I admit it: I’ve never actually been a fan of barbecue sauce. It’s the flavor, the sweet and strange tang, mixed with the general aspect, large, thick puddles the color of partially coagulated blood.
And I’ve seen lots of blood, fresh, coagulated, dry, I can tell you down to the minute how fresh spilled human blood is. It hardly makes me squeamish; I’m a surgeon, I see it multiple times a day.
Cutting and sewing up insides isn’t something I was originally planning on doing. I was a young, pessimistic 22 year old senior working on my philosophy BA. The world disinterested me. Only the absolute filth of humanity made front page news. My faith in my fellow humans was at an all-time low and steadily declining with every newspaper I opened.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I was pulled out of my spiraling, dark, and sometimes homicidal thoughts by my auntie. A doctor who genuinely seems to enjoy her profession and its consequences, she was a ray of sunshine in the horde of snarling rapist/murderer/pedophile/embezzler/liar/general-asswipes-the-world-would-be-better-without clouding my mind.
I looked into being like her. There are loads of choices in the medical field: GP, dermatology, pediatrics, cardiology, urology, gynecology, etc. Some of them were automatically not options for me. Urology for example. I barely looked at my own urine. There was no way I’d look at other peoples’. Pediatrics was even more out of the question. I didn’t know how to handle kids. But I’d know even less how to handle a situation in which an abused kid was brought to me.
So I became a surgeon. I figured it’d be impersonal enough. No need to get involved in how to change their lives exactly. It wasn’t even necessary for me to do follow-ups. It’d just be open bodies and some paper describing their medical history while I snipped away.
The path was hard. The path was exhausting. Homicidal thoughts were a permanent fixture in my mind after a while. But I was helping people. I felt like some sort of hero sometimes. I was pleased with my life.
But asswipes, being everywhere, also come to hospital. I can’t tell you how many irritating/bizarre/just-WTF?! cases I’ve had to deal with over the years. The irritating ones are…irritating, but numerous. Hysterical parents (mothers)… I’d like to slap them across the face, but unfortunately, that’s illegal. Thank goodness for nurses who have the patience of a saint, or at least pretend to. Patients moaning incoherently because of pain are easier to ignore. It becomes monotonous after a while. I’ve always been good at tuning out background noise.
Bizarre cases elicit a reaction somewhere between laughing and staring in disbelief. One guy had unhinged his own jaw by yawning. Another dislocated his shoulder whilst using a plunger on the toilet. Another had severe burns on his face, chest, and arms because he used too many combustibles while preparing a barbecue grill.
And the WTF cases. That’s not the official name for these things, but it’s a simple and effective way of calling them. Unfortunately, the situations most of these patients put themselves in are almost never simple. Maggots in the vagina. How does one even get to that point? The vagina is a self-cleaning organ, providing one doesn’t fuck with it (you see what I did there?) and its pH levels. Things in the rectum that just are not meant to be up there. How does one think, say, I think I’ll stick a soda can as far as possible up my ass and hope for the best? How stupid does one have to be?
It’s cases like these that I find myself questioning humanity most. I wonder if I should leave these things in their asses, which is bound to cause waste evacuation problems later, along with possible infections, tearing, etc. Having the wrong things up your ass can kill you (your own poop can kill you, but I won’t be going into that). I wonder, would I be doing humanity a favor if these people died? I ask myself, what would Darwin do?
How many different objects have I had to cut out of intestines? Bananas, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, empty jars, filled jars, several packets worth of candy, condiment bottles, water bottles, soda cans, beer cans, a tennis ball can, tennis balls, a baseball, a partially buried cane, bottle of soap and other beauty products, television remotes, several pens, and there’s always a few fuckers that think cement is a good idea.
But I used a condom! They tell me with wide eyes.
Condoms don’t protect against stupid! I want to tell them. But instead I force myself into a monologue that explains that, while an excellent habit, condoms are meant for disease prevention between two humans, and won’t help in the extraction of foreign items, and why did you even bother using a condom on a cucumber, man?
Usually, it’s a semi-stuttered response, something about not knowing what kind of bacteria there was. In reality, it’s usually because they planned on eating that (or feeding it to someone else).
One man in particular was a recurring patient of mine. Somehow I was always given the loser that regularly stuck bottles of condiments up his ass. Three times, it was barbecue sauce. I told him I was tired of having to extract them, and the next time he came in, it was with mustard. Cheeky bastard.
The fifth time, it was BBQ again. And I snapped. I didn’t care if the man was still groggy from anesthesia and high on morphine, I screamed at him. I asked him how fucking stupid he was. I asked him if he felt any shame, coming to the same damn hospital every time, having me treat him and cut him up over the same thing every time. I asked him why he didn’t just buy himself a vibrator or a rent boy. I told him if he ever came back with something in his ass, I’d be forcing it up there even further.
But it turns out that berating patients, even the ones that are fucking idiots, using a loud voice and profanity is a no-no. No one ever told me that. My boss got me in her office and told me I was on temporary paid leave. Thank goodness she was there to scream and curse at instead. I told myself later that I was just testing her to see how long she could keep up that stupid, ugly poker face. It took three minutes. And I was fired.
My troubles don’t end there. I climbed into my car without changing out of my bloody scrubs and raged at the steering wheel and other drivers. I would’ve raged at a police officer and probably landed in jail had the opportunity presented itself. I headed for my auntie’s house to tell her I was fired from the job she helped get me.
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a good idea.
My uncle had just returned from the supermarket with my cousin. He’d bought barbecue sauce. I saw it, and suddenly I was across the room, standing at the island counter. I seized the bottle by its neck. In the air it went, and it smashed against the marble. Glass and sauce went everywhere. The smell was suddenly overwhelming, and it made me even more furious. There was a chorus of surprised cries and one terrible scream. I dropped the broken bottle neck and brought my fists down on sauce and glass and marble.
The pain didn’t surface until later. Lucidity didn’t return until later. I was sitting in a bed in the hospital I used to work in, my hands bandaged so big I felt like the Hulk. Someone told me I’d had a nervous breakdown. No, I wasn’t nervous, I told them, I was fucking livid. I still was at the moment. With lucidity, came simmering fury. I didn’t feel like letting the nurse or doctor prod at me and tried to bite one when she came to touch a cut on my face. They didn’t like that too much. I never did realize how many restrictions there are in hospital. I remember reveling in being able to impose rules onto the more rebellious patients. I suppose I fancied myself a bit godlike, having life-giving powers of several sorts. Imagining myself on the other side of the clipboard wasn’t something I did.
My auntie was confused and concerned when they came in. My uncle was too, though more reserved. He had a sauce stain on his shirt. That’s when the guilt set in. I could have hurt someone. That flying glass could have hit a throat or an artery.
I gave a short explanation (I just lost my temper. And my job. And my reputation. But, hey, shit happens.) and they accepted it. They prodded for answers, but that made the guilt subside because my thoughts weren’t on them anymore, but that fucking BBQ lover and my fucking boss. I became violent and sullen, and they dropped it.
When I was released, the first thing I did was return to my aunt and uncle’s house. I apologized and gave him some money for the barbecue sauce. There was no way I was buying a fucking replacement bottle.