How does a vasectomy work? Where and how is the cutting done? Is there pain, or ‘discomfort’ as medical professionals call it? Are the feet hung in stirrups such as those the ladies are made to suffer? May I keep on my black Timberland Steel-Tip Blizzard Stalker® work boots in that case, the better to mitigate the gender assault and maintain a firm grasp on my manhood? Where does one buy such boots at sensible sale prices?
A friend’s halting and approximate description of the procedure made it clear he’d had his eyes squeezed shut and his fists clenched the whole time, his mouth likely a twisted Charles Nelson Reilly grimace before the doctor even entered the room. But I was determined. Judie and I had been talking about it for quite a little while. It was stupid to have her taking that scary chemical bomb whose possible side effects included Sudden Marsupial Pouch Syndrome and a little something called Dumbo Neck. I mean…Dumbo Neck? A quick little outpatient procedure would address the issue structurally and permanently and without any cryptic synthetic mischief. Downside; at a particular and inevitable moment in the foreseeable future a stranger would be lunging at my wiener with a knife. Once the appointment was made it hung like a cloud. The appointment, I mean. The friend offered assurances when I began to murmur my panic aloud one evening. Leaning in and draping his arm fraternally across the back of my chair, he gave it to me sotto voce.
“Hey, look. You’re in and out. It’s quick; an office visit. It’s a simple thing, doesn’t really hurt. A little discomfort is all.” Shit. Then he’d leaned in further with that prone, code-throwing man-face that in the old days used to precede a wink. “And after that? Anytime, anyplace.” This man-to-man would normally compel a reflexive high-five, but I’m not an ‘anytime, anyplace’. I need a bed, nice blankies, some walls, a locked door, a hallway motion detector dialed up to 11, maybe a candle or something? I’m not the hard-breathing tat yeti hurriedly nailing his Old Lady behind the funnel cake concession. My Old Lady and I had once done the hokey-pokey with ‘abandon’ in a ramshackle field next to a music festival in Belgium. I’d been in the host position, a jacket tossed over a puddle, my bare back abraded by several flesh-rending varieties of European fuck-sticklers. The whole time my distracted eyes were trained on a circling helicopter that was surely filming us for the Belgian evening news. This was Europe! As Eurythmics hammered out Sweet Dreams 100 yards away, I was having my back chewed to hell and my startled gingerbread man face filmed in telescopic close-up from above. When we got up to return to the concert and I managed to unfasten myself from the grasping, angry flora, the flesh of my back was aflame. For the remainder of the afternoon and into the night I was madly trying to reach and scratch, windmilling my arms backward, my paws scrabbling at thin air, people staring. Anytime, Anyplace.
First meeting was the orientation. Five of us were shown to a dingy little hospital meeting room with AA type folding chairs. There was a pall of silence, no chit-chat whatsoever. The sound of labored breathing and nothing else made the wait in the little room seem French and absurdist, doom-laden. In a minute the doctor showed up in his long white coat-thing, a distinguished sixty-something with baggy eyes, an annoyingly full head of snowy white hair, and a nonchalant demeanor that he’d carelessly sculpted over years of otherwise frightening genital assault. The consultation itself had been weirdly glib. Big Cock and Little Cock jokes, of all things. He hastily and ineptly illustrated the procedure on a yellow pad with a ball point pen. We were made to understand that the tubes he’d be tying off would stop the sperm from entering the cannonade, but that the Lovin Spoonful (10cc, Material Issue, Pearl Jam, etc.) would still spray unabated, to no purpose now but to keep the paper towel magnates in lobster bisque. That is, our mighty guns would still fire but the barrel would now pop out a silken little spring-loaded teal flag that said pow! in calligraphic lower case. I’m paraphrasing here. Plus his presentation featured an unnerving quantity of jittery giggling and awkward, sighing silences during which he would look off into space with something like melancholy. He Who Would Be Incising Our Scrota was not putting us at our ease. We candidates for the snipping looked at each other uneasily. I tried to fixate on the stethoscope. It looked like the real thing and not a mail order fake.
The evening before the operation I’d gathered up the courage to research the procedure online, probably the most common mistake one can make, and the most horrific. What I saw on my computer screen caused my qwerty to curl back from the keyboard in a spasm of frank horror. In panel one a scrotal thingamabob bulged obscenely through a slit in a hospital-green cotton sheet, looking like a sickly, roughed-up, newly-hatched chick tottering in panic toward the camera. Seeing this I thought ‘no need for the operation; I will never have sex again’. In panel two the outraged chick has its throat neatly slit (the procedure relies heavily on slits) and the deferens is extruded like a delicate bloodied single strand of angel hair pasta. It’s a saddeningly mechanistic glyph, this one; to think of all the history owed to that pale little thread – the Spartan armies at the Battle of the Hot Gates, the banner-waving Crusaders descending on Jerusalem, the unstoppable Barbarian hordes who finally managed to bring mighty Rome to her knees; on the way to those glories they first had to shimmy like giddy little guppies through this tiny strand of tissue. Even Attila the Hun! Even Shatner!
My name was called and I put down my magazine, kissed Judie on the cheek and marched grandly down the little hall to the room on the right. A freckle-faced Candy Striper greeted me cheerily with her clipboard, the Bic Medium Point held aloft and ready to record my responses. The semi-inclined gurney awaited, just there, but I didn’t look at it yet. I sat in the plastic chair that was offered.
“Have you taken anything?” the Candy Striper wanted to know. What? Was something missing?
“Have you taken a sedative of any kind?”
“Oh. No, I haven’t.”
She nodded appraisingly and made an appreciative face to the floor.
“Allergies to any painkillers?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Is someone here to drive you home?”
“Yes.” I nodded.
“Okay.” She pivoted with some deliberation, placed her clipboard on the counter. Turned to me. “Please remove your pants and underwear.”
“Please remove your pants and underwear?”
“Take off my pants?” I remember actually saying, already cooking up delaying tactics as the blood rushed straight out of my weiner and up into my furiously blushing head. I was suddenly so alarmed I could feel even the back and sides of my head blushing madly under my hair. Then she said the strangest thing, nodding and slowly blinking her eyes.
I knew these professionals were unflappable, even in the face of things with flaps. I’d been handled and probed and juggled and squeezed. What of it? I made a show of calmly removing my pants. She bade me lie down on the gurney, naked below what would have been the belt.
“Are you comfortable?”
“yyESS?” I heard myself chirp an octave too high.
“Are…you cold? Can I get you a blanket?”
“No, I’m fine,” I said, then looking down saw that my Doric Pillar of Manhood had been reduced to the little opaline snap that fastens the velveteen pajamas around a four-year-old’s neck. “Yeah, I guess I’m a little cold.” She opened a cabinet and withdrew a crisp, cold blue sheet and handed it to me. With a great slow show of nonchalance I unfolded it and drew it over the terrified little bump down there.
“The doctor will be with you, Shorty.”
“The doctor will be with you shortly,” she repeated, finally looking annoyed.
Five minutes later Dr. Baggy Eyes strode in with an air of impatience. He did not have his stethoscope.
“We all set?”
“Yes, I think so.”
He opened another cabinet and withdrew a silver tray with some horror instruments on it, then produced a sheet of some kind with the little aperture in it, through which he would tug my business until it looked like a trapped fetal bird. He lifted away the sheet I’d been given, pulled up his rolling stool and sat down to stare frankly and intently at my genitals, which I could feel edging slowly away from the doctor and into my already crowded pubis where I imagined the various blood vessels and cartilaginous structures making room and complaining.
“Are you cold?”
“So let’s just take a — ” He paused, made a disgusted clucking sound and drew his device back. Very suddenly he was bellowing.
“I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO SHAVE YOUR BALLS.”
“JESUS!! ssshhhh!!! ssshhhh!!”
“DIDN’T I ASK YOU TO SHAVE YOUR BALLS?”
“ssssshhh!! …what? Yeah, yeah, yeah, you….I…I did that –”
‘SHAVED YOUR BALLS?’
“WELL YOU DID A TERRIBLE JOB.”
What can one say to that? He brushed quickly past the gurney and flung the office door open with great windy force. As I craned my neck I could see him making that clipped ‘c’mere, you!’ hand gesture that the powerful and monied use to summon those they are about to school.
“STEVE,” he called out, jabbing at the air like an asshole CEO summoning the new guy in accounting. Then again. “STEVE!”
A stricken teenager in hospital baggies slunk slowly into the room, uncertain and tremulous as a seahorse. I saw him in my periphery but couldn’t look.
“PLEASE SHAVE THIS GENTLEMAN’S BALLS,” Dr. Baggy Eyes hollered with contempt; one of those very particular utterances that only fit a very few occasions. He snapped off his rubber gloves in one fluid businesslike doctor’s gesture and swept out of the room like a man wearing an ermine cape. Very very strikingly then, it was just me and Steve and my ill-shaven packaged goods. The woebegotten intern-trainee looked me briefly in the eye as one must look at a firing squad after having been refused the blindfold. This may have been the youngster’s very first shave, a perversion of that particular Right of Passage. He positioned himself at home plate and in an approximate catcher’s crouch. I looked at him down there between my legs and thought maybe an ice-breaking chat was in order.
‘Hey, how’s it goin’?’
Stevie then scraped terribly away at my tropic zone while I stared at the wall in blank existential freefall somewhere between overpowering embarrassment and sheer terror as this jittery neophyte-with-razor timidly worked away. Something in me knew this episode marked the end of whatever med school aspirations Steve’s parents had been boasting to the neighbors about. He finished and stood, looked to be pinching the razor and holding it aloft like a dead rat. He fairly dropped it on the counter.
“Thanks,” I said, and he looked at me with a haunted expression.
“‘..welcome..” and he shuffled out.
Dr. Baggy Eyes returned, snapped on a new set of rubber gloves, gave me a little crotch-deadening magic (hold your comment, reader) and snipped. There was discomfort, briefly, and of an otherworldly variety. When I flinched a little the doctor said, with an odd relish, “It’s a different kind of pain, isn’t it?”
15 minutes later it was over, but for a tired-looking older man with sewing kit parked between my thighs, staring intently at the wounds and sutures, his long smocked arm rising rhythmically with the length of thread; a strangely domestic scene. Put a smashed bonnet on his head and you’ve got Betsy Ross.
I stood, my privates feeling mildly kneed. We shook hands. The shaving misstep had soured him a little and he took his leave in something of a huff. When I turned to go I saw that the Candy Striper and Steve and three other youngsters in medical baggies were gathered in the doorway opposite, with bemused, expectant expressions, like the cast of One Day at a Time.
“Thanks…everybody,” I said, trying to be funny. I waved. They all sort of smiled, one or two half-raised their hands in response then thought better of it. It was clear that ‘Steve’s Close Shave’ had already made the office lightning rounds. I saw too that Steve was smiling more expansively, like he’d summited something. A testicular Sir Edmund Hillary. Is there any other kind? Maybe he’d make med school after all.