by Nic Olson
I have a rash. It looks like my skin is melting in certain spots and that the high temperature melted skin is dripping melting spots on my feet. It is found nowhere above the knee, and no I am not referencing the timeless childhood joke about having three knees (left knee, right knee, weenie). Rash talk is usually only done on WebMD or in the dark cold lighting of a doctor’s office. Open rash conversation isn’t usually acceptable because rashes often indicate sexual promiscuity. However, my leg was not sexually promiscuous, although a dog might have had his way with it it last weekend.
My mother called me a hypochondriac once. I was hurt. Not physically, because I was undoubtedly making it up, but emotionally. I was ten. I was complaining about a stomach ache and she asked me if I had eaten anything that might’ve caused it. I meekly said no, concealing the fact that I had just eaten maybe ten ‘Eat the Middle First’s, President’s Choice’s answer to the Oreo. Now in ‘adulthood’ I still ask my mom about ailments and she still likely thinks I am making them up. Since my mom made fun of me about my eggplant finger for expecting a diagnosis without proper photographic analysis, I took some macro rash shots of my right calf and sent them in an email. Dad thinks that it is ‘Stinging Nettle’, a plant that incites equally as much fear in childhood as poison ivy and venomous spiders. I think it is flesh eating disease. Or possibly scabies. Scabies, my brothers told me as a child, are contracted by putting your hands on the hand rail of an escalator. Or maybe that was a made up disease called sucrumb. Most likely entered my body through my finger and eating my legs off while I travel. According to the BallsofRiceMD.com, scabies, sucrumb and flesh eating disease are caused by long periods of sitting around. Like bedsores. Stagnancy. My skin melts and my brain is eaten alive. And when things get stagnant, my body and mind start to eat themselves.
It has been too long since you last traveled when you can’t find your passport number on the one identification page of your passport. If you travel enough, this number should be an involuntary reaction to Customs forms and Visa information. Ask Mel. After an hour on the train, just before border patrol and after my first granola bar, that specific and overwhelming feeling hit me in the gut. The same feeling that followed me for months in India and the one that accompanied me a year and a half ago when I left home. When you breath in and feel your stomach flop and wheeze, as it is the first part of your body to realize yourself as completely vulnerable. Heavy fear. The fear of opportunity and the unknown. The feeling of not knowing what to say to the Border Patrol Officer when he asks how long you plan on staying in ‘his’ country. The feeling of fear. I thrive in this setting.
But goddamn is it itchy.
The only cure to my leg rash, hopefully, is not changing my clothes and walking around sweaty in new places. Because that is all I plan on doing for the next three months. If this is indeed not the cure, then I can at least travel in comfort knowing that in body and spirt, I am not alone. I’ve got scabies with me.