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"Anti-Hero" • Taylor Swift (by Will McMillan)

There’s fluid leaking out of my butt. Like snot. I wait a week then a month, then two. It’s not getting better, it’s not getting worse, but it is getting “you should go see a doctor.”

I make an online appointment. I agree to see anyone who can see me.

“Have you had a cold recently?” Doctor C asks. “Because sometimes snot comes out the other end, too.” That’s the extent of her diagnosis. She has my blood taken, just in case, to run tests, but she’s sure of it: I have a cold in my butt. I Google the doctor's name when I get home and find her Instagram account. Almost nothing but pics of her on the beach, strutting and posing. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman that fears the LORD is to be praised.” That’s the quote in her profile. Hashtags “grateful” and “thankful” in her captions. That figures, I figure. Test results come back days later with numbers, with low to high ranges. 160 is considered a high number, a bad one. My number is 336. I wait for Doctor C to reach out, to say something. But there’s nothing. I wait another month for the cold in my butt to clear up. Soon enough, my butt has a bloody nose, too.

“There was fluid and now there’s blood,” I tell an advice nurse when I call. “And my numbers…”

“I can get you in for a colonoscopy…next Monday or…” I hear her fingers click on her keyboard. “August.” It’s only the first week of May.

“Let’s do it Monday,” I say.

Two days before the colonoscopy I start taking laxatives. To cleanse. Nurses’ orders. A yellowy powder I mix with water that tastes like piss mixed with a slight hint of lemon. It makes me sick to my stomach. Along with water or clear Gatorade, it’s all I can eat. By day two of my cleanse, I’m joking about what I’ll eat 10 minutes after the colonoscopy.

“McDonalds to start. Two 20-piece McNuggets and fries and a large orange Hi-C. Then, KFC, then Popeyes…”

The day of the procedure I refuse anesthesia. “I don’t want to be knocked out. I don’t like how it hits me.” Doctor M, who’ll be doing my colonoscopy, agrees. He says it’s not a problem, people do it without anesthesia all the time. I make a joke about what I’ll be eating 10 minutes after they’ve pulled the scope from my butt. I want to make friends with Doctor M and his two assistants. They laugh, they agree, they turn on music—a sign they want to make friends with me, too. I focus in on the music.

It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem it’s me.

Doctor M inserts the scope in my butt. It has a camera that broadcasts the insides of my colon to a monitor above me. Doctor M. can see it and I see it, too.

I’ll stare directly in the sun but never in the mirror

Doctor M pushes the scope further. My colon’s a long, pinkish tunnel. He squirts water from the end of the tube to see better. He goes further.

I wake up screaming from dreaming

Doctor M stops. “Oh. Okay, that’s something.” He sees a mass. I see it, too. Like a dark wad of gum. One assistant turns down the music. One puts a hand on my arm and starts rubbing it. Doctor M starts speaking in terms that make me wish I’d had anesthesia.

“Is it possible it’s benign?” I ask.

Along with the ability to record and squirt water, the scope can also tattoo. Doctor M marks the mass with an X on one end and an X on the other. It’ll help the surgeons find it during the surgery I’ll have to have to survive.

“I mean, it’s possible. But I’ve seen these before, just like this. And they’re never benign.”

I wake up screaming from dreaming

Ten minutes after the colonoscopy I’m being escorted out for emergency blood tests and CAT scans. I spend the next several hours doing so. I don’t have an appetite anyway.

At home, I have an email, at last, from Doctor C. She references the blood tests I took over a month ago. And those fucking high numbers.

“Hi Will. Good meeting you. High numbers aren’t concerning. All your tests look good. Take care, C. W.”

And life will lose all meaning (for the last time)

Will McMillan is a queer writer born and raised within the untamed wild of the Pacific Northwest, where he still lives today. You can find his work in Craft, Bending Genres, Hippocampus, and Cheap Pop literary journals, among many others.


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