The Doctor’s Appointment

Shaun McMichael

Hi there, DeVarius. D, okay then. It’s nice to meet you, uhm, D. We have? Well! I don’t… Let’s see here. Oh, back in October. Sinus infection. That’s right. I thought I remembered you. Well, I’m glad I could fit you in today. That’s what’s nice about being on campus, huh?

So. Tell me what the trouble is. I see here you’ve been experiencing some pain. Pain in urination. Right. Tell me more. How long’s this been going on? When? Any discharge? Stinging? Or burning. Well, it all matters. While my assistant asked you this already and it’s all right here on your MyChart, I’m asking about it all again because I’ve learned over the course of my career how important it is to hear how people tell and retell what’s going on. With each telling, new details arise.

Okay, so, pain when you pee for a few days now. And you’re a young man. Just 25. So that rules out a few things. No change in diet? No change in exercise routines? Got it. Well. Urinary tract infections are rare in men. So, DeVarius. D. I must ask you a personal question. Is that all right? Thank you. Have you had any new sexual partners?

Yes, it says here you’re married. For how long? Two years. I see. Young! Those first years can be a struggle. You’re both pursuing higher degrees. And people can grow apart quickly. And you’re young. Women must enjoy your company. Must be taken by your intelligence. Your drive, your ambition. Your relative… uniqueness. We’re still not a terribly diverse school. Not that I need to tell you that. Besides, it’s the holidays. It’s natural to take an interest in their interest, is all I’m saying. And when feelings go to our heads… In the heat of things… We, as men, have been known to…

Got it. I hear you. You’re committed. You love each other. You both go to church. Though that too can create complications. All of those expectations. Impulses roiling beneath standards of behavior can bubble up sometimes, no? A congregation of young women admiring your virtue? No. Very well. You’re the expert on you, as you say.

Well. Tissues there, garbage there. Congested, are we? Yes, something’s going around. Of course, there’s always something going around. This leads me to ask a second question—difficult, as well as personal.

Could she. Your wife. Ashley, right. And a biracial couple on top of it! That cannot be easy. Even today. Even in these progressive times. Even in this liberal area. And two years in, there may be thoughts. Thoughts of whether like-with-like is perhaps a better policy…

Couldn’t dream of even thinking it? Not that you know of. Which is what it is. But back to my question. Could she have had any new sexual partners?

That wasn’t my question. I’m trying to learn the source of this burning in your urethra. A bit unusual, I have to say. For a man of your youth. Your level of fitness. Intellect. I hear you. A monogamous pair. Mated for life. Turtle doves. Voles. Got it. But in lieu of… Makes you tea with lemon and tomato soup when you’re sick even! Quite a catch. Especially among today’s women. The apron is the yolk of patriarchal oppression, Betty Friedan, and all that. But in lieu of some other concrete causation, I would counsel you toward an STD screening. It’s the only way to be sure.

Over the course of my career, there have been surprises. Not that I’m saying we’ll find any here. Every instance is different, true. But each instance is part of a pattern.

The only thing I can do for you, other than the screening, is to ask you again, to tell me what the trouble is. I would offer you something for your lingering cold, but it’s one issue per visit. Our policy, yes. Besides, it looks like you’re pushing the fluids. All that citrus! The best anyone can do. Other than asking you what the trouble is again. And this time, think. Ask yourself, what really is the trouble? Over the course of my career, I’ve found that the more times you tell, the more comes to the surface. The real truth of what ails us so often lies in the little differences between each telling. That’s where our soul is. The fuzziness between. And I’m just trying to put a pin in it. No easy task. I have five minutes or so left before my next appointment. So tell. Tell once more. And I will do my best to listen. What have I said during the course of this visit makes you think I wouldn’t?


Since 2007, Shaun Anthony McMichael has taught writing to students from around the world, in classrooms, juvenile detention halls, mental health treatment centers, and homeless youth drop-ins throughout the Seattle area. Over 85 of his poems, short stories, and reviews have appeared in many literary magazines, online, and in print, including the forthcoming short story collection The Wild Familiar (Fall, 2024; CJ Press). He lives in Seattle with his wife and son where he attends church most Sundays. Visit him at his website