The Potomac - Poetry and Politics - Ann Garvin
July 2007 - THE POTOMAC

Insult to Injury
   Ann Garvin

Miriam lay on her back in the clinic, thinking how lovely it would be to have a Prozac-salt lick inside her front door, positioned conveniently at chin level, so she could turn her headand lap at it, before walking out into the world. A winning patent idea for Marketing class, she mused, not like the lambs wool nasal-plugs designed to end jaw pain. A great premise—you can't grind your choppers when you're sleeping if you can't breathe, right? But who knew so many people would be allergic to wool and unable to sleep with a cork up their nose. Human beings are such candy-asses.

Speaking of asses, hers felt mighty drafty. Where was Doctor Dugan? And why did he think putting fuzzy socks on stirrups made for a comfy waiting-experience? She picked up the pamphlet he'd left for her. "Something to entertain and educate while you wait," he'd said before vanishing with her specimen. She wasn't sure whether that line was special for her or just a stock Houdini-escape line that unchained him from awkward human interaction and possible overly personal admissions.

She read the headline at the top of the pamphlet:


Well, she sure hadn't gotten warts from a sneeze. She read the first lines, Twenty million people in this country are already infected... That narrows it down, she thought grimly. Rarely, do infants born to women with genital warts develop lesions in their throats ... uncommon, ...potentially life-threatening condition for the child.

Miriam heaved a sigh, touched her belly and wiped a crusty piece of sleep from her left eye; she could go back to bed when this was over. Twenty minutes, tops. She readjusted her hips, flexed her knees, and flipped to the other brochure: Although, the popular term 'date rape' is used, most experts prefer the term 'drug-facilitated sexual assault.' You say potato, she mumbled and closed her eyes.

One minute you're a clueless, small-town girl playing a role in your own version of Animal House, and the next you're a victim of useless euphemism while fulfilling your undergraduate diversity requirement.

God, where is the doctor?

Was it fair that another meaningless man was about to change her future while she lay on her back waiting for it all to be over? Her mother's voice, visiting from her childhood, whispered, "Who said life was fair, sweetie?" Sweetie? Another euphemism? Then, with an edge of righteous indignation, Mirium thought, wasn't there supposed to be a kindly old nurse waiting with her? Where was all the politically correct assistance they talked about in new-freshman orientation? She deserved it as much as anyone-she had seen the Vagina Monologues, had laughed at the angry one and teared-up over the abuse.

Maybe she should have told them what really happened. As if she knew. Still, she needed someone to hold her hand and speak soothingly of options and personal choice. Choice, she thought, what a laugh. There's a lousy euphemism for You Don't Have One.

She let her mind brush up against another seldom considered word in her vocabulary. Pregnancy. It was a side-swipe, barely registering, leaving only a small skid mark on her frontal lobe. She figured that if she didn't allow the butterfly of her mind to rest, the word could not take root. There's a pamphlet someone should write, she thought. They could call it:


Look at that, she thought, another idea for her marketing class.

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