Most women have them. That one or two girlfriends you came up with of who will be tied to you for life, for better or worse. Weeks, months, even years could elapse between seeing each other face to face and yet there is a cord made of braided summer camp friendship bracelets sticky with the juices of angry puberty that knots you together. You have seen each other date terrible older men in high school against and vomit off of balconies during graduation parties in your underwear. You’ve fought over petty bullshit that can’t even be recalled and worried that the other was prettier. You cried on each others shoulders and dressed each other for parties. You shared the blackest innards of your soul with this girl. The yawning distance of time and geography cannot cut through that kind of history.
Which is why when I woke up with the worst yeast infection of my entire twenty five years of life on this earth I went screaming to my high school friend Kathryn.
I had to be at the San Francisco Airport at 6 AM for a red eye into New Orleans. My friend Pancha had generously offered to take me on the condition that I slept over at her house in the Richmond, where she roomed with Kathryn. So of course at 3 AM my vagina revolted. I was struck in the week hours of the morning with a case of thrush so impossibly bad it woke me from REM sleep.
I thrashed violently under the afghan and scratched furiously. I rolled over and over in place and clutched at my pants hamster.
“It’ll be fine.” I thought and rolled into the pillow. “I can tough it out. Just three more hours and I’ll be on a plane…I’ll get to Mom and Dad’s and then I’ll take care of it. I can avoid tearing out my lady parts until then.”
I began to gnaw at the pillowcase, tears streaming from my eyes.
“No. No I can’t.”
I lurched up from the sofa and tottered into the hallway, waddling in a desperate semicircle in front of Pancha’s dark room. Then I noticed the thin light coming from under Kathryn’s door. I did my jerky toddle over to the closed door and scratched frantically.
She opened the door with a tissue clutched to her nose. “What’s up, baby? I have a cold again.” She gestured helpfully at her tissue.
I clutched at her, my eyes watering. I continued to do my strange itchy dance as I begged. “It’s happened. It’s finally happened. My pussy has revolted! She is burning the fields and salting the earth, no man shall tread on her lush hill again!”
“Awwww, sweetie.” Kathryn Blew her nose and looked down at where I clung pathetically to the front of her robe. “Do you want to make a Safeway run?”
“YES. Yes, god, I need creamsssss!”
Mercifully, like a good friend would, she went to gently coax the car keys from a slumbering Pancha. We made our way down the apartment stairs, me practically dragging my ass across the Berber carpet on the way in an effort to find some kind of relief. As we buckled ourselves in I desperately began to scratch myself. I looked at her with doleful eyes.
“I am so sorry. I just… I can’t stop! I’ve never had one this bad!”
“Oh, Don’t even worry about it, Sweetie.” Kathryn said brightly as we sped down Stanyan Street. “God knows I’ve told you about all of the horrible shit that’s happened to my vagina.”
“Thank you so much.”
“You’d do the same for me if our situations were reversed, baby”
“I can’t drive.”
“But I would help you apply a compress made of house hold spices or something. I really would.” I offered.
Kathryn snorted and we pulled into the deserted early morning Safeway lot. I made my knock kneed dash for the feminine hygiene aisle. I flung aside boxes promising five day relief, seven day relief… “Too long, too long!” three day relief then finally came to a supersize box promising to blast my junk clean with a single wax capsule. As an added bonus it came with a massive tube of anti-itch cream and a package of “Cooling Vaginal Wipes” along with a “discreet cosmetic case”. I clutched it to my chest like the last piece of flotsam in a burning genital ocean.
Kathryn rolled up behind me holding a giant bottle of Vicks antiseptic throat spray and coughed painfully. We stared at each other mournfully for a beat. Then high fived each other and shuffled up to the checkout counter.
We placed our purchases on the belt and waited for the checkout girl to finish with the two obviously drunk women in front of us who were buying bulk quantities of Gatoraid. I looked down at our purchases separated by the little orange bar. The throat spray and the plus sized box of pussy rescue.
“Christ, Kathryn, We look like a two women STI parade.”
In front of us one of the drunk women, her hair falling out of it’s clip in wisps, looked down at my box. She weaved unsteadily and stared.
“Go on.” I thought. “Go on and say something. I know you want to.”
“Vagisil.” She read off.
“Yup.” I said.
“Man, been there. That shit is the worst. Because like, you want to scratch it but you know you can’t because it’ll just get worse.” Her friend bagged their Gatoraid as the checkout girl smothered her snigger. “I’d cut off a thumb if I could avoid a yeast infection.”
Kathyrn tried to laugh but could only end up coughing.
“Yeah, I kind of want to die. Being in public is really hard at the moment.” I said poking my box up to the clerk.
“Oh, whatever.” The woman said shouldering her purse. “It’s all girls here. Who gives a shit? You all have a good night. Good luck with…” She waved a hand in the general direction of my pants. “…all of that.”
And who gave a shit indeed? If there is one thing that can bring women together it’s commiseration of genital mishaps. God knows the list of things that can go wrong under our hoods is long enough we’ll never run out of horror stories to share.
Kathryn and I made our way back to the car. Her wheezing, me doing my uncomfortable crab walk. She immediately popped the cap off of her throat spray and liberally hosed down her tonsils. I shredded open my Vagisil gift box.
“You going to put that on in the car babe?” She croaked.
” Don’t tempt me. I just want it ready for me when I get back up the stairs.”
We returned to the apartment as the sky was starting to lighten. Before we got out of the car I grabbed at her hand.
“You are like a sister to me. Do you know that? You are the Florence Nightingale of vaginas.And I love you.”
She just patted my own hand and said: “I love you too, sweetie.”
Forget shoe shopping. Forget manicures. Forget ice cream and opening nights of that Sex in the City bullshit. The only way you will truely know you have a life long sister from another mister is if she gets up at 4 AM and drives you to Safeway in her duckie PJ’s to help you buy a suppository for your raging case of thrush.
And not judge you for it once.