My doctor is an old family friend and next-door neighbor. He and his family have spent countless nights eating dinner at each other’s houses over the years.
He also happens to be the only person other than myself who has seen my penis go through all its gross and growing stages from age 12-32. I often wonder if when he sees me out of the office and thinks to himself, “Oh, there’s Brendan. His penis curves to the left, I’ve cured it with creams and pills over the years, and when his shirt is off it looks like he has the body of an alcoholic bulldyke gym teacher in her late 50s.” Who knows? I’m a paranoid person that over-analyzes everything.
Having a family friend who just so happens to be your primary physician has its advantages and disadvantages, but the fact I have a personal “in” makes it a whole lot easier regardless of the fact that my parents’ neighbor has checked my prostate and touched my balls to check for cancer.
I’ve never had to make an appointment to see him and can breeze right past the sick people who look like zombies from Walking Dead while I’m wearing sweatpants and Gap hoodies and go directly in and ask for a room, I can get a few extra pills for my “anxiety” and I haven’t paid for a visit in 10 years because my dad basically kept my doctor’s son out of jail a while back. On the negative side there’s an awkwardness whenever I see him out of the office. Maybe it’s just my neuroses, but keep in mind he’s the only other man who’s touched my balls and dick, the only other man who’s seen the inside of my asshole when I got hemorrhoids a few years ago, the only man who has stuck a Q-tip in my penis to test for diseases, and he’s burned warts off my penis when I caught an STD a decade ago when I was reckless living in NYC.
A few years ago I went in for my yearly physical. I was home from Los Angeles over Christmas break and it was my birthday, so I went in to get a checkup and get all the necessary tests needed to make sure I can have kids one day and to make sure my blood and dick aren’t harvesting any diseases that could possibly ruin my life and reputation. Mind you, living in NYC and LA in my 20s had its perks followed by countless trips to the clinics and doctors.
So after he was done doing the necessary late-20s trip to the doc procedures and questions, he drew blood for a Hep-C, AIDS, and something else. Pretty standard. I asked if it was necessary and he said yes. I was confused because I’ve never shared a needle or done heroin, I’ve never banged a dude or have never been banged by a dude, and the times I’ve been to actual prostitutes I wore a condom. So I should be a green-light candidate of perfect health. I asked why I needed an AIDS test and he said it’s because I told him that I used cocaine in the past and have shared dollar bills and straws with other coke wolves at the witching hour. (Apparently you can contract diseases by sharing a straw with other people if they had an open wound or disease. I didn’t know because I never listened in health class.) Now paranoia has fully set in and my heart was beating.
Blood procedures for testing at the doctor’s office take far longer than clinics’ rapid testing. In the clinic you’re sitting in a dimly lit room sweating bullets and thinking about all the slam pigs I’ve “raw dogged” in bathroom bars on the LES, while waiting for them to test the blood as easy-listening music plays while staring at posters of positive gay dudes with AIDS playing touch football, and catching up on informative pamphlets about how live with Hep C. But at the doc’s office you have to wait like four days for the results to get back.
I shook his hand, made small talk about some funny thing my dad said a while back, and I walked out the door. He said he would give me a call on Friday to let me know the results, and said to not have sex or use coke ’til then. (At the time I was no longer a drug user, was clean for like two years, but had told him about my past.)
Between Monday and Friday I couldn’t stop obsessing over the fact that I had shared a blow straw with strangers and that I could possibly have HIV because of this.
Thursday night at 9pm the phone rang. My dad answered, I heard him laughing a bit, then he handed the phone over to me and said, “Dr. (blank) wants to talk.”
I nervously answered, “Hello?”
“Hey Brendan, it’s Dr. (blank).” I asked for the results. In a monotone voice he said, “So I’m legally not to tell you the results over the phone, but we got the results back this morning and I think you should come in first thing in the AM.”
My stomach dropped. “Well, is it bad?” I asked.
His vice got slower, “Yeahhh, I think it would just be best if you came in first thing. It’s not looking too good.” I said goodbye and went upstairs and crawled into bed. I barely slept and only focused on the fact that I now have AIDS because I shared a fucking straw with some random people to do shitty cocaine at a party at some point in my early 20s.
I started to compile a mental list of all the women I slept with from my last STD/AIDS test, which had been five years prior. First was the girl with the rose tattoo on her pelvis and the panther on her thigh, but I only caught chlamydia from her and my doctor was the one to stick the Q-tip up there. Second was the girl in college that I banged in the ass one drunken night at my apartment. She was black and had a boyfriend out in Brooklyn and if the news reports and statistics taught me anything its that HIV infects like 3 out of every 5 black guys, and I pictured him to be a thug bro on the DL. Panic now fully set in. I was actually feeling physically sick, much like an HIV-infected person would feel during the first few years. I remember watching an after-school special about Ryan White (the teen with AIDS) and there was a scene where he kept sweating and puking. That was me right now.
I couldn’t remember the final candidate, and I have a vivid account of all my sexual encounters. Maybe I was in a blackout one night and someone pricked me with an infected hypodermic needle? Maybe I did a key bump off a key one night that was previously stuck in an AIDS-infected man’s open wound? Maybe one of the infected needles at the free clinic I went to was accidentally put in with the other needles? Maybe I sat on a dirty toilet seat at a bar in NYC and forgot to make a nest on the seat and had a open pimple and all the AIDS juice leaked into the pimple home and has been laying dormant for years and now I finally caught “the bug”? My mind races so fast in situations like this. More importantly how was I ever going to tell my parents I had AIDS and how do you tell your past partners or current girlfriend that you’re a straight man living with the disease?
Woke up the next morning and didn’t bother to shower, brush my teeth, or put on normal clothing. Why bother? I have AIDS and I’m just going to die in a few years anyway. Went to Dunkin’ Donuts and could barely say “thank you” to the lady behind the counter without almost breaking into tears.
I got to the doctor’s office, my heart was already lodged in my stomach and I was expecting the worst. I was a wreck. I could see the next few years flash before my eyes, from telling everyone I got AIDS from sharing a coke straw, to casket-shopping with my mom, to having casting agencies pick me to be on the poster at all the clinics as the hipster face of someone living with AIDS taking an experimental drug to cure it, with a word bubble with some stupid quote like “Today is the first day of the rest of my NEW life” written inside. I was “positive” I just saw a lesion on my arm while I waited in the room.
The doctor came in and sadly said, “Good morning, Brendan.” I was already practically crying.
“Well, what’s the news?”
He said, “Brendan, what I’m about to tell you is something pretty serious and I want to make sure you’ll be able to handle what I am about to say.”
Boom. Right there my eyes did that camera trick in the movies when it stays still on the actor, but the rest of the surrounding world zooms back fast.
I asked, “I think I can handle it, so what’s the news??”
He said, “OK, so you tested Negative for Hep C. you tested negative for (some other disease which I forgot),” then he put down the folder and had a seat.
“What about AIDS!?” I aggressively asked.
He sat in the tiny chair they have in the rooms and scooted it near me. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Now as far as the HIV and AIDS results, Brendan I’m sorry to say this but you tested positive.” I almost fainted until he added, “You tested positive for having an awesome weekend!!”
I was so confused and asked, “So do I have AIDS?!”
He said, “HAHAHA, absolutely not! You’re clean as a whistle. Just start using condoms from now on and don’t pick up the old bad habits.”
I was speechless. My doctor just punk’d me into thinking I had AIDS and my dad was in on it.
He shook my hand and said, “Your dad is gonna love it when I tell this story at the table when I see them for dinner this weekend.”
I left the office shocked. I had never even pranked someone this hard in my life and I hang out with some pretty big jokesters. I called my dad, who picked up the phone laughing and said, “Well, are you going to live?”
This is the one disadvantage of having an old family friend who just so happens to be my doctor.
I made sure to wear a condom that weekend.