I'm not crazy.
Believe me when I say that. These people are sorely mistaken.
Still, though, I've been getting a lot of strange looks lately when I start telling people about these weird, lumpy, fleshy eruptions I've been experiencing on my body. Maybe they're all just looks of disgust or "why must he constantly tell me about these things?" rather than "he's crazy," but they're there all the same
Okay, so maybe I haven't told too many people, either. But I don't care. I just don't like those looks I've been getting.
It started with the thing on my left ankle last March. It had been there forever, but over the course of a few short months, it had swollen to three times its normal size. It was the size of an eyeball before I had it cut out. Well, most of it cut out. There's still something there, something left behind, lurking just beneath the skin, waiting. It's not as big as an eyeball anymore, though. Maybe a little eyeball. A frog's eyeball, or a squirrel's.
Then a smaller, pea-sized lump appeared on my left heel. It's not terribly big?just big enough to be painful, and big enough to have me limping.
Then another lump appeared just beneath my left ear. It might've been the lymph node?it was in the right area, but I chose instead to believe that it was just an ingrown hair. That one seems to be getting smaller now. Or at least narrower. It's still there, however. I can still feel it.
Something just appeared on the left side of the bridge of my nose last week, too. Some kind of oozing cyst of some sort. And my watch keeps stopping (unless I'm blacking out again, and losing time).
Oh, I'm just a freak.
Time was, when my pain threshold was much higher, when I would've attacked each and every one of these intrusions with a shoe knife. Gone into the bathroom with a bottle and the knife, taken a few hits, and then started slicing and carving the unwanted parts of my body away. I've since been warned against that sort of behavior, though?and made several promises to several people that I would stop doing that to myself. I don't really see what's wrong with a little self-surgery, if you know what you're doing, which I did. It always worked out just fine in the past. Fact is, I did a much better job than that damned podiatrist did. I'll tell you?when I remove a cyst, I remove the whole cyst. And remove it in such a way that it's afraid to come back.
Be that as it may, though, I'm a man of my word. I won't do that anymore. And just look at what's happened to me since I made that promise?now I'm being overrun with painful foreign growths!
Here's an interesting thing, though. It only occurred to me recently that all of these things are erupting exclusively on the left side of my body. The right side remains smooth and reasonably unblemished. A little pasty, maybe, but not lumpy and grotesque and full of horrible, ugly, squishy growths and pustules.
Even the dying watch is wrapped around my left wrist.
Of course, there is that cataract that is clouding up what's left of the vision over there on the right (the right eye has always been the stronger of the two, which makes it especially irksome). But it's not like it matters. Finding out that I was developing cataracts on top of everything else was nothing more than the latest punch line in the ongoing Big Joke, so I don't worry about it much.
I don't bring up those other things, however, those lumps, merely to provide an update on the current status of my continual physical decay, or to bemoan my lot. No, there's something else going on here, only I'm not exactly sure what it is. It's about the struggle with sin when there's too much to be found, and the struggle for dignity when there's none. Or maybe it has to do with the hemispheres of my brain trying to tell me something by means of complex secret code.
Morgan and I were at the tavern the other night when I brought all this up. She's the one who first suggested the right brain/left brain explanation. She didn't mention secret codes, though. She just hinted that maybe it was the result of some kind of struggle between the two hemispheres, between the logical left half, which mostly controls the right side of the body, and the creative right half, which controls the left.
She also suggested that there might be a political analogy working itself out on the surface of my body. But I knew if I tried to go anywhere with that, I'd find myself in deep shit, and fast. It was better to stick with brains.
My brain had been feeling dry, used up and empty lately. Spent. Worn to the weft and filled with rue. "Completely optimistic," as Francis Bacon once said, "about nothing." Maybe the growths are an expression of frustration or desperation on the part of my right brain, a rage that results in various grotesqueries popping up on the left side?sort of a variation of what happens in The Brood, but without the little gargoyles zipping about the city, killing all the people who anger me in any way. Like that guy who clocked me in the mouth outside the bodega this morning. He didn't do much damage?no loosened or chipped teeth?but still I walked away from the scene with tiny scraps of soft flesh dangling down from my shredded upper lip, blood greasing my tongue. On top of that, he made me drop my fucking cigarette.
No matter how much I try to hide behind this dopey face and these dead eyes, they keep getting into someone's way. Like at the grocery store last weekend. As I stood there at the counter with my cat food and my beer, the cashier turned to the youngster she was training and told her, plain as can be, that normally, if someone wanted to buy beer, she was supposed to ask them for some identification.
"Unless," the cashier went on to say, "they look real old, like this guy." I almost opened my mouth, but then thought better?and knew better. I spend too much time every day as it is trying to get out of my own path, only to end up in someone else's.
But back to the tumorous lumps?realizing full well that it's all interconnected.
(Author's note: It's at about this point that the column starts falling apart completely, and crumbles into incoherence.)
Maybe there's a war going on up there?but very quietly and covertly, so I don't notice it much. The ol' good vs. evil business. That's something else I've been thinking about lately, too. Because it's not just the lumps, you see, and not just my face that's been getting in the way?it's my tongue as well, and the words it's been forming. Well, always has been forming.
I don't talk much, both out of habit as well as choice. It just makes things easier that way. Still, no matter how nice a guy I am, or try to be?I left the scene of my assault this morning without speaking a word or uttering a sound of any kind?when I least need to, and least expect to, when my mouth does open, terrible, horrible things come out. I don't intend them to be terrible and horrible, but the words just come out that way. Sometimes I don't even know I'm saying them?I literally don't hear them at all?until they've been pointed out to me. For a while I was convinced that it was the reptilian part of the brain?nestled snugly beneath both hemispheres?working in conjunction with the longstanding Freudian death wish that was doing this. Then I thought maybe it had something to do with the dark area of the lesion, the smudge on the temporal lobe where all the electrical charges seem to short-circuit and turn bad before being shot back out into the body to do their worst. I'm not sure what it is now, but it sure seems determined to fuck me up.
Of course, all those things may help explain why I seem to be turning into The Elephant Man Jr.?the creative right side, in its attempt to kill me, is turning sculptor, forming these absurd, surreal physical anomalies; while at the same time, the logical left side, in it's attempt to get me to destroy myself, is mathematically plotting out the worst possible things I could say to the few people I like.
So now the question is?are they battling each other? Or have they actually, instead, joined forces, like in one of those Marvel Super-Villain Team-Up Specials?to put me in the ground?
The question keeps turning and spinning and playing itself out to no end whatsoever. The only answer seems to be found in speaking even less than before. Which seems to me a perfectly rational response. One more people should consider.
Yeah, I need a nap. I'm kind of weary, and kind of dumb. And I think I'm coming down with something.
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
Scrapbook: Imaging at Lenox Hill
Summer in the City