There is perhaps nothing more humiliating—nor humbling—in the world than getting a tampon stuck in your vagina. Specifically, having to call your gyno and ask them what to do after said misfortune.
The phone call is the last resort. It comes after you’ve spent an hour on the Internet Googling all of the things you can do, including attempting to literally give birth to said tampon. (That’s not the terminology they use but it’s certainly the mechanics they’re describing.) You try all of it while your roommate snickers, reading out the instructions from the other side of your bedroom door. You refused to grant her entry when asked, so there she will stay.
You don’t blame her for snickering. Had the roles been reversed you know, without shame, that you would be doing the exact same thing. Well, maybe a little shame. You’d like to think you’re capable of being a bigger person. Someone who would never laugh at medical mishaps.
This hour followed the panicked five or so minutes you’d spent in the bathroom before dejectedly calling for help. Desperately trying to find the string that had 100% been there when you’d put in the stupid thing not eight hours ago. (Yes, you’d gone more than four hours without changing your tampon. Frankly, Darcy, you did not need to be reminded of this fact, nor have it continually cited as reason for why this might have happened!)
For many years, you’ve thought stepping on a LEGO to be the most heinous experience you can wish upon another human being. Now, you think it’s this: lying spread eagle on a bed, attempting to shit out a tampon, while a traitorous friend giggles on the other side of the door. It would serve Darcy right to experience this same humiliation.
Dr. Phelps is either a) a saint or b) too used to dealing with this bullshit to be anything other than soothing and understanding on the phone. The fact that you can apparently feel the tampon is a good sign (of what, you don’t dare to ask). Regardless, she wants you to go to the ER, since her practice is about to close. She rattles off things like infection, kidney issues, toxic shock syndrome, etc. that would be best avoided. You agree. Even at twenty-three, you’re too scared to go alone. Darcy graciously drives you. Neither of you speak on the drive, but every few minutes Darcy snorts as she tries to hold in her laughter. You are not amused.
The ER isn’t crowded. One little boy has his arm bent at a horrible angle and is crying into his mom’s shoulder. Some lady has her head in between her legs as a woman you assume is her partner runs soothing circles along her back. So, you take your little clipboard of paperwork from the desk and settle in.
A nurse eventually brings you back to a little curtained off bed in the same room as the kid, who seems to literally be mid-cast plastering. Which means you’re really gonna have a tampon removed from your vagina while a no-older-than-eight-year-old boy tells a nurse about his favorite dinosaurs on the other side of the curtain. Lovely.
You’re handed a gown and told the doctor will be in momentarily. Before she leaves, the nurse pops up stirrups from the bed. Ugh. You change and then lie down on the bed. Staring at the ceiling. Wondering if you’re being punished for something.
And then the curtain opens.
And you know, with blinding certainty the second you see who it is, that you are.
Because who the fuck steps through the curtain?
Henry Carmichael. (29, three miles away.)
You discovered Henry’s Tinder profile a week and a half ago. You did not use to use Tinder often, but you’ve been in a bit of a dry spell since you broke up with your college boyfriend. What better place to go to look for hook-up partners than Tinder? His photos had been, in order: him in a tuxedo (dangerous), him lying shirtless on a dock overlooking a lake (dangerous), him on a hike (sweaty, scruffy, and disheveled), and him wearing a doctor’s coat and stethoscope (clean shaven, gelled back hair, and a smile for what was clearly a professional headshot). His bio simply read “Dr. Carmichael will see you now.”
The intended effect was had. You swiped right. There’d been a couple others after—some matches, some not—but then you’d put your phone down and joined Darcy in her binge of The Kardashians. In fact, you’d almost forgotten about him until your phone pinged with the match alert about an hour later. He messaged nearly immediately. Just a simple hey. You admired the confidence and responded.
Typically two things happened at the 72 hour mark from when you started communicating with a Tinder match (in your thirteen-matches-experience). A: You got straight up ghosted. It had happened quite a lot. Probably seven out of the thirteen. To be fair, you did the same to men that you hated (1 out of the twelve). It was Tinder; photos could be lovely and a personality could be quite lacking. B: You got invited out. Usually for drinks (twice), sometimes dinner (once), and once a brunch with bottomless mimosas that he paid for. Which, score. Sex was usually implicitly on the table (except for brunch; you two totally just vibed and then never spoke about it again).
Neither of those things happened with Henry. Because, 72 hours after first contact, Henry went to a doctor-y conference out of state. So there could be no date, but there could definitely be a ghosting. Yet he continued to message you. He was stupidly funny, cracking jokes about anything you teed up for him, or just all of the insane shit at his conference. Mostly seeing his co-workers and fellow doctors lose their fucking minds over post-day drinks. Academic/professional conferences could apparently be quite the rager. You never would’ve guessed.
He returned yesterday. Then he invited you out for drinks for two nights from then—now tomorrow. In the interim you two had found new ways to…connect.
You started it with a bikini pic the other day (pre-period) when you went to the lake with Darcy and friends. But he totally knew what he was doing when he sent you a towel-only picture from his fancy hotel bathroom. And then you upped it again with a hint of a lacy bra peeking out of a top. And so on and so forth.
And yes, Darcys of the world, should you have been exchanging…not nudes but certainly slutty pictures with a stranger you met on the Internet? Before you’d ever actually met in person? Like, probably not. But did you do it anyway and would have to live with the consequences? Yes.
Consequences such as, apparently, getting a tampon shoved up your vagina. Look, pad wings over a G-string are not only virtually impossible but not sexy, okay? You weren’t gonna send a picture with that on. And it’s a very sexy G-string. These pictures were what it was made for. Its time to shine.
Henry doesn’t look at you right away. Which is good because you’re gaping like a fish. He’s reading off your chart, confirming that this is in fact Alex here for a retained tampon. Said all calm and business-like. Like he deals with this all the time. It of course occurs to you that he might. This is his job.
And then he looks up. His eyes widen. You snap your mouth closed and sink further into the bed. Maybe if you sink down hard enough, you’ll pass right through it. The tampon will just plop right onto the scratchy sheets if there’s no body to cage it in, right? No further digging required. And then you can both pretend this never happened.
He looks at you. You look at where his name is embroidered on his lab coat. (Is 29 old enough to be a full doctor? It says MD on the coat.) Then he clears his throat.
“This shouldn’t take long, so let’s get right to it, alright?”
He sits down on the stool at the edge of the bed. What other choice is there? You nod. You don’t trust your voice.
He starts asking questions, though, so you’re forced to speak as he pops your feet into the stirrups. How long has it been in there? He picks up the speculum. You can’t watch anymore. Any discharge/weird odors/various other signs of infection? He sticks the speculum in, which, Jesus, no warning? Did you try and remove it? There’s a clatter as he presumably reaches over for something on the tray you’d seen near the stool he’s on. What happened when you tried? He sticks the little tool in. Also with no warning.
And literally, not even thirty seconds later, he is holding your bloody tampon between a pair of what’s essentially large tweezers. He drops it into the trash. Snaps his gloves off to join it.
You stare at him, gaping. Again. That’s fucking it? All this, for that?
He turns around and picks a wrapped pad up off the little tool tray. It’s not until he holds it out to you that he looks you in the eye again. This time, you don’t shut your mouth.
“What?” he says. A little crease forms between his eyebrows. It’s fucking hot.
“That’s not how I wanted you to see my vagina!” is, somehow, the sentence that leaves your mouth.
Yes, you’re being punished. For taking slutty pictures and feeling hot. Father Patrick gave plenty of sermons about lust for you to know better. Icarus had his wings. You have your G-string. And now you and Henry are both equally stunned by what is perhaps the worst combination of words uttered at the worst possible moment.
The ensuing silence is broken by the little boy on the other side of the curtain. He thoughtfully asks, “Mommy, what’s a vagina?” and you want to die. You’re already in the hospital. Surely it can’t be a far gurney ride to the morgue. You bury your head in your hands. Henry’s snort makes you lower them. He takes a step closer to you, pad still in hand, and holds it out for you a little more insistently.
“That’s not how I wanted to see it, either,” he whispers. You flush, even as you try to glare. Then you snatch the pad from his hand. He gives you an assurance that you should be fine but here’s a list of toxic shock syndrome symptoms to be on the lookout for, just in case. You don’t remember half of them. He dips with a wink before you can ask for a repeat. You scoff, shoving the pad into your underwear and then getting dressed. The fucking nerve.
When you return to the waiting room, Darcy is grinning too devilishly. What fucking now?
“I saw Tinder Henry,” she says, sing-songy. Oh, no. You never should have shown her his profile. And of course one of your pictures includes Darcy, so he might’ve recognized her on sight, too. Neither of them would be bold enough to…talk to the other, right? The sinking feeling in your stomach grows as Darby continues, “He came from where you did. Was he your doctor?”
“Shut up and get in the car,” you say, which is enough to make her gasp in delight.
She cackles virtually the whole way home. Fucking traitor.
Olivia Dimond loves finding new ways to reinvent the stories we think we know. Her creative work has appeared in miniskirt magazine and Snaggletooth, as well as received honors from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. When not writing, she can be found making theater or daydreaming about her future dog(s). You can follow her on Twitter @livdimond or at oliviadimond.com