'The List' by Lou Siday
I am bleeding from my vagina and not in the normal way. My mum tells me to go to the sexual health clinic and have someone test me or examine me or whatever. So I take a morning off work and go. I arrive at 8 AM. There are already over ten people queuing up. Like you know, when there is a new game or a new phone release and people camp out of shops for hours, well it is like that, but far more dystopian. The doors open at half eight and we get a number and a form to fill in. I am number 15. I fill in the form and go to the desk and get a yellow card with the word ‘yellow’ written on it. I sit down in the waiting room and wait. We are mostly youth, tired and nervous. Some people are in couples, hand-holding, stroking each other. It is not a romantic place, it definitely does not make me want to hold or touch anyone, but people in love are disgusting. I wonder what everyone else is here for and think about the nurses and doctors who have to spend their days looking at vaginas and penises. I go to the toilet, and after weeing I stand up and look at my vagina in the mirror. I haven’t shaved or trimmed or anything. I doubt the gynaecologist cares, but I do wonder. I make sure there isn’t any loo roll caught in my pubes.
In the waiting room, the people who aren’t in couples are watching the telly. This Morning is on, and with it being nearly December they are showing us the best and most expensive advent calendars there are. This defuses my current health scare. There are advent calendars with teas in or coffees or hot chocolates. A hot chocolate a day. Some have cheese, some have make-up. They show us the beer ones where you get a bottle of beer for each day of December. I feel slightly uncomfortable with this. I don’t think it’s okay to drink beer every day for a month. I watch the goth girl sat across the room from me. She has black lipstick on already, this early in the morning. I wonder what is wrong with her. Is she bleeding from her vagina too?
I get called in. The gynecologist seems nice and she asks me questions.
How many sexual partners have you had in the last six months?
I tell the truth.
Do you use condoms?
I tell the truth.
Do you sleep with both men and women?
I tell the truth.
How many drugs do you take?
Have you ever been sexually assaulted?
I lie. Obviously, I lie, who tells the truth?
How much do you drink?
I try to tell the truth.
After the questions, she asks me to get onto the bed so she can look up inside me. I put my legs on the holders and lie back. She takes a swap and then opens me up with a plastic device. I think about making a joke about buying me dinner first but then I decide that she probably hears that joke all the time and instead stay silent. She keeps asking me if I am okay and I am obviously not but I say yes anyway. After a while she removes her instrument and tells me everything is fine and lets me get dressed. She then takes my blood for tests.
‘Everything looks fine, the bleeding could be a sign of chlamydia or gonorrhea though.’
‘So I am not dying of cancer?’
I think of the second-worst thing it could be.
‘Could it be HIV?’
‘HIV doesn’t cause bleeding like what you have experienced.’
It would be so embarrassing if I have an STI.
‘I can’t believe I might have the clap.’
‘You should get tested more often. You have a lot of sexual partners.’ the doctor tells me. I nod.
I thank her and leave, happier than when I came in. I am not like, dying from this. When the bleeding started I was worried about who would take care of my cat when I was gone. My death might be imminent, but not from this. And that is a relief.
I have a missed call from Freddie and wonder if I have enough stories yet and wonder if I should probably stop sleeping with so many people. But how else will I entertain my friends, if I cannot tell them x-rated and uncomfortably hilarious stories of dates and sex? I text him Sorry, busy, gotta go to work. Talk later. I mentally put him on the list of boys I should be wary about, for the reason I might break their heart. Rather than the list of boys I should be wary about, for the reason that they might break my heart. I wonder which list is longest at the moment. I think the former, for once. Since Harry I have been great at keeping people at arm’s length. I mean, I had a two-month relationship (I called him my boyfriend) which I was not really that involved with. Sometimes I do worry about my heart and how sealed away it is but like, I can’t really deal with the whole love thing at the minute. I don’t want to fall in love. I can’t let that happen. And I think myself oh so liberated and oh so empowered and oh so Sex and the City, but the fact is I am bleeding from my vagina and I have nobody to hold me when I cry, and does that suck? I try and think if it sucks or not. At least I won’t cry for months because he left me. Because they leave you. And if you don’t let them in, they can’t leave you.
I get a text a week later. I am at work.
NHS message: Your test results are back. Please ring between 9AM and 5PM to discuss further. Please quote reference PR.
Oh, for fuck sake. I am on shift with Liv and Jack and I show them the message and they can’t stop laughing and I tell them they need to not start laughing yet because it could be AIDs and that wouldn’t be very funny. I go ring the number. It’s chlamydia, obviously.
‘I have chlamydia, as fucking if.’ I tell Liv and Jack.
It’s fine, I just gotta go get some medicine, and like shouldn’t everyone have chlamydia at least once in their life?
‘I wonder who it was that gave it to me. I bet it was the hot yoga teacher.’
‘It totally was him.’ Liv agreed.
‘What a bastard.’
‘Well see what he says when you let him know.’
‘Let him know?’
‘Well, when you tell him you have chlamydia.’
‘Why would I tell him I have chlamydia?’
‘Because you have to? You have to tell everyone you have been with since your last test?’
I shook my head. I knew people were supposed to do that, but did people ever really do that?
‘You definitely have to do that.’ Jack says.
‘But there’s loads…’
Liv printed out a few inches of till roll and got out a red sharpie pen.
‘Right, where do we start? The hot yoga teacher, Freddie…’ She wrote yoga teacher and then followed it by Freddie.
‘The guy from the takeaway shop’. She said, adding him to the list.
‘Oh god if I have given him chlamydia I will never get free chips again.’
Liv taps the list. I shut my eyes, trying to remember. I went over my sexual history in reverse. Every kiss, every blowjob, every dick move from the past year. We had to get more till roll. And then there it was, the people I have let in. The stories I have gathered to tell. The list in red sharpie.
The teeth marks left on white flesh.
The sunrise when he was snoring and I could not sleep because after all this time he was finally here and I didn’t want to make any mistake at all.
I send the texts after work.
So I have been tested recently and have chlamydia and you were one of the lucky people to hook up with me since being tested last and so I am doing the moral thing of letting you know!!
Joe (the boyfriend I had for two months) was the first to reply.
Thanks for letting me know. Merry Christmas to you too.
Very formal. Dude thought he was in love with me.
The Turkish artist was next.
Thanks, I will go get tested.
As if you might have given me chlamydia hahahahahaha.
The man from the takeaway shop replied.
I am fine.
I ask him if he has been tested recently.
No, but I know my body and I am fine.
It can be symptomless.
I am fine.
I decide not to argue. He sounds like he is protesting too much. It sounds like there is pus coming from his dick.
Thanks for letting me know. Congrats.
Great. Will get tested.
Damn it. How long are you out of action for?
I turn my phone off. I run a bath. I strip down to my naked body. I get in.
Copyright. Lou Siday.
Lou Siday is a writer from the North East who loves to write about things that are taboo, awkward, or strange. She reckons that, by doing this, she can open up conversations and connect with people in new ways.