To The Chopping Block
The young man stood no more than five feet from the operating table, hands in pockets, uneasily gazing at the traffic outside. Cars, trucks, ambulances, and police vehicles rushing to and fro, with no aim in sight other than the cyclical nature of humanity’s desire for pleasure, power, or possessions. Why are ambulances called krankenwagen in Germany? Who would want to ride in a sick wagon for any reason? Germans are weird. Those were his thoughts as two nurses stood, one on each side of the bed, hands to their sides, each looking nowhere in particular.
“So, what would you like me to do?” Asked the young man. “I’ve never done this before.”
Both nurses exchange a quick look, some joke passing between them in that glance. The young man picked up on this but returned his gaze to the cars rumbling and tumbling outside. The older nurse, a motherly Filipino lady with rectangular glasses and blue scrubs approaches the middle of the bed and pats it down, smoothing the paper stretched over it with her hands.
“You can stand at the edge of the bed,” She pats the paper down some more as if her hands could iron the wrinkles out of it. “Face away from the bed and pull your pants down to your ankles. Once done, just hop onto the bed and lay down.”
In most cases, well, in most cases within a James Bond movie, this is the scene where we get to watch the main character disrobe, his or her muscular physique, slim build, and picturesque body on display for the audience to indulge. But the young man isn’t in a Bond movie, he isn’t Bond either. His body is that of a middle-aged retiree, his joints creak and groan when he squats, and the only villain in his life is his alarm clock.
There is no right or wrong way to disrobe in front of people. Well, correction. There is no right or wrong way to disrobe in front of nurses and medical professionals when prompted to do so. Considering the clinic, the environment, the practice, and their purpose, I’m sure they’ve seen their fair share of anatomical extensions, therefore there is nothing to be shy about. Medical professionals are taught this from the start. Bedside manners are an important aspect of medicine and to forego it is akin to a mortal sin within the field. The young man knew this, he was trained in that field earlier in life as well, aware of the added value respect, care, and patience add to someone’s experience in their most vulnerable moments with a medical professional.
“I’m just going to wrap this around your,” Said the older nurse, holding a strange mesh net apparatus with tape at the end. Our young man’s mind went elsewhere as she approached, gathered, wrapped, and taped down his nether part to his body. “And now I’m just going to use this cleaning agent to sterilize your…”
Words were exchanged, packets were ripped open, gauze pads were dampened with a dark orange substance, and his parts were patted with the mixture, ever so gently.
At this moment, the young man was not sure what subject would be best to broach or what topic would be convenient or appropriate enough to engage in considering the circumstances. Discussing the spike in homicides in town would be an interesting conversation but perhaps one best had over coffee with someone equally interested in true crime and forensic work.
“Okay,” Said the older nurse as she finished her prep, pamper, tape, scrub, dry, and air out project.
“Dr. Graham will be in shortly. Do you have any questions?”
“No, ma’am. None that I can think of. Thank you for everything.”
There wasn’t anything else the young man could say in such a compromising posititon. Thank you for cleaning my already clean parts? Does anyone else ever thank nurses for this part of the process? Are other men dissatisfied with the prep and if so do they voice their dissatisfaction? Have some men requested a second clean-up because of some obsessive-compulsive disorder? An irrepressible compulsion that demands of them that if you’re going to clean something you cannot simply do it once. A second, third, or eleventh clean is necessary to accomplish the cleanliness desired. Have men taken it upon themselves to do the most English man thing imaginable by firmly but gently taking the cleaning utensils away from the nurses and cleaning themselves so that nurses would not have to place themselves in an uncomfortable situation?
These and other thoughts rushed through the young man’s mind as he thanked both nurses, the older motherly one to his right and the younger one who stood to his left.
The motherly nurse removes her gloves and tosses them into a bin close to his head. She then excuses herself and leaves the room to attend to other men who are in the same vulnerable state, awaiting their unexpected clean and pamper session in a room or two away from his.
“So how many kids do you have?” Asked the younger nurse. Also Filipino. She dawned blue scrubs as well and looked no older than a kid out of high school. She stood there like a professional statuette, maintaining the calm and peaceful environment in the room like a pro.
“I have four kids!”
“Wow. Four kids. Boys? Girls? How old are they?”
“Six. Four. One and something months. And the last one is four months old.”
“Wow. They’re so close together. Boys? Girls?”
“All girls. I’m a girl dad through and through.”
Nurses are supposed to be professionals. In moments of extreme vulnerability, these pink-collar elites are expected to exude the highest level of stoicism in the face of change and trauma but here the young nurse broke character and began to laugh. Not the cackle of a wicked witch but the snot flushing kind of laughter where one has to wipe her nose once done but to her benefit she was wearing a mask. She laughed as if there were some sort of joke only she knew about but was unwilling to share more about with him.
“That’s great.” She finally said.
“Hello, how are you?” Said Dr. Graham Lohlun as he rushed into the room, reaching for the faucet to rinse his hands. Whether he used soap or not escaped the young man’s line of sight. There is not much one can see from that position, especially with a bright and beaming overhead light pointed at his delicate region. Depending on where a light shines on a man, he can go blind, you know.
“I’m well, doc. How are you?”
“Any second thoughts? This is your last chance to back out.” He said, padding his hands dry with paper and then stretching blue gloves over his well-trained and steady fingers.
“No, doc. I think I’m good.” Sweat began to develop over the young man’s forehead as the doctor explained the next steps.
A syringe was mentioned, numbing was discussed, the site of injection was determined, and a cold grasp felt. The young man was asked to take a deep breath, not that it would help diminish the feeling of a needle creeping into his flesh but at least it would help him think of something rather than nothing at all. Thinking about one’s breathing makes them aware of the involuntary nature of their body. No one thinks about breathing. They just do it.
Moments later, a pinch, a sting, dread, and awaited horrors haunt the young man, but nothing came of it. The young man laid there, tranquil, hands over his chest as the physician worked through the numbing process like a horologist works on a watch, ever so gently moving one part here, placing another part there, addressing this section, and balancing that section over there. Thankfully, however, there was no twisting or hammering of any sort involved. This physician knew exactly what he was doing.
“Are you feeling any pain or discomfort? If so, please let me know.”
“No doc, I honestly cannot feel a thing. I do, however, feel some pressure, as if there is a pull or some weight, down there.”
“That’s normal. Let me know if you feel any discomfort, okay?”
Their discussion jumped from personal interests, sports, geography, and South Africa. Dr. Lohlun has an Asian background, possibly Filipino, but he was born and raised in South Africa. The young man had the urge to ask whether Dr. Lohlun lived through the apartheid but was discouraged from doing so considering the gravity of the situation they were in. One misguided question, misunderstood opinion, or poorly constructed supposition and the wrong anatomical function would be severed.
That would not be an ideal outcome for our young man.
“Being from Brazil, do you watch a lot of soccer?” Asked Dr. Lohlun.
“Well, I cry when Brazil wins and I cry when they lose.” He responded with laughter. “I have no choice.”
Their prototypical operation room conversation came to a close no more than ten minutes later, having discussed dating, marriage, kids, likes, and dislikes, and how to best take care of one’s marbles post-procedure, Dr. Lohlun completed his work.
“Doc,” Said the young man as he sat up and inched towards the edge of the bed to pull his pants up. “I hope to never see you again.”
“You know what,” He said. “I wouldn’t even recognize your face. I’d sooner recognize your,”
The nurses laughed, too. Perhaps, having heard the joke for the umpteenth time. The young man was one of nineteen procedures that day. Nineteen. Dr. Lohlun is in there performing vasectomies three times a week. Do the math. There’s a higher chance you’ll meet a secular eunuch in Edmonton than a bear in the Albertan Rockies.
Pleasantries were exchanged. The nurses wished the young man well and out of the room he went, rather uncertain of how to walk after such an intrusive procedure.
“Am I good to go?” He asked the front desk receptionists, two Filipino ladies who were somewhat unaware of their surroundings, their purpose, their job, and the young man who dragged his feet past their desk.
“Oh, yeah, you’re good to go.” They mumbled to no one in particular.
After thanking the would-be human beings sitting at the reception desk, the young man exited the doctor’s office. The door felt heavier and maneuvering past it was a rather difficult task for him. Having placed as much distance between himself and Dr. Lohlun’s office, the young man found himself in front of an elevator, which, to his surprise, was out of service. Had he taken better care of his mental health he would have remembered that when he first entered the building the elevator had an out-of-service sign slapped on and around it, as technicians worked on it. He assumed they knew why he was there and they picked just this day to service the machine to his detriment.
“Stairs.” He sighed, inching his way forward, further down the hallway, more steps, more than he wanted to take, all in the name of science, love, and whatever else men decide to do this for.
Once he reached the door to the stairs, he felt an inkling of fear, not knowing how this was going to work and how much pain he’d feel descending a flight of stairs after having his member nearly dismembered. But fear resides in the heart and mind of every man, woman, and child, what we do with it, however, is the tricky part. And not wanting to call his wife who sat in the car outside waiting for him, he opted to take the risk and get it over with.
The first step is the hardest, fear subsiding, he kept moving, feeling as if his groin was going to prolapse, making him infertile, but then he remembered why he was there, to begin with. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
The sight of a newly vasectomized man waltzing down three flights of stairs would have been a sad one had he had not had a mirror to watch himself do it all. Every floor had a black reflective mirror-like wall and his galloping down the steps had him laughing and complaining at the same time all the way down to the first floor. He managed to get down and out of the building, even stopping to help an old lady on a walker get into the building.
“Damn luck.” He muttered but recalled something about Jesus and going the extra mile or opening a door for old ladies on walkers or something to that effect.
“Aw babe,” Said his wife, half fake crying, half laughing as the young man crab-walked back to their car.
“Here let me help you.”
“No, no, I’m fine. Thank you.” He wasn’t.
This entire sequence, the entry, the awkward stares, the nurses, the bed, the weird orange gauze, the needle, the numbness, and the tug and snip would have all been a forgettable memory, a blur on this young man’s mind had he not started coughing that morning.
You see, little did this young man know, he was about to test positive for Covid-19. In any other world or reality, he would have been fine or at least understanding of a situation where he is either Covid-19 positive or dealing with a post-vasectomy recovery. Dealing with both, on the same weekend, was to his estimation, worse than anything imaginable, save pineapple on pizza.
The fever was manageable. The head cold was dizzying but manageable. The aching joints had him bedridden but drugs helped him get through that phase as well. Having received his Pfizer shots helped him get over his illness sooner. He didn’t mind the various symptoms this little bug had introduced into his system save the fact that they wandered into his body on the worst weekend of his life.
What truly bothered him.
What truly pained him and left him nearly immobile for just short of a week was his lung destroying cough.
You see, when you cough, your pelvic floor, and your core muscles assist in getting all that slime out of your lungs, up to your throat, into and then out of your mouth. It’s quite the beautiful process, seeing the interconnectedness of the human anatomy and physiology at work to get rid of unwanted microorganisms. The same happens when you consume something your stomach rejects and then you have to throw up. That weird invisible punch in the get you to get that helps the carrots fly out of your mouth and into the toilet is all thanks to your diaphragm, your pelvic floor, and your core muscles. It’s beautiful, save the carrots.
Unless that is, you’re on your first day out of a vasectomy.
Our young man felt as if every time he coughed, sneezed, or moved, his members were short of exploding out of his body.
You won’t have much swelling, he recalled Dr. Lohlun saying. But little was said about how to cope with the death-inducing pain of coughing as parts of you bled inside.
“Oh, my poor baby,” Said his wife, as she set his meals before him, pampered him, and loved him dearly. “I hate to say this but now you know what giving birth and recovering four times feels like.”
Granted, if men were to give birth through their constricted canal, men would reconsider a lot of things. Well, men would reconsider living, for one. But he laughed this thought off, laughed his wife off, and nodded gently, not sure if in agreement with her or if planning some devious prank to make her regret the words.
“Yeah.” Was all he could muster as his groin began to feel as if it were on fire from within.
With every cough, sneeze, movement, or thought of the area, pain shot up his core and then back down to his potato carrier.
He couldn’t help but notice that the ballooning in his groin was not the fault of his vasectomy or its recovery, which, save Covid-19, he would have been back on his feet a day or two later. What troubled him was just how much pain coughing brought him. With every cough, he transitioned, like a mutant metamorphosing from a crab into a penguin. His gait no longer arced, his back was now stiff, and his stature that of just that, a penguin.
The young man, days before, thriving, healthy, well, save his aged knees, was turned into an ice walking, flightless, orca fleeing land creature.
There wasn’t much he could do but consume over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Acetomenophin, ibuprofen, guaifenesin, and dextromethorphan. Pain, inflammation, expectorant, and antitussive. Morning. Afternoon. Night. Repeat.
Some nights, he’d wake up in cold sweats and in pain because in mid-sleep he would turn his legs one way or his body in another and accidentally brush up on the finer parts of his person which were still tender to the touch.
Penguin walk from bed to the restroom. Penguin walk to the kitchen. Penguin walk to the couch. Penguin walk to the car.
Everyone else eventually got sick with the same virus so when he felt just a little better, he foolishly thought he could waltz from the couch to his car and drive to the convenience store next door to grab some more OTC to help his family get through their bout with Covid.
After hanging on to a shopping cart for dear life and pushing it through a store that seemed larger and longer than he previously remembered, he found all the items he went there for. His back and shirt, now drenched with sweat from either the fever or the fact that his insides burned with pain, he made his way home, into the garage, up the stairs, and into his medicine cabinet where he found a select few precious brown pills that eased his dis-ease in a matter of minutes.
Two weeks later and the young man is doing so much better. He now walks like the homo sapien he is, at times devolving into a neanderthal when one of his kids accidentally (or intentionally) bangs into his nether area, sending his saintly demeanor to hell and back, unscathed, of course.
He is proud of his decision, though. He understands the horrors associated with childbirth, the risks, and the damage a woman suffers and endures, sometimes for the rest of her life as a result of bringing a baby into the world. So he is confident in his decision to endure the knife, the cough, and the penguin walk if that would keep his wife from the knife and possible complications associated with having her tubes tied.
Plus, he’d never hear the end of it had she been the one to get tied up.
He now spends his days looking staring into the nothing. The open air. Space? He has come to peace with the fact that two spherical members now lay and rest inside him, both useless, yet so proximal. He carries them as one carries a memory of an event, an undertaking, a trophy that no longer holds its value. The merits and rewards are present stil. They annoy him every day, all four of them, jumping from wall to couch to wall, eating all his food, taking all his sleep away from him, and soon enough, his retirement funds as well. But he isn’t troubled, though.
“But don’t you want to try one more time, for a boy?” He can hear the calls of ignorant wolves and beasts ring in the back of his mind. “No, I’m happy with my girls. They’re lovely. I love them all.” When all he ever wants to say is…
Well, I’ll let him speak for himself on that one when you get the chance to meet him and ask him yourself.
Now that he’s, well, ball-less, or ball-full but ball-useless, he may be a bit more reckless with his life choices.
And the moral of the story?
Have your kids. Don’t have them. Your choice. Just don’t catch Covid before, during, or shortly after getting your members snipped or else you’ll join the Snipped Penguin’s Society.