Buck stands in the exam room under the claustrophobic low ceiling and puke green walls with his pants and boxers around his ankles, trying to figure out what to do with his hands. If it had been his wife sitting on the short stool in front of him, he still wouldn’t have known what to do with them. They’d never had any chemistry in the sex department.
Christ, Buck, don’t think about sex while Doc holds your testicles in his palm like a pair of cream eggs, he tells himself. Count the age spots on top of his bald head. Is that the Big Dipper?
“Turn your head and cough,” Doc says.
“Hack, hack.” This is pointless, Buck thinks, looking down at Doc’s bald head. Maybe that’s Orion. What does the state of my balls have to do with indigestion or anxiety? He’d had a panic attack on the freeway and just wanted Doc to give him a quick fix.
“Turn around, please, and lean over the table.” Doc reaches for a latex glove and a white tube of lube. “Now try to relax.”
“Doc, is this really necessary?”
“You’ve reached the age where you should have your prostate checked on a regular basis.” The glove snaps tight on Doc’s hand. “Don’t worry, Buck, this won’t make you gay.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Buck mumbles and leans over the exam table.
“Spread you legs a little wider.”
Surrendering to the humiliation, Buck does as he’s told.
“Here it goes, this might be a little cold.”
“Stop with the drum roll, Doc, and just get on with it.”
And in goes Doc’s finger. “We really need to discuss your diet.”
Buck grunts, never realizing just how fat Doc’s fingers were. “Maybe we could do that after you remove your finger from my sphincter.”
“Of course,” Doc says, wiggles his finger around some more, then withdraws it. Over the sound of him snapping off the latex glove, he says, “All feels good. You can pull your pants up now.”
Buck is way ahead of him, already pulling up his boxers and really disliking the gooey sensation Doc’s glove left behind. Buck likes being clean and dry, to the point of an obsession, not sticky and gooey. Part of the reason sex is an issue for him is that any act that involves an exchange of fluids is a non-starter. It didn’t used to be this bad, he did manage to father a son, but he’s become more fastidious with age, unable to share even a glass or a spoon.
“How much fiber are you getting in your diet? It might be time to add some Metamucil to your oatmeal.”
Buck shakes his head. Who has time for oatmeal? “You’re going to bill my insurance 500 bucks for a fifteen minute chat about oatmeal recipes and a finger fuck?” Buck squeezes his eyes shut, then opens them. “It’s stress, Doc, believe me. It’s not constipation. It was a panic attack. I’ve heard about them from coworkers.”
“Stress? Really? You should’ve said so.”
“I did when I called and made the appointment.”
“Back in the day, as your generation says, all we really had available to prescribe was penicillin, and thank God we had that. Prophylactic use wasn’t so prevalent back then, but now we have a cornucopia of pills to prescribe. They have lots of pills for anxiety and stress. You should look through my pill catalogue some time, more colors than a Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalogue.” Doc reaches for his pad of scripts. “I can write you a prescription. What color would you like?”
Buck went to the post office that morning and been asked that same question about stamps. The post office clerk even resembled Doc, same bald head and age spot covered hands. “I don’t care, as long as they take the edge off. I can barely drive without worrying about having an attack, which practically brings one on in itself.”
Doc clicks the tab on the end of his pen and readies it over his pad. “I know just the pill for you. It’s one of my favorites and it’s in the nicest shade of blue. I take it myself all the time.”
“I’m glad you know what to prescribe, Doc,” Buck says sarcastically.
Doc looks up from his pad, pen still poised to write the prescription, eyebrows raised. “No need to get snarky. I’m only trying to help. Maybe you need something for more than stress.”
“Sorry, Doc. You’re right.” Buck rubs his face in his hands. “It’s Tanita, my wife. She’s got my whole life out of whack.”
“Whack? They’ve got a pill for that too. It’s also blue, a really nice teal blue. I know from personal experience. My advanced years finally caught up with me in that department, but you wouldn’t know it now.” He flips over the page on his pad and scratches on the next sheet of script.
“I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m alone in our bed. I search the house and there’s no one there but our son and me.”
Doc dabs the tip of his pen against his tongue, which is blue like he’s been sucking on blueberry candy. “Loneliness, they’ve a pill for that, too. You can get nicely medicated you’re talking to your throw pillows like they’re your long lost friends, all your loneliness gone. The pill is pink, you don’t mind pink, do you? I think it should be blue, since loneliness is usually associated with the blues. But it’s manufactured in China and maybe the blues are red there or the reds are blue.”
Buck rubs his temples and closes his eyes. “Then in the morning when she reappears in bed she denies she’s been anywhere and swears she’s been at my side in bed all night. She says I’m crazy.” His eyes snap open. “Me? Crazy? I’m the sanest guy around. I’m too anal to go crazy.” His word choice draws his attention to the gooiness in his shorts.
“They offer a lot of pills for crazy, but it depends on what kind of crazy. You’ll have to see a specialist for that. I wouldn’t know what color to prescribe you. I mostly prescribe blue and you might need a cherry red or a sunset orange.”
Buck stuffs his hands deep into his pockets. “She’s obviously cheating and calling me crazy to deflect guilt.”
Doc smiles in commiseration. “My wife cheats at cards on gin rummy nights with the couple who live next door. It’s embarrassing when they catch her with extra cards in her lap. They don’t have a pill for that, but there might be an injection for it.”
“I went to see a divorce lawyer and he says I’ll have to split everything with her and pay her alimony even though she’s the one cheating. How messed up is that?”
“Like I said, no pill for that. Would you like me to look into seeing if there’s an injection for it? I might look into that for my wife anyway. I’ll let you know.” He writes a note on the back of his hand, hardly legible, like a three year old writing in crayon.
“The lawyer says I need proof that she’s cheating.”
“I’d say check her lap for loose cards, but my wife has moved on to slipping them into her braw. It’s hard to check there without being too obvious, though it hasn’t stopped the neighbors.”
Buck shakes his head, thinking, Doc is happily married, what does he know? “Just give me the blue stamps, Doc.”
“You got it,” Doc says and rolls his stool behind the computer console and types in a few things. “Can’t go wrong with blue. These are all prescriptions for generics so you won’t recognize the brand names but the results are the same. Your insurance plan only allows for the cheapest pills available. But you shouldn’t worry about that. Often it’s the cheaper pills that have the nicest shade of blue.” He rolls his chair behind the computer terminal. “You’ll be tip top in no time. It says here on the screen that Costco is your pharmacy of choice? The one on Big Box Road?”
“Yeah, sure. I know where it is.”
Doc peels off a series of scripts from his pad and holds them out to Buck.
He nods and takes the offered scripts.
Doc rubs the loose skin on his head and squints, trying to remember something, and then realizing what it was, says, “Have you had your prostate checked recently?” He pulls a glove from the box on the counter. “A man of your age should have it checked on a regular basis.”
“Doc, what color are the pills for memory?”
“Those are yellow. I hate yellow, don’t you? They just don’t seem to go down as smoothly as the blue. Speaking of which, I think it’s time for my mid-morning blue pill, nicest shade of blue.” A pill bottle materializes in his hand along with a loose pill like it’s part of a magician’s act. He hold them out for Buck to see. “Isn’t that lovely? Like a robin’s egg.