It’s been misery this past week. Out of ignorance I made it worse.
I don’t recall the last time I had poison ivy. It must have been quite some time because even when I noticed the redness on various parts of my body, I didn’t think of poison ivy.
I woke up on a Tuesday morning with an unusual itch under my chin – right where the neck bends. There was some irritation on the back of my right leg, also where it bends. I also noticed what seemed like a rash of horror during the duration of urinary relief. I pondered at what had happened over the course of my seven hours of sleep.
“How filthy are my sheets?” “When was the last time I bathed?” “Did a prostitute slip into my bed during the night?”
I was worried, but there was little time to sit and think. The snooze alarm had charmed its way to the last possible second and I was in a hurry.
I drove to work continually rubbing my hand under my neck. I suggested to myself that it was simply stubble irritation. And I convinced myself to believe it.
I rubbed the back of my leg throughout the work day wondering if I had run across something I would regret later on in life. I hated the thought of having to use the restroom. The condition may have worsened.
I confided in myself, “I may have a serious problem.”
I began to retrace my steps from the night before. What had I done? Where had I been?
And like a light going off in my head, I remembered. “The breaker blew last night.”
The lights in the back of the house had suddenly turned off when I flipped my light switch. The breaker box outside was covered in some type of greenery. I figured it was some kind of ivy. I was dead on.
I couldn’t get the box open for the longest time. The ivy laid upon me like a set of bad news, swaying with the wind and only moving only when my shoulders and arms pushed it aside. I struggled with the door of the box until I noticed one of the vines was stuck in the latch and I had to pull it out to finally lift up the metal door. The box was open and the lights came back on with one try.
I went out there again, however, because I made the same stupid mistake of turning on my light switch.
But how did it get all over me?
The shower. I had gone to work out that night and came home and took a shower. I was washed and clean before the problem with the breaker.
So where did I go next? The restroom. My pre-sleep ritual. The emptying of the bladder. My God! It was all coming back to me.
I then went to bed to wallow in my misery. Never thinking of my inevitable ruin.
Nearly 48 hours would pass before I would realize the extent of the infection – or affliction.
Like a red constellation, it spread to my stomach. Just a small portion. But soon it would continue up to my chest in small irritable spots and then to the sides of my body. Small parts of my legs showed signs of redness and I wanted nothing more than to scratch them or cut them out with a knife.
My neck was itching worse now and the venom had spread to cover nearly the entire front of my neck. The hair on my face only made the situation more unbearable.
“Don’t scratch it, you fool!” It was me yelling at my hands. But too often it was irresistible and the scratching was nauseatingly soothing. I knew it would only become worse the more I scratched. There would be more areas to not scratch. More itchy temptations to resist.
I finally convinced myself that it was, in fact, poison ivy. It was the only logical conclusion. I’m not allergic to any foods and I shun the women of the night. I would need some type of poison ivy vaccine.
Wednesday night I came home and remembered to visit the drug store. It was time to fight this beast head-on.
“Son of a wench!” I left my wallet at work. Like a scene from a bad horror movie, I continued to fight my oppressor without anything but my own two hands. My own two hands also being my two worst enemies.
Thursday morning I reached my desk and grabbed my wallet. It was time to settle the score.
“Excuse me, ma’am, where is the medicine for poison ivy?”
“Aisle seven in the first aid section.”
The days of itching were over. I would take whatever powerful potion a mad scientist had concocted and remove the unsightly deformity from my body.
Lotion. Calamine lotion. Anti-itching lotion. “I could have sworn I asked about medicine…” But the only medicine available was a powerful combination of patience and endurance. Mix those together and voila – cured!
So it was to the restroom with the anti-itching lotion, which made me smell like I had just stepped into retirement with joints that needed rubbing down. The strong odor wasn’t its only offensive characteristic. The burning sensation caused my steps to be a bit slower and further apart.
I had planned a weekend at the beach which would now be chock-full of looking like an overgrown child with a good case of the chicken pox.
It was no short time later that it began to worsen. But perhaps the salt water would kill the poison. Like Naaman dipping into the Jordan River seven times to cure his leprosy. I looked forward to diving into the murky waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.
An entire Saturday at the beach and still it remained. Still it itched. Still it laughed at my expense, knowing full well I had lost another battle.
Much like every night, I woke up multiple times to apply the anti-itching lotion in order for me to fall back asleep. Five consecutive nights of near restlessness. I overslept for church, so now my Sunday miracle was out of the question.
I would suffer through the rest of the weekend with an uncontrollable urge to scratch nearly every part of my body. I washed all of my clothes after one wearing, even if I never ventured outside. I washed my sheets every night to stave off further problems. On the bright side, things had cleared up rather well on a particular end of the spectrum. “So there wasn’t a burglar prostitute. That’s a relief.” The relief, however, had not fully come and more spots have continued to appear. On my arms. On the back of my neck. Close to my jawline. On the knuckle of my right ring finger.
“It’s a hated vine,” my grandmother declared. Her displeasure for my despair, however, helped little.
So I’ve sat here. In this chair. Working from home. Away from my coworkers in order to keep them free from the poison. Because poison ivy, much like misery, loves company.
Follow Dustin Bass on Twitter @dbass_cmn.