Featureless as Drywall

When Greg’s penis fell off he did not feel any pain. Indeed, he might not have noticed it had happened until he got to the office, if it weren’t for the sensation of something warm and soft, with tickling hairs, rolling suddenly down his pant leg, catching a bit on his black nylon socks, and exiting beside his faux leather shoes.

At first, he did not know what he was looking at. The angle, you see, was all wrong. On the sidewalk it looked like a dead rat with patchy fur, if Greg were being honest. Horror mounting, he reached with searching fingers to feel for it in its customary place within the folds of his pants. Only the juncture of two legs remained beneath the fabric. Sickened, he began to reach down, hand shaking, for the peach-like object on the sidewalk.

Foot traffic on the sidewalk was at its peak. A high heel stepped down. He winced in sympathy. The woman in question looked down. She shrieked. A decent man who followed her kicked it aside. Greg yelped. It took a hard roll. Into the gutter it went. He cried out, the anguish entirely psychogenic, for, again, he did not have the sensation of the least ache—only the unique discomfort of his situation.

He fought against the foot traffic. Made it to the gutter. There among the detritus and the cigarette butts was that which once was his, now badly trampled.

Someone hailed a taxi cab. Not wishing to draw attention to the object of his search, from embarrassment or to protect what was, to him, valuable to the point of immeasurable worth, he stepped back. The taxi cab rolled away.

Where had it gone? There, up the street! The tire must’ve propelled it along the curb. He fought foot traffic again, busy this time of morning. A horrible sound of vacuum and brushes. A street sweeper approached, everything beside the curb being spun into its greedy maw. The driver leaned out of his window. Greg was told to move it and was called a name.

But he must! He grabbed. He pocketed. He crossed the street, nearly made a collision with a bike messenger, and found himself standing on the corner of downtown Detroit with his dick in his hand.

Crazily, he thought of getting a glass of milk to plop it into, the way one does with a knocked-out tooth. But Greg stopped after taking a few steps toward the nearest coffee shop. No, it wouldn’t do. He needed to go to the doctor’s office. This kind of problem, it wanted medical expertise. Except his doctor was in Ann Arbor.

Then he should go to the Emergency Department. What, Henry Ford? DMC? Sinai Grace? And risk running into someone he knew? Greg was in medicine, you see, and not the helpful kind as administered by doctors and nurses and the like. No, Greg was in hospital administration and was therefore quite hopelessly useless. He worked somewhat near the top of a certain organization in the city, and he’d be caught dead before he entered there, or anywhere in the greater Detroit area, as a patient, to try to explain to any of the ED doctors just what had happened.

First, he did end up going into the nearest coffee shop for its dependably private bathroom. Waiting in the line felt a little ridiculous, of course, as he had no sensation of bladder fullness, despite having gone to a different coffee shop half an hour ago and finished his latte just before the… the incident. Come to think of it, just how would he go? He had vague medical knowledge which can only come as the result of working in the field, despite his removal from the practice of medicine, so he knew about urination being of paramount importance. He knew about the cost of dialysis to clean… stuff out of the blood. Stuff which healthy kidneys usually cleared from the body in the urine stream. He knew about things like catheters and where they could go. There had been trouble not long ago regarding someone’s suprapubic (if he was pronouncing that correctly) catheter becoming dislodged from its insertion point below the navel, after which event the patient suffered a poor outcome. He knew because he had to handle some of the legal aspects of the case against the organization.

“Could we get the line moving, or what?” he announced to the gentleman in front of him, who did not respond except to shrug. “I gotta go, is all,” Greg muttered. “Late for work, too.” It was suggested Greg should go to work, then, if he liked it so well. When the door to the bathroom opened, he shouldered the man aside who was in front of him. Not Greg’s finest hour, but he had to know. “I’ll just be a second,” he shouted as the man tried to open the door, which Greg had locked. He turned his back to the door, unbuckled his pants, shoved them to his thighs, and pulled his underwear down.

What he thought he had felt, on the sidewalk, was confirmed by his inspection. What was left between his legs was a smooth and hairless patch of skin without orifice or entrance. There was no wound or scar. No footprint or sign at all of the appendage which had once been nestled there. He prodded, he pushed, he craned his neck. Nothing. Featureless as drywall.

Thud thud thud. “Come on man!” said the fellow outside the door. Reverie broken, Greg answered him “just a minute,” and, scooching over to the sink with his waistband in his hand, ran the faucet. He composed himself as much as he could by pulling his pants up and fastening his belt. He then turned his attention to his penis. Taking it out of his coat pocket, he frowned, and like a farmer washing a vegetable, he got it looking reasonably clean in the water. He winced again at the injuries dealt it on the street. Sure he had, as a man in his fifties, been through some trying times in terms of the status of his genitalia. Yet none of the changes which come with aging, nor a bout of gonorrhea, could prepare him for this eventuality. He patted it dry with some paper towels, returned it to his pocket, and exited the bathroom saying nothing. He left the coffee shop heedless of the opprobrium he had accrued whilst in the men’s room.

He would go to his primary care provider, Dr. Miles. He would call in sick, “work from home,” and they would have to persevere without his physical presence in the building. For a day, at least. The meeting with the board could be conducted via phone.

His executive assistant was worried. Was he sick? “No, Lisa, it’s a…” He hadn’t thought about what to say, exactly. “It’s a personal emergency.” She said she would inform his team and would message him the phone number for the board meeting. “Hold all my calls,” he told her. “Do you mean,” she replied, “you want me to take messages? Tell them you’re out sick?” He coughed respectably. “No, I am not sick, Lisa.”

He had looped back to his SUV in the parking structure a few blocks away. Took the SUV to the highway. Driving west he called Dr. Miles. The receptionist said there weren’t any spots available today but tomorrow there was a three o’clock. “That isn’t gonna work,” said Greg. The receptionist explained he could be put on a cancellation list. “I need to see Dr. Miles,” said Greg, wiping his brow, “it is of the utmost importance that I see him today.” If he was experiencing an emergency, the receptionist said, he should head to the emergency— “I don’t want to go to the ER, I wanna see Dr. Miles. I have to— I have to insist.” Would he like to speak to the phone nurse? “No. Unless she can get me an appointment?” It is a triage service to determine if there is an emergency. “Look, I’m gonna be there in fifteen minutes and when I do, I better see Dr. Miles. Tell him this is Greg. Dbanski. Okay? I just won’t— I am not gonna take no for an answer on this one. G’bye.” He disconnected before the receptionist could patiently explain anything else.

At the physician’s office the parking lot was nearly full. He parked his SUV in an adjacent lot. His head swam. What kind of society? Can’t even see your own goddam doctor…

He was not looking where he was going. A curb between the two lots, overgrown with weeds, caught his shoe. He fell forward. He broke his fall with his open hands.

“Oh are you okay?” warbled an elderly lady. By means of a cane she was getting out of her car parked in Dr. Miles’s lot.

“Yes, dear, I’m fine, thanks,” said Greg, and he stopped dusting his hands when he saw, between himself and the white-haired lady, his freshly-washed penis damp on the ground.

His eyes shot at hers. Hers met his and then they dropped back down. Her red-painted mouth opened wide. Perhaps if she’d been a member of the newest generation, unflappable in the face of sexual variance, she might not have screamed. As it was, she was of an age where men were men and penises did not fall off men in parking lots. So she screamed.

He grabbed it up. The lady retreated back to the inside of her car. She was closing the door on her cane, in her terror, which was really becoming rather hysterical, now, to the point where Greg was beginning to feel badly about himself. He walked over to the car. Assisted her cane into the cab. Closed the door. She did not have a smartphone. He figured he had enough of a head start.

Dr. Miles’s waiting room was semi-full. Surely not so busy as to refuse to receive a loyal patient of Greg’s caliber. Reception bustled behind a glass partition. He approached the window. A squat woman in her sixties appraised him.

“Greg Dbanski. Did we speak over the phone?”

“I’m afraid not. How can I help you?”

“I need to see Dr. Miles.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No—who did I speak with on the phone? I told her I’d be here in fifteen minutes. Well, I’m here in ten, so I understand why the doctor wouldn’t be ready for me, but—”

“If you’ll just have a seat.”

“Not in the waiting room.”

His elbow knocked over a standup of brochures for a new medication. He righted the display. The receptionist’s eyes grew heavy-lidded. She began to inform him the doctor was unavailable unless he had an appointment, but if he was experiencing an emergency…

Impulsively he made for the door into the examination rooms. He startled a nurse who was heading for the waiting room. “I’m the doctor’s brother,” he told her. “Which room is he in?” he asked. She only said “uh,” as he continued to walk. “Back here? Hey, Alexander! Alexander!”

Dr. Miles was a continually-puzzled looking elderly man whose practice was mostly run by PAs who saw the majority of the caseload. He hung on to a handful of favorite patients. Greg happened to be one.

“Greg,” he said. “What’re you doing back here? I suppose you’re my ten thirty? Come on in.”

“He’s not your ten thirty,” said the nurse, who’d followed Greg. Her smartphone was out. Greg could see that 911 was keyed but, thankfully, not yet called.

“Alex,” said Greg, “I wouldn’t have come in like this if it wasn’t important. There’s something wrong.”

Dr. Miles held up a staying hand to the nurse, and explained that he always had some spare time to see a patient like Mr. Dbanski, but they exchanged a look as the doctor ushered Greg into an open examination room. He sat in his swivel chair. Greg hopped onto the paper-lined table.

“I don’t want to waste your time,” he said. “So I’ll get right to it. My penis fell off.” The physician was logging into the computer on the counter. “Go on,” he said, absent-mindedly, then muttered to the computer “that is my password.” He sighed and turned to Greg. “So how’s Greg? Your kid has to be, what, out of college by now?” “Jason’s… fine, he’s… look, Dr. Miles. I’m telling you the truth. I was walking into work today when I felt something fall off. I look down, and it’s… well, it’s my penis. My dick. It’s… right here, doctor. See?”

He reached into his coat pocket. The lump wasn’t there. His other coat pocket. Not there. He patted his torso like someone trying to find their keys. He looked. Dr. Miles, nonplussed, was typing into the computer again. “And how long?”

“Huh?” said Greg. “Uh. This morning, I said. Where could I have put it?” He stared at the corner of the room where the trash can sat. It couldn’t have fallen out again. That would be, well, absurder things had happened, and quite recently, at that. “What else are you seeing right now?” asked Dr. Miles. His glasses were slipping down the bridge of his nose, slowly.

Greg stood. Dr. Miles was too slow to stop him. Outside the door, another nurse had joined the first, as well as some medical assistants, in listening at the door. “I knew it!” said Greg. He dashed the other way down the nondescript halls of doors. All the while he rummaged in his pockets for the lost member. It is telling that this was the first time, during that day, that he thought to himself, this is like a bad dream.

Helped by exit signs, he burst out of the building. An ambulance was pulling into the parking lot. He ran. Scared the elderly lady, who was just now venturing out, back into her car. She honked its horn, distracting the disembarking paramedics.

He nearly tripped over the curb again as he crossed into the adjacent lot. He then disembarked in his SUV. Oncoming traffic had to slow to a stop when he, having pressed too hard on the gas pedal, tires skidding on the gravel until they caught pavement, caused the SUV to leap onto the road. A vehicle prone to rolling, it was widely known, he swerved left-right-left-right quickly to prevent this from occurring. He cursed. Then he realized he was holding it. He had it in his left hand as someone who might be multitasking while driving, such as holding the steering wheel while holding a frankfurter. He nearly cried with joy. It had been in his inside coat pocket, all along, shoved there when the elderly lady had screamed at it.

His multi-tasking ability caught the attention of a motorcyclist who’d been in the pack of traffic with whom he’d nearly collided, fifty yards back. The motorcyclist was in the middle of demonstrating his displeasure via an aggressive gesture, which softened upon seeing Greg, and the leather-gloved hand pulled up the shield of the motorcycle helmet. Greg could see the whites of the man’s eyes. They were a-gog within the helmet. He could also see the black of the lens which was affixed to the top of the man’s helmet. A camera. The man touched the top of the camera. A red light flashed on the front of the camera. Too late did Greg stuff his penis back into his coat pocket.

“What the hell is that, dude?” said the motorcyclist. “You got a dong in your hand, bro?” To which Greg attempted to respond, with some measure of dignity, that he did not know to what the man was referring.

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