I was in the bath, facing that middle-aged dilemma of how to keep my phone far enough away to be in focus, without submerging it in water.
I was warm, pink and relaxed… when I noticed something worrying.
One testicle seemed larger than its companion.
I’d been concerned for a while that there was something amiss. There appeared to be a hardening at the base of my right testicle, but I kept foolishly pushing that thought to the back of my mind.
As I was on a schedule to meet Ruru in town, I didn’t have time to dwell on the matter.
I dried, dressed and departed… but that niggling worry persisted.
Missing Bar was heaving.
We enjoyed the novelty of being allowed to stand at the bar again. I had forgotten just how busy bars were in life before Covid… or loud.
One of the gaybourhood’s prominent venue owners told me how, on the full reopening weekend, he asked for the volume to be turned down when testing the sound system, “I thought, surely it was never this loud before?”
“I considered bringing the dog tonight,” I confessed to Ru, having got used to taking her out while restrictions were in place.
“She’d have been squished!”
My bath time discovery was still bothering me, so I shared my concerns with Ruru.
Having nursing experience, he immediately offered to go to a toilet cubical with me and take a look.
“No one will believe that you are just giving me a check-up.”
Ruru just raised a dismissive eyebrow and headed to the gents.
I followed a few moments later.
Walking into the toilets, I was met with an unanticipated obstacle.
Ru was stood at the sinks, surrounded by a multitude of sprays, gels, perfumes and potions, being peddled for tips by the man on the stool (another aspect of pre-Covid life that I had forgotten about).
There was no way we were going to be able to slip into a cubicle unobserved.
This was going to prove more of a challenge than expected.
We returned to the bar to consider our options.
Equator was too compact, we decided. There was no way we would be able to head off to the toilets together without being noticed.
“I don’t even think there is a door on the men’s loo,” I recalled. “We are bound to be seen going in or out of a cubical.”
The Nightingale Club naturally charges for admission, but we didn’t want to pay for the privilege of using their facilities for a medical examination.
There was another popular village venue where nobody would blink an eye if we went into a toilet cubicle together, but they have so much through traffic that we would probably have to form an orderly queue.
Who’da thought it would be so difficult to find an empty cubical on the gay scene?
“We could go to The Fox,” I announced. The little gay bar with the big gay heart would possibly be suitable for our purposes.
We ordered our drinks and sat at a table in The Fox’s neat little beer garden, but before we could execute our plan, Ruru got distracted when he recognised a fellow TikTok performer and excitedly trotted over to introduce himself.
My medical examination would have to wait.
Ruru’s new buddy was a flamboyant reality TV wannabe.
He stood out in an arresting outfit of coordinated white trainers, jeans, shirt and brand sweater, an ensemble that matched his dazzling veneers and set off his salon tan of burnt sienna. He was decked in gold bracelets and a multitude of rings on every finger. There were even several rings displayed on a gold chain around this neck.
This was a man who didn’t believe in subtlety.
His gaudy look was topped off with a tightly permed mullet, dyed a few shades darker than, what I imagine was once, his nature hair colour.
This glitzy oddball was with a gentile older gentleman who basked in his companion’s radiance.
This odd couple were surprisingly pleasant company, so after several more drinks, we invited them to join us back at Missing.
Our mission, to afford Ruru a quick peek at my troublesome testicle, had been temporarily forgotten.
In Missing, I kept the older gent company, while Ru bounced off like Tigger to twirl about the dancefloor and ‘Mr. Burnt Siena’ performed extravagant drop splits at every opportunity.
I was thrilled to spot a lovely man that I had been introduced to on several occasions by a mutual friend. We greeted each other enthusiastically, delighted to hug after eighteen months of social distancing.
I made introductions between Ru and this friend of a friend, and was struck by how much they resembled each other, apart from the striking height difference. One towered over his diminutive doppelganger. It was like they were each other’s reflections in a funfair mirror.
Watching Ruru’s orange friend from The Fox drop into his umpteenth split, I thought, He is going to require medical attention if he keeps this up… which reminded me of my own potential health issue.
“I’m an idiot,” I told Ru, as I dragged him to the stairwell at the rear of the venue. “We were looking for discreet toilets, but the perfect option was here all along. There are toilets upstairs… that people hardly ever use.”
In the cubical, Ru adopted a totally professional, albeit tipsy, manner. He gave me the onceover and concluded that everything seemed in order, but to go see my GP all the same.
Only once the examination was concluded, did we collapse into fits of giggles. Suddenly, nothing seemed more ridiculous than being stood in a toilet cubical with my best mate, pants around my knees, with my right testical cupped in his left hand.
Matters weren’t helped by some twink and his female friend attempting a 90s dance classic in the next stall, whilst simultaneously discussing what drinks they were going to get their mate, Oscar, to buy once they returned to the bar.
I called over the partition, “How are you managing to perform The Macarena in such a small space? Oh, and if Oscar is buying, I’ll have a pint of Stella.”
The next evening, I booked an appointment on the NHS app.
By the time I woke, late the following morning, I had missed several calls and received an email trying to book me in for that afternoon.
I called the doctor back and he explained what an examination would entail and the signs to lookout for.
“Well, I am currently stood in my kitchen fondling myself,” I informed him, “and, to be honest, I can’t feel anything unusual. I hope I’m not wasting your time.”
“No, not at all. It is better to be sure,” he assured me.
The doctor then rambled on about some Olympic cyclist who had competed with undiagnosed testicular cancer. I assume this was his attempt to reassure me that a positive diagnosis would not mean a loss of virility or physical prowess, although I suspected I wouldn’t be competing in major cycling tournaments anytime soon… especially as I don’t own a bike.
The misconception that the loss of a testicle effects your masculinity is, quite frankly, a load of bollocks. Over the years, I’ve been with plenty of mono-testicled men that have all performed admirably.
On one memorable occasion in Budapest, I met a guy in a cruise bar who bore a striking resemblance to Miranda Hobbs’ cute husband Steve, from HBO’s Sex and the City, a character whose storyline saw him undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.
After going with him in a darkroom, I informed my partner, “That guy only had one ball, just like Steve.”
“Maybe it really is him,” he suggested.
“Only the character had surgery,” I tutted, “that would be taking method acting way too far.”
My professional examination established there was nothing of concern.
At no point was I made to feel uncomfortable nor alarmist. I was repeatedly told, if in any doubt, the best thing was to have it checked out.
Now I know what everything is meant to look and feel like at factory settings, I will be in a better position to spot any abnormality.
The boys of Brum can breathe a collective sigh of relief, everything is in working order and I’m out there… having a ball.