The Doctor Is In

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Gaines had broken up with his girlfriend, with whom he had been in love, and, after a couple of months, attempted to get back on the horse. His date’s name was Sandy, and she was a friend of some friends who were always trying to find Gaines a wife. Sandy was an aesthetician, which felt to Gaines like an occupation he should be making fun of. According to the wife in the couple who set them up, though, it meant that Sandy waxed women’s crotches and squeezed their zits. Gaines, who was an ER doc, often felt like a professional zit-squeezer himself. Except the zits were abscesses and boils. It was the same basic principle, though: get the crud out.
     Gaines knew in advance that Sandy was attractive because he had been forwarded a picture. This depressed him, because pretty women, in the end, tired him out. In theory he would have one on his arm, but in practice, he would spend his time fretting that they didn’t match, that people thought him "lucky." Experience had taught Gaines that he did best when the woman was thought to be the lucky one.


     Still, he put on a show of confidence when she arrived to pick him up. He tried not to stare. He reminded himself that he could have any woman he wanted since he made a lot of money, while simultaneously trying to ignore the fact that he wouldn’t date a woman who wanted his money.
     "It’s nice to meet you," Sandy said, and she held out her hand. Gaines shook it, then, as an afterthought, kissed it. "Oh," Sandy said, and he immediately wanted to run back inside his apartment.
     On the way to the restaurant Gaines had picked, Sandy came up against a bad driver. Gaines insulted the man by suggesting he had Attention Deficit Disorder, and Sandy said, "I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I take medication." Gaines winced. To try to make things right between them, he confessed that he had been molested when he was ten.
     "That’s terrible," Sandy said.
     "It’s okay," Gaines said. "I’ve worked it out."
     The restaurant was full and would be for a while, so they had to go to a place across the street. Gaines liked how they both acted like the new place was even better than the old one, even though it wasn’t. He started to relax a little.
     After they ordered, Gaines asked Sandy about her job. She said she loved it and that she met interesting people. Gaines asked her how they were interesting, and she said they all told her their problems like she was a bartender. "I used to be a bartender," Gaines said, and Sandy said, "Really?" in a way that told him it wasn’t time to start talking about him yet.
     It was getting so that Gaines couldn’t stop staring. This depressed him terribly. He didn’t want to be in a position where he couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Soon he wouldn’t be able to tell if Sandy had a bad personality or not. He would just see the raven hair, the hefty breasts, the hands filled with muscle memory. Already — in the way she broke her bread or unfolded her napkin — he thought he had recognized his own hands at work, spreading open some woman’s vagina.

He thought he had recognized his own hands at work, spreading open some woman’s vagina.

     Now she asked him if she could ask him a personal question. "Sure," he said.
     "When you got molested, did it turn you on?"
     "Yes," he said. Not even his shrink had gotten around to asking him this, and he had been waiting.
     "Was it a man or a woman?" she asked.
     Gaines hesitated. He preferred for people to assume it was a man. When he told them it was a woman, he could tell they thought he had confused getting molested with getting lucky. "A woman," he said finally. He waited for Sandy to ask how old he had been. People who were willing to go along with the idea that a woman could molest a boy tended to need the boy to be very young.
     But Sandy didn’t ask. She just said, "Man, thanks a lot, lady," and they both laughed.

Gaines had thought that since he and Sandy had laughed about the woman who had molested him, they would share a kiss goodnight. Instead, Sandy drove him back to his apartment after dinner and held out her hand. "It was nice meeting you," she said.
     Gaines felt insulted. "I’m not shaking your hand," he said, and he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. When he pulled back, she was still holding out her hand. "Put that away," he snapped, and she retracted her arm.
     Back inside his apartment, he tried to justify to himself why he had been so aggressive with her. It wasn’t anything to do with having paid for dinner and feeling like she owed him. Otherwise Gaines would’ve dated a hooker. It was to do with the fact that Gaines had felt tricked. As if Sandy had opened a vein and bled him without any intention of replacing what she had taken.
     Finally, he gave up and felt the truth of things: that he had probably blown it, that he had set a new personal best for letting his anger — which he had held back from his ex for a good five dates — escape him, that a kiss on the cheek was suddenly making him feel like a date rapist.
     He stripped and got into bed with his cat, who planted herself on his chest, and was still there when he woke up in the morning.








He had indeed blown it. The next day, in response to an email to Sandy saying what a great time he’d had and asking would she like to do it again, he heard nothing. A couple of the residents asked him how his date had gone, since he’d been unable to restrain himself from showing off her picture, and he shook his head and said something about uptight women. He immediately regretted this, since the only reason to call a woman uptight was if she’d rejected you.
     After work, Gaines went to therapy. "How come you never asked me if I was turned on when I was molested?" he asked the doctor.
     "Were you?" she asked, and Gaines felt this was cheating.
     He had racquetball next at the gym. His league consisted of mostly men, but there were a couple of women in the rotation, and tonight one of them beat him two out of three. He took a strange pleasure in this, just as he would whenever his ex had beat him at Scrabble. Within the controlled and regulated confines of a game, Gaines was comfortable losing to women.
     It bothered him that Sandy didn’t seem to feel the need to answer his email. Especially when they had friends in common. What kind of way was that to act, Gaines wondered the next morning, at which point he sent flowers to the spa where she worked, hoping to jar her out of her stupor. She called his cellphone later that day, and Gaines answered like he didn’t know who it was. "Thank you for the flowers," she said, after identifying herself.
     "Oh, you’re welcome," he said.
     "They’re at the front desk, for everyone to enjoy."
     "I got them for you," Gaines said.

She tried rolling up her pant leg, but it was too slim. She would have to remove her jeans entirely.

     "I know," she said. "I’ll take them home tonight."
     "Do you want to go out again?" Gaines asked.
     "I don’t know," Sandy said.
     "C’mon," Gaines said. "It’ll be fun."
     She paused, then said, "What have you got against shaking hands?"
     "Nothing," Gaines said.
     "When someone offers you her hand, you should shake it."
     "I will," Gaines said.
     Sandy had an idea that they should try the ice cream at the three supposedly best parlors in Cambridge, then decide for themselves which one was the best. Gaines thought this was dumb, and felt even worse when she suggested that they meet at four o’clock on Sunday. This was neither a romantic day nor time, and Gaines read her as trying to skip out on a real date.
     They met at Toscanini’s, then moved on to Herrell’s and Christina’s. Besides the fact that this was an activity to do with children, Gaines found it ridiculous because ice cream was ice cream. It was made up of cream, sugar, and flavoring. When you got into the high-end stuff, there was no telling it apart.
     Sandy pretended that there was. She initiated real conversation at each shop, trying to get him excited about picking a favorite.
     "I don’t like ice cream," Gaines said finally, even though it wasn’t true.
     "What?" Sandy said. "Why didn’t you tell me?"
    He shrugged.
     "We could’ve gone out for dinner instead," she said.
     "We could’ve?" Gaines said.
     "Sure," Sandy said. "Why not?"
     "I thought it was either/or."
     "We can still go out to dinner," she told him.
     "I’m not hungry anymore," Gaines said.
     "Look," Sandy said. "I’m trying to come up with solutions. I’m trying to be pleasant."
     "I know," Gaines said. "I’m sorry."
     In the end they decided to go ice skating. Sandy suggested it as a way to burn calories quickly and make them hungry for dinner. Gaines had assumed that she knew how to skate, but it turned out that she didn’t. She went around a few times holding the rail, then agreed to let him take her hand. Gaines had played hockey in high school, and was actually more comfortable skating backward than forward. As Sandy got better, he positioned himself in front of her, coaxing her on like a kid. She didn’t seem to mind this until she took a hard fall. Then she told him he should’ve been holding her hand. He let her make it his fault, then helped her off the ice. She was limping and he insisted on checking out her right knee, which had taken the most punishment. She tried rolling up her pant leg, but it was too slim. She would have to remove the jeans entirely.
He drove her car back to his house, then walked ahead of her so he could take his ex-girlfriend’s picture down before Sandy saw it. But she said, "God, slow down, would you? My knee is killing me," so he did.
     "Who’s that?" she asked when they got inside the apartment. He had an exposed brick wall, and the picture was hanging a little left of center. Every time Gaines would go to take it down, he’d remember how his plumber had once called Natalie hot, and would end up leaving it where it was.
     "My ex-girlfriend," he said.
     Sandy didn’t say anything.
     He went and got her his robe and, while she was changing out of her jeans in the bathroom, took Natalie’s picture down and replaced it with one of his mother’s sister Bess. She’d died of breast cancer when he was in high school, and had let him talk shit about his mother to her on her deathbed.

She had an egg-shaped lump on her knee. He pressed it.

     "Who’s that?" Sandy asked when she came back out. Gaines noticed she’d removed her shirt under his robe, even though she hadn’t hurt herself above the waist.
     "My Aunt Bess," he said.
     Sandy nodded and sat down on the couch. She put her right foot up on the wooden coffee table, and Gaines cleared some magazines so he could sit on it, facing Sandy. "Let’s see here," he said, pushing the robe back to reveal an egg-shaped lump on her knee. He pressed it and she said, "Ow."
     "Sorry," he said.
     "Is it broken?" she asked.
     "Bend it," he said, and she did, and he told her that it wasn’t broken. A little lower down, on her calf, he saw something. "What’s this?" he asked, even though he knew.
     "What?" she said, leaning forward.
     "This," he said, pointing to the spot, then moving his hand so she could see.
     She eyed it, then said, "Oh. It’s an ingrown hair. They’re pretty common with waxing."
     He paused for a second, then said, "Want me to get it for you?"
     She looked at him. "I guess. If you want."
     He nodded, then positioned an index finger on either side of the clogged follicle. He squeezed, and a coiled hair popped out, along with a wormy trail of afterbirth. "Oh man," he said.








"Was there a lot?" she asked.
     He presented her with the goo on his fingertip, and her eyes crossed slightly as she gripped his wrist, steadying it for close scrutiny. "Wow," she said finally, then gave him his hand back. He flicked her innards off his finger, and resumed scanning her leg. "Here’s another one," he said.
     This time she didn’t move forward to check it out. She just said, "Go ahead," then leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
     After that, he didn’t ask permission to squeeze anymore. And he didn’t always squeeze. He was in a strange place, somewhere between doctoring and fucking. He ran his hands over her like he was at work, on the pretext of searching. But he was hard as he did it, which was something he never allowed himself in the hospital. It threatened sometimes, to be sure. Once a dancer had come in with some crotch complaint and he’d told her to strip and get her feet in the stirrups. When he came back in with the nurse, the woman had done what he’d asked, but her spiked boots were still on.

He squeezed a little here and there, distracted by the way the wet was soaking her underwear.

He and the nurse raised their eyebrows at one another, but later, at home, he’d imagined the exam without the nurse. He’d imagined himself not as a doctor, but as a man with doctoring skills. Someone who could tell the dancer what was wrong with her (nothing), then, while she was still properly positioned, while her pussy was still slick from the jelly, put himself inside her. She wouldn’t complain because in his dream, this was part of doctoring. She might’ve even come in needing it.
     "There might be more of them on my thighs," Sandy said now, and Gaines said why didn’t she lie back on the couch and he’d take a look. She nodded and did as he asked. She was acting woozy and out of it, and he very much liked this, that she was choosing to be in this particular way.
     He pushed her robe further and further up her legs. There were no ingrown hairs on her thighs, so he pushed further. She wore a G-string, but the pale blue triangle of fabric was transparent, revealing smooth skin underneath. There were a couple of ingrown hairs here, and to get at them, he gathered the little piece of material so that it, too, resembled a string, separated her lips with his fingers, and set the fabric in between them.
     He squeezed a little here and there, but ended up feeling more and more distracted by the way her wet was soaking her underwear. Finally he pushed it fully to one side and asked her to open her legs for him. She didn’t move so he helped her, raising one leg up and positioning it on the back of the couch, and moving the other so that her foot was flat on the floor. "Good," he said. He added, "You’re going to feel my hands now," and he began an external exam. One of her labia dipped down a little lower than the other, and he fingered it lightly. "Okay," he said. "Just relax now." She nodded, and he eased two fingers inside her. With his other hand, he pressed down on different spots on her abdomen. "Does that hurt?" he asked, and she said no. "Good," he said again.
     He pulled his fingers out and licked them. Then he rubbed her clit for a while, watching as she swelled and grew pink with the extra blood.

He moved back down to her cunt, which was the term that had begun to run through his head.

     He took his cock out. He moved up near her head and put his hand on the back of her neck, raising her up so she could put him in her mouth. He kept his hand in place, guiding her movements for several minutes, then moved back down to her cunt, which was the term that had begun to run through his head. He put himself inside, then opened the top of the robe for one of her tits, which he held tightly, so that the tip looked swollen. When he was close to coming, he pulled himself out and moved back up to her head. She moved to take him in her mouth again, but he said, "No," pushing her mouth away and directing his come onto her face. He wiped her off after a moment, then took what was on his hand back down between her legs and rubbed her there until she came.
     They took a long time to get up off the couch. While they lay there, Sandy looked at the picture of Aunt Bess again. "That’s why I became a doctor," Gaines said. "I liked hanging out with her in the hospital."
     "What’s your favorite illness?" Sandy asked him.
     Without hesitation, he said, "Ingrown toenail."
     He explained to her the process of really making sure you got all of the nail out, since it was sneaky and long and could embed itself well beyond where you might’ve thought in the skin. After thinking for a moment, he said, "Or a sebaceous cyst."
     Her face lit up. She said, "I have this client, and I was waxing her armpits, and there was this bump with a head on it. So I squeezed it, and all this stuff came out. It smelled really bad. She kept apologizing, but I didn’t care. I squeeze it every time she comes in now. I never get as much as that first time."
     "It’s disappointing," he agreed.
     After a while, he reached for her hand. Her veins were terrific, and he imagined puncturing them one day, for no other reason than to get a little further inside her.  



Alicia Erian is the author of a novel, Towelhead, and a collection of short stories, The Brutal Language of Love. Alan Ball wrote and directed a film version of Towelhead, which will be released later this year.

©2007 Alicia Erian and