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Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.

10/23/2005

DIARY OF INDIGNITIES
My Ass is the Worst Place on Earth
So a couple of months ago I squirted some blood out of my ass.

Unlike most of the blood that drips or sprays out of the various parts of my abused or perhaps just fragile body, this particular emission sent me on an exciting, magical adventure; one in which I ventured far and wide to seek the counsel of wise sages while navigating the tricky, treacherous mazes of the dread behemoth spoken of in whispers and curses as "the HMO."

I have emerged from this odyssey a changed man. I have gazed upon things not many see, and with good reason, because these things are really kind of gross. And I now know things about myself; things borne of intimacy and insight so brutal they'd give the most intrepid navel-gazing Tibetan monk pause... Self-knowledge so fiercely honest it'd positively cauterize the gray matter of a lesser man, reducing him to a bespectacled goofball trapped in endless adolescence, one pimping out half-assed, embarrassing stories and mocking his family on the Internet in order to get the positive reinforcement denied him in his dead-end career or trainwreck social life... Yes, the things I've experienced would take a normal human and reduce him to a bald, self-loathing creep who hunches over a sticky keyboard typing inanities into cyberspace while real life continues just outside the crumbling shards of his... Wait, what?

You know, it wasn't even that much blood. Maybe a tablespoon's worth. Shoot, I've lost more than that during haircuts, or vigorous nose-picking. But you have to go get shit like ass-blood checked out. I mean, a variety of mundane things such as hemorrhoids or small elves can make blood come out of your ass. But sometimes ass blood is a symptom of something serious, like cancer, or large elves.

So I called the doctor. I'm not a big fan of going to the doctor. I'd much rather conflate any symptoms I have into something potentially fatal, so I can walk around grumbling and hating everything and putting off paying bills and imagining all the awesome things I'm going to do to my enemies the day before I finally kick the bucket. But ass blood... You can't really conflate ass blood.

Now, usually it takes a few weeks to see the doctor. At least. I reckon they want that cough or twinge to really work itself up into something good, something expensive and chronic and debilitating, before you go bothering them. I know if I was a doctor I'd get pretty pissed every time Grandmaw Dustpussy hobbled in with some phantom complaint like a broken hip, just because there was a mix-up with Social Security and her cable got cut off and she can't talk to the TV during Matlock and needs a little attention, with her stupid hip, a boo hoo hoo. No, Granny better get, like, tuberculosis in her eyes or spine worms or something awesome before she goes stinking up my waiting room. And, oh shit — if I was a doctor I'd totally be up to something nefarious, too, like making a Frankenstein in the back room or inventing a ray that gives you the plague. So I totally understand the delay, and don't begrudge those guys anything.

But it turns out that when you have ass blood it kind of moves you to the head of the line. At first, I was like, "Shit, only two days? That's awesome." But then I started thinking, "Man, they wouldn't rush you in there if they didn't think you were gonna, you know... Die."

I mulled that shit over for a bit, and then did the only sensible thing: look up ass blood on the Internet.

Most of the time, punching any sort of symptom into Google is fuel for an instant, brain-shattering panic attack. This time, though, it was actually a little reassuring. Like I said, just about everything can give you ass blood. I had no idea. Sure, my psoriasis sometimes causes a little streak or two to show up on a sheet of buttwipe, but I swear... Just sneeze more than four times in a row or eat a big glob of peanuts or something and wait and see if your ass doesn't barf up a little hemoglobin in response.

Still, the few serious things that'll give you ass blood tend to be really, really, really serious, so I did manage to work myself up a bit, just out of habit as much as anything. But my Internet investigations seemed to point at something called an anal fissure as the cause. Not serious. Just... Delightful!

A few days later I stroll into the doc's. I'm not really insane or anything, because I'm fairly sure my ass is OK, but I am a little on edge. Partially because there's always the chance I have something terrible lurking up my pooper, or I reckon I should say something more terrible than usual, which is pretty damn terrible. But also because I know what's going to happen to me in there: a man is going to put his finger in my butt. A man that doesn't even love me.

I'm keeping my composure, though. My butthole is scrubbed nice and clean, so as to make the experience pleasant for at least one of us.

But there's a problem. My employer has switched from something called a PPO to something called an HMO, and I discover up at the check-in that my doctor apparently doesn't play nice with the HMO.

"Mr. Hughes, I'm sorry, but you're no longer our patient," says the nice lady at the counter.

I stand there for a few seconds, stunned and not sure what to do. There doesn't really seem to be anything I can do, at least there at the little doctor window, so I shrug and head back out to my truck. But I can feel my anxiety and anger rising — I mean I have ass blood. I need to get that shit checked out. They move you up to the front of the line for ass blood.

"Who?" I think, sitting in my truck. "Where? Where can I get a man to finger my ass? Why does it have to be so... damn... hard... to simply get a goddamn man to finger me up in my ass?"

Fuming, I head back to the office and start asking fellow employees for recommendations and manning the phone. Seems like most of the doctors in the fucking HMO aren't taking new patients. And you can't go directly to an ass specialist — the douchebag HMO makes you get routed through some family doctor or whatever. After a few calls, I'm frankly starting to freak out. I can feel the giant elves in my ass dancing around with glee and mining gallons of my precious ass blood, knowing the stupid HMO has bought them a reprieve.

I take out my insurance card and contemplate using it to just get it all over with and sever my damn jugular vein right there at my desk, and notice I already have a family doctor. His last name is the same as my original doctor — looks like some genius over there at HMO central just swapped the dude out when they noticed my original physician didn't want shit to do with the HMO. I'm impressed with the simplicity of such a move — someday, when I become a faceless, paper-pushing cocksucker, safely insulated from culpability by several thick layers of beige bureaucracy, I hope to employ the same uncomplicated grace in resolving any conflicts I may come across. Anyway, I fight off a bout of facial tics and decide to ring up this new doctor and see if they'll finger my ass for me, or what.

Turns out they will see me, and on that very same day! Ass blood can really open doors.

A few hours later, I'm in another office, filling out form after form and staggering under the deluge of pamphlets informing me that federal HIPAA regulations insure that no pictures of the inside of my ass nor accounts of me getting all ass-fingered will turn up on the Internet, plus if I die they're just going to chuck me in the back dumpster and not tell my family and also everyone that's going to be fingering my ass that day will be wearing a blindfold, which come to think of it is probably just as much for their protection as mine, morning scrub or not.

A nurse takes my blood pressure.

"Whoah," she says.

I'm a little concerned. "What?"

"Let's try this again," she says. "Hmmm... Wow."

Now I'm really concerned. "What?!"

"Shit, dude, how are you even alive?" she says. Apparently, my blood pressure is like 160 over 110.

She goes to fetch the doctor while I wonder if this is somehow related to my ass blood. Maybe it's the cause? Like, my pressure is so high that I'm just going to occasionally shoot a little out of my ass, so I don't blow an eyeball gasket or something?

Six hours later the doc comes in and takes my blood pressure again. It's a little lower, 150 over 100. Apparently this isn't good.

"When's the last time you had a checkup, Patrick?" he says.

"Man, I don't know... I had my appendix out last summer. I reckon they had a pretty good look around then," I say. "Am I just falling to pieces here?"

He fixes me with a blank look. "I don't know," he says. That's reassuring. "Let's schedule you for a physical next Tuesday. Now, what's the problem today?"

"Well, doc, I got ass blood," I say. "I need you to check it out, finger me in the ass or whatever. I scrubbed it, but frankly I don't envy you much. Oh, I'm pretty sure it's a fissure. I had a strangely big poop last week and felt a tearing sensation, right about at 6 o'clock."

He gets all perky when I mention the location.

"Why, that's the classic location! Six o'clock and 12 o'clock. Yes sir!"

Mustache bristling with excitement, he starts sketching out a little diagram for me, one reminiscent of something I once saw in that Breakfast of Champions book.

butthole

He points to the 6 and says, "Yup, you'll see the fissure about here, and of course the taint and scrotum are right below it, down here, and..."

"Whoah, whoah, whoah, doc," I say. "My taint and scrotum are up at 12 o'clock." Doesn't this guy know his anatomy?

We look at his drawing for a minute or two and try to sort it out before it hits him.

"Oh, here's the problem. we're just turned around a bit. I'm usually looking at it from the opposite side, you see," he says.

Oh... Ah yes. That reminds me.

He takes my hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. "I think it's time," he says, gazing into my eyes. I sigh and nod.

I drop my trousers and underpants, put my hands on his table, bend over and stare straight ahead. My eyes are only inches from his office wall, but all I see are faraway clouds and blue, blue sky.

"Oh yeah... I see it," he says. His voice echoes, distant. "Yup... Oh, it's a classic, right where you said it was. It even has a little lip on it... Right... THERE."

And he pokes me. Fucking pokes me, right in my fucking fissure. Hard.

That shit hurt.

"Alright, ramrod, you found the damn thing," I say. "There's no need to see how deep it is."

Sheepishly, he removes his finger with an audible pop. I pull my pants on and glare at him for a few seconds. After a deep, soulful tongue kiss, I gather up my battered shreds of dignity and head out.

"I'll... I'll... I'll see you Tuesday," he says. "I'll be thinking about you."

Yeah yeah, that's what they all say, I think.

Meanwhile, I have several days until Tuesday, time which I can use to further explore the various ailments and conditions related to the ass and ass blood. I'm relieved that my fissure was so quickly and easily identifiable, but can't shake the feeling something abormal is brewing down in my shitter, something even more foul and unusual than the time I drank an entire bottle of Evan Williams and ate an entire bag of Oreos and shit a daunting volume of black, dusty pudding that filled the toilet to its rim.

You see, along with ass blood, one of the symptoms for colon cancer is narrow bowel movements, and I have those. At least sometimes. Frankly, I'm not much for examining the diameter of my poo, so I'm not sure. And it's not like I have a baseline to measure turds against or anything.

Fuck it, I thought. I'll just bring it up to the doctor during my physical. I've had a few friends who recently had colonoscopies and stuff done, even a few who've had surgery for growths and treatment for tumors and stuff. You never know.

I watch my poops closely for the next few days, though, and sure enough, a few of them come out long and flat, like someone jammed that damn Playdoh toy up my ass.

Tuesday rolls around and my new doctor sleepwalks through my physical. At least my blood pressure is normal — they figure all that nonsense from before was just me freaking out about my ass and the HMO and stuff.

At one point, I ask him, "Can we talk about some of the anxiety problems and stuff I've had?" Maybe it's time to address some of that stuff. But he doesn't even look up from his clipboard.

"No," he says.

I sit there for a while, trying to figure if all of a sudden out of nowhere he's learned about jokes. But no, he's not joking.

Noticing my hostile, bewildered stare, he says, "It's just not appropriate for a physical."

"OK, then, can I ask you about — "

"No," he says, going back to his clipboard.

Fucker. Apparently it's an HMO thing. No reason to be such a dick, though.

"Well, there is one thing I need to ask you about, doc. I read that narrow bowel movements can sometimes mean something serious, and I've been having pretty damn narrow movements."

He looks up, disinterested. "You have a fissure. I saw it," he says.

Yeah, you poked it, Dr. Fingers. "Well, I'm worried about it."

"Frankly, if you have anything in your colon big enough to narrow your bowel movements, you'll probably show some signs of anemia, and we'll see that in your blood tests," he says, sighing. "But if it'll make you feel better, we'll send you home with a fecal blood test."

Oh yeah, nothing will make me feel better than smearing my own filth on a card for three days and sending it through the mail and... Actually, you know, the mail thing is kind of appealing.

Doc Pokey wraps up his cursory physical and I head back to the office feeling like he kind of rushed me out of there. Guess I'm not that interesting when I'm not putting out, hmph.

I spend the next week obsessively watching my poops for variation in width and asking everybody I see, "Do I look anemic?"

But my blood tests and all come back alright. Still, those narrow poops are giving me the creeps. I feel a deep but fleeting sense of relief on days when I take a normal poop, and days when I take a big poop are cause for celebration. Unfortunately, the narrow poops persist.

I wait a few weeks until that damn fissure heals and start doing the test. Figures, though — I pop another ass seam a day into it, not like the last one, but enough to get a little blood on the toilet paper. That test is supposedly super sensitive and can detect, like, a molecule of ass blood, so it's all queered up now.

I fret over my situation for a week or so. It seems like every time I turn on the TV, there's some shit on the news like, "He seemed to be in perfect health, but a pernicious and hidden ass cancer took his life at the young age of 36," or a commercial for the Florida Ass Cancer Treatment Hut, where state-of-the-art medical technology can extend your painful, miserable life for three months, or that one Coldplay video that goes, "You're gonna die, yeah yeah, from ass cancer, shoulda got that ass blood checked out and now you're gonna croak, yeah yeah, or maybe shit in a bag for the rest of your life, whoah whoah."

Finally I call my doctor's office and request to see a specialist. I get put on hold, explain the situation with the fecal smear thingy to four or five people, and eventually leave a message on someone's voicemail. A week goes by, and nothing. I do it again. Another week, and I get a message that they've set something up for me, in about a month.

So after a month of staring at my poop every morning and gobbling fiber pills like Wilford Brimley I go to the ass specialist. Everybody in the waiting room is 1000 years old, and they all stare at me, no doubt thinking, "He seems to be in perfect health, but a pernicious and hidden ass cancer will take his life at the young age of 36, how sad. Not even the Florida Ass Cancer Treatment Hut will be able to help, I can tell just from looking."

The specialist is a pleasant Indian man who chats with me about my paltry excuse for a career for a few minutes. He's just pretending to be interested so I'll be distracted and he can slip me the ass finger, I think. But no — will wonders never cease, I am spared the fissure poke of doom this day.

"I'm fairly certain that there's nothing serious going on with you, Mr. Hughes, but we'll schedule a colonoscopy, just for peace of mind," he says.

Peace of mind... Peace of mind... That sounds nice. I wonder what that's like?

I fill out a billion forms and they schedule my procedure a month later. they also give me pages of preparation I have to follow before they Roto-Rooter that camera up there; food I need to avoid and pills I need to eat and there's something called phosphate soda I need to drink.

Ah, phosphate soda. Yes, after another month of obsessive poop-gazing, the week of my procedure rolls arrives and I start my low-residue diet. This isn't too bad — I switch from whole-grain bread to cheap white bread and eat peanut butter sandwiches all day long, plus boil up the occasional plate of spaghetti, dressed with only plenty of butter. Considering how strict my diet is most of the time (not that you could tell by looking at me), this part of the prep is actually kind of fun. Not so much the restriction to clear liquids the day before the "journey to the center of the earth," and certainly not that goddamn foul-ass phosphate soda. Man, that shit is rank. Imagine if seawater could go spoiled and you'll be in the ballpark.

On the label for that diabolical phosphate soda stuff it says "bowel cleanser," and there's some truth to that, I tell you what. You start shitting about 10 minutes after you chug that stuff, and you don't stop. I was rumbling and gurgling and spewing and running to the goddamn toilet all fucking day long, until nothing but a thin yellow foam sprayed out of my ass.

The next day I hobbled over to the Ass Center so I could get violated and inspected some more. I filled out four billion forms, got a blood test, the usual. They threw me on a gurney and wheeled me into a tiny little room where the ass-specialist and a few of his minions were waiting. The camera things they snake up your ass were hanging on a rack, and were pretty cool looking, all black and techno with numbers marking off every foot so they can place bets on how deep your ass goes and laugh at you and stuff.

I asked if I was going to get a copy of the video in this dealie, thinking it'd be a hit at Christmas, and they didn't even answer, just sneered and zapped me unconscious with a Taser and went to work.

I woke up all woozy from the roofies some point later. A nurse was watching over me.

"So what's the deal?" I asked.

"Well, your symptoms are the result of hemorrhoids, Mr. Hughes. And there's nothing serious. But they did find and remove a polyp."

Those camera snakes apparently have nail clippers or something on the ends and they can just snip that shit right out of there while they're tooling and rooting around in your pooper. Cool, huh?

I wasn't too upset by the revelation that there was in fact a little something extra a-growing up in my colon, because I knew from my Internet research that polyps were common and not too much to worry about. But I could already hear the I-told-you-so's from the chorus of hippies and commies and fuckers who got all up in arms about that shit I wrote where I poked a little fun at vegetarians. I swear, if there's one thing I hate about super-duper left-wingers, besides their hygeine and their dress sense and their politics, it's that their self-righteousness eclipses their humanity — you just know if I ended up having a tumor up there, some unwashed dickhead somewhere would actually be glad, because I made fun of his diet.

Well, before you crunchy types start in with the finger-wagging, let me just say that I don't actually eat all that much meat. And I eat a lot of cereal and buy whole-grain bread and eat whole-wheat pasta and fresh vegetables and fish and healthy shit like that almost every day, so lay off with the lectures. Shit, I was telling this girl at the bar what happened to me a week ago, and some winner standing next to me, who didn't even know me, much less had ever had supper with me, started hectoring me on my diet between puffs on her goddamn cigarette.

It's genetic. Shit's in my family. I eat healthy, with only occasional indulgences. Lay off. Jesus, I've been eating meat for fewer than 10 years. It's not my diet. It's just my horrible ass.

Anyway, the nurse started explaining what they were going to do with my little ass nubbin and such, and pulled out a report. I caught a glimpse of my polyp on one of the pages.

"OOOOH!!! OOOOH!!! Can I get a copy of that?!"

She seemed a little startled by my enthusiasm, but complied. And here it is!

polly

I named her Polly.

She was a cute little sessile nub, measuring about 4 mm. Tests confirm that she was technically precancerous (most are), but benign. Hell, I could have told them that. Just look at that sweet little juicy face. Would a polyp that adorable cause me any harm? C'mon.

You know, polyps are super common, even if they're not usually as cuddly as Polly, but they're supposed to be pretty rare before you get into your 50s or whatever (though I have to wonder how many colonoscopies they're doing on 30-somethings and if that doesn't skew the data). Between the polyp, the 'roids, the fissures, the elves, the red-ass, the psoriasis, the poop, the wart, the jock itch and the who-knows-what-else, I basically have the ass of a 100-year-old man. Just fantastic.

And let me tell you how awesome it feels to be standing in line at Publix with an armload of Preparation H, suppositories and various ass creams and salves: Why, it doesn't feel very awesome at all.

So that's that. Well, until three years from now, when they're going to ream me out again to make sure Polly doesn't have any little cousins. Only three years before I can once again taste the sweet nectar of my beloved phosphate soda; oh, how will I endure?

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