Dear Healthcare Provider:

I just wanted to thank you for being kind and generous with me today, your difficult patient who didn’t want to talk much and tried to dictate their own care and frowned during the entire appointment, feeling exposed, hurt, scared, worried about cost and humiliation.

See for me, being sick or injured, as a trans person, as a person underinsured by medicaid, as a person living under the dead limb of student debt in an economic storm–sick or injured is the most vulnerable place I can be. The scariest place I know is up on that examining table, every inch of skin I expose to you during our medical encounter a mile of inroads I have given you. I am weary, I am wary. I am taut to snap back if you show yourself a trap, a bully with a stethoscope, a critic on call.

Thank you for intuiting that I was not grumpy for the sake of grumpy, but worried about cost, slipping me a much-needed supply for my healing that would have been a squeeze in my budget, a budget already stretched thin on imagined money, loans and credit cards. I am up to the neck in debt and forever climbing, even while knowing that some day soon there are medical expenses coming that should be (but won’t be) covered by insurance, and that those things will cost me more than a whole year of college, more than a third of my annual income in my yet-to-entered field, my yet-to-be-gotten job.

Thank you for intuiting that I was not being stoic for machismo, but stoic because the masculinity I was socialized to does not go to the doctor til that dying breath, and while I am working on cowboying down and learning that having my masculinity recognized in the world does not mean self-neglect, I live with my father in my head calling every injury and illness overreacting, so if I am unprepared to tell you how and when I hurt, it is because there is a devil on my shoulder telling me self doubt is the best reaction to somatic pain. It is a long road, and my heart is only beginning to learn how to listen to the rest of my body.

I work in healthcare because of how hard it is for me to access it. So thank you for taking down the gate for an hour, so I too might have that thing we all need, care for the carer.

Respectfully,
A trans nurse

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Awkward Both

05/24/2011

In the dream we are trapped underneath the coffee table. A party swirls around us: clinking glass, high laughter and distant voices. One of us starts awake and the motion forces us to consciousness.

“Hey.”

“Oh, hey.”

Neither of us is sure how we got here, yet we both want to remain casual. We’re pressed chest to chest in the dark breathing heavily, trying to touch as little as possible. You know that yoga pose where you lie on your stomach and arch your limbs upward from your core? It’s like that. I can already feel the exhausted burn, ATP depleting from the muscles, and I know soon I’ll begin to shake and sweat.

I feel as awkward as a gay high school wrestler, so close to the salty skin I crave, but context deeming anything of the sort unacceptable, no matter how involuntary.

I’ve wanted to touch you. And we are touching, yes, but the physical and emotional constraints are nothing like I expected. I had imagined there would be some sort of spark, a moistening of the lips that would tell me the way to lean in for the kiss. Instead I am nauseous. My palms sweat but my mouth is dry and my lips are like parchment peels rustling against eachother.

“No, no. This is all wrong,” I want to explain. It was supposed to be different. I was gonna have my shoulders pulled back and my eyes bright. I was gonna be sure–we both were. We were both gonna be so sure.

Of course we’re not, tho. Maybe we’re missing key details. I stutter, “S-so, where were you born?”

I can feel you rolling your eyes as your lids snap shut against the gleaming black pupils. But still, you drawl nasally, “Long Island,” East Coast and matter-of-fact.

“Oh,” I say. “Well, that uh, explains…”

“The accent?” you finish. I can’t tell if you’re grimacing or smiling. We’re both struggling not to go limp. Straining not to touch despite the indisputable, given the facts of our entombment. We are indeed, touching, and may well have no choice but to do so until we engineer some sort of escape.

You surprise me as I’m trying to figure on how we got here, how we’re gonna get out. “It’s okay, I think. If you want to…” you shift your weight from side to side. “Relax. I mean, I don’t think we have much choice.”

I nod slightly, knocking the back of my skull against the wood of the table in agreement. “Yes, yes I suppose that’s so. Is it okay–would it be alright if I laid my head here, in the hollow above your left shoulder?”

“Yeh, that works. Better we’re not breathing the same air back and forth, yeh?”

I exhale as I ease myself into you, urging my body to relax despite the immense awkwardness, and feel my breath as it reflects off of your neck, blows a stray curl into my face. All the hairs on the back of my neck stand up again and my stomach tightens menacingly. Like someone has drawn up a string, my spine tightens into the shoulders and they contract. Suddenly my crotch is warm. Burning, even. I roll my gaze into your collar bone. Libido, you have some poor timing.

Cheeks flushed, I whisper into the ear I am so close to, “You sure this is okay?” and you shrug silently, snake a hand to my hip and press comfortingly.

Something in me releases. We drift in and out of sleep, alternately drowsing and jarring awake. One time I wake up and I swear, you’ve worked your hand up beneath my shirt. You’re stroking the skin of my back softly and pressing the pads of your fingers into the flesh one at a time like you’re typing a letter. But there are no words for this.

Next time I wake, you pull your hand away quickly. “Sorry. Sorry. I–”

“It’s okay,” I reassure you, not yet sure if I mean it. There’s no room in this space for that kind of discomfort, tho, so I put the sensation aside.

It’s okay, I tell myself.

“It’s okay,” I tell you, and wake up.