"Count backward from one hundred."
I'm lying on a thin blanket and staring at three powerful-looking lights mounted to the ceiling. People in blue gowns and white masks move all around me; I know this not only because I can hear them but also because they keep popping up above me in my field of vision.
"One hundred..." I say.
My left arm lies against my side, an IV needle sticking out of a soft patch of innner elbow and trailing a long skinny tube that snakes somewhere behind and above me. I've got wires attached to various points on my chest and legs. My calves are wrapped in massage sleeves that are supposed to prevent blood clots. Something is beeping.
The last time I was in a place like this, I was fourteen years old and about to have my appendix out.
Now I'm having an orchiectomy, a word that I saw for the first time on Friday and that I've had to ask three different medical professionals how to pronounce.
I've heard stories--probably bullshit--about anesthesia not working, about people being immobile yet able to feel every clamp, every retraction, every suction, every scissor snip, every scalpel slice. Again, probably bullshit, but when you're on the table, bullshit becomes a living, breathing thing.
And then it's over. I can see faces again--nurses', my doctor's--as they're moving my rolling bed back into place in the recovery room.
"How do you feel?" my doctor asks me.
She's a young woman who didn't in any way fit my expectations of what a urologist should look like when we had our first appointment last Friday. She didn't fit my girlfriend Shannon's expectations, either, when she met her for the first time that morning. I knew this from her narrowed eyes and the whispered, "We'll talk about this later..."
"Are you feeling okay?" my doctor asks again.
"Yeah," I say. "Big changes for Butch and Sundance."
"Who?" she asks.
I gesture vaguely at my crotch. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They just became the Lone Ranger."