The front desk nurse is smiling again.  Third Chicklet-gummed flashing in the past few minutes. She breaks her stare from an issue of Us Weekly to watch while I squirm in my chair. She smiles. I smile back. If she only knew the reason for my occasional shift in weight from cheek to cheek was so I didn’t crap my pants she wouldn’t be smiling so wide. Well, it’s been almost a half hour.  I’ll admit it, I’m nervous. Regular people get butterflies in their stomach in tense situations. I get butterflies but they all put the fluttering on hold to deliver swift kicks to my rectum until I have to find the nearest porcelain pot.

I bet she smiles at every guy. We must all have that same look on our face. The glassy gaze of “how the hell did I end up here?” that stares at a flat-screen TV showing Sanjay Gupta discussing the proper treatment of rosacea. The TV doesn’t get any other stations, I already asked. Honestly, we all know how we ended up at this point. Even those of us that slept through sex ed. In my experience, the class wasn’t very conducive to sleeping. It was my first class of the day, I sat in the first seat of a row and videos of grown men dancing in dick costumes and singing about sperm is must-see TV. 

It’s been over an hour. Good thing I did 75 mph here from work so I didn’t miss out on any of this waiting. I’m always on time but I got caught up at work. Most times I’m early. Annoyingly early. Early for school, early for appointments and even early for dates with her. I’d circle the block for at least twenty minutes to waste time.  I always wondered what would happen if she peeked out the window to see my car doing laps around the neighborhood like a pace car at Pocono Speedway. Would she mention it during dinner after a couple of glasses of courage? She never mentioned it. I started showing up earlier and earlier. I’d watch her race around the apartment getting ready. It all happened last week.

How did I get here? Everyone said it was incredibly hard to get pregnant. Turns out one of us is incredibly fertile. If I’d paid more attention in sex ed, I would have known that the pulling out method isn’t an effective form of birth control. Next thing I know she is peeing on four pregnancy tests screaming “I’m not ready for this!” I was screaming on the inside, “Those things were expensive, stop wasting them all!”

I hate a doctor’s office even if I’m not the one getting prodded and needled. I hated school just as much but given the choice I’d pick a medical exam over algebra class. To get my mom to keep me out of school involved life-threatening ailments. My ace in the hole was a headache. She couldn’t prove I didn’t have a headache. A couple winces in pain and some squinting sold it. Close the eyes in bright lights. It was can’t miss. The first few times. After the third time in a month faking head issues, Mom freaked and wanted to know the cause of the problem.

First it was the general practitioner. Prognosis negative but try the dentist, he said, maybe the headaches were coming from incoming teeth. My mouth caused my mother’s headaches so there might be some correlation. The teeth aren’t causing the brain pains, he said, but I was going to need braces. Let’s schedule that appointment. Did you try, he asked, getting his eyes checked? You would think at this point I’d fess up to the headache scam and save myself from another doctor’s appointment and one less piece of hardware for kids to pick on when I returned to school. You. Would. Think. My vision was one notch below a mole with 20/20. I needed glasses. They would be ready the same day I got my braces put on. Hours of crying into a mirror caused a real headache.

My eye doctor’s office was in the same building as this office. Exact same floor. On the way to one of my visits I asked my mom what an “obgyn” was as I read the names on all the office doors. She explained it’s the place ladies go to have their parts looked at and to check on the baby when they were pregnant. Like a mommy mechanic. I wanted to ask if they used the same type of lifts when a 300-pound woman walked into the office. A couple months later, mom’s obgyn left a message on the answering machine and I thought I was getting a baby brother. No dice.

I miss that eye doctor. He retired years ago. I haven’t been able to find a competent one since. My insurance now mails vouchers for glasses and eye exams. The only name I recognized on the list of optical shops that accept these vouchers was Sears. During my last visit for glasses, the tech thought I was the son of God. I usually just go by Chris but when filling out documents and forms I have to use my legal name. Computers tend to shorten the name to fit into designated spaces. According to my driver’s license, I am Christoph. I’ve seen Christophe, Christo, Chri, and once my name was changed to Chris Li to save room. When the Sears tech asked if my family was religious, I was at a loss for words until he said it was a guess with my first name being “Christ.” The medical voucher christened me Christ Illuminati.  If I were Christ, would I need glasses and vision coverage at Sears? 

While the nurse smiles, the women waiting just stare. Maybe it’s because I’m looking and wondering if it’s just a check-up or she’s got a case of rotten crotch. Men don’t go to the doctor when they feel fine and they certainly don’t go for routine check-ups. It’s not how it works in the world of penis touching and prostate exams. A doctor visit means something is wrong and you don’t go unless it’s urgent. A man doesn’t get his junk fondled by medical staff unless he is banging a nurse. Relax ladies, I’m just as eager to get out…

A side door opens and another nurse calls her name. This broad looks miserable. No gum flashing. I’m following close behind and staring at her uniform. She has blood on her shirt. It reminds me of a high school friend that worked after school in a uniform store for police, firemen, EMT’s and nurses. The work was fine but the stories she heard made every shift a depressing day at work. Men and women buying new uni’s because they got blood, excrement or brain parts on their favorite outfits. All of the stories, while told second hand, were depressing yet fascinating. The miserable nurse in the happy-faced scrubs shoos us into the last room on the left. I decide it best not to ask in this case.

“Please lie down on the table and bring down your pants.”

“Isn’t that how we got into this mess?” The machines chirped to replace the crickets. There is nothing worse than being the only person in the room that finds a joke funny. It happens more than I care to admit.

The nurse lifts her shirt to just below her bra and pokes a microphone-like stick into her belly button. She giggles. While she is ticklish this sounds more like a nervous laugh. The nurse moves the stick in circles like my car in the minutes before our dates.  We watch the nurse’s every move. It finally dawns on both of us to watch the screen. Nothing there as far as I could see. Maybe all four tests were wrong.

I look back down at her stomach to the tiny shark tattoo just below her waistline. The first time I saw it was the day we met. Reaching for a cup, her shirt drifted up just enough for me to notice the tattoo. Do you know how people in love always claim they feel like they have known the other person all their life? In our case it’s true. Well, we knew of each other most of our lives, but never officially met until that night at the gym water fountain. The first real encounter was a senior year art class. She was a freshman. We sat on opposites sides of the room and never spoke. I reminded her of that art class ten years later as she introduced herself at the gym. She didn’t recall me being in that class and there were no men in penis attire to prove my attendance. I’ve got a memory for odd details; people in my high school classes or the license plate number of a woman that smashed an ice cream cone on the hood of my aunt’s car when I was seven. 

While I’m great with details, I was oblivious to the fact we worked in the same office building but for different companies. We would run into each at work and at the gym a few more times after that night. I found out months later that her coworkers liked to watch me walk from my car to the building every morning. She only struck up a conversation to make her coworkers jealous. Throw it in their faces that she talked to Marc. They didn’t know my actual name so they nicknamed me Marc, with a C, because I looked like a Marc but with a different spelling. See how bored people are at work? She admitted all this after spending another weekend at my house.

Two years later she married Marc with a C.

“There it is,” the nurse said.

It’s tiny. It does a twist and waves at the camera. My wife smiles. I smile. Even the nurse cracks a grin.

The baby is early. Showed up and we aren’t ready.

It gets that from its dad.



Let’s get this out of the way; is Illuminati your real last name?

It’s my real last name. It wasn’t changed or altered for writing purposes. It came over from Italy with my grandfather along with a case of smallpox.

Did the world really need to learn how to be an asshole?

It was a slow trend towards asshole behavior, so my co-authors and I figured, why not put something down in print? It’s a guidebook or a roadmap to the rules of being an asshole.

 

How did you get involved in the Assholeology project?

Stroke of luck. I happened to be panhandling outside of the publisher. I’m kidding, I don’t own a pan. They needed a third writer and found my freelance work online and asked if I wanted to write a book.

Describe yourself in one word.

Scrumtrulescent.

You don’t seem like an asshole.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. That’s a quote from Kevin Spacey in that movie. Don’t recall the name of it. He ended up being the bad guy.

Ashamed of anything you’ve written?

I’m not ashamed of anything, but there are a few things I’ve said that I regret on a personal level. The real life stuff is always funny. That stuff involves real people. You can change names, but people aren’t stupid. They can deduce. K-PAX! That was the movie. That was killing me.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I wanted to be a stand-up comedian as a kid. Then I wanted to be Johnny Carson.

What’s the most difficult part about being a writer?

Honestly, finding a lit agent. I still don’t have one and I don’t believe they exist. They are like Sasquatch or the real Katie Holmes.

You’re expecting your first child any second. Will it change you as a writer?

I will probably have a whole new set of crayons to write with as a result. This box has seen better days. I’m almost down to the bottom of the Burnt Siena. I think I’ll be a little more cautious of the information I divulge about the kid. He didn’t ask to be a central character in my sick world.

Do you have any writing influences?

I picked up Bad Haircut by Tom Perrotta accidentally in my senior year of college. It got me to finally start writing everything down. The book Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs made it acceptable in my mind to write about my family. The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer is the book that made me want to be a writer. Also if any male writer between the ages of 25-40 doesn’t attribute some of his writing style to ESPN’s “The Sports Guy” Bill Simmons, then he is either not a sports fan or a fucking liar.

You are now permitted to hype upcoming projects. Begin…

Well, besides pushing the hell out of Assholeology, I’m peddling around a book about pregnancy from the male perspective (you just read a little of it) and I’m also writing some fiction. It’s a love story. It involves a ton of spandex. I’ve already said too much.