By Everly Anders
A few weeks after my divorce papers were signed, Lia came up with a great plan. If I didn’t have a knight on a white horse with a shiny metal sword to save me from my sorrow, then the least she could do was be my best friend with two plane tickets and a handful of Groupons.
“Come on,” she pleaded. “Let’s go to New York for a few days. It will be our forget that the life you once knew is over, forget the thirty-thousand dollar credit card bill he stuck you with, forget the children you never had, and let’s go have fun adventure!” It seemed like an awfully long name for such a short trip, so when I reluctantly said yes we changed the name to the Let’s eat, drink, and flirt with boys extravaganza! And a week later we headed across country and did just that.
But after the second night of going out to bars, staying up till four, and flirting with countless men who bought me froofy drinks, I realized it wasn’t enough to help me forget. Sure, washing a man right out of your hair might have worked for that lady in South Pacific, but I needed something a little stronger, and less musical.
Flirting was a momentary distraction, but once I left the bar alone, I could still feel my ex’s Burt’s Bees kiss on my lips. He was still the last one to run his hands through my hair, and my body still felt forever promised to him. I had moved on emotionally but now it was time to move on physically. I needed to erase him from my skin. As my grandmother always said, the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Okay, maybe my grandmother wasn’t the one who told me that, but someone did.
So on the last night in New York, after too many pints of beer, I decided to go home with the cutest guy at the bar. I don’t really remember if he was the cutest, but Lia assures me he totally was. The point is, I did it. At age thirty, I had my first one night-stand, and from what I can remember it was fantastic. I giggled into the neck of my shirt the entire plane ride home.
Three days later, as I was taking a shower at home, I noticed a bump on my bikini line. Not a regular red shaving bump, but a deep-down thick one. I immediately got out of the shower, cleared off all the makeup on my bathroom counter, and sat in front of the mirror to get a better look. It was definitely not like anything I had ever seen down there before, and it hurt.
I ran to my computer and looked up the signs of an STD. The Internet confirmed it: I had herpes.
My vagina would probably swell into a cauliflower within the week.
I didn’t know what to do, so I immediately called my dad. We have always been extremely close and he is the first person I think to call in a jam.
“Dad,” I instantly began to sob. “I have herpes!”
“You what?” he asked.
“I. Have. Herpes!” I yelled into the phone.
“I am going to kill your ex-husband,” he mumbled under his breath.
“No, Dad, it wasn’t him. I went to New York this weekend. I had a one-night stand. I just wanted to try it, you know?” I couldn’t stop the verbal diarrhea that was coming out of my mouth. “I wanted to have a sexual adventure. All my friends have them, but the one time I do, I get herpes!”
“You didn’t use protection?” he asked. And I was surprised how non-judgmental he sounded.
“We did use a condom. But, Dad, we had a lot of sex. Not multiple times but we switched positions a lot, you know? And now—” I couldn’t stop crying “—no one is ever going to want to date me! That’s it, Dad! I am going to have to adopt children!” I yelled.
“Everly, you will find love. People live with herpes all the time and meet people. There are even dating websites for people with STDs. You are going to get through this.” Dating websites? I thought. I have the best father in the entire world. And I wished to God I could calm down for his sake, but I couldn’t.
“What did the doctor say?” he asked, and I could envision him with his head in his hands, the way he did when he was very concerned.
“The doctor?” I asked, and abruptly stopped crying. “I haven’t seen the doctor. I just found it in the shower.”
“You what? Everly, go to the doctor.” I heard a bell ring in the background. And that is when it dawned on me that he was at work. I had just called my dad at the local high school where he taught history, to tell him I had an STD because of a one-night stand. I was a terrible child.
“I have to go into class now, but call me right after the doctor, okay?” he said in his soothing fatherly voice.
“Okay,” I said and hung up the phone.
I immediately called my doctor. I began to cry again on the phone with the receptionist and she told me to come right in.
In the waiting room, I thought of all the things that were going to go wrong for me now that I had herpes. Sure, I had friends that lived totally normal lives with herpes. They had boyfriends and husbands and families and it was nothing but an inconvenience, but that wouldn’t be me. I would get the worst case of herpes imaginable—I was sure. I would get an outbreak every couple of weeks. I wouldn’t be able to give birth vaginally for fear of making the child blind.
In the doctor’s office, I dressed in the little green gown with the opening in the back. The door opened and Dr. Phrainer came in.
“So.” She had a smile that said: Someone was having fun in New York.
I burst into tears. I immediately launched into the whole story and gave her every detail of the sex. She is a doctor, I thought, she can handle it. But I soon realized I was retelling it more like an erotic novel and less like clinical fact. The uncomfortable frown on her face said she thought so, too. I stopped talking, not sure exactly where I had left off.
“You told your dad?” She looked horrified.
“Can you just do an exam please and tell me what it is?”
“Sure,” she said, putting on goggles and gloves, like she was about to cut down a tree in her backyard rather than look at my hoo-ha.
I lay down on the table and then sat up again. “You don’t understand, I know people live with herpes all the time and there are dating websites and everyone else who gets herpes is fine, but not me. I know this sounds crazy, but I would rather have cancer then herpes.” She began to laugh because who says something so horrible? Then she caught herself when she saw the seriousness on my face and nodded.
There was a part of me way back in my brain that knew how ridiculous and irrational I sounded, but I couldn’t help it. I had a God-given gift for assuming the worst. I lay back and thought about all the sweatpants I would have to buy for when my lady parts swelled up like a pink tomato.
“Well,” she said, her head popping back up from between my legs. “I have some good news.” Her gloves made a snapping sound as she pulled them off. “You have cancer.”
“Just kidding!” she said with a smile. “I just always wanted to say that.”
I wasn’t sure if I should punch her or laugh along with her.
“Don’t worry, it’s not cancer. And it’s not herpes, either. Though I think you might want to talk to someone about your irrational fear of STDs. You have an ingrown hair. I think it’s from shaving too close and then having a lot of friction on it.” In other words, you are a cum dumpster. “Put a heating pad on it and bathe with some Epsom salts and you should be fine.”
When I got home, I was so exhausted from the whole ordeal that I sat in front of the TV and zoned out. My phone rang several hours later.
“What did the doctor say?” My father sounded panicked on the other line. I sat straight up. Damn, I had forgotten to call him back.
“Oh, hi, Dad. Thanks for calling. Everything is fine. Turns out it was an ingrown hair. Just need to stop shaving my hoo-ha so close.”
Jesus, Everly, could you stop saying these ridiculous things to your father? The man is sixty for Christ sake and he doesn’t want you to talk about shaving your hoo-ha. And who even says hoo-ha anymore? Start saying vajayjay—that’s what Oprah says.
My dad let out a huge sigh of relief. “Don’t scare your poor old dad like that. I have been stressed out all day!”
“I know. I should have called, or actually not called in the first place, but I was so scared.”
“I know, Punkin.” I loved it when he called me that. “I’m glad I could be here for you.”
“I’m sorry your daughter is a slut monkey,” I whined into the phone.
“Everly, you’re not a… anything. You are just having a hard time right now.”
I have the best dad ever.
“Did you learn your lesson?” he asked.
“Yes,” I promised, holding up my fingers in the scout’s honor position even though he couldn’t see me. “No more having one-night stands.”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean yes, that would help your father sleep at night, but you are a thirty-year-old woman and you have to make your own decisions on that. But what I mean is, promise me that next time you think you have an STD, SARS, a severed limb, whatever, you will go to the doctor straightaway.”
“I promise.” And I meant it. I had learned my lesson. “But, Dad? For the record, did you just say I could have more one-night stands?”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“I love you, Dad.”
“I love you too, Punkin.”
Yep, best dad ever.
Everly Anders is currently finishing a memoir dealing with divorcing a mentally unstable man. She also writes short science fiction and fantasy to encourage young women to read genres. If you would like to connect with her, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook.