It’s only a flesh wound

THE PROBLEM with effective medication is that when it is working I somehow manage to tell myself I was kind of imagining the whole thing in the first place. I felt pretty good last night, except for my poor pounding head, but I stayed in bed anyway, sensibly. Still, part of me was going, “Wow, what a drama queen. I knew I would get better. Too bad I wasted everyone’s time. I bet I’ll be back to work tomorrow.” Likewise if I saw my severed head across the room somewhere I’d be like “Eh I must have an ingrown, bring me a tweezer.” It’s stupid.

I did the same thing in Hawaii recently. I mentioned we went on a short hike in a pretty national park after the jellyfish stings and before we all started having the 2014 Asshole Ranch Sing-a-long. While I lay in bed and in between trips to the hotel room’s loo I noticed my calves were stiffening up.

“You’re limping,” P. said.

“Am I?” I asked. LYING. Could anyone be more annoying? JUST ADMIT YOU ARE LIMPING, idiot. I probably even said something like, “I can still fight you.”

My calves knotted up and he insisted on rubbing them, which was really nice. After three really gentle tries (the skin was painful to touch) he got them to loosen a little so the muscles resembled normal calf muscles again, and not lumpy steel bars.

“I have a problem with those stupid shortie stairs,” I said. “I bet this is why I’m sore.” You know those weenie stairs that are supposed to make a climb easier but they are just annoying and make you feel like you’re skittering along like Pekingese or a centipede or something. WHO ARE THOSE FOR? The park was riddled with them up to the lookout area.

So that was the beginning, I guess, which I kind of ignored.

“I feel like I’ve been poisoned,” I told the doctor yesterday. I actually kind of know what that’s like. I told him the only other time I’ve had a headache like this when when I was about Strudel’s age and I had blood sepsis. I will never forget that headache.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I had keratosis pilaris as a kid, which I was very self-conscious about. My friends always noticed and asked about them, and some people thought it was contagious. I had no idea what it was, that it was no big deal, really, and that a large percentage of the population has it. I asked my mother about it when I was little but it was considered one of the great mysteries of our time.

“I have no idea,” she would say for the umpteenth time, exhaling her cigarette at me impatiently. “All I know is that it appeared two hours after you were born and never went away.” Translation: I had a stupid baby and then it got covered in an ugly rash. Once, for reasons I cannot fathom, I was fretting about “leg bumps” and she told me that she got them too. MAN, what a relief! I wasn’t just a mystery mutant. Years later in high school I told her how nice that was to hear.

“Oh, that,” she said. “Well, I don’t remember that, but I think I was just lying to make you feel better.”

Strudel has inherited my KP but she’s fairly philosophical about it since we know what it is and how to manage it somewhat. She went through a phase of ripping her arms up like I did, and was always covered in a few scabs. I wore long tee shirts and no tank tops for years to hide the damage. She is less self-conscious. I have gently pointed out the results of her excavations and the scars and she tries to leave them alone. I keep a loofah for her for when she can be cajoled into showering, and we talk about the importance of moisturizing.

Needless to say, I was not allowed to pick at myself. I have an early memory of sobbing and trying to read a book with mittens on, which I was forced to wear sometimes. On a good day, my parents were rather Victorian in their parenting techniques.

So when one of my little bumps went awry on my arm, I kept it a secret. I think I was almost ten. I guess I got some dirt in it from my disgusting kid fingernails, because it went toxic. My grandmother was visiting and I remember we went to a little former mining town that had become one of those cute tourist traps. We had lunch and toured old homes which had been turned into museums. There is a picture of me in the corner of one of these preserved Victorian homes, pale and strained-looking.

“Why won’t you smile?” my mother asked, wielding the camera at me. Because I feel like laying down and dying but I think it’s my fault and I don’t want to be punished. I had gotten over a lot of things on my own, in secret, even lying about how ill I was. I could lick this as well.

But my body couldn’t fight it off. I woke up in the middle of the night, my head pounding. I knew I would be in trouble if I woke my parents up over a trifle like this. I came to my grandmother, crying, who sensibly woke my parents up when she discovered I was on fire and crying from the pain I was in.

“Do you have any idea why you’re so sick?” the doctor at the hospital asked. I shrugged. I had my suspicions. I reluctantly pulled back my sleeve to reveal the throbbing source of pain on my arm. I uncovered a festering scab, only about the size of a pencil eraser, the skin around it red and tender, with a three-inch red streak that was snaking its way up to find my heart. His eyes went wide.

“What happened there?” he asked, alarmed.

“I think it was a bug bite,” I lied.

“WHY didn’t you tell us?” my mother hissed at me after the doctor left.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” I said.

My poor grandmother had to spend the rest of her visit minding a sick kid, but she was probably happy in a way to have a captive audience to watch her soaps with. I remember her being on the phone with my Aunt Kesa from back home while I convalesced on the couch.

“It’s the weirdest thing,” she said, sotto voce. “I have never seen a kid cry silently before.”

So this is that headache. And the Predisone is only lasting about 18 hours. I hear back about my first round of bloodwork today so I hope this will be short-lived. If not, I’ll just walk it off. Ha!

9 thoughts on “It’s only a flesh wound

  1. Um. Wow.
    You have been sick a long time. Get this shit fixed. I wish I could go back in time and parent you as a little kid. Jesus.

  2. Oh. My.

    Yesterday’s post worried me some, but today’s terrified me. Also, what Dorrie said. May I punch your mother? Because presumably if I punch my own she will beat me senseless AND I will feel as though I deserved it (instantly 8 years old and sad/bewildered/guilty/repentant all over again), but I do think I could probably sock your mother pretty good with a clear conscience AND outrun her. Just say the word.

    Also, please get better soon.

  3. “THE PROBLEM with effective medication is that when it is working I somehow manage to tell myself I was kind of imagining the whole thing in the first place.”
    THIS. All the yes.

    Jeez, I hope you feel better soon.

  4. I’ve been reading your blog for years, and I remember reading that you had KP when I was younger. It made me feel better about mine, because you seem to be a mildly functioning adult despite this crippling, purely cosmetic flaw.

    For some reason, no one knows what it is even though apparently a lot of people have it? All I knew as a child was that my mother had it, too, and that all the other children thought my skin was gross. No one I asked was able to explain it, either, and I have reason to believe my childhood was slightly later than your childhood.

    Also, I hope you don’t die. Feel better soon!

    (if Mire and I make it to Seattle this year, do you want to have a cup of coffee? (no is cool))

  5. Yes I do want coffee. I may need someone to wheel me in, but it seems I am not contagious.

    The KP thing makes me crazy. I read some estimate the other day that something like 40% of people have symptoms. Where is the congressional research committee? I KID, ok.

    Thank you for noticing I am mildly functioning, that made me lol. I have always thought you should be writing. Maybe you are, what do I know.

  6. A congressional committee may be a slight overshot, but Jesus, can’t it be a thing parents learn about when they have a kid? Don’t they have pre-spawn manuals? In retrospect, it’s a really minor thing, but it makes me sad to think that there are children out there who feel like they need to dodge questions and hide their appendages.

    Having KP and being a fat kid at the same time just sort of scarred me, okay?

    As for writing, I’ve recently started working on a blog project about my trip to the US. It’s interesting to see how much clearer my “voice” is just after a few weeks — maybe it’s something I should stick with. My family had a tradition of verbal storytelling; I am always looking for the anecdote in things that happen. Trying to express that in text is a very educational experience. If you’re curious and want to poke around with Google Translate, it’s over at
    GT does not handle the nonstandard language very well, though.

    There’s also minor blog activity at

    I was working on a collection of stories about my dad. He was sort of a ridiculous man, and the things we had fights about were petty and diverse, and, to me, quite funny. Then he died, and it put me off working on it — the material I already had was too different in tone from the material I was able to produce after that.

  7. Your 2nd to last paragraph punched me right in the gut.

    Please never stop writing. You are amazing in so many ways.

    I hope you feel better soon, IA.

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