"It'll be okay," the doctor said with a wry smile. "I have thin fingers."
He didn't, though.
He really didn't.
I'd taken note of them when we'd met and shaken hands not twenty minutes prior.
The thing about hitching a ride on this good earth as she lazily rolls ever onward on her belly ... is that the more she rolls, the more each of us cracks and crumbles just a little bit under her weight.
This is not a revelation, of course. That's mortality for you. Time and tide, they say. Happens to the best of us.
One day you're ten years old, playing pick-up baseball in the vacant lot around the corner from your house, and the next ... well, you look up and you're smack in the middle of middle age.
And when that day comes, you'd better be ready for a stranger with a wall of diplomas to be two knuckles deep in your ass.
And hopefully, for your sake, that stranger will be a doctor.
"Number 1? I don't mean to tell you your job, Doc, but if #1 is what you're looking for, you've got the wrong hole."
For the purposes of our discussion, I consider the Stages of Life to break down into 30-year chunks as follows:
30-60: MIDDLE AGED
90+: THE BONUS ROUND
By that reckoning, since I was essentially within hours of my 45th birthday last week, that put me dead smack in the exact geographical middle of middle age. I was straddling, almost to the minute, the International Date Line between the first and (hopefully) second half of my life.
So I knew what to expect at this check-up. And I really thought I had prepared myself for it. I thought I had steeled myself. Thought I was ready.
After all, that's his job, I reasoned. And he'd be a bad doctor if he didn't do his job.
Did I want him to be a bad doctor? No. No, of course not.
The rest of the physical had gone off without a hitch. Nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it was going pretty well so far.
Still, I knew he was going to say it. And when those words inevitably came, I told myself, I was going to take everything in stride and behave like an adult.
"I'm gonna need you to drop your shorts and bend over the exam table," he said, snapping on a rubber glove.
There it was.
Here we go.
We've prepared for this.
Tooootally ready for it.
"It works better if you back up into it."
"It works better."
"If I ..."
"... back ..."
"If you back up into it, yes."
I was expecting the "drop your shorts" part ... but ...
What the shit?!
Did it really work better? Or was was he just lazy. (Both could be true, I suppose.)
Now, I'm no medical expert, so I can't speak to the clinical efficacy of the "backing up" technique. But can tell you that the chaotic hot-air popper of thoughts suddenly ping-ponging around the inside of my skull at that moment were equal parts confusion, alarm and surprise with a liberal dash of "wait-what-now?".
In the course of just a few seconds, without a single rehearsal, I rocketed from being a reluctant audience member in our gross little play, to the headliner with his name on the marquee.
I was suddenly complicit in the act. I was the one doing it, not him.
Because technically, he didn't stick his finger up my ass ... I shoved my ass all over his finger!
(Which, incidentally, would make the most horrifying Peanut Butter Cup commercial ever.)
"Show me on the doll where the chocolate touched your peanut butter."
So while my mind spun, trying and failing to grapple with a panicky miasma of irrational thoughts, my body dutifully just backed up and got on with it.
My brain had essentially short-circuited and needed a second to reboot and my body took over. By the time my mental start-up screen returned, he was snapping off his glove.
Was it --? Was that ... it?
He couldn't possibly be done with his traumatic, invasive plunging about. No way. I must have mis-heard. He must be snapping on a second glove because this was about to get extra horrible. After all, he had four more fingers and a whole palm to jam in there. Not to mention another hand and a couple of feet.
I gripped the exam table harder and braced for the worst.
But all I got was a reassuring tap on the shoulder.
Was it ... was it ... ?
That couldn't have been it, my mind yelled at me. Was he seriously just casually chatting away as though he wasn't about to go groping around my large intestine like a bear scooping out paw-fuls of grubs from an old log? Stand-up comedians and sit-coms have told me my entire life that this will be a singularly upsetting and traumatizing experience. THEY WOULDN'T LIE TO ME! WOULD THEY?! WOULD THEY!?
"You can get dressed and come on back to my office when you're ready."
And he was gone.
But the thing was ... I didn't actually remember it happening.
I guess maybe it does work better if you back up into it.
Till next we meet ...