Short story from Ammanda Moore

In the doctor’s office, I laid back with my feet in the stirrups. Unclothed from the waist down and covered in a sheet, the doctor and nurse prepared to do the colposcopy. I thought it was another form of a pap smear, some light discomfort and mostly observation of my cervix due to my HPV diagnosis. When I booked the appointment, nobody warned me for what ensued.

What felt like a wire brush scraped against my insides in a back and forth motion. Tears sprang into my eyes, and sobs made it difficult to breathe. Was this what I had become? Was this what I deserved from all the unprotected sex?

I thought about the first purity talk we were given at the church. I was thirteen at the time, and the husband and wife couple ran the purity talk with exaggerated statistics and slippery slope fallacies that were very convincing. They discussed the likelihood of sterility and which
infections were untreatable. They described in graphic detail the pustules and oozing sores we’d develop if we were to give into baser instincts. They warned against lying in bed naked with each
other and any other similar activity that could lead to sex. I was embarrassed by everything they said at the time; sex was so far away from my interests.

I’ve since learned that HPV is an interesting one: either it would likely resolve itself or lead to cervical cancer. Even though the doctors had worked to normalize it, the pain I felt brought back all of the messages I’d heard before. I was dirty and wrong. Everything was my fault. I should’ve been more careful. I deserved this.

The doctor finally finished. He didn’t offer or encourage the use of pain medication. He didn’t acknowledge the tears puddling on my shirt. He told me to expect bleeding for up to a week after
the procedure.

A couple years later, I had an abnormal pap and needed a colposcopy again. I begged my partner to go with me for moral support after I explained how badly they hurt me. This time, I had a
 female doctor who told me to cough before each cut was made. I held my partner’s hand and coughed hard for each cut. Seven times, seven coughs. It dulled the pain to a heavy pressure, still
difficult but manageable.

My partner took me out for a giant piña colada served in a pineapple afterward. He was with me, holding my hand, and I was able to dull the voices of my past.

Ammanda Selethia Moore is a non-binary poet and writer who also teaches English at Norco College. Their poetry has been published in DASH Literary Journal, Literary Yard, and The Journal of Radical Wonder. They live with their partner in sunny southern California. Follow their exploits @prof.ammanda on Instagram.