The Best Time I Took My Ex to the Hospital for a Rectal Exam
by Jen Doll
This particular ex and I had what anyone would refer to as a tumultuous relationship. One time he described us as Sid and Nancy, which really is not something a couple should ever go for. We both drank, and we both drank a lot more during the time we were actually dating, during which he was partly living with me, partly leaving his suitcase on my floor and rampaging about town, passing out in other apartments, getting kicked out of cabs and losing his phone, wallet, laptop, brain cells. I was the “responsible” one in the relationship, which meant, generally but not always, that I got slightly less drunk than he did and followed him into and out of bars trying to get him to go home and/or pay attention to me. This is not a wise course for a relationship, nor particularly good for one’s esteem. It took him going on a three-day drinking binge “for his birthday” for me to see that. I blocked him from my phone after that, and decided I’d forget about him completely.
It didn’t work. I dated some other guys, most of them nice and relatively normal, but nobody who seemed to give me that sick push-and-pull that apparently I desired. I told myself he was bad for me. Friends told me it’s not like he was that much fun in the first place. Friends were sort of right. But I am nothing if not stubborn. There’s something in me that wants to win, and in this case, winning meant not necessarily dating him again, but at least getting him to want me back. This happens sometimes.
I texted him on New Year’s Day, after having avoided a make-out with another man by crying, a method that worked rather well but made me think I really needed to confront this thing head-on. The ex texted me back, nearly immediately. We made extremely tentative plans to maybe meet up again. Perhaps we could be friends.
In the next couple of weeks, I had re-added him to my BlackBerry IM, which is always a terrible idea. He would BBM me occasionally, late, without warning: “What are you DOOOING?” He told me he didn’t want to make “actual” plans for fear of disappointing me when he failed to follow through, so he was just going to be “spur of the moment.”
We met for drinks, once, and then again. The second time we kissed. And then he was out of town for a month. During that period there was a week in which we were almost, barely, back together, a night in which he said he would “try,” a night in which he actually did … and then weeks of nothing. Then he was back.
He texted me while I was heading to a concert with a friend: “What are you DOOOING?” I told my friend there was no way I would respond, screw him! We were done! Moments later, I wrote him back. He wanted to hang out. I said maybe. After the show, my friend and I got a cab downtown, ostensibly to meet him, and he kept calling, threatening to go home. He was leaning on a mailbox outside the bar when I got there. We went to a place where we used to go, a candle-lit atmospheric white-washed venue with good wine, which we both had. That’s where he told me, ever so romantically, that he’d been shitting blood for the past two months. “It feels like there are small children sitting on my back,” he said.
I said, “Dude. You need to go to the doctor.”
“I will never go to the doctor,” he said.
I protested. He protested. I told him I’d go with him. I told him I’d help him find a doctor. He refused. “I will never go to the doctor,” he kept repeating. I told him fine, then he would have to go with me to the E.R. Right now. Remarkably, uncharacteristically, he acquiesced.
We got in a cab, and I said, for the first time in my life, “To the nearest hospital! The good one.” (I meant Beth Israel, where I’d been before to visit a friend. It seemed not bad, if not “good,” exactly, as New York City hospitals go.)
We arrived at the E.R. A guy was sitting there, by himself, at a dark, dingy, semi-official looking desk. The ex signed in, and we sat in the appointed dingy chairs. There was a man adjacent to us, eating a sweet potato pie, his feet out of but resting atop his sneakers. We made eye contact.
“How’s your pie?” I said. “Do you come here often?”
“Every night,” he said. “I just come to watch. It’s delicious!”
The ex was called for an initial exam, during which his blood pressure and temperature and vital signs and such were taken. I kept being asked, “Is he drunk?” He clearly was. “She made me come in,” he said, groaning, pointing at me. “You’re lucky you have someone who cares about you,” said one of the nurses. Hah! I thought, secretly. How true! Win for me!
Then back to the chairs, and suddenly there was snoring: The ex was completely asleep. Feeling weirdly maternal, I balled up his coat and put it under his head as a pillow. “Is that your husband?” pie-eating guy asked. He was almost done with his pie. “No,” I said. “Just a friend” — friend seeming the most innocuous of terms for whatever we were, if not quite accurate.
Finally, we were taken to a small cot surrounded by a curtain, and on either side, by more small cots surrounded by curtains. A nurse came and repeated that the ex was lucky to have someone around like me. We were asked what our relationship was. “Just friends,” he said. He was given a gown and told to put it on. Open in the front or back?, he asked me, after the nurse left. “Back,” I said, happy to provide whatever instructional knowledge lay at my fingertips. A doctor showed up, a young guy, who asked a few questions and then, getting to the point, asked me to step beyond the curtain. I briskly consented, getting about halfway to the hospital bathroom before I realized that the ex was having a very special Friday night rectal exam, compliments of me. I didn’t laugh then, nor, several hours later, after the blood work, when he was finally given an OK bill of health along with a list of doctors and a warning that he needed to get his act together ASAP because in 10 years this would be a serious situation.
We emerged from the E.R. around 5 a.m. The night had not turned out how either of us had expected. We cabbed back to my apartment together, and it was as we turned onto my street that the ex leaned in to the cab driver and said, “Man, can you take me to Park Slope?” I turned to him, mouth agape. “Really? You’re going home now? After I took you to the E.R.?” I glanced at my apartment building, where there was, to my surprise, a group of cops standing outside, looking up and gesticulating. “There are cops outside of my apartment, and you’re going home?”
“I have to go back to my cave,” he mumbled. I reached for my wallet, decided against it, and got out of the car, furious, and addressed the cops. “What’s going on?” The cab pulled away. “Oh, your roof is just collapsing,” they said. “Don’t stand where you’re standing, and you’ll be fine.”
Of course. Not wanting to get hit by falling bricks, I walked inside, made eye contact with another cop, and asked, “Is it safe to be in my apartment?” He shrugged, gave a partial nod, and then there was a spark of recognition. “Hey, didn’t I just see you in the E.R.?” he said. “With your husband?”
“That wasn’t my husband,” I said. “That was some … asshole.”
I went to my apartment, got into bed, and that’s when I finally started laughing. The next morning I woke up, exhausted, and got ready for the baby shower I’d agreed to go to with another ex.
Jen Doll is a staff writer at the Village Voice, co-helming the Voice’s news blog, Runnin’ Scared. She wrote the paper’s February 9 cover story, “The Plight of the Single Lady,” and was, a long time ago, deeply involved with a very special magazine called Radar. She’s not really about revenge, but sometimes it happens, usually sort of by accident.
Photo via Medisave