Pain is inevitable. When you sleep in an awkward position, you experience a backache in the morning. Didn’t study for a final exam until the eve of the test? You get a headache while trying to remember everything. When your coworker drawls on about his mundane weekend during your only time away from your desk, you experience what I call a pain in your ass.
Yes, we experience pain all the time. I’m no exception. I’ve tripped up stairs. I get stomach aches because I love food too much. Once, I even flipped over my bicycle’s handlebars trying to swat away a bee.
But all those troubles are minor to the pain I experienced when I was seventeen: testicular pain. It started slow – minor discomfort that escalated over several weeks. Wincing replaced smiling and whining replaced regular conversation.
I told my parents I was experiencing pain in my lower body, waving my hand around the area in question one time after breakfast.
“You mean your balls hurt?” my father said. I cringed, because I never liked using that word, as a teenager, unless I was referring to an actual ball used in sports, like a baseball or basketball.
“Yes,” I told him. “My balls hurt.”
“You need a doctor.”
In the doctor’s office the next afternoon, I lay down on the table, my shirt pulled up over my head and my pants down by my knees. The female doctor poked and prodded while I looked at the bulletin board on the wall that had information about testing for diabetes and a chart for determining high blood pressure.
“I’m not sure what’s wrong,” the doctor said. “I need a second opinion. Keep your pants down. I’ll be back.”
The doctor left. I lay there, freezing and in pain. I’m a needy person, but at that point, it didn’t seem like I was asking too much in wanting to feel better and to be warm.
The doctor returned with another female doctor. Though I can’t confirm for certain, I’m pretty sure I had flashed more women in that one doctor visit than I had in the rest of my whole life.
“I think it’s just a groin strain,” the second doctor concluded. “Take it easy for a few days. Come back in a week if it doesn’t get better.”
So I hobbled out of the doctor’s office and drove home. When I got to the house, I changed into pajamas and plopped down on the sofa with an icepack over my crotch. My younger brother walked into the room and gave me a look.
“I have a groin strain,” I explained. “It hurts like hell.”
That night, the pain intensified. My mom was on the phone when she heard me wailing from my spot on the couch.
“It’s hurting me! Saw them off, I don’t care!” I cried. “Please, just make it stop!”
The pain was constant and sharp. My facial expression had hardened, a mix of a scowl and sadness, with rosy cheeks to add color and teardrops for depth.
My mom hung up the phone. “We’re going to the hospital. Now.”
“Wait. I need to get dressed,” I told her. I was wearing striped pajamas that were very thin and very uncool looking. “I’m not going anywhere like this.”
My mom helped me up the stairs and into my room. She went into the hall to call my dad. My brother came into the room as I pulled my pants down.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I need help getting dressed, please.”
He helped me dress and within a few minutes, Mom and I were on our way to the hospital. We went to the hospital’s emergency room and checked in. The man at the front desk asked why I was there.
“Testicular pain,” I whispered. The man took my blood pressure. He told me the number and I recalled the chart I saw in the doctor’s office. Turns out ball pain causes high blood pressure.
“Sit down and relax. Someone will come get you when they’re ready.”
We sat in the busy waiting room. Some people were crying, others were bored, forced to watch the muted antics of CSPAN on the small television hanging in the corner of the waiting room. One girl was vomiting into a paper bag and one man was reading a newspaper, trying to ignore the girl vomiting into a paper bag. My mother sat reading a magazine. Every so often, she’d look to me and smile. I sat there with my head down until it was my turn to go back.
“Evan will be taking care of you today,” the nurse who brought us into our hospital room said. “Feel better soon.”
Evan came in a few minutes later. If my testicular pain didn’t make me want to die, seeing Evan did. He was the sexiest nurse I’d ever seen, and I’d caught a few episodes of Greys Anatomy before. Evan was tall and his nurse scrubs fit well over his sculpted chest. He was the “boy next door” type, and even reminded me of the neighborhood guy I’d had a crush on.
“Hi, I’m Evan.”
“Hi, I’m Brandon.”
We shook hands.
“You’ve got fiery balls, I hear.”
My eyes widened. “What? Who’d you hear that from?”
He looked confused. “You have testicular pain.” He held up a clipboard. “You know, fiery balls? That’s why you said you’re here.”
“I’m going to need you to undress.” He turned to my mom. “If you could give us a few minutes, that’d be great.”
My mom left. Evan watched me take off my clothes. Once I was fully naked in front of a stranger for the third time in two days, he examined me. While he was down there, I prayed I wouldn’t pop. It’d be embarrassing, first of all. Second, I was afraid any more blood flow to that area would rupture my testicle and send even more scathing pain my way.
“Does this hurt?” Evan asked.
“Yes,” I squirmed.
“How about here?”
I wanted to ask him to please stop touching me, but I kept quiet, letting the uncomfortable fondling continue.
“Okay. I’m going to need you to get into the gown and go to the bathroom to get me a urine sample.”
Once I was dressed in the flattering grey gown with pink flowers, Evan smiled and handed me a container for my sample.
“I’ll take you over there. Come on.”
When I finished, I went back into the room. My mom was there, smiling and talking with Evan. I sat down on the bed and covered myself in warm blankets. Evan took blood samples and then injected me with morphine and set me up with a drip IV
“Someone will be in to take you to get your CAT scan and ultrasound. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
Yes, Evan, there was something you could do, I thought.
I thanked him and tried to fall asleep, but all I could think about was why I was experiencing such pain. It wasn’t because I was sexually active. I know it’s strange for horny teenagers not to be, but it’s not so odd for closeted and shy horny teenagers like me.
I started wondering if the pain I was experiencing was because of my sexuality. Was God punishing me for liking dick by making me hate my own? It was the only logical thought I could produce, aside from the notion that I might have ball cancer and would die, which would be another way for God to condemn me. All assumptions sucked, in a not-so-fun way.
When it came time for my ultrasound, I was well into the morphine kick. The female nurses who came to get me snickered and laughed at my comments.
“Wow! You have really pretty purple walls. That’s nice to see in a hospital. It makes it seem homier.”
“That wall’s blue.”
I’m color blind and didn’t really care what color the wall was. I just wanted them to know it was pretty.
“Where’re we going?”
“We’re taking you to get an ultrasound.”
“That’s for babies!” I exclaimed.
“We do it for all sorts of reasons, actually.”
I laughed. “I think I’m ready to go home now.”
“You’re going nowhere.”
My eyes bulged and I clenched my hands into fists. The nurses must’ve feared I was ready to cry. Instead, I held my breath and then exhaled, releasing the tension in my hands.
“Okay!” I shouted, elated. “Oh, look! It’s another pink wall!”
The ultrasound was awkward. There I was, naked. Again. The sonographer put a towel over my abs and drenched my lower body in a thick jelly. It gave me shivers and at that moment all I wanted was to feel better and to use that jelly to do…well, stuff, to Evan.
The sonographer turned the screen out of my view and watched it while he moved his ultrasound wand across my lower half. He’d hum and look perplexed and scowl and nod, all of which drove me crazy. I’d ask him how everything was looking and he wouldn’t say anything. He did start talking a few minutes into the ultrasound, but it was about sports and school, stuff at the time I didn’t care to talk about. I wanted to talk about Evan. Evan and my balls.
The ultrasound finished and I was whisked away to the CAT scan. This time I wasn’t naked, which felt nice. I was beginning to think I’d joined a nudist colony, which would’ve been okay if everyone else, Evan included, was nude alongside me.
The test went fine. I passed out and I found myself back in my room. The doctor came in a while later. He took a seat on the edge of my bed and smiled.
“Well, the good news it isn’t an epididymitis or cancer.”
“That’s great news.” I smiled. “So why do my balls hurt?”
“It looks like it may be nerve damage.”
“What? That’s not good news at all!” I whined, watching Evan walk into the room.
He explained my condition. “Your nerves are a bit twisted down there, which most likely is causing your pain. Evan’s going to give you a shot of cortisone and that should help alleviate any problem. In most men, the shot will help indefinitely, others have to come back several months later for another treatment. Do you understand?”
My mom and the doctor left and I disrobed. Again.
“This is going to hurt,” Evan warned.
He stuck a long needle right through my left testicle. The pain spiked briefly as the cortisone made its way into my body. Evan was right. It hurt, and bled.
“All done,” he said, pulling the needle away. “No more fiery balls, I hope.”
I wanted to tell him sometimes fiery balls can be a good thing, but the morphine was wearing off and I became embarrassed that I was naked in front of such a stud.
I got dressed, feeling much better. The pain was going away, becoming a part of my history, a story to tell friends and family.
“Hey, Brandon,” I imagined someone saying, “Remember that time you were strung up on morphine and wanted to hit on your nurse? Yeah, tell that story again!” It’d be one full of laughs and love, I hoped.
My mom drove us home. It was past ten. My father had gotten off work and was sitting on the sofa watching the news.
“Are you feeling any better, son?” he asked.
“Much better. They gave me some shots and some ultrasounds and a CAT scan and a blood test and—”
“He’s feeling much better,” my mom snickered, looking my way. “Plus, his nurse was very hot.”
“Were they now?” my father asked.
It was at that moment I almost let my secret slip. In my mind, I was saying, “His name was Evan and he was sexy and gorgeous and oh so very hot!”
But I didn’t say that. Instead, I said, “It was fun!”
“Wait,” my dad scowled. “You had fun?”
I shook my head, realizing my mistake. “It was horrible. Goodnight.”
I went up to bed. My secret, which really wasn’t secret to anyone who knew me, and certainly isn’t now that I’ve written this story, was spared for another day. While I fell asleep, I thanked God for sending Evan to my aid. I guess he wasn’t mad about my sexuality after all.
© 2013 Brandon Figliolino. All rights reserved.