Swallowing Bangkok


December 20, 2010 by The Citron Review

by Christine Fadden


After your fiancé tells you the truth and before you sleep with him again, insist you both get tested. When the clinic cannot see you for ten days, get pissed beyond the individual to the system, but know that even your exponentially multiplied anger won’t hold you through a sex sabbatical that long.

Give in, you knew you would, but keep your mouth and your eyes closed the whole time. As soon as he pulls out, something will be wrong with your vagina, but the clinic—what kind of country is this?—still will not see you.

Squirm for five days. Tell your fiancé repeatedly, “You are an asshole.” It’s bad enough that all your sisters, and cousins, and girlfriends are spread out across another continent, making a bridal shower impossible. It is worse that in spite of this, he said yes to a bachelor party in Bangkok—the city that makes American fiancées cream for Vegas—leaving you alone in Seoul for a week, in charge of explaining changes in the guest list to his mother, flipping through wedding magazines you couldn’t even read, with pictures of poofy dresses.

Consider burning these magazines as a seriously grand gesture. Look at him like you don’t know him at all. Rely on his athlete’s foot spray to stop the killer itch and wonder if what he gave you will permanently condemn your canal.

A visit to the gynecologist is never a pleasure, but know it will be worse as an expat. Korean gynecologists work in teams of four. Four men are in the exam room below your waist at the same time. You will think, “This must be a serious case,” and worry how Cause of Death: Sex will look to your mother.

“I’m not dying here,” you will think. Maybe they are just curious if white women are bushier or balder, wider or deeper. Maybe white girl lips hang lower like a lazy flower. Maybe our clits are more bulbous—coffee beans not watermelon seeds. In the stirrups, you are already exposed, so what does it matter how many people are milling about?

They say, “Riddle rider, prease.”

Thighs wide, you can smell yourself. Not the usual cold-water-scrubbed potato smell. There is razor stubble but you don’t care. There are scratch marks because you can’t help it. Blue rubber-gloved jelly-dipped fingers make sloshing sounds going in, pressing the inside of you against palms down flat outside of you. It’s their job—and they do it efficiently—to inspect the alien girl for bumps, bugs, and blisters.

In the old days, women took care of vaginal infections by shoving a clove of garlic wrapped in gauze up inside them, dead center. Whatever it takes, modern or folksy, you want the team to zap away this manifestation of girl jumps out of a very moist cake.

Twenty-five minutes in stirrups, you are cramping and stinking and tender. The blue sheet that is laid across your bent knees is meant to hide the closeness of the gynecologists’ faces to the place you have watched your fiancé bury his face so many times. You see the top of one head, hair black as a crow, so now one of the team is standing. And the others? Hold your breath, test for the feel of them breathing down there.

They talk in strong sounds. Listen for taxi directions, numbers one through ten—words you understand. Understand nothing. One of them pops his head around from behind the blue sheet and says, “You okay!” He might be asking a question or issuing a command. Say, “Okay, okay.” Give him the thumbs up. Realize you are sweating.

Project your disgust far and unfairly under these conditions, at this appointed half-hour. Ignore the question of how you subjected your body, your temple, to this danger, this insult. Focus instead on the metal in this room and how the entire continent of Asia has wronged you, first by seducing the man you are supposedly going to marry and then, for the ten days they made you wait to become a slab of stupid American woman on their cold table.

Wonder why haven’t these gynecologists put Ugg boot fluff around the exam table stirrups. Don’t they know that the smallest comforts can make a situation less chilling?

Think après ski. Mountains. Real mountains from home, not the kind they build in a mall. Shiver. It is bright white. It is glaring. The tools they wield may as well be ski poles—your body, snow.

Think about banging the team’s heads together with your knees or asking them to crawl up in you like soldiers who will guard you against yourself. You have never seen what they are seeing, even though it is right there inside you—dark, where life starts.

Think about launching an international campaign, encouraging gynecologists everywhere to tack posters of the cosmos or global wind patterns to exam room ceilings. While they’re pinching and tugging at the tip of your cervix like a dental surgeon removing tonsils, you learn.

You have learned. The gums, the back of the throat, and the vaginal canal are composed of non-keratinized epithelium—fancy for slippery and wet. Scrape your gums with a toothpick; it’s like a pap smear of your mouth. Run your tongue over your upper palate, those are transverse friction ridges. In your mouth, these ridges manipulate food, in the vaginal canal, the male ego.

There are absolute contraindications. Antifungals leave a filmy aftertaste.

Take one pill in the morning and one before bed for fourteen days. Do not have sex until your condition has cleared.

Understand this is not all you will have to swallow.


Christine Fadden does not live next door. She plays old-school Frisbee with her dog, runs hills, and holds a degree from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Titular Journal, Storyglossia, decomP magazinE, Stacatto Fiction, Knee-Jerk Magazine, and Precipitate Journal, and elsewhere. She has been awarded an artist’s residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in April, 2011.


2 thoughts on “Swallowing Bangkok

  1. Michele Liapes says:

    Hey, Chris. I’m so impressed with everything you’re doing, and congratulations on your fellowship. I miss the days when you DID live next door.
    All the best,

  2. Michele,
    How to nice to know you are reading my stuff! Thank you.
    I miss miss miss San Francisco.

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