Tonight was the second StorySLAM at Martyr's, and although I came prepared this time and dropped my name in the hat, my name didn't get called. All is not lost though, tomorrow at 1pm Central time I get to call in my story to Vocalo along with all the other runners-up whose names didn't get called.
It was a good story too, but that's allright - next month's theme is "Blunders," and I'm sure I can think of something worth telling.
Here's the story I came prepared to tell:
The first time I had a UTI - that’s Urinary Tract Infection for those of you not in the know, I didn’t know the warning signs until it was way too late. I felt a strange pressure when I peed, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I had just started dating the man who would later - much later, become my husband, and we were just getting comfortable with each other.
I lived in a roach-infested apartment in Uptown with a roommate who spent her days smoking pot in the living room and watching TV with the volume cranked up, and I spent my days working one horrible temp job after the next, trying to make enough to cover rent and groceries.
So I was temping, I was in the beginning stages of a really tenuous relationship with a man who had just gone through a very bad breakup, and when I sat down and peed I felt a strange pressure. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it - it was like someone was touching a finger to my urethra while I was urinating, it was something I’d never felt before. It didn’t feel alarming, it just made me think: "huh, that's different."
My sister called me from Boston, and during the course of our conversation I happened to mention the strange sensation I felt when I peed. A UTI veteran, she told me to go to the closest health food store and buy a bottle of Lakewood 100% cranberry juice - not cranberry juice cocktail, but 100% cranberry juice. No added water, no sugar, tart enough to turn my mouth inside out and sour enough to give me a stomach ache. She said that should help. We continued talking and I described the strange pressure I felt on urinating, and she said “oh girl, if you’re feeling pressure when you pee, it’s too late for cranberry juice. You get off the phone and you go to the doctor. Now!”
I was taken aback by the tone in her voice, it was one she reserved for delivering really, really bad news, like when someone died or something valuable caught on fire. I was scared. Really scared. The next time I peed it felt like someone was stabbing me in the urethra with a barbecue skewer, and when I looked into the toilet bowl it wasn’t yellow - it was red.
I considered my options: the closest emergency room was a block away, but I couldn't walk a block, it hurt too much. Everything hurt too much, there wasn't a position I could stand, sit or lie down in that didn't hurt. I needed someone to drive me. My roommate had a car but she was stoned, and didn't seem terribly alarmed by my situation. The only other person I knew who had a car was the guy I had just started seeing. I calmed down as much as I could before dialing his number. I don't think he even said "hello" before I burst in with “I’m bleeding, I have to get to a doctor, NOW!”
“Where are you bleeding from?” he asked. I hesitated, we had only been seeing each other for a couple weeks, this was way too intimate a conversation to be having but I couldn't think of a pretty way to say it. “When I pee,” I blurted, “blood comes out when I pee!”
We drove the block between my apartment and Thorek hospital, I walked to receptionist and said “I think I have a urinary tract infection, when I pee blood comes out!” She told me to take a seat and fill out some paperwork. I remained standing, not that it helped.
At the time I was a heavy watcher of the NBC series ER, and I imagined that I’d be waiting for hours as people with shotgun and stab wounds were wheeled in on stretchers, surrounded by fast talking medics, maybe Dr. John Carter himself would be pumping furiously on their chests in an effort to save their lives, but the reality was much different - I was the only one in the ER that night. The biggest emergency that night was that blood was coming out of me when I peed.
I was seen by a doctor, and had to produce a sample. I never truly appreciated just what a wonderful thing it is to urinate without pain, what a wonderful, magical thing it is to pull down my pants, sit on a toilet, and let the urine flow while my mind wanders until that simple act of voiding made me do the silent scream - have you ever done the silent scream? I sat on the ER toilet with a plastic cup between my legs, eyes squinched closed and mouth wide open, silently screaming as a tiny river of red daggers came out of my pee-hole.
This was not how I’d imagined things would progress with my new boyfriend.
The doctor examined my red urine, and wrote a prescription. My boyfriend - I mean, the guy I was seeing, drove me to a 24 hour pharmacy to get the prescription filled, and took me back home. Back in the apartment my roommate was watching loud TV, and barely acknowledged my presence when I returned. She kept the TV on all night, turning it off somewhere around 6 am. At 6:30 my alarm went off. I had a temp job to get to, and I needed the money more than I needed the sleep. I took a shower, clothed myself, and still in a haze made my way to an office building near Union Station. I looked like hell, but nobody seemed to notice. It was a fairly quiet day, and I passed the time drinking huge quantities of water and visiting the ladies room, where I slammed the sides of the stall with my hands and silently screamed every single time I had to pee.
After an eternity of watching the clock, 5pm blessedly arrived. I made the trek back to my apartment, opened the door, and found my roommate on the couch watching loud TV next to the guy I was seeing. I barely said a word to either of them, closing myself into my bedroom and curling up onto the twin futon mattress that I slept on. I heard a knock on the door; it was the guy I was seeing. He took his shoes off and climbed under the sheets next to me, and stayed there with me until I fell asleep.
Now if you'll excuse me, I think I have to pee.