It catches you out every time, the innocuous brown envelope on the front door mat.
Of course as soon as you tear it open and the pale generic letter slips out, it all comes flooding back with nail biting clarity. Is it three years already? You stare at the family calendar looking for confirmation; it offers only a dentist appointment and an interest free deadline that you have no hope of making. You accept defeat and pin the flimsy letter on the corkboard, folding it to obscure its contents. You resolve to deal with it later, after waking up properly, dressing and applying your make-up. Phone calls of this nature always go better once your public faÃ§ade is in place.
Later comes in the shape of a mug of coffee and cigarette.
Sitting at the kitchen table you randomly shuffle the bills, 'it' rustles on the pin board as your daughter scatters past. You ignore 'it', more important things to attend to, such as choosing a plastic bag holder from the door-stepping catalogue lady. The catalogue absorbs your interest in a rather unnatural way - the cigarette now a screwed up butt in the ashtray, coffee dregs cool and gritty on your tongue.
You run out of catalogue.
You make your way shiftily towards the notice board and rip the letter from its red headed pin in bluffed confidence, the pin flies towards your face narrowly missing your left eye ' scaredy cat it whips. Letter in hand you grab the phone before losing the momentum. Unsurprisingly it is not in its cradle. You hunt frantically before resorting to phoning it with your mobile and locate it in the fridge nestled with the butter and sausages.
Poking the number into the phone, you take a deep breath and hold it to your ear.
"Highlands Surgery Appointments?
Damn! It is always engaged, the beep, beep, beep ' normally reminding you of a life support machine when you feel like you are dieing.
"Oh yes¦ I need to book an appointment with the nurse, I got a reminder, for a smr¦
"I'm sorry could you repeat that I couldn't hear you properly.
"A smearrr¦ You try again. "I need an appointment for a smear. No rush, it's not urgent.
The receptionist sweetly makes you an appointment for tomorrow. You hang up and check the calendar, hopeful that you have missed an important engagement, you haven't. You spend the rest of the day telling yourself to grow up, grow a set of balls ' then of course you wouldn't need a smear. You wish you were a man ' briefly.
Lieing expertly to your boss you leave an hour early for the 'dentist' appointment. Standing in your bathroom, the sink fills with warm soapy water. You grab the flannel off the side of the bath and scrub vigorously, imagining you are about to go on a date with ER George. Looking down at your pubes you consider shaving them into the shape of a heart, you even consider red dye - momentarily. A liberal spray of body musk, a clean pair of white knickers and a long skirt completes your preparation.
Sitting in the surgery eyes down, your neighbour spots you and squeezes his frame opposite, Ladies Circle between you. You grab a copy and pretend to read the bed-sock knitting pattern.
"Hello love, what are you doing here?
Oh I'm going to spread my legs and let someone shove a metal clamp up my vagina.
"Just seeing the practice nurse. You smile innocently.
"It's me back." He winces burrowing his hand inside his fat to locate his spine.
Your name beeps and flashes on the scrolling screen, the nurse smiles and ushers you behind the curtains. You know the routine, the drill, but you wait for the command. You wish you were a nun ' for life.
"Just remove your clothes from the waist down and hop onto the couch.
Mortification stiffens your fingers as you hook them in the side of your knickers. You leave your skirt on ' like theatre greens blocking your view. You shove your bum up on the couch the paper rubs and chaffs. Your knickers peek out sluttily from the top of your handbag.
The nurse turns, kidney dish in hand, the KY tube oozing.
"Right, knees up, ankles together. Her hand snakes around your ankles. "Now let your knees go loose and floppy¦ a little more, just relax, that's it. She says pushing down on the inside of your left knee.
Just relax¦! Your vagina is about to be interrogated with the harsh angled lamp and then penetrated with the beaked speculum of cold metal. You have a moment of clarity, the speculum had to have been designed by a man. You attempt a smile and say,
Really hoping that the little umbrella with spikes was designed by a woman.
You could swear the nurse smans behind your skirt when she turns on the light, warm on your thigh. You close your eyes and think of England.
Home at last ' you feel proud as punch, it was nothing really.
Running the bath, KY sticky in your thighs, you notice a flannel on the edge of the bath, it glitters. You smile as you remember wiping the multi-coloured glitter from your daughter's hands, face and feet last night. How did card making get so messy.
Your mind does a rewind - you remember rushing home from work and grabbing a flannel¦ a gulp gets stuck in your throat. You slip your knickers off and turn to face the mirror¦ your muff shimmers and sparkles under the bathroom lights.
You grab your lady shave and begin to fashion a heart.