And Jay Leno collects cars.
He has about 150 of them.
I know this because I listened to an interview with him yesterday.
I don’t even like Jay Leno.
But I have a lot of free time.
Before I drop off Ashleigh at her office I tell her that I’m going to go on an adventure today.
I say, “I’m going to Greenville, North Carolina today.”
I say, “I’ll eat some good food.”
She says, “Good. Go to B’s Barbecue. That’s the spot. But get there early because once they run out of the hog, that’s it.”
I think she worries about me.
But she seems excited about the idea of me going to Greenville instead of sitting in the house all day in my underwear.
I drop her off at her office and I sit there in the parking lot and I look up directions to B’s Barbecue on my phone and it’s about an hour away.
I start driving and it’s only a couple of turns and then I stay on the same highway for miles.
Her car needs gas so I stop at a Speedway and I put fifteen dollars in the tank even though the car needs more than fifteen dollars in it and I drive the rest of the way to Greenville.
I pull into the B’s Barbecue parking lot and it’s kind of a free-for-all in terms of parking.
Cars jut out at all angles and if you can find a spot then you can have a spot.
So I sit there in the B’s Barbecue parking lot and think about what to do.
When you don’t have a job and you’re a hypochondriac alone in a house all day, you get to thinking you’re sick.
Or at least I do.
This is how my brain works.
Which is why yesterday I thought about getting a physical from Woodland’s town doctor.
His name is Doctor Stanley and he’s in his early nineties and he smokes cigarettes and he’s been a doctor in Woodland his whole life.
I walked over to his office and I went inside and it smelled like cigarettes and I said I wanted a routine physical and I filled out some paperwork and I handed it to the receptionist.
And then I saw that Doctor Stanley’s office only accepts cash or check and I didn’t have either.
So I didn’t get a physical from Doctor Stanley.
But I’m sitting in the B’s Barbecue parking lot and cars keep pulling in and I’m not hungry so I pull out my phone and look up doctors in Greenville and I look up Urgent Care Centers and then I think, I haven’t been STD tested in a long time, what if I have an STD?, and then it becomes imperative that I get an STD test.
This is how my brain works.
I may not have a job but I can get an STD test today and I will.
I find a nearby Urgent Care Center on my phone and I call them up.
“Do you guys do STD testing?” I ask.
“Yes, we do,” the woman on the phone says.
“Thank you,” I say and hang up.
I pull up the directions to the Urgent Care and it’s two miles away and I pull out of the B’s Barbecue parking lot and drive the two miles to the Urgent Care.
I walk into the Urgent Care and there’s one man sitting in the waiting room and I walk up to the front desk and I say, “Hi,” and the woman behind the computer says, “Hello, how can I help you?”
I don’t want to say, “Hello, my name is Joseph Grantham and I’m here for an STD test!” so I say, “I’d like to make an appointment,” and she says, “Okay.”
She hands me a tablet and I sit down and fill out all the digital questions about my health and my health insurance and why I’m visiting this Urgent Care today.
And then I bring the tablet back to the woman behind the computer and she asks me why I’m here today and I glance to the right at the man sitting near the front desk and I say, “I’d just like to have an STD test.”
“You want to test for everything? HIV, herpes, all that stuff?”
“Sure,” I say.
“Okay, great. Have a seat, Joseph, and they’ll call your name in just a moment.”
I sit down and a minute later a nurse holding a clipboard opens the door to the waiting room and leans in and calls my name.
I follow her through the door and there’s a hallway that looks like a hallway you’d see in any hospital.
There’s a scale and she tells me to stand on it and I think it’s strange that they’re weighing me for my STD test but when I get on the scale I see that I’ve lost a few pounds since I last weighed myself and it’s a nice surprise.
“Okay, now I’m going to take your blood pressure,” she says.
She points at a chair and I go and sit in the chair.
She wraps a band around my bicep and the band looks like a floaty and it slowly squeezes my bicep and she records what the numbers on the machine next to us say and I don’t know what these numbers mean but the look on her face isn’t one of concern so I don’t worry about it.
“Now follow me,” she says, and we enter the first room on the left and there are a couple of chairs and a cushioned table that has a thin layer of paper over it to make sure the surface isn’t contaminated by each patient.
She points at one of the chairs.
“You can sit in that chair or up on that table,” she says.
I choose the chair.
“Do you mind if my teacher sits in with us?” the nurse asks me.
And that’s when I notice the woman behind her in the doctor’s white coat.
“Not at all,” I say, because I’m in Greenville, North Carolina and these people don’t know me and if they want to have a party in here then that’s fine with me.
The doctor stands in the corner and watches the nurse while the nurse sits across from me and asks me questions.
She types my answers into a laptop.
“Are you a smoker?”
“I mean, every once in a while I’ll smoke a cigarette.”
“Okay, I’ll put ‘occasional’ down. Do you do street drugs?”
“Street drugs? No. No street drugs.”
“Do you drink alcohol?”
“How many drinks a week would you say? Everyday? A couple drinks a week?”
“A few times a week,” I say.
I’ve been having a glass or two of one wine every night but I don’t tell her that.
“Are you sexually active?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Oh yeah, you’re here for an STD test.”
“Okay,” she says and turns away from the laptop to look at me. “So you want to test for everything? If we test for everything then we have to take blood and urine.”
“That’s fine. Blood and urine is fine.”
She hands me a small cup and leads me to a bathroom.
I go into the bathroom and shut the door and I don’t have to pee but I stand in front of the toilet with the cup under my penis and then suddenly I’m peeing and it’s an embarrassingly dark yellow and I remember that all I’ve had to drink today is coffee.
I finish peeing and the cup is nearly full and I put the lid on it and bring it out to the nurse and she asks me for my birthday and I tell her and she writes my birthday on the cup.
She leads me back into the other room and the doctor follows in behind us and I sit down in the chair and she says, “Why don’t you sit on this chair here,” and she points to the chair she sat on earlier.
“That way you can rest your arm on the table,” she says.
I move to the chair next to the table.
She stands next to me while she prepares a needle and she tells me to take off my flannel shirt and I take it off and she asks me if I have good veins.
“Do I have good veins?” I say.
“Yeah, good veins,” she says.
“I think so. Yeah. I think my veins are pretty good.”
“You get nervous around needles?”
My arm is outstretched on the table.
“Well, I don’t like to watch, but I’ve never passed out or anything like that. I usually just turn away and wait until it’s over,” I say.
“Okay,” she says.
She dabs the crook of my arm with disinfectant and asks me to make a fist and I do.
“All right, honey, just relax.”
I look away and I feel the prick and pinch of the needle.
She got the vein on the first try.
I guess I do have good veins.
I’m looking at the doctor in the corner of the room and she’s looking at me.
“You okay, honey?” the doctor says.
“Yeah,” I say.
“You’re not nervous?” the nurse asks.
“No,” I say.
“Really?” she says.
I look at the door.
“Make another fist for me,” the nurse says. “Yeah, make a fist for me. Yeah, that’s good.”
And then it’s quiet in the room.
What if I have an STD?
Why did I wait so long to get tested again?
I think the last time I was tested was the first time I was tested which was a week after I lost my virginity.
I was eighteen and I’d had sex for the first time and a few days later I noticed a red bump below my bottom lip and I figured I must’ve contracted herpes, this is just my luck, and so I went and got tested at the college clinic and I had to wait a week for my results and I didn’t tell any of my friends and I kept researching the signs and symptoms of herpes and I kept feeling the bump below my lip and it felt like it was itchy and maybe burning and I went to the chapel on campus and it was the first time in a long time that I prayed and I prayed to God to make the herpes go away, I’ll never have sex again, or I’ll wait until I’m married, and then I got a phone call a few days later and they left a voicemail and it was the nurse from the clinic and she said my results came back negative.
I didn’t have herpes.
I never had herpes.
It was a pimple.
Or I did have herpes and I prayed enough and God got rid of it and turned it into a pimple.
“You sure you’re not nervous?” the nurse says. “I’ve got to take four vials of blood and I just finished the first one.”
I wish she didn’t tell me that.
And I feel like there’s been a needle in my arm for ten minutes.
“I think I’m okay,” I say.
The doctor in the corner of the room looks at me.
“He’s sweating a lot,” the doctor says to the nurse.
“Just relax,” the nurse says and she starts fanning my face with both of her hands and if there wasn’t a needle in my arm I’d probably laugh.
“It is really hot in this room,” the doctor says.
“I just finished with the second vial,” the nurse says. “Two left.”
I don’t want to hear about the vials.
My vision is getting cloudy.
It’s a gray brown and then it’s a sparkling brown and then it’s a sparkling black and it’s closing in on me.
“Relax, honey,” the nurse says.
She fans my face with her hands.
“Open that door. He’s sweating up a storm. Look at him,” she says.
And I notice that my shirt is soaked and it sticks to my chest and it’s the same thing with my pants.
The doctor opens the door and I feel a breeze waft through the room and I can’t see anything anymore.
My eyes are wide open but I can’t see anything.
And I think that this is what it must be like to be blind.
I keep blinking but I can’t see anything and my breathing is fast and shallow and I say, “I can’t see.”
“Your vision cloudy?” the doctor says.
“No,” I say. “It’s black. I can’t see any of you. I can’t see anything.”
“Let’s get him some water,” the doctor says and seconds later someone puts a cold bottle of water into my hand and I start drinking and I still can’t see anything and I’m starting to wonder if this is just the way it’s going to be from now on and I’m scared.
“Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth,” the doctor says. “Big, deep, slow breaths.”
I try to do what she says.
I drink the water.
Big, deep, slow breaths.
“Can you see now?” the doctor asks.
And maybe the black has turned to brown and maybe I can make out some lines and features on her face.
And then I hear a man’s voice.
“What’s going on here?”
It’s a Southern accent.
Everyone in the room has a Southern accent but there’s something special about this one.
“What happened?” the man says.
I feel safe around this voice.
And I can just barely make out his face.
He’s got a closely trimmed beard and thick golden brown hair.
“He started breathing fast and he was sweating so much, so we opened the door,” the nurse says.
“I’m all done, honey,” she says and collects the vials.
She pats my arm.
I can see all three of them now.
The nurse is standing next to the man and the man is crouched down in front of me, looking at my face, and they’re both wearing blue scrubs and the doctor is in her white coat and she’s still standing in the corner.
“I can see now,” I say. “I can see.”
And I feel like I just ran and won a race and I feel like I just had sex and I don’t care that I don’t have a job because I can see again and I take a long swig of water from the water bottle.
The nurse and the doctor leave and they shut the door and it’s just me and the man.
“I need to go get some barbecue,” I say.
“I said I need to go get some barbecue,” I say.
He shakes his head.
“This ever happen to you before?”
“No,” I say.
“What’d you have to eat today?” he asks.
“Coffee and toast,” I say.
“Yeah. I think that’s why this happened,” I say.
Everything is still sparkling.
But I can see.
The man is wearing a name tag and his name is William.
“I can see. I can see that your name is William,” I say.
He looks down at the name tag pinned to his scrubs and back at me.
“What you just experienced is called a vagal response. In stressful situations, sometimes that fight or flight instinct kicks in and that’s why you’re sweating and why you had a loss of vision. But you feel okay, now?”
“Yeah, I feel great,” I say.
He looks concerned.
Like he doesn’t believe that I feel okay.
But I do.
I feel great.
“And you just came here for an STD test?”
I put the bottle of water down on the table.
“Yeah,” I say. “And also, well, I was wondering if you could just take a look down there and make sure everything looks okay?”
“Okay, stand up and let’s have a look.”
I stand up and William crouches down and I drop my pants and my boxers and William examines my penis.
He turns it over in his gloved hand.
I’m looking at the wall.
And then I look down at my penis.
“What’s that little red dot?” I say.
And I think, maybe the herpes finally caught up with me or maybe that’s one of those genital warts I’ve heard about.
It’s a tiny red dot like if someone poked you with a red Bic.
William looks at it.
“Hmm. That’s what you call a Fordyce spot,” he says.
He pronounces Fordyce like ‘for-dee-chee’ so it sounds like something you might find on a menu at an Italian restaurant.
“They’re completely benign, harmless. Nothing to worry about.”
I hold my breath.
“So that’s not herpes—”
“That’s not herpes, and that’s not a genital wart. It’s just an enlarged oil gland,” he says, and he stands up and I pull up my boxers and I pull up my pants.
“You still want them to test you for everything?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
Because I pissed for these people and I bled for them and the least they could do is test all of it for me.
“Okay,” he says. “Anything else we can help you with today?”
“Nope, I think that’s it,” I say.
“Then you’re good to go,” he says. “You should be hearing from us in just a few days.”
So I leave the Urgent Care and I drive back to B’s Barbecue and I park and I go inside and it’s crowded and I eat a barbecue sandwich.
And my clothes still stick to me and the money in my bank account is dwindling but I don’t care because I feel like things might turn out okay.
And I drive back to Woodland and I take a shower and I pick up Ashleigh from work and I tell her that I have a story to tell her and she laughs when I tell her about pissing in the cup and about the blood and going blind for a minute and about William holding my penis in his hand and about the barbecue sandwich.
And a few days later, we’re in the car and I’m on the phone with the Urgent Care and she holds my hand while she drives because she knows I’m nervous and the woman on the phone tells me that all of my results came back negative and normal and I tell Ashleigh to pull the car over right now so I can get out and dance on the side of the road.