It was only two weeks into the semester and already Taylor had missed more school than he had taught due to his new ailment, whatever it was. The only good thing was that it was not likely contagious seeing as nor Angel or I had become afflicted. He was adamant we continue with class and training, yet all rendered moot as soon as he tossed his cookies, and it happened very often.
It was only after he had become helpless and desperate for relief when he agreed to visit the doctor.
“You’re sure you don’t want us with you?”
“Why would I?” Taylor grumbled as he stepped out of the passenger side of his own car.
“I don’t know, you might want some family support.” Angel shrugged.
Charging to Angel’s defense, I stepped in. “Come on, it’s not like we don’t know you inside and out already. Already had some male bonding, right?”
“Oh, well you’re welcome to have a prostate exam and a Q-tip shoved up your pee hole if you join me. Would you like that?”
I stayed quiet.
Angel handed him his wallet and a pack of crackers as if he were sending a child off to their first day of kindergarten. “Call me when you’re done?”
Angel brought him into a big hug, and I could clearly see Taylor rolling his eyes. “I just hope its nothing serious.”
More serious than we could ever perceive at the time…
As he began to walk into the army clinic, I suddenly felt guilty and somewhat worried for him. “Hey, old man!”
He stopped to send his dark glare my way.
I gave him a tight smile and a wave. “Don’t have cancer.”
He muttered a sarcastic thanks and whipped open the door, disappearing into the building.
Angel yawned, “So, you wanna grab a hot dog?”
“Absolutely, let’s get the heck outta here.”
“Taylor Morgan, right?”
“Let’s see…” Doctor Reinaldo Dominguez flipped routinely through his manilla folder, gazing at his patient’s medical history and allergens through wire-framed glasses. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen you in here, which I may add is a good thing. We have you at six foot even, weight 184, body mass index, good, blood pressure a little above average, but that’s normal in this line of work. All right, oxygen, normal… So it’s nausea that brings you in today?”
“Yeah, it’s been going on for almost two weeks now.” Taylor groaned from atop the examining table, fiddling with the paper band they had put around his wrist.
“Are you still drinking and smoking cigarettes?”
“How much would you say?”
“We’ll just put you down for a pack a day, six pack a night. I know it’s taboo for a medical professional, but I do too.” He leaned in secretly, earning a fake smile from his irritable patient.
“Are you still taking the Prozac?”
“More of a weekend thing for me.”
“Now, you know the drug isn’t going to help if you’re just going to skip on doses, this pill wasn’t made for that.”
“Reinaldo, I didn’t come here for a shrink, I just want to stop feeling like I’m going to puke on everything... Can I just get some prescription nausea medication or an injection in my thigh to speed things up?”
Dominguez chuckled, “Now, now. We don’t want to go overboard when we don’t even know yet what we’re dealing with. Nurse Foy has your blood work being processed at the moment as well as your urinte tests…” He trailed off as he came to the page labeled in bold letters as Top Secret, “Now, um… Due to your previous history we did have to run a few extra tests which may seem unnecessary, but we can’t take any chances here. Have you been sexually active recently?”
Earning this answer from the majority of his patients, Dominquez usually had to put his interrogation skills from Iraq to the test. “I’ll ask you again, when was the last time you had intercourse?”
Taylor shrugged, “I don’t know. Over a month ago, like six weeks, maybe seven…”
“Male or female?”
Taylor cracked his knuckles.
“Okay, just needed for the uh… paperwork. Ahem. Have you been outside of the states recently?”
“When would you say that was?”
“About two months ago, in Africa.”
“Ah, I see. Tanzania?”
“Angola. And no, I didn’t drink the water.”
“What kinds of foods have you been eating while this has been going on?”
“Hmm….” Dominguez scribbled on his clipboard. “Any back pain or numbness in your fingers or toes?”
Taylor thought about it for a moment, recalling that his lower back was a little sore and he had lost feeling in his left fingertips occasionally. “Yeah, actually. Yes to both.”
“Well…. I don’t want to alarm you but I think I’ve narrowed it down to a few possibilities.”
Taylor bit his lip nervously, ready for the dreaded C word to come out. “Shoot.”
“One, it could be a parasite. Africa and South America are known for them, and they can be very treatable once we find out which one it could be. Two, it could be IBS, you could have developed an irritability over time which in turn could lead to you becoming sick from the foods you have been eating, even if you haven’t changed your diet in years, or we can be looking at a case of Crohns. It’s even possible that you’ve become diabetic, but I doubt that. Have you had any other symptoms that may be out of the ordinary? Headaches, fevers, leg cramps, dizziness?”
“Lightheaded, a lot. I almost passed out teaching the other day.”
“You do spend a lot of time on your feet, some fatigue is going to come with the adjustment from field work to school. If you ask me, I’d rather still be out in the fire zone, the most fun this job gets is the occasional hypochondriac. Not that I’m instigating…”
“Doctor Dominguez!” Came a female voice from outside of their triage room.
“Ah, that should be Foy with your test results. Excuse me for a moment.” He gave Taylor a smile and collected his folder before leaving Taylor to his rampant thoughts. From behind the heavy closed door, he could hear the muffles of his doctor’s conversation.
“It said what?!”
“Did you test it right?”
“You’re talking both urine and blood samples?”
“And you ran it through a second time?.... What about a third? Shit. Okay…. He’s gonna kill me….”
Dominguez knocked on the door before entering, fear plastered upon his face as he came to deliver the news to what would be the patient of the decade. In that moment, Dominguez seriously wished he had never entered medical school and that he had spent his final days being a florist or a beekeeper.
“Um, Mister Morgan. Can you please come with me down to our exam room, and uh…” He shakily opened a cabinet and grabbed a smock, tossing it to his brooding patient. “Put this on?”
He stuffed his button down and khakis into a plastic bag, and slipped on the ugly teal smock, only to be led out of triage and down into a dark room with Dominguez, his assistant, and a crew of what looked like a team of interns. He stared them down, feeling suddenly as if he were a pony on display at a petting zoo as they sat him down on the long table.
Looking over his right shoulder was another older woman next to a big monitor.
“What’s with the machine?”
Dominguez adjusted the glasses on his bridge. “Uh, just have to perform a little inside check. Make sure everything’s nice… And in order.” He coughed in his sleeve nervously, praying he wasn’t going to be the one to deliver the hotheaded man his surprising news.
“Okay. So why is your whole medical unit present?”
“Uh…. They’re interns, they--”
“Get rid of them.”
Dominguez nodded to his assistant and the seven students. “Just the ultrasound tech, please.”
Taylor watched them file out before he turned back to his doctor.
“Now, Taylor. We ran through quite a few tests. Tests for diabetes, Crohns, and all came back negative. Except for one…”
He could feel his gut sink with anxiety. “Yeah, what is it?”
“Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. Most cases like this usually means a form of prostate cancer or a hormone imbalance, and due to your history, we couldn’t risk skipping a few steps. So….” He pointed to his tech. “Fire it up.”
He leaned back onto the table, his curiosity and trepidation of the reveal causing his heart to beat out of rhythm as the tech started rubbing a gel on his abdomen. Oh, fuck… This could be really bad. I can’t handle the thought of a form of cancer, or even just a benign case. You knew smoking would lead to this eventually, and all those things Angel says about eating the steak blue rare. No, no, no…. This can’t happen, no way. You’re too busy with school and the CURE to worry about these things, plus you already have a kid to look after. You have no will…. Well, nobody responsible enough to take the will. Knowing Angel he would just sell all my things on craigslist. God, please, be IBS, be diabetes, be a simple hormone imbalance or a tape worm from Africa. Don’t be cancer, don’t be…
“…And there it is…” Dominguez pointed his trembling finger at a dark spot on the ultrasound monitor.
Taylor said a last little prayer, and turned over. “What is it…?”
“It’s um…. You’re….”
“Inexperienced. You’re just inexperienced, that’s all it is.” Angel stirred his spoon in his melted strawberry icecream. “You’re not a loser just because Taylor and I lost our virginities before you, everyone has their own certain time and place, I’d say forty percent of men lose theirs during college, women too, so you’re in the prime spot to find a few chicks to give you some practice.”
“And what kind of girls am I looking for exactly?” I took a bite out of my chocolate waffle cone, lazing back into the park bench as we killed time waiting for Taylor to give us a call after his appointment.
“Firstly, you don’t want to lose your virginity to someone you’re already invested in. Sex changes things, popping your first cherry gives you an entirely new outlook on all things relationship wise because its so intimate. Find someone whose only looking for one night, get you that experience so you know what its like when you want to impress someone or have sex with someone you really like.”
“So it’s like riding the biggest rollercoaster first to get to the other enjoyable ones?”
“Doesn’t that mean anything after it could be a disappointment if you take the big plunge at the beginning?”
“No, are you kidding me? It gets better, and especially when you do it with someone you really care about, and sometimes you can spice it up a bit with some handcuffs or candle wax, maybe a little choking, some rope, just depends what you’re really into.”
I shook my head as it filled with perverted images. “Not my thing.”
“What kind of porn do you like?” He asked rather loudly, earning a glare from a passerby woman and her son.
I waited for them and another couple to pass by on the park trail, leaning into Angel. “I really don’t want to discuss this right now.”
Angel blew his lips like a horse, “Who cares? Everyone does it.” He stood up on the bench, and I hid my face knowing he was about to do something stupid. “I’m Angel Dimitri and I watch gay porn!” He announced to everyone within a fifty food radius, earning a few more glares and a few clapped their hands.
He sat back down, proud of himself and turned back to me. “See, now you do it.”
“Come on!” He gave me a shove.
“What do you want from me? To embarrass myself in front of dozens of people?”
He laughed, “You sounded like Taylor for a second there.”
I recoiled in disgust that we were being compared again. “What’s with everyone saying that? We’re nothing alike! I mean, yeah, we’re both missing an arm which is remarkably coincidental, but that’s it! He’s an asshole, I’m a dork, he’s withdrawn, I’m…”
“Even more withdrawn?” Angel suggested as he pushed my buttons further. I knew he was go into lecture about my stubbornness when I was saved by the bell, in this case his phone ringing. “Done already? ….Whose this?” His expression melded into that of concern. “Yeah, this is he. What happened?”
“Now, no need to be fully alarmed. He’s just fainted is all, and has already been examined and is fit to go home. He said he feels okay now, but he also said that he… doesn’t want to talk to you.” Doctor Dominguez said lowly to Angel, explaining the situation only after we had arrived back at the clinic.
“Okay…” Angel seemed more heartbroken than offended, as if his best friend had tossed their friendship bracelet into the bushes. “Did everything go okay? I mean, what’s wrong with him?”
“Well, I’m at no liberty to disclose anything without his permission, so that will be entirely up to him.” Dominguez shrugged his shoulders offering us both an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, if you could excuse me I do need to get back to my patients…”
“Doc.” Angel grabbed his arm. “Can you at least tell me my friend’s not dying?”
It seemed as if the big latino doctor was trying his best not to laugh. “Angel, your friend is not dying. It’s if you should be worried, if my assumptions are correct.”
“Now, if you could excuse me…” Dominguez offered us a tight smile and returned back down the hallway of the unit, leaving us in the lobby as we waited for Taylor to be discharged.
As if on cue, we could hear his profanities from behind us as a nurse intern pushed him in a reinforced wheelchair. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fucking fine, I don’t need your help. I can walk perfectly fine on my own!”
“I’m sorry sir, it’s just protocol…” The young intern said weakly.
“You didn’t need to strap me down! Get me the hell out of this crap!” He tugged at both his wrists and shook his feet as I noticed they had restrained him.
“Oh boy…” I muttered to myself as I noticed the two security guards in the back ground.
The twenty-something year old nurse looked up to us, exasperated. “Are you this man’s ride?”
Angel made quick eye contact with Taylor, immediately recoiling from the seething hatred piercing through his dark eyes. “Uh.. Yeah, he’s ours.”
Taylor turned his glare to the nurse as he waited to be released from the leather straps, and I looked to the blonde, “Sorry. He’s kind of a wild mustang.”
She gave me a tight, sarcastic smile as she finished undoing his binds, “Uh, yeah….”
Taylor pushed himself up, and waved feignly to the officers watching him from across the hall. Angel attempted to break the ice gently.
“Heeey, buddy. How are you feeling? Need some help?”
It was immediately rebuked. “Fuck you. If we weren’t surrounded by cameras and medical personnel I’d personally escort you to the morgue. Don’t talk to me.” He pushed past Angel as he was adamant we returned home.
“Okaaay. Well, we can go to the car in silence if you want.” Angel offered Taylor his keys as he followed him on the tarmac, me following even further behind at a safe distance.
“I’m walking home!” Taylor yelled matter of factly.
“What? No, you’re not. Reinaldo said you needed rest!”
“I don’t need rest!”
“Well, you’re certainly not walking home, it’s eighteen miles!”
Taylor twisted around, “Fine!” He snatched the keys out of Angel’s hand and smiled devilishly. “Then you are.”
Angel watched helplessly as Taylor stomped towards his truck, whipping the cab door open. “Ed! Get in the car!” it was the first time he had even acknowledged me since we had sent him off to the clinic, and I had never seen him so furious. I felt bad for Angel, but I was in no way about to challenge Taylor at this time as I climbed in the back sheepishly. He
Taylor shoved his key into the ignition, revving the turbo diesel engine harshly, threw the gearshift into reverse and peeled out of the parking spot so fast I thought he was going to hit Angel, who jumped back in fear for his life.
Shifting the truck into neutral, Taylor yanked the emergency brake and floored the gas pedal, screeching his tires in the loudest burnout I had ever seen. A white burning cloud wafted from the tires, completely covering the image of Angel in the rearview. Taylor shifted the car to second, and the truck lurched forward, leaving our friend, literally in the dust.