With her hand on the doorknob, the bathroom door opens an inch and then no more.
“Are you ready for us?” she asks.
I am, and yet for some reason, my mind has wandered again.
“Sure am,” I say, lying.
In the seconds before her reappearance, I’m taken back to a random fear from my adolescence. The fear of developing elephantiasis. It first emerged after I saw pictures on the internet of people with severely swollen arms and legs. Even worse, were the images of men with gigantic testicles. Testicles so grotesquely massive they dangled down to the floor and dragged behind them when they walked. Their testicles were covered in sores and callouses. Some even carried them around in little wheelbarrows. The internet—spreader of nightmares in my life for over two decades. I remember, as a teenager, how I was sure my testicles were unusual. They looked too big and were far too sensitive. Guys in porn had their balls smacked and sucked as if it were nothing, but mine were delicate to even the merest of touches. For me, this was the tell-tale sign of elephantiasis. It was just a matter of time before they grew to the size of those I’d seen on the web, and then my parents would have no choice but to lock me away out of shame. In the end, I’d locked myself away, regardless. Those adolescent fears didn’t subside, and when my neurosis became too much to bear any longer, I did the only thing I could think of and became a writer.
“Ready or not, here we come!”
The door begins to open, and from the other side, I hear giggling and the excited panting of the dog.
“What are you doing, smelly man?”
“I’m not quite sure,” I say, halfheartedly.
Before she appears, I think of all the times in my life when I was sure I was dying, or in the throes of some unseen illness. None of them ever materialised, yet I was well aware that one day, a mean ol’ disease would eventually come and strike me down. There was no way of knowing when. I might have another fifty years left in the tank. Thinking of all the shit another fifty years could bring, I sink into my chair. What would be worse—to endure another fifty years of my mind working against me, or seeing my body withering away to a broken mess? I was already in bad shape as it was, God knows what I’d be like further down the line. Letting out a sigh, I look up at the door as a siren cuts through the stifling afternoon air. My heart feels so heavy, and yet as soon as I see her smile, the flicker of hope within ignites once more.