Surgery

I laid quietly on my right side, shirtless. My shoulder ached from holding the position so long. There was a blanket over my head. I heard sounds in the numb pressure that rose around me.

My breath was shallow like a man hiding in the dark.

I only saw the blue of a blanket as the man I had hired to do so pushed down on my neck with razor-sharp force. It seemed like a long time under that blanket.

I thought about death and made attempts not to panic. Breathing deep and thinking of Van Gogh flowers and sunshine. My hands were cold and clammy from the injections when I realized I was not afraid of death but terribly afraid to get there.

Van55

I thought again of Van Gogh’s flowers. I thought about his ear as the blade weighed into the numbness of my sedated flesh.

I asked, “How much longer?” as the pain in my right shoulder started to get wild in my mind.

“Only a moment,” he said.

I know the length of a moment. This was the longest one I had ever felt.

They took the sterile blankets off my head and the room was bright. I rolled onto my back and rubbed my face with my hands, loving the freedom of mobility.

“Do you want to see it?” the doctor asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

He held a small jar over my face with a strip of flesh in it, shaking it like a martini. He said, “It was bigger in the affected area before I cut it out. The water has left it now. You know we’re 70% water, don’t you?”

I said, “Same as the earth.”

He paused, still holding the specimen jar in front of my eyes and then said, “I never thought of that.”

I looked one last time at that piece of me that had been removed. It was no longer me. The separation made me uncomfortable. Me, not me. Where does it start and end? I didn’t know. But I felt different, like a man who has experienced something he could not explain.

The body’s ability to eventually heal itself is amazing. Of course, the doctor did a good job, too.

healing

Five months ago, I was bitten/stung by a bug. “A bug, you say? What kind?” you might ask, in a tone that says, “Is it possible to stay away from such a bug?”

I was standing in Griffith Park and a bug flew into my neck and sat trapped between my shirt and my neck. I slapped it. All I can say is it had wings like a moth and it probably only bit me in self defense.

The bug bite hung around for months, waking me every night at 3am to be clawed at. I finally went to see a doctor. As it turned out, the stinger or the biting mechanism had broken off inside of me. My body, in an immune system overreaction, had tried and tried to push it out, to no avail. This caused a larger lump of scar tissue. They told me I would have to have it cut out.

Most people I tell this story to seem most worried that it will happen to them. It was a fluke accident. It won’t happen to you. But as one of my friends said, there could be worse things you need cut out of your body.

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