For several members of my family, health care reform was was one of the most compelling reasons for supporting Barack Obama.
“Republicans don’t care about your health, unless you are rich” one member stated.
My reply was that I was not aware that anyone cared about my health when I was a Democrat or poor. My first pap smear was when I was 22 years of age. Still a virgin on government welfare , I was placed in the waiting room of a free clinic. Many of the women waiting with me had three to five kids, screaming kids. I knew the wait would be long. It always was. Whether it was a 7 year old Afrocity stricken with a high fever from the mumps or a 22 year old Afrocity waiting for her first of many gynecological exams, the feelings of humiliation, fear and uncertainty remained the same. I hated going to the doctor. The circumstances of my social standing meant that I was destined for subpar care for the rest of my life.
“Are you here because you have an STD?” A white man of about 30, sat next to me in the waiting room. As mentioned earlier, this was a free clinic- it was in a very poor part of Houston, Texas. Dressed in a three piece suit and carrying a nice Coach briefcase, I could tell that he was not “one of us”. Looking around nervously, he asked me again, “Everyone is here because they have an STD right?”
“No,” I answered. “I am a virgin who is getting my first pap smear.”
“Sure.” He said in a smug tone of voice. “A friend told me to come here because lots of married guys come here when they don’t want anyone to know that they have an STD- no insurance records to trace…I am engaged and if my fiance finds out she will kill me.”
The boundaries of race and class seemed to have dissipated in favor of his need to confide in someone. I did not know why he chose me. There were other people in the waiting room, granted they looked sort of “crack headish” . Still why confide in some random 20 something year old woman?
“I was at this strip club,” he continued. ” and this stripper asked me to go into a private room. I was drunk and we began to grind.”
“With your clothes on?” I asked. Oh know don’t tell me that grinding with clothes on gave STD’s what would I do for fun with my dates now?
The man hesitated, as if he could not remember whether his clothes were on or not. “I think so…Anyway, now my dick burns when I take a piss.”
Wincing at the use of his language, I turned away from him saying that I was sure he would be fine. He kept shaking his head mumbling something about his fiance and how he would never put himself in this predicament again. “I mean look at this place,” he said. “We will all be lucky not to get a disease just from being here.”
Turned sideways in the orange plastic chair, my back was to him. A huge black nurse gruffly called my name. Finally I was called into a cold room for what would be the worst gynecological exam of my life. Inside there was an examining table, the paper cover had a spot of blood on it. I watched as the nurse rotated the roll to a clean sheet.
“Take off all of your clothes and put on this gown,” the nurse said throwing it at me. “Here, urinate in this and write your name on the cup.”
The gown was a faded green color and possessed a strong odor of pine cleaner. I particularly noted the bowl of large metal things – about six of them, soaking in a large metal bowl of white cloudy liquid. One of those were going to be inside of me, I thought. Taking my time stripping, the nurse came in before I was finished undressing. She did not bother to give me any additional moments of privacy. Once on the table, legs in stir-ups, she began asking me questions about my sexual history.
With that she grabbed one of the metal things from the bowl. I felt wet coldness and she was cranking something. I screamed “it hurts”
Suddenly, her mean face peered from behind the sheet covering my legs “Stay still NOW! I won’t tell you again.”
Again the cold metal thing pushed and hurt. In a moment of involuntary pissed off-ness, I kicked her in the face and jumped from the table. If looks could kill, that nurse would have had my face in that bowl of cloudy liquid, metal thingys and all. The examination was over. We both had enough.
In the next room, I was told that I had a yeast infection and to stop wearing tight bikini underpants in favor of cotton briefs.
“What do I do to get rid of the yeast infection?” I asked. “Will I get medicine?”
“This is a free clinic and we don’t give medication here,” she said. “Go get some yeast cure cream at a drug store or eat some yogurt for five days.”
On my way out, I saw the STD grinding white guy. He would not look at me but seemed relieved by the results of his exam. His nurse was white and they were chatting it up. Why her race mattered to me, I do not know but at the time I wondered if she would have been kinder than the black nurse I was given the displeasure of meeting.
Back in my dorm room, I was in pain. I did not have money for the yeast care cream. The yogurt was easily obtained from the school cafeteria. I took some aspirin, sleeping through my anthropology class. Feeling feverish I went to the bathroom. Perhaps a shower would cool me off. I also felt dirty my earlier experience, talking to that awful man who cheated on his fiance, those metal things in that bowl of liquid. When my panties dropped to the floor, they were speckled with blood. It was then that I knew, my virginity had been lost and that the violator was inhumane.
Autographed Letter Signed,