She drinks Carlo Rossi all the time. She isn’t an alcoholic but she admires the history of famous alcoholics and thus drinks as much as possible.

She has a Chihuahua.

Because chihuahuas are small they can’t process adrenalin very well. Because they are so small they are easily excited. Her chihuahua was always excited and the excitement sent him into regular epileptic fits. His eyes rolled back and he shook for 2-5 minutes a day.

The dog had a tattoo. She had the same tattoo. They each had dangerous body tattoos: an anklet of barbed wire that glistened in parts with blood. While the dog’s fur grew over the tattoo, it was enough for her to know the tattoo was there.

She faints when she sees blood and whenever she gets her period she faints. She only ever has sex when she’s wasted. She uses udder lotion on her hands as moisturizer and owns 10 different bottles of perfume; these she carries in a variety of different purses and by the end of each day she smells like an acidic vat of boiling carcinogenic flowers.

She’d never been to the gynecologist—not since she was 13 and her mom took her the first time. But since then, not at all. Not in 17 years. She avoided the whole thing entirely—drank an assortment of herbal teas instead.

Until she found a pamphlet about syphilis on the only empty seat on her commuter train.

Until she heard a story about boys who raced their STD crabs on This American Life.

Until she overheard people in the café discussing the percentage of urban men and women with herpes. The statistics were shockingly high.

And because she attributed great power to the Universe: its divine methodology, its tendency to communicate through coincidences, she understood the Universe was sending her a message.

At first she avoided it. Even though she was a terrible sleeper, she tried to sleep as much as possible.

Her antidote for sleeplessness, the only cure she’d found to have any effect, was a fantasy in which she imagined herself a pirate captain asleep in his quarters below deck. In the fantasy the captain spoons his pirate boy lover as the first mate steers the ship through the night.

When she couldn’t sleep she closed her eyes, imagined first the smell of wet wood, then the sound of the creaking boat, the rocking back and forth, the smell of salt against the small of her lover’s back, the pervasive damp, the clamminess of their legs entwined, his ponytail on her cheek, him snoring. Darkness.

Her imaginary lover wasn’t working anymore. She had to give in.

 

She made an appointment with the gynecologist’s office at last. In preparation she went to the store and bought a douche and, in the style of all procrastinators, douched herself with just enough time to get to the doctor’s office. Only she didn’t realize until she got out of the shower that the douche had sparkles in it—she’d bought a Glitter Douche. There were sparkles everywhere—all over the bathroom. All over her towel. All over her thighs, her knees, her calves, her toes. She wiped the tears from her face and flushed her eyes with glitter. She almost went back to bed.

But her dog had one of his fits and she drank some wine very quickly, put on some clothes and left wearing sunglasses.

 

When she got to the doctor’s office, she reclined on the long steel table, feet in the stirrups, she wore a paper shirt and when the doctor came in—a man—he quickly and efficiently lifted the shirt over her knees and sat down on a rolling stool.

She could feel his face between her legs. She held her breath, listening as though she could hear the weight of his gaze. Her heart hammered in her chest. She hoped she wouldn’t urinate. The silence in the room endured longer than she felt she could stand, and she imagined the sparkles falling out and getting everywhere—all over the place, on the steel table, twinkling on her skin, glimmering under the hum of fluorescent lights. She heard the doctor put on a pair of rubber gloves, snapping the wrists, his stool squeaked as he scooted in a little closer to her body. She felt the air change under the breeze of his motion. “Ooooh,” he said, peering under the paper shirt, she felt his breath on her thighs, she imagined all of the glitter, she felt sick, and all he said, real slow, self-satisfied and even, joyful, was “Faa-aant-sie.”

It might as well have been love at first sight.

 

What she didn’t know is that he had been through this before:

When he’d interned at a hospital in Baltimore. A prostitute came in with a bad case of the flu. She had no health insurance so she came into the ER and they figured they might as well check her out.

The doctor sat down in front of the stirrups—she wore the paper gown and he was nervous, his teeth chattering.

She asked him at one point, “Hey, while you’re down there, will you see if you can find an extra twenty?”

“Excuse me?” Flustered and blushing, he stammered in an effort to rethink what she said and revise what he had heard.

“While you’re down there—I was in the club the other night and the cops came on a raid—well, you know what my momma always told me—if the cops come you can always put your cash in Nature’s Pocketbook.”

The doctor leaned into her abdomen. He could not see money. He reached inside of her with gloved hands. He could not feel any money either. He did feel something hard. Irregularly shaped. Inorganic. It was not supposed to be there. He pulled a little. It gave. He could not conceive of its shape but he discovered its bounds. After pressing on some giving part of the object, an electronic song whined inside of her womb, warbling and muffled in her fluids—the doctor had never before been so conscious of the space inside a woman. Pale confused and concentrated he eased the object out: a purple plastic moon, glittering, attached by a single wire to a purple plastic glitter star. The star had a little button on it. The moon had batteries inside. He accidentally pushed the button again and the insipid electronic song started a second time. This time louder. With a higher pitch.

He held the thing over his head between her knees so she could see. “Huh?” he asked, pointing. He shrugged.

“That’s my daughter’s Precious Princess Doorbell!” The woman exclaimed. She laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.

 

Years later, the doctor thought himself more sophisticated, less insecure, more confident. He had delivered babies. He had not known, however, that they made Soap for Feminine Interior Spaces with glitter. He blinked. It was blinding. Like the vampires in Twilight she sparkled when she came to.

 

This time the doctor laughed.

And though they didn’t understand one another, nor would they ever, he did make her feel better about things and, ultimately, that’s all she needed.

 

Vol 5.This story originally appeared in our charming-but-surprisingly-affordable Volume 5 of The Ampersand Review.

 

 

Caroline Picard is a resident of Chicago and works as the Founding Director of The Green Lantern Gallery & Press and Co-Editor for the literary podcast The Parlor (www.theparlorreads.com). Her work has been published in a handful of publications including the Philadelphia Independent, NewCity, Lumpen, AREA Chicago, MAKE Magazine, the Chicago Art Journal Review and Proximity Magazine.

Filed under: Fiction

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