Under My Teeth

Something’s living under my teeth. Whenever I chew, it screams. I had to stop eating. Now I blend everything up and drink it so I don’t have to hear the sound anymore. Brushing my teeth is out. More screaming; bloodcurdling shrieks stopping only when I don’t apply pressure. Even when I sleep, if my mouth closes and my teeth click together, my ears are pierced with the sounds of agony. Continue reading “Under My Teeth”

Tiptoeing the Line of Consent

“No,” I insisted. “Absolutely and unequivocally. No.”

I studied his face. It looked like he was prepared to accept what I was saying, but somewhere in his eyes I saw what I’d been hoping for. Something I barely wanted to admit, but nonetheless what I wanted most of all: he understood that behind my protestations was a plea to be convinced.

He opened his mouth and I studied his tongue. It was pink and firm and marked with tastebuds. The sheen of saliva on the muscle was both inviting and repelling; I loved how it felt inside me. I enjoyed the sensations it produced. But it left things behind. When he pulled away, I would feel the air on the wetness it deposited. It was cold. Discomforting.

I met his mouth with mine and let his tongue slip between my lips. It brushed against my own and I tasted his saliva. His mouth was still salty and slightly bitter from our earlier acts together. Not altogether unpleasant, but still noteworthy. I assumed mine tasted similar. Continue reading “Tiptoeing the Line of Consent”

I’m still traumatized by what happened when I answered that Craigslist ad.

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The ad wanted a male companion for 6 hours. No sex, nothing illegal, and, get this: it paid $10,000. Who wouldn’t jump at 10k?

We met at his house. His handshake was firm. He seemed solidly middle-class; modest home, basic decor, nothing ostentatious. A suburban bachelor pad. After our hellos, he asked if I’d like something to drink. His fridge was stocked with microbrews. Good stuff! I grabbed a Dogfish Head 90 and he guided me to the basement. “That’s where we’ll be working,” he said.

The basement was sparsely furnished. Most prominent was what looked like an old dentist’s chair with a table next to it. The table was covered in a gray cloth. The man handed me an envelope he’d been carrying. $5000. “You can have the rest when we’re finished,” he told me. “It’ll only be a few hours.” Continue reading “I’m still traumatized by what happened when I answered that Craigslist ad.”

Caviar

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I’ve gone all over the world to find the best food. Six continents, thousands of regions, countless dishes; all in search of the perfect meal. For a while, I thought it may never happen. There was always something a little off; salt, freshness, temperature – tiny, niggling complaints that, to anyone else, would be meaningless. To me, though, they were the difference between perfection and mundanity. My quest went on.

During my travels, I’d learned about an “underground supper club” in Moscow which met once a year. While “underground supper club” sounds mysterious and illicit, it’s just a place that operates casually, aka: without a food license. Chefs all over do it all the time for their friends. I’ve been to many.

This one was supposed to be different. They had the best caviar.

Caviar is a luxury item, but even in luxury-obsessed Russia, it’s started to fall out of favor because of sustainability issues. It’s still widely available, but the good stuff is getting harder and harder to find. The “best stuff” is nearly impossible to get a hold of. It’s locked down by the oligarchs and heads of state; if you’re not one of them or in close company, you’re out of luck. So when I heard that supper club would be serving the best of the best, I knew I had to get in there.

Continue reading “Caviar”

The Squirming Man

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Don’t pretend this is anything other than a suicide note. You are reading the words of a dead man whose body may still be warm.

For the last 40 years, I’ve been terrorized by the squirming man. At this moment, his name means nothing to you. If you wish for that to continue, stop reading now.

The squirming man first visited when I was six. I was in the shower. When I’d finished and pulled back the curtain, he was standing there. Waiting. Before I could scream, my mouth was filled.

To describe the squirming man is to revisit decades of trauma. Regardless, I need to be strong and write about him. I don’t want him to be a mysterious figure. I want my knowledge of him to be out there. I want people to know he exists. People should be ready if he visits them; I have no doubt he will once I’m gone.

Continue reading “The Squirming Man”

Bits and Pieces

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Fingernails were the first to go.

No pain accompanied the loss; the victims went to sleep one night and simply woke up without fingernails. The events occurred in Donglu village, located in China’s Shandong Province. There are limited medical resources, so few sought treatment. The affected went about their lives.

Teeth came next.

In Pinellas County, Florida, between November 3rd and 16th, 19 people checked themselves into local hospitals and reported they had woken up with jaw pain, bleeding gums, and missing teeth. They were all wisdom teeth. No one could explain what had happened.

On November 20th, 82 people in Lahore, Pakistan woke up without arms and legs.

Continue reading “Bits and Pieces”

Body Cast

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I guess reliving that night and putting my experiences on paper will help me get over the trauma.

A few years ago, I was in a motorcycle wreck. Broke my left tibia and fibula, shattered my right patella, got a greenstick fracture of my left femur, multiple fractures in my pelvis, breaks in almost all my ribs, and two broken collarbones. I was immobilized from the shoulders down by a heavy body cast. They told me I was lucky.

My wife, Violet, was supportive and nurturing. She never once complained about having to care for me. She cooked all my meals, kept me company, and emptied my bedpan without grimacing. About two weeks into my convalescence, Jenna called us, bawling, because her college roommate died. Vi had to leave immediately and be there for her. Vi’s sister, Kathy, was going to take care of me.

When I woke up the following morning, Vi was off to get Jenna. Kathy was there, cheerfully making breakfast and talking up a storm as she helped me with my more embarrassing biological needs. Like her sister, she never made me feel ashamed. She left around 11 that night and told me she’d be back at dawn.

Continue reading “Body Cast”

Just Swell

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“It’s just an ingrown hair!,” my sister insisted. Then it encysted. Three weeks later, she was in the hospital having a pint of sludge sucked out of her armpit. If she’d lanced it early and not left it alone, she could’ve saved herself a lot of pain and suffering.

It was that memory from a decade ago that made me pay very close attention to the swelling right where the corner of my lower jaw met my neck. It’d always been a sensitive spot for me. Whenever I shaved, that one area invariably ended up being a swollen mess of ingrown hairs. It was miserable.

I had a system that helped a bit: cleansing the area before and after shaving, shaving with brand-new blades, and making sure to shave in the direction the hair grew. It brought my outbreaks down from every time to every other time; not much, but better than nothing. When the most recent swelling showed up, I didn’t think much of it and treated it like any other ingrown hair. But it got worse.

Remembering Lynn’s nightmarish experience in the hospital, I wanted to take action quickly. I went to the drugstore and bought a package of lancing needles. Back at home, I swabbed the area with rubbing alcohol and poked the needle into the area of the swelling. It bled quite a bit, but the swelling didn’t diminish. I squeezed hard and pushed the needle a little deeper. More blood, and a little bit of other fluid.

When I let go, it hurt more than it had, but the swelling appeared to have gone down a little bit. When I shone my bright desk lamp against the skin, I could see a few thick, black hairs trapped under the surface. I imagined how they were growing in backwards; twisting and weaving their way along the underside of my neck as my immune system attacked them. The thought turned my stomach. I took a few Advil and went to bed.

I woke up in pain. The swelling had gotten significantly worse and my throat had started to hurt on that side. I ran my fingertips over the bulge and felt the swollen follicles. I turned on the shower and brought a couple lancing needles with me.

I poked and squeezed and expelled what had to have been a cup of blood and yellowish-orange fluid. I looked at the mess on the shower floor and told myself that if it didn’t get better in a couple days, I’d have to go to the hospital. Just like Lynn. She’d never let me live it down after the way I’d teased her after her own issue.

The thought of Lynn’s smirk compelled me to do two things: one, I promised myself I wouldn’t tell her about what happened, and two, I’d do everything in my power to make sure I fixed the problem before I needed to go to the hospital. My neck throbbed as if it were agreeing with me.

Feeling the hairs still lurking under my skin, I wiped the fog off the mirror and examined myself. The swelling was the size of a baseball. Swallowing was intensely painful. I was determined to get this fixed.

I remembered Lynn had told me that when she went to the hospital, they had to do more than just stick the thing with a needle and drain it. The cyst had been too deep for that. They needed to make an incision and hold it open for all the muck to come out.

I checked my needle supply. There were a ton left. Knowing they were the only sterile things in the house, I decided they’d have to do. I doused the area in rubbing alcohol, then began dragging the needle across the swollen lump.

It bled, but not a crazy amount. When I felt the needle getting dull, I opened a fresh one and continued. The discomfort was significant, but not agonizing. Having relief from the pressure was almost enough to overcome the pain.

When I was about three-quarters of an inch in, the pain became severe. I gritted my teeth as I pulled the needle across the flesh, waiting for the rush of gray-white pus from the cyst created by that horrible ingrown hair. After another few millimeters, the needle struck something firm. Finally. I poked and prodded at it, and that same yellowish-orange fluid started to leak out.

With a rush of confidence brought on by the intense desire to get this all over with, I reached in with my thumb and forefinger, pulled, and squeezed. An explosion of agony made the world grow white, then gray. I felt something dangling against the skin of my neck, and I passed out for a minute. Fleeting lucidity returned and I used it to dial 911 before passing out again. I woke up in the hospital.

It turned out I did, indeed, have some seriously-ingrown hairs. My doctor said they were some of the worst he’d ever seen; he even recommended that I grow a beard so I wouldn’t have to deal with them so frequently. But the ingrown hair wasn’t why I was in the hospital.

The good Lord saw it fit to give me a throat infection right around the same time that ingrown hair had gotten inflamed. The lump, while partly from the hair, was a swollen gland. In my search for the infected root of the ingrown hair, I’d carved the lymph node out of my neck and squeezed it until it ruptured.

No way I’m telling Lynn about this. No way in hell.

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