Loving A Paramedic During A Pandemic

Stock image of surgical face masks with a title overlaid on it which reads "Loving A Paramedic During A Pandemic"

Note: This post refers to the hypothetical death of a loved one, bulimia and suicidal ideation, as well as of course the Covid pandemic – I’ve got something a lot sexier coming soon, so if any of those topics are hard for you, please give this one a miss! You look after you 💙

I wrote this post mostly across Spring 2021 when I was very angry, and it shows. Enjoy!


March 2020

We’re on our way to Tesco for whatever bread and toilet paper they might have left. My fiancée doesn’t want to use her NHS ID to jump the queue; she feels it would be cheeky when she won’t be working in the coming 24 hours, and there’s nothing we’ll starve without.

The car is stopped at the crest of the hill before Tesco, waiting for the lights to change, and we’re talking about what happens if she dies.

At this point, we don’t know what Covid can and cannot do, nor what the NHS can and cannot do. The news is saturated with death and illness, and I fiddle with the shopping list as we discuss what happens if she becomes another tragedy. What happens with the house? The car? The PS4? She’s a registered organ donor. She doesn’t want a big, miserable funeral. I drag items from the shopping list around so that all the veg is together and so are all the soft drinks and snacks. 

What happens to me?

I try not to be selfish, but in the process I have to swallow my fear. It makes me think of my bulimia days, when everything I swallowed was fear, and I just had to hope I got somewhere private before I needed to puke it all back up. If not, I spent the day feeling tainted, terror casting unflattering shadows over my face.

I finally look her in the eye because I have to, because I have to tell her I love her. I have to tell her I’m proud of her, and that I bear no resentment towards her for running onto the front line, the house and the car and the me be damned. I would do the same thing, I tell her, and I knew she was a run-onto-the-front-line person when I proposed. Whatever happens over the next few months, with Covid or with anything else, we’re in it together.

The traffic moves and we inch towards Tesco with my now-immaculate shopping list.

 

Summer 2020

I couldn’t tell you what month it is. I’m being passed around the Midlands like a suicidal hot potato depending on who might be able to keep me alive this week. My fiancée is miles away, working long shifts and having wobbles in between them. It’s nearly the anniversary of the night I proposed, under the stars with a titanium ring (the most indestructible metal I could afford), promising her the rest of my life, or the rest of hers – whichever ends first.

I didn’t expect it to be a race, but Covid combined with the poverty of the NHS and the unremitting greed of the cunts in charge seem to have pushed us over the starting line. I do what little I can to slow her down – phone calls, gifts in Animal Crossing, every funny Internet picture I can find – but I’m busy tripping over my own feet, and the finish line keeps inching closer.

The graphs are curving upwards and I check them every 4p.m., then consult the news. My thumb hurts from switching between data and news and the social networks where my friends live and die. I click it back into place so I can send my fiancée another meme.

 

January 2021

To say I’m not a morning person is an understatement; it might be more accurate to say I’m barely a person in the mornings at all. Still, when my fiancée’s alarm goes off at 4 a.m., I stagger downstairs ahead of her. I get us both cans of Monster from the fridge and I pound mine like I’m a fresher again, only this time the fuzziness is exhaustion, not booze. I help her assemble her lunch, remind her to take her meds and tell her I love her at least a few times before she kisses me goodbye and heads off for another shift, all before the birds have started with their dawn chorus.

She tells me every time that I don’t have to get up with her, but truthfully I don’t know how many more of these bleary-eyed breakfasts we might have, and at least I get to nap during the day. Besides, I have to be the one to make her sandwiches, because I have to put love into them so they taste better.

 

When she brought Covid home, I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was only a matter of time, which is why I stopped visiting my mum (asthmatic, with a boyfriend in heart failure) when I started living with my fiancée. (I stopped visiting anyone, obviously, but I miss my mum the most, and she’s the person it would be the most dangerous for me to infect. Life is cruel like that.) I didn’t feel any fear that I hadn’t already faced and compartmentalised, even when it became evident I was Covid-positive too. I was irked by the facts of the situation, that this would mean two weeks of maddening self-isolation for us both and that I felt run down as all hell, but what I felt most was a hot, indignant anger – not at my fiancée, or even at whichever patient it might have been who gave her Covid, but at the people who didn’t care. 

I want to believe I’m a patient, compassionate person, but I was already infuriated by the people – on the news, on social media, that I see in town – who just didn’t care. I have some degree of sympathy for the people who believe that the coronavirus is a hoax or some kind of government/5G/Bill Gates plot, because I too am deeply untrusting, scared and confused. But the people who just didn’t give a shit, who are going to parties or baby showers or raves or their mate’s house just for a cheeky visit, were already pissing me off long before my fiancée tested positive. I’ve been spending long days alone with my thoughts while she worked, missing my mum and concerts and nights out with so much intensity that it sometimes physically hurt, and seeing story after story about people who flouted the rules simply because they wanted to, more than they wanted to keep other humans safe.

So I was already pissed off with people’s selfishness and recklessness, the government’s prioritisation of money over human lives and a thousand other things, when I found out that my missus now had an illness that we still know very little about (and what we do know isn’t reassuring), as a direct result of saving other people’s lives at work. Again, I want to believe that I’m patient and compassionate, but two weeks of monitoring our temperatures and oxygen sats in between aches and pains and a lot of coughing made me want to punch some people in the face. I want so badly to let go of this anger, which is white-hot enough to burn me, but I check the clock again, wondering if she’s been for her meal break yet (probably not), and I feel it sear my insides – but all I can do is wait, so I wait.

 

She arrives home safe and brings the cold in with her, the bite of January blowing through the hall and into the living room. I ask her about her shift and she tells what I already know: that it was exhausting, and miserable, and she missed me. We manage to scrape something or other together for dinner, we watch a YouTube video or five, and then she goes to bed. She apologises for being so tired, for not being talkative, for going so long without fucking me, and I wave all of it away. I don’t tell her how relieved I am, every time, that she got home in one piece. I don’t tell her that I can think of countless reasons she might not have – combative patients, cars that don’t stop for blue lights, a terror attack – but I do tell her that she doesn’t owe me an apology for anything.

The people who owe me a fucking apology are probably at a rave right now. 

My Stalking Kink, Part 1: The Abstract

Stock image of a set of black binoculars on a plain white background.

I’m not often at a loss for words. Words are kind of my thing. When I came to realise that my autism might make it difficult for me to engage in paralinguistic communication (that is, communication outside of words, like body language, facial expression and tone), I committed to getting really good at words so that I could still articulate myself as well as any neurotypical person, albeit in a roundabout way, and so that I could understand my neurotypical loved ones as thoroughly as possible.

But I am kind of stuck as to how to explain my stalking kink.

Let’s start with a recurring non-sexual fantasy I have: I walk into my flat (‘flat’ being a nice way of saying ‘my bedroom which is also my kitchen’). There is an unconventionally handsome man sitting on my bed. To get there, I know he must have had to get into my building by stealing or replicating one of the fobs all the tenants get, and then by learning the code to open my door or else learning how to bypass it. I am floored and quietly terrified, and I prop the door wide open with my body for the whole interaction. I ask him gently how he got in here, who he is and why he is on my bed. He explains he’s been watching me for an unnerving length of time, has somehow accessed my building’s CCTV to learn which room is mine and the code it requires to enter, and that he hasn’t done anything weird whilst waiting me to return from Advanced Stylistics. (He does not explain how he knew I had Advanced Stylistics on my uni timetable today.) He tells me he’s been watching me like this because he’s in love with me.

I tell him very carefully that I’d be interested in getting to know him but I would appreciate it if he didn’t enter my bedroom without my knowledge or permission again. He accepts that even though he knows an alarming amount about me, I know very little about him, and we can’t dive into the passionate lifelong partnership he’d been imagining just yet. I ask him to leave so that I can unwind for the evening and process the fact that I just found a strange man on my bed. He obliges, but the energy that comes off him as he walks by me and out of the door suggests that it is taking every ounce of self-restraint you can fit into a human body to prevent him from pinning me to the door and making me his by force. A couple of hours after this encounter, he somehow intuits that I am too stunned to cook, and a Deliveroo driver knocks on my door with my favourite kebab from my favourite takeaway place, fully paid for. I learn that he even tipped the driver handsomely, as I would’ve done (if I’d had the money).

You may be starting to understand, reader, what I want from my stalker fantasy.

In essence, I want to be wanted so thoroughly that it overrides all social convention, but not so doggedly that it prompts my stalker to disregard or transgress my boundaries (except for the ones I haven’t made explicit, like “Don’t enter my room without my permission,” or, “Don’t watch me through my webcam”). I want to be so desired by this person that they drip precum when they smell the washing powder I use. I want them to masturbate to the selfies in which I’m fully clothed as well as the ones where I’m not. And I want them to have the patience and the self-control and the desperate need for me to like them that’ll make them proceed, however clumsily, at my pace when we finally meet.

I want to be lusted after and obsessed over and pursued.

It’s… a lot.

Next week I’ll talk in more detail about the paradoxical nature of fantasies that involve some element of non-consent (you want it, but it’s not what you want if the other person knows that you want it, but if they do it and you actually don’t want it then your want isn’t fulfilled, etc.) and the week after that I might explore the roots of this particular kink and when it is (and isn’t) useful to identify the parts of your psyche that birthed a fantasy.

In the meantime, though, I’d recommend listening to songs like The Horror Of Our Love’ by Ludo and ‘The Word You Wield’ by Say Anything, if you want an insight into some of the darker places my mind goes when I reflect on this fantasy of mine, and commenting or getting in touch if you have a similar fantasy, or a different take on the stalker vs. prey dynamic!

My Cervical Erosion Adventure, Part 2: Vag Mechanic Boogaloo

Stock image of a labcoat, worn by a person whose head is not in frame, with the pocket lined with pens and a stethoscope slung around the person's neck. The background is out of focus and beige.

Content note: this post mentions blood, describes a minor medical procedure and discusses non-consent in a medical setting. If any of those are difficult for you, feel free to give this one a miss, and join me next week for a new Smut Saturdays post instead!

Also, please forgive me for the title; I couldn’t help myself. As you can see, this post is a continuation of one from last week, available right here, but hopefully it’ll make sense as a standalone piece too. (Except for, y’know, the title.)


After I explained to my doctor that I had recently learned that my post coital bleeding wasn’t “normal”, and my doctor explained to me that bits that were meant to be inside the neck of my cervix were, in fact, on the outside, I was referred to a treatment centre to have it looked at.

I am not a shy person, as evidenced by my Twitter full of nudes and the existence of this very blog. I am not averse to jumping onto a clinic bed and having a stranger examine my bits (though, like most vagina-owners, I am a tiny bit averse to the ol’ speculum. That thing is a bastard). Being autistic and anxious, I hate appointments in general (travelling to new locations? Introducing myself to new people? Wearing outdoors clothes?!), but I wasn’t any more upset about seeing the Vag Mechanic than I would be about going to the optician. I showed up to the treatment centre early and was beckoned into my appointment after about ten minutes of apprehensive knitting.

The nice Vag Mechanic lady sat me down and asked me a number of very predictable questions about my recent sexual partners, my periods and my oral contraception. Then she asked, “And do you experience any tearing upon penetration?”

I explained, somewhat sheepishly, that I did a bit, sometimes, but only when things were rushed. She had some stern words to say about foreplay and lubrication, but we agreed that since the bleeding I’d been experiencing didn’t always correlate with the hurried sex and tearing sensation, it was likely cervical ectopy, as my doctor had suggested. I was taken into the next room, shown a curtained-off corner where I could have some privacy, and instructed to strip from the waist down in my own time, whilst the Vag Mechanic went and got a nurse to observe.

Once I was on my back with my legs in stirrups and a nurse standing on the right-hand side of the bed, the Vag Mechanic started unpackaging a speculum whilst the nurse chatted with me, presumably with the intention of keeping me calm and somewhat distracted from the impending plastic jaws that were about to wrench me open. (If you have a vag and you haven’t experienced a speculum before, please be aware that I’m largely being dramatic, and am hypersensitive to a number of sensations because I’m autistic; speculums (or speculae?) are, at worst, distinctly uncomfortable for a few moments as they’re being inserted and a few moments as they’re being removed. Do not be deterred from attending important gynaecology appointments because I’m a gigantic baby.)

The bastard thing went in, and the Vag Mechanic pulled a light on an arm down between my knees so that she could have a proper look, which wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise, however, was the screen to my right, directly next to the nurse at my bedside, which displayed footage of what looked like…

“Is that my cervix?” I asked excitedly, pointing at it like you might point at a very cool zoo animal. The nurse informed me that it was. “And that’s live?” Yep, it was a closed circuit live feed of my very own cervix. Being the sex nerd that I am, I was ecstatic.

The Vag Mechanic slid a cotton swab into the opening of the speculum (and, by extension, the opening of the me) and used it to point out to me on the screen where some of the tissue was red and raw-looking. She prodded it gently and blood oozed out, confirming that it was indeed cervical ectopy.

I expected to have the speculum withdrawn, to be able to sit up, and to have a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of cauterizing the tissue (the most likely treatment option, according to a quick Google search and literally zero medical professionals that I’d spoken to thus far).

I did not expect her to unsheath a glorified toothpick and begin explaining, as it drew nearer to my bits, that this was silver nitrate, and she was “just” going to “quickly” cauterize it. I hadn’t even had a chance to Tweet about the confirmation that it was what I’d suspected. I lay there, frozen, unable to object or ask questions. All my thoughts were replaced by terror.

And then, to make it worse, the nurse very deliberately moved in front of the screen.

Desperate to regain some control of the situation, I asked, “Have you moved in front of the screen because sometimes it smokes and that freaks people out?”

“Exactly that,” she said. When I tried to crane my neck past her, less spooked by my smoking cervix than by unknown things happening to my genitals in real time, she fucking leaned so that I still couldn’t see it. Before too long it was over, and the nurse and the Vag Mechanic were completely unaware that they’d put me into fight or flight mode.

The moments after that are hazy in my memory, presumably because I was having a minor trauma response. They gave me a piece of paper about looking after my newly-scarred cervix and I made some joke about the line that forbade me from horseback riding. I had to put a pad in my underwear (no internal menstrual hygiene products, so no beloved menstrual cup) to catch the blood that my disgruntled vagina was ejecting along with bits of silver nitrate-y crud. Nobody had told me about that beforehand, either, and some warning would have been nice: apart from the fact that I very rarely have pads in my bag nowadays, I find them intensely distressing on an autistic level on account of the rustling, the stickiness and the scent, so I would have benefited from mentally preparing myself for the bastard things.

And that’s the point, really: I would have benefited from mentally preparing myself for all of it. Mostly, you know, for the cautery.

I don’t want to be ungrateful for what was a minor but important medical intervention that I received completely for free, thanks to the amazing (if strained) NHS. And I totally understand the logic behind “getting it over and done with”, and I understand the nurse’s insistence on shielding me from watching the process happen. Most patients would want to think about their raw cervical tissue being chemically burned as little as humanly possible, I’m sure, and taking the speculum out just to give them an opportunity to worry about it would be cruel. But I’m not most patients: I’m autistic, for one, and benefit from a clear outline of “the plan” from the outset in order to feel safe and in control. Maybe more importantly than that, though, I’m a survivor of sexual trauma, and so I want to know and understand what people are doing to my genitals at all times.

Maybe it was a miscommunication – maybe the Vag Mechanic assumed that my doctor had laid it out more clearly to me, or maybe the nurse thought that the “Generalised anxiety” bit on my notes meant that I’d pass out at the sight of the cautery taking place… or maybe they just made some assumptions based on their previous patients or what they themselves might have wanted… but regardless of why they didn’t check what I wanted, they didn’t check what I wanted. They didn’t explain. They didn’t make my options clear to me. They probably had the very best of intentions, but they took away my agency at a vulnerable moment and that made me feel unsafe.

I don’t think any medical setting, but especially a sexual or reproductive health-oriented one, should ever make a person feel unsafe. Ever.

There is a happy ending to this story in that my recovery was fine, I no longer have the post coital bleeding and I only dread my next Vag Mechanic appointment a bit, but that doesn’t take away from the feelings of fear and helplessness and discomfort and the rest of it that I carried home with me as well as my leaflet. If you found this article because you think you might have cervical ectopy, I want to make it clear that you absolutely do not need to feel this way, and you have every right to tell the Vag Mechanic before you get into the stirrups whether you want the procedure explained to you before, during or after, as well as any other worries or needs you might have. If you found this piece because you’re a healthcare professional who deals with genitals, I urge you to check in with your patients about how much they’d like to be aware of and involved in procedures that you’re going to do – even minor ones like mine.

And if you found this article because you’re a regular reader of mine, I’m always grateful for your support and I’ll see y’all next week with some unapologetic smut.