“Have I told you the story of the wart?”
Some time ago I had an itch in my bum. On looking at its reflection in a mirror I could see no red rash about the anus, so ignored it.
I could feel a fleck of skin, which might add to the pleasure of any lover, to Simon’s if I’d had it then. I couldn’t decide if I had had or acquired it since. When this itchy thing became bigger I took another look, a white egg nestling, and took it to a doctor. He said it was either a haemorrhoid or a wart. “It’s white.” Warts can be any colour. He asked if I’d had anal intercourse. Yes but it was a one-off. Warts can take months to appear, “up to a year,” he made a sweeping gesture which did gather Simon in. He wanted me to have a second opinion from a sex clinic and take an HIV test while I was at it. The clinic would have the treatment for the wart.
Since the West Mid was closed for Xmas, its busiest time I’d’ve thought, I went to Kingston Hospital, which never closes. Rachel diagnosed a wart and dowsed it with liquid nitrogen. “Does it count as an STD?” “Yes.” My first. You practise safe sex once…. There was a moral there somewhere, not one Rachel’d want to hear. She didn’t think it’d be from Simon, “though possible,” but from my regular partner without having been told his name even or that his predilections made him the less likely source. She said STDs were all on the up and up; people were going to meths parties to catch HIV, and the treatment was expensive. “People make distinction of their diseases,” I said. She warned a first treatment mightn’t work. I should give it till New Year week. I said I’d never liked anal intercourse but felt obliged to give it the occasional shot and last time it’d been a pleasure, worth a wart. She was encouraging. “With a bigger cock,” I concluded.
The wart was bigger, what had been hard below the skin surfacing with the treatment I reckoned. I didn’t look. As expected, I was cleared by a text on Boxing Day of all other STDs.
Olivia gave it a scoosh but wasn’t sure it was a wart that she’d expect to be flattened and wanted a doctor’s opinion. Simon, a senior nurse, also wanted the doctor’s opinion. “It’s too big to be a skin tag,” Dr Nathan said but while almost sure it was a wart wasn’t finally, asking had there been bleeding. She might as well take a look up the arse for other warts while she was at it. She prescribed another wart treatment to be applied three days a week for a month. She was about to give instructions but, “He won’t have any difficulty finding it,” it was that big. “But it is a benign tumour,” I said. “Let’s hope so,” said Simon.
I took a look. It was no longer white and round but a pink flap. The liquid nitrogen had omeletted the egg. It was flattened but stood up on its edge.
My listener was chortling the while. It’s the way I tell them, “Schadenfreude! The wart’s taken over my arse, the arse of a baboon baboons find attractive,” present company excepted.
No confirming text from the hospital about my appointment to see the doctor after a month’s treatment which was causing bleeding like piles’ blood. I went anyway. No appointment computed so I had to go through the rigmarole, as I told Olivia, of seeing a nurse. She arranged for me to wait on a doctor upstairs, Dr Nathan, her hair tied back. I’d taken a printout of The Wart with the bloody update on the back. Dr Nathan laughed at its beginning. “Brilliant!” Could she keep it? She’d read it later. One takes one’s readers where one finds them. I said the wart was inhibiting me but I had used it to ward off a friend, the one not named in the story I emphasised by a rapidly repeated pointing to the page, by saying if he hadn’t give me it, as he was denying he had, he could be infected by it. As I clambered on to the examination couch, she asked if I wrote. I’d poems published in a magazine and a story, my best, published in Dadaoism, An Anthology. There was a book too but that was taking so long to be published, years, I wasn’t counting on it. She asked if I’d warts in front. I had but the one, behind. The wart wasn’t any worse. “It’s just as big,” I said. Might she squirt it with a little liquid nitrogen? She might. It was inflamed and too broad-based, the unsaid implication being to have been reduced as I inferred, but could easily be lopped off. Meanwhile I was to continue the medication and near the end of the two months attend a night clinic. I asked what she thought of Brexit. “It should not have been put to the people.” Or what’s a parliament for? “In Richmond we gave the Brexiteers a bloody nose.” “You did!” “Wiped out a 23,000 majority,” I swept it away with my arm.
Mr Fawcett in the surgical unit of Queen Mary’s Roehampton didn’t think it a wart because depressed though he rooted around inside me to check there weren’t contradictory others. “Dr Nathan did that too.” That I felt it as raised was because of debris filling the depression. It wasn’t a haemorrhoid either, nor, he thought, malignant since the cream was now reducing it. “I never thought it was.” He drew a diagram of a raised wart, a horizontal line that went perpendicularly up, along and down in the middle, a dais, and another of a depression, a perpendicular line that went perpendicularly down, along and up in the middle, a trough, which he filled in with scribbled shading, rubble or brock. I was reminded of Sir John Fraser’s drawing a cat and asking was it me before an operation for a TB gland when I was three and my inarticulable anger at the insult but I’m a mature seventy-eight year old and was completely complaisant. In any case Dr Nathan could refer me again for a biopsy if she saw fit when next I saw her, at a Wednesday night clinic. He shook my hand. It was a lovely spring day. I ran for a bus, tossing away my too tired companion like a used tissue from the hand of a litter lout.
The same letter came in two envelopes differently dated from Mr Fawcett. I took both with me and the updated story to the clinic. Richard, the nurse, covered my naked bum with paper towel while he called in Dr Nathan. I had to clamber down, bits dangling, to silence my chirruping phone before resuming foetal position on the couch, arse decently posed. Dr Nathan said it was definitely a wart, though… and she conveyed its quondam enormity that she’d never seen the like of before largely without words, since the Aldara cream had worked. “Or basal cancer,” I said. I gave her the update and a copy of Mr Fawcett’s letter she hadn’t received. I asked Richard was it possible for somebody who’d had sex with somebody else, Debbie, with genital warts to pass it on after twenty years, suggesting the answer no. “Yes,” said Richard, “if he had a wart.” “Don’t let him off so easily! He never takes responsibility for anything.” “You could have got it from your very first partner,” Richard went on. Sheila Raeburn! when I was six.