Saturday, October 11, 2008

Seeing Red

Like every great noir mystery my story starts in a smoky hotel room, the sheets are rumpled and a single lamp lights the space from a cluttered desk. Only the room isn’t smoky, and the lamp isn’t on. There is no red-lipped seductress. It’s just that, for the sake of a good mystery, you really should include things like that: noir things. It wasn’t raining, I’m not even sure if it was cloudy. To say that it started in a dark hotel room on a clear autumn night would be okay, but lying in bed with a beautiful woman is more scintillating a start than lying in bed with itchy feet. Oh how they itched, taunting me. I’m a natural born hypochondriac, so my first thought is that I’ve somehow contracted athlete’s foot from walking around barefoot in my discount hotel room. I lie there, rubbing the heel of one foot over the toes of the other, scratching, wondering, building a case for flesh eating bacteria, for leprosy. The muscle relaxers kick in and I fall asleep.


The next morning I wake up, prepared to pee on my feet. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you have athlete’s foot, you’re supposed to pee on yourself. I have no idea if it cures leprosy, but I’m in the business of not taking chances, so I attack with the tools at hand. Years of conditioning fly out the window and I’m angling a stream of hot urine at my little piggies. I’m standing there, trying to get the angle right when I notice the spots on top of my feet, it isn’t athlete’s foot. I’ve peed all over myself for nothing. I rinse the piss off and step out of the shower, standing in front of the mirror I can see the rash, running across my shoulders in pink speckles and climbing the sides of my neck. My cheeks are flushed, and I know the rash is there too. At least I didn’t pee on my face.


Ideally, I’d have recognized the symptoms of an allergic reaction the night before, when I was in bed cycling through my overdeveloped mental medical dictionary trying to diagnose my ailment. Ideally, I would have brought the allergy medication with me that the doctor had prescribed when I got hives three weeks before. Instead, my allergic reaction has had a full night to spread and I’m almost three hours away from my Benadryl caplets. So I pack up and head out, wave goodbye to Hagerstown Maryland, a town which can only be described as a strip mall with gray human landfill growing out of its ass-end. I get as far as Harrisburg before I realize that I need instantaneous medication, the rash has spread over my whole face and its bright red and burning. Not quite noir lipstick red, but definitely sunburn red. I pulled into a gas station and made haste to the medical rack, purchased an antihistamine, filled the tank, and pondered the lotto. Fuck the lotto.


I got home, took another pill, ate lunch, drank a beer and went to sleep.


So what am I allergic to? I’m not sure yet, but that soft-shell crab is a likely culprit. Apples are also in the mix. I can probably live without shellfish, but what if its regular fish too? Tuna? There goes the neighborhood. My first hive breakout came at the tail-end of an anti-biotic regimen. Honestly, I preferred the idea of being allergic to the lifesaving medicine.