Age and lackluster foreplay
Brittle, dry, in pain
“Doc, I just want her to have sex with me. I come home after working hard and I want to make love to my wife but she’s not interested.”
I went into my usual discussion about wooing and foreplay and questions about their relationship but I was getting nowhere fast. It always feels incredibly silly for me to be giving anyone marriage advice, as if I have everything figured out, but here I was. Again.
“Wait. Don’t you work out of town all week?”
He shrugged. “Yeah. So?”
“Look, you and she have four kids under the age of eight and five out of seven days out of any given week she is a single parent also working a full time job. You come home Friday night and want to get busy when she is exhausted and really just wants to finally get some good sleep? That is not math that is going to add up.”
“Can’t you just give her a pill?”
“Then can you tell her she needs to lose some weight? Start exercising?”
I looked over at her, sitting silently in the corner. She was not obese. She sure did tired. She rolled her eyes.
“Tell you what, here is the name and contact info for a good marriage counselor…”
*Adult content warning…*
I knew what I needed to do next and it did not make me happy.
Not one bit.
Whipping out the phone, I tapped at it fiercely only to remember that it no longer functioned. It had been years since I had seen an actual payphone anywhere and good luck getting someone to let me “borrow” their phone, especially when I started to explain to him what I needed.
A groan of frustration escaped my lips. I was going to have to go to his office. Or apartment. But no. I needed to keep things professional. It would have to be his office.
I groaned again and chucked the useless thing into the trash can. It made a satisfying crunch against the metal canister as it made impact. I could imagine the spider web of cracks that must now stretch across the screen.
The sharply dressed middle aged woman walking past me at that very moment paused slightly, looking hard at my contorted face, while clearly debating internally whether or not she should check to see if I was OK. She ended up talking herself out of it, going on her way instead. That was good. I didn’t want to have to deal with a do-gooding stranger’s concern.
What time was it anyway? I glanced around for a clock somewhere, anywhere, and found none. He was a few blocks away. I could get there quickly, certainly before five, if I left now.
I started to walk down Jackson Blvd.
My buttocks burned at the thought of his name, feeling the echo of the stinging slap of his hand followed by a lingering caress before the burn of the next strike.
Why does memory have to be so physical?
He was protective but he was also controlling. I was not the naive, docile, sweet woman he wanted from me but he was physically attracted. Very strongly so. As was I. So much so that I was willing to play the role. Those neurochemicals are incredibly hard to resist once you get a taste of them. As such, we pushed and pulled each scrabbling for the upper hand, for control of the relationship, never quite getting what we desired from the other but trying harder and harder still to get it, working up to a fevered pitch that could only culminate in intense lovemaking.
The fact of the matter was that if he started undressing me even now, I would not stop him. I would gladly offer my body up to him. Even now I wanted him to posses me physically. I just could not allow him to possess my soul. I remembered the delicious wetness of him on my thighs afterwards, the heady feeling of power that came from knowing that even while tied up, I could make him do things….
We were on a dangerous path, he and I. It had to end. We each wanted to believe we pulled the plug but in truth, it was mutual and it hurt in a way I was not prepared to accept. The sting of the memory even now was worse than that of his hand on my backside.
In the end I found that I could not stomach making love to anyone else.
So there had been no one else.
People didn’t like him, people that I knew at least. They did not like how he spoke to me, how he hovered and yet seemed to look through me rather than at me.
What do you like about him, anyway?
I liked having my nipples crushed between his thumb and forefinger but that was not the answer anyone wanted to hear. It was not the kind of relationship I could explain to friends, so they drifted off and away. Here I was in the giant city of Chicago, a place full of people of every type, and I had no one else I could turn to for help.
No one but him.
Maybe he had won our battle of wills, after all?
I stood at the foot of his building, at Wacker Street, squinting to block out the glare of the sun as I looked up to the 62nd floor. Right there at the corner was his office. He had pointed it out to me from the outside one day. A strange mingling of dread and desire rose up from within, making my heart pound and my fingertips tingle as I strode into the lobby working hard to maintain a facade of confidence that I did not feel.
The speed of the elevator always surprised me. 62 floors in as many seconds. The force pressing down on my shoulders always made me feel heavier than I really was.
A trim dark haired woman in a black dress glanced up as I entered the reception area through the thick glass doors. I recognized her.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, Laura. No, I don’t have an appointment.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “You know he won’t see you.”
The sentence was not even completely out of her mouth before I was down the hall, turning the handle on his office door.
My breath caught.
There he was, standing at the window looking out over the city, hands clasped behind his back.
He chuckled a bit then turned around.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
And then I knew.
Want to know how we got to this point? Check out the other chapters of Impact:
He was more handsome in person than he appeared on TV, she decided.
“This might burn going in,” she murmured. “The computer says your level was a smidge too low.” They were piloting a new AI program that made treatment decisions instead of doctors. It was said to be more effective and more reliable, better outcomes.
The patient looked up at her from his newspaper and nodded, winking. “Thanks for the heads up.” A great wracking cough rattled through his chest at that moment, leaving him gasping for breath. He sat down the paper. There was his face on the front page in an article talking about his admission to this very hospital for pneumonia.
“That sounds… better?” It was a statement and a question. She looked at him hopefully.
“Oh, believe me, I do feel better than I did yesterday.” He spit out the great glob of yellow phlegm that had caught in his throat, then wiped his mouth.
“On the mend, then!” She smiled down at her VIP patient. Her shift was approaching its end and she felt some degree of melancholia about that. Rubbing elbows with the rich and famous was quite fun.
Illness was the great leveler, after all.
She couldn’t wait to tell her fiancé!
And her mom.
And her best friend.
Technically she was not supposed to tell anyone about this fellow, privacy laws and all that, but how could she be expected to keep a secret like this? She had really met him, spoken to him, touched him. The part she would not tell anyone about was the number in her pocket. He had slipped it to her after telling her she was beautiful and that he would like to hook up sometime. She patted her scrubs absently to make sure the paper was still there. Not that she would ever take him up on it, mind you.
Power was sexy…. but phlegm? Not so much.
She walked out of the room and back to the nurses station where she charted her activities of the past hour or so in the EHR. She caught sight of the man’s wife getting off an elevator and she found herself watching with envy. The woman was beautiful in a way she herself could never hope to be. His wife walked purposefully, a blue coat draped elegantly over her arm, a slight smile curled on her lips. No one at the hospital had ever seen her smile before. They were all warned to stay out of her way.
He must have called to tell her he was feeling better.
The nurse glanced back at the computer screen. There was a new order for another six bags of potassium for the fellow in room 432.
A quick check of the blood test results reassured her. His potassium level was indeed very low.
She checked her watch. It would be another 30 minutes before she could hang the next one. The next shift would be kept busy, that was for sure.
The papers and news stations all shouted about his death. Across every front page. Leading every news program.
He was dead.
She couldn’t believe it. How? He was getting better.
Did she do something wrong?
The voice on the other line spoke a greeting in Russian.
“It is done?” she asked.
“Da,” the voice said gruffly then hung up.
She smiled to herself as she dropped the burner phone into the crackling fire and poured herself a glass of champagne.
Yes. Of course it was done. A simple hacking right under their noses and no one would ever know. Cardiac arrest from a potassium overdose. In the hospital. They would do everything possible to keep it hidden if it were discovered. No one wants to be the hospital that killed someone like him…
It was a beautiful, elegant thing.
There would be no other women.
“Doc, I just want to die.”
I nodded my head sympathetically. At a certain age, all patients say that. She was in her 90’s….
“I am so tired of hurting.”
She groaned and worked her way through her usual litany of aches and pains starting at her head and working all of the way down to her toes. She had pain medicine she could take for the arthritis so I knew that wasn’t really the issue. Not all of it, at least.
“I pray every day that the Lord just takes me away.”
She’d had a gentleman friend at the center. For a few months she positively glowed. He sent her roses for Valentine’s Day, bought treats for her little dog, left her love notes, told her she was beautiful. Never mind that he was twenty years younger than she was.
At that age, what does twenty years mean? Nothing. It means nothing at all.
“I think they might be having sex…,” her granddaughter said. “Can’t you make them stop?”
My patient was not demented. She was not handing over her life’s savings. She was a consenting adult in an assisted living community who met another consenting adult and while there were significant physical challenges to a sexual relationship at her age if she really were having sex, who was I to meddle?
Then, he died.
Here she was, left behind again. Sure, she had aches and pains but the real issue was this last man standing thing, or in her case last woman standing. She had already buried two husbands. Now this man. She could not bear to lose anyone else.
But what do you do? Give her a pill? Tell her to get counseling? Pat her on the hand and tell her the sun will come out tomorrow? What do you do for a grieving woman in her 90’s who wants to die but is not suicidal?
Someone who could not touch him.
At the same time, she lay still and closed her eyes, feeling him move, willing for it to be someone else she felt instead. Someone who saw her for who she was and wanted her anyway.
They both made love to their shadow puppets and it was enough.
I like sex.
I am a really, really big fan of sex.
With the right person at the right time, an orgasm is the most deliciously exquisite thing you can ever experience.
Jane, though, asked me what I would say to my kids in 10-13 years if they come to me saying they wanted to have sex.
First, I really DO hope my kids feel they can share that with me when the time comes.
Second, I hope I can be rational about my response. I will admit that I have serious, legitimate concerns about my staying calm.
Third, I hope that someday they get to experience some really great sex.
By the time they are considering sex, they will already be so sick of listening to their doctor mom talking about STDs, after I show them picture after picture after of the ravages of disease, I won’t even have to say anything more about that.
To my daughter I would say that our first time having sex as women is a very emotional act and ties us to that other person forever. The people in between? Meh. That is hit or miss. Choose wisely with this first one because you will have them in your head, and potentially your heart, forever.
As women, we bear the brunt of childbirth, child rearing, and disease. Engaging in sex is an expression of self sacrifice… symbolically and often literally giving your life and your future to another person. It can be a beautiful thing or it can become a very painful nightmare.
And I would also advise her that it won’t be fun, that first time. Painful physically, yes, but not fun. She likely will not achieve orgasm, because let’s face it, boys in that demographic are piss poor lovers. She will have way more fun if she waits.
To my son, I would say many of the same things I would say above. I would also tell him that love is not sex and sex is not love. Some girls do things they will regret because they are desperate for love and they don’t understand the difference between the two themselves.
I would tell him that controlling himself and his desires and urges is a key part of becoming a man. Control is sexy. Strength of character is sexy, sexier even than physical strength.
I would make sure they both know how to protect themselves properly from pregnancy and disease. Then I would step back and pray that what I have taught them over the years sticks with them and guides them to good choices.
Dearlilyjune also asked: Do you know when a patient is lying to you? How?
There is truth. Like, how a man treats his mother is how he will treat you.
And then there is the truth.
I won’t claim to know 100% of the time if someone is telling me the truth but after a few years of doing this job, you figure out pretty quickly that there are usually tells.
Eye contact. I really like looking someone in the eye. In person. Especially if I know that person well. The direction of gaze, blinks, pupillary dilation, hands on or near the face, arms crossed, deviations from that person’s norm…. There is a whole science devoted to this.
If you cannot have eye contact, voice sometimes gives it away.
If your gut tells you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t.
There are certain things, though, that physicians just assume are being lied about. For instance, the number of sexual partners. Condom use. Drug use history. Alcohol consumption beyond a certain point. How faithful you are at taking your meds.
There are active deceits, which are easier to catch, and then there are lies of omission.
Most of what patients lie about doesn’t really matter because I am going to figure it out regardless. Your lab numbers suck? Busted. I am gonna know you haven’t been taking your cholesterol or diabetes medication. Abusing prescription narcotics? Yeah, soon you won’t be able to control it and your addiction will have you telling stories that don’t make sense.
Sometimes, though, it does matter. Certain illegal drugs should not combined with certain medications. Knowing your lifestyle can help diagnose issues and manage risk factors. I could go on further, but that would be boring….
I did have a new patient once decide he was going to test how good of a doctor I was by not telling me about his multiple myeloma, kidney failure, and diabetes. I about had a cow when I saw those results, thinking I was diagnosing a man I had just met with all of these terrible things at once.
Everyone knows they shouldn’t lie to their doctor but we all still do it…. Why?
Fear of judgement.
I completely get it. You don’t know who you are baring your soul to until it is too late. Still. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to your health.
She wondered why her hair began to thin when she hit her early thirties. First over the crown and then over the rest of her scalp. A shiny pate that showed through the big hair no matter how the hairdresser swept it or curled it or sprayed it.
They never told her why her female parts never worked. Why she had to take hormones from the time she was a teenager.
She had to adopt children.
Her body wanted to grow certain ways, be certain things…. muscular, flat… Make-up did not help, not really. Neither did over compensating with clothes and hats and flamboyant wigs. She dieted and starved, trying to achieve that ideal female form but it always seemed just beyond her reach.
She always wondered why she did not feel comfortable in her own skin. Why did she look more like her uncle than her mother? There was a lie lurking just below the surface, she could feel it.
Here she is now in her sunset years, decades later, still wondering.
I can tell her the answer that they never did. But does she really want to know that the life she has lived maybe not be real as she imagined it? What would that mean to her husband? To her kids? That she is not who she thinks she is? That he is a she only thanks to a well intentioned surgeon’s knife in infancy *, thanks to parents and a society who did not know what to do with ambiguity?
Ambiguity is not simply swept away or cut away.
What would the truth mean, now, when it comes to public bathrooms?
Ignorance and fear. They also haunt.
Who gets to decide what is male and what is female? How many chin whiskers is too much? How tall or stocky can you be to still be considered a woman when people look at you? How big can your breasts be before you are required to use the ladies’ bathroom instead of the men’s? Will anyone who is “questionable” have to carry around a note from their physician identifying their gender for bathroom purposes? Are people going to be forcibly removed from bathrooms because they don’t look “right”?
You think sex is all a matter of choice? That being transgender is a deviance, something evil, something to be afraid of? That transgender people are subhuman and do not rate the simple dignity of being able to use a public toilet?
The world is not that simple. There is always ambiguity….
* Many cases of ambiguous genitalia in the past were treated by assigning female sex to the infant without taking into consideration the child’s chromosomes or hormones. Practically speaking, it was easier to make a vagina than it was to make a normal penis. Many of those people were never told.
“Hey, Doc. I have a question.” He hesitated.
“Oh? Well, fire away!” I looked up from my laptop and smiled encouragingly.
“Well, what I want to know is why you get to touch my butt so much and I don’t get to touch yours.”
I wonder if male physicians have this same kind of conversation on a regular basis?