of Liberty, and although the monument had never held my interest in the past, I absorbed myself in the text. Anything to keep my mind from wandering towards more pressing matters.

Just as I was educating myself on the Statue of Liberty's French counterpart, the doctor swung open his door and read my name from a clipboard. As we followed the good doctor in, my mother raised her eyebrows and narrowed her gaze at me, as if to say "the next few minutes are going to be a true test of your resolve, young man". She knew what was to follow. I, on the other hand, did not.

An hour or so earlier, I was trying to persuade the school receptionist to let me call my mother.

"You don't seem very ill," she said, unconvinced.

"It's kind of embarrassing," I replied. "I'd rather not say what it is."

She looked me over from top to bottom, as if the invisible ailment would somehow make itself known to her. Eventually she shrugged, gave in, and handed me the phone.

"Mum, you need to come and get me."

"What's wrong? Are you okay?" There was genuine concern in her voice.

"I think I'm sick."

"What's wrong? Are you agito?" My mother has a habit of inserting Italian words and phrases into her speech. It's not that she didn't know how to say "upset stomach" in English, just that she was so used to hearing certain phrases from her own parents, that they trickled down a generation to our own ears.

"Kind of," I replied, somewhat cryptically.

"What do you mean, 'kind of'?"

"I'm just sick. Come and pick me up."

"Joseph, I'm not picking you up if you're not actually sick. Are you trying to get out of school again?"

"No!" I almost yelled, infuriated at the accusation.

"Then tell me what's wrong with you."

I sighed and palmed my forehead with my free hand. "Okay. So I went to the toilet, and after I went, when I looked down... there was blood."

"Blood? Where?"

"In the toilet."

I felt someone's gaze on me, and when I looked up, the receptionist's eyes darted frantically around the room, desperately trying to look every which way but mine.

"Oh my God. Are you okay? Are you sore?"

"Can you just come and pick me up?"

I spent the next ten minutes sitting in silence. There was a palpable tension between the receptionist and I, and it was clear that she had heard more than she'd cared to. She began busying herself with pointless tasks, clearly overcompensating for her discomfort. I watched as she photocopied some blank pieces of paper and then stapled them together. When a young student walked up to her desk and asked her for a tissue, she spent five minutes showing him how to correctly blow his nose. She was occupying herself any way she could. Anything to avoid turning her attention back to me. Anything to avoid the mental image of a toilet bowl full of dark red feces.

Of course, there was no such toilet bowl. And there were no such feces. At least none that I knew of. I had crafted that particular scenario entirely out of my imagination. It was the perfect excuse, born of years of experience with this sort of thing. It was not too minor as to be ignored, and yet not too outrageous as to be seen through as a lie. The imaginary evidence had been flushed away, unable to be sighted, yet unable to be denied. The proof was in the shame of it all. I mean, who would possibly invent such an embarrassing situation for themselves? It had to be believed. It was foolproof. Watertight. At least, that's what I thought.

As expected, the proceedings in the doctor's office were going as planned. My mother explained the situation, and the doctor set about giving me the as-usual once-over. Tongues were depressed, "ahs" were uttered and deep breaths were deeply breathed.

"Have you had a movement since then?" The doctor asked as he knelt in front of me, his icy cold stethoscope pressed against my chest.

"A movement?"

"He means, a bowel movement, Joseph. Have you been to the toilet again?"

"Oh," I replied. "No."

"Okay, well why don't you hop up onto this bed here." He unhooked the stethoscope from his ears and patted the thin, vinyl mattress on wheels behind him.


Between pulling down my shirt and climbing onto the hospital bed, I caught a glimpse of my mother. She had an unexpected expression on her face. It wasn't the gentle concerned countenance that a mother has for her ill child, nor was it the stare of accusation of a mother seeing through her child's rouse. It was something else entirely. Her scalp and ears were sitting a little farther back on her head than normal, and there was anxiety in her eyes. It was as if she herself were the one hopping up on the hospital bed, and she was positively dismayed at that prospect. It should have been fair warning of what was to follow, but it wasn't until the words came out of the good doctor's mouth that the pin finally dropped.

"Could you pull down your pants please Joseph?"

What? Could I do what? Suddenly, blood filled my head and my ears started burning. My throat seized up a little and I struggled eek out a reply. I looked at my mother, who's expression now read "this is going to hurt me as much as it's going to hurt you." Then I looked at the doctor, who was casually blowing into a latex glove.

I don't know if time actually slowed down or if my thoughts were moving at a pace heretofore unknown to me. I knew I had to act quickly. Was this a trick my mother and the doctor were pulling to catch me out? Were they in league together? Were they waiting for me to snap and admit that I made the whole thing up, that there never was any blood in the toilet, that, in fact, I hadn't actually taken a dump since the night previous?

I steeled myself. Suddenly, two disparate futures materialised in my mind.

In the first, I break down, crying out a guilt-ridden confession. My mother apologises to the doctor, yanks me out of the surgery and drives me back to school, and I'm a blubbering mess the whole way there. The receptionist shakes her head disapprovingly as I shuffle through the entrance. She is a prison guard and I the recently escaped convict, my feet now re-shackled and my hands cuffed tightly behind my back.

In the second, I lay on a bed. My bed. In my room. At home. A glass of chocolate milk by my side and a Sega controller in my hands. Peace. Freedom. The entire day to myself. An infinity of possibilities, unhampered by the fascist regime of the six-hour school day.

It was clear what needed to be done. A simple sacrifice was all it would take. An unbuttoning of the waistband, and a surrender to the long, cold finger of fate.

1 comment:

A.I. is shit. said...


Well spelled.

Now, you didn't get to it; is it actually bad to find your feces blood drenched? all?!