Thursday, January 9, 2014

Nurse the Hate: The Horrible Zit Story

The worst blemish I ever had was in my freshman year in college.  It was an odd confluence of dermatological disasters that somehow came together at the exact same time, a Pimple Perfect Storm if you will.  On the left side of my nose sprouted a zit.  I recall it being especially painful, really attention getting. This was similar to the old seafarer’s adage of “red skies at morning, sailors take warning”.  There was a storm brewing under my skin, and I was going along for the ride.

By mid afternoon of that day, the entire tip of my nose had begun to turn red.  I was like a pointy nosed W.C. Fields, or a small time Bozo.  Come to think of it, I was almost like Rudolf.  If there had been a coach standing around with a whistle and clipboard, he most certainly would have said, “And we won’t let him play any reindeer games!”.  This would have been accurate, as I began to feel very self-conscious.  The last thing I wanted to do was play reindeer games.  I just wanted this thing to go away.  The bad news was that it was Tuesday, and I would have several days of intermingling with the fellow student population.

By the time dinner rolled around, my very empathetic and soft-spoken roommate noticed me from across the room upon getting back from class.  “Jesus!  You’ve got a real monster crawling up your nose!”  He was sort of like that character Stiffler in the American Pie movies, but even less sensitive.  We both went to our bathroom to take a closer look at the situation under the harsh light of a dorm bathroom sink.  I will admit great concern by this point, not so much because he had noticed this growing blemish from across an entire room and felt compelled to scream out.  No, the real concern I had was that the pain level was actually ratcheting up.  By this point, the entire left side of my face sort of hurt with the nose almost impossible to touch.

Upon closer inspection, it appeared that the situation was not really one zit forming at the bridge of my nostril, but three very large zits that were somehow merging into one sort of SuperZit.  Each of them on their own were to be feared.  To think that they might all actually merge into one was beyond comprehension.  Though they had not yet quite merged yet, three individual red mounds could be noticed upon the overall surface of the overall swelling and redness of the general area.  As various members of the dorm sifted though, almost everyone could agree that they had never seen anything like it.  It was akin to being a circus oddity.  “Jim!  Jim!  Get over here!  You gotta take a look at this!”  It was really more of a boil than anything else that could hoped to be combated by creams from a pharmacy.  It was really bad.

When a problem of this magnitude rears its ugly head, you can count on everyone to weigh in.  Opinion was split.  Some suggested radical amateur surgery.  Get in there and lance that thing man!  Others were more pragmatic.  You gotta wait it out dude.  It’s not time yet.  While this was a curiosity to all, it was a Level 3 Trauma for me.  I was becoming increasingly concerned that I would become known on campus for the next four years as “That Zit Guy”.  I quickly played out scenarios in my head involving getting my transcripts and attempting to gain admission to the University of Alaska to hide my shame.  In the end, I took a cautionary approach.  No need to freak out now.  Maybe the whole thing would subside by morning.  I went to sleep hoping that the magic of a new day would offer a cure.

When morning came, all was lost.  The threat of the SuperZit had been fully realized.  It was something that was about the size of a dime.  It must have protruded out a quarter inch.  If it opened and an eyeball started to look out, it would not have surprised me.  I was stunned.  It was like waking up and discovering you had a Siamese Twin squirming out of your face.  I decided to get in there and attempt to pop the damn thing.  It was a failure.  It wasn’t “ready”.  All it did was anger The Beast.  It now achieved a deep red color and almost throbbed.  It was a zit that could truly be called “angry”.

I had a class that morning with mandatory attendance.  As I recall it was an entry-level English class, something I could have passed in my sleep.  However, if you missed just two classes over the semester, they would flunk you and you would be doomed to repeat it with various flunkies in some sort of remedial version of the class.  I would have to spend 13 weeks with people that could barely read just because I was too freaked out to walk around with a major deformity.  I can do this.  I had to do this.  I will do this.  Bottom line?  I had to go. 

I decided the best course of action would be to sit far left by the window, minimizing the exposure of The Boil to the others in the class.  If I maintained a rigid posture and faced forward like an Army cadet, perhaps no one would notice.  The key would be to get there before anyone else and never move my head.  I tried to rationalize my way through it as well, thinking, “It’s only you.  You just think it’s huge.  It’s not that big.”  I then took a last glance at myself in the mirror before walking out of my room and almost recoiled in horror.  It was, in fact, much worse than I had thought previously.

Of course on my walk to class I ran into every single person I knew or wanted to know on the campus.  I felt like The Elephant Man walking to class.  “Do not look at me!  I am a monster!  A Monster!”  My technique of wearing a baseball hat to help draw attention away from this boil did not appear to be very effective as I could see people’s eyes stray to the nose, their expressions betraying their true feelings.  “Good God.  That is so gross.  Thank God it’s not me.”  It was as if it was written on all their faces.  I should have worn a wrestling mask.  Then I would have been “the wacky guy” instead of “the gross guy”.

I was shaky by the time I reached class.  Sweat poured down my pits.  I sat in the third seat back on the far left.  I hoped to sit there, and later wait everyone out after it was over until I exited the room, alone in my shame.  It would have worked perfectly if I had not written such an excellent paper for the last assignment.  For the first time ever, a student would read their work in front of the gathered students.  I would be that student.  It was a disaster.  If I didn’t know better, I would think the instructor was fucking with me.  Maybe she just wanted a closer look at what was going on under that baseball hat.  Who knows for sure, but my cover was blown.  I remember walking up there in front of everyone.  The boil glowed proudly, daring someone to touch it or gaze directly at it.  It was like a skin disease medusa.  To gaze upon it with your naked eye was to flirt with the Will of the Gods.  You could have just as easily stared at the sun for an hour.  I started to read.  After that, it’s all just sort of a blank.  I retreated home to my cavern of shame afterwards.

It took two more long days to turn the tide.  There were many false alarms in trying to get this thing under control.  Medicated creams were a joke.  Touching it even slightly only got it angrier.  It had to be approached with respect.  It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to gain the necessary traction on the situation.  I applied enough pressure and suddenly a massive amount of pus and blood shot from the side of my nose with a “Thook!!!!”.  The mirror looked like it had been hit with a forkful of mashed potatoes.  I swear I could hear a “hisssssssss” as the pressure released from the side of my head.  I had begun the long path to recovery.  It took weeks before I was whole again.  Even now the mental scars have not fully healed.

Today I saw a kid who was about my age at that time with a horrible blemish on his forehead.  I could tell how self-conscious he was.  That’s what being 18 is all about, isn’t it?  I almost stopped him and said, “Hey, I’ve been there.” but I didn’t.  This was his journey.  It was his road to take alone.  Only he would know the pain and ultimately the satisfaction when that thing eventually burst.  Only then would he have a blemish to judge all others by.  What I had to offer him were only words.  He needed something more tangible.  Something like a class schedule with optional attendance.  


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