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A Reminder That You’re Still Alive

November 28th, 2012

You look at yourself in the mirror, one scar sits on your lower abdomen.

The scar is not a reminder that you can survive anything. It’s not like the situation from which it stemmed was life or death.


Still, it is a mark representing how life will make you feel alive. It’s an inch long, but like most scars, it can tell a crazy story.

You were all alone for several days in your apartment, living with that boil. You had no idea what was going on, but you definitely thought you could take care of it yourself. The first day of the pain, you think so little of it, you’re not ready to cancel date number two with the girl you’ve recently taken an interest in. But when you get home and see how bad the boil has gotten, and you’re so weak you can barely move from your couch, you make the call and cancel.

The next day you decide to call in sick to work and self-medicate. Get a pot of piping hot water, a washcloth, and press firmly on the infected area, says your mom who is not a doctor but better. You do that, but the pain won’t go away and eventually it creeps into your head that your problem is more severe than what you entered into WebMD. Nothing at home will do.

You’re hoping the doctor will take care of the boil right then and there. She can’t. She says you need to take an antibiotic, go home, rest, and see a specialist at your earliest convenience. You do as your told. The pharmacy gives you your prescription, and you pick up an actual compress, thinking it might be more effective than the homemade one your mother has told you about. ON the package it says to wet it under cold water, microwave it for about 1:15 seconds and let it sit on the area that it needs to sit on for about two hours. Repeat.

You go home, take the antibiotic, follow the instructions on the compress, and call the specialist. There’s no answer. You call the specialist again and again and again. There continues to be no answer, but the pain is prospering, and now you’re at your wits end.

You remember your ex-girlfriend that one who loved you more than you deserved. She used to take care of elderly people, and every now and then, a routine visit would result in days spent at one of the NYC emergency rooms. This happened to her regularly, and regularly it happened uptown. You knew she might have the inside track on which emergency room uptown was the most efficient.

It has been months since you two talked, but with so much pain shooting through your body, you dial her anyway. When she picks up the phone, she sounds exasperated from the first hello. You have to say, Don’t hang up. Then you tell her your situation. She say you’re looking at a three to four hour wait, those were the wait times she sat with her patients waiting to be seen, and that only happened once. A five to six hour wait was standard, especially for the problem you described to her. You tell her thanks for the help and call back your doctor to tell them the specialist they referred is not answering. The doctor gives you another one.

This one picks up, and they can see you in an hour if you can make it. With all the strength you can muster, you’re in a cab headed to the specialists office. When you walk in, the people at the front desk tell you there are no public restrooms. That’s what it has come to. You are in such bad shape, you look homeless. You mumble that you have an appointment and they still dont’ believe you until you show them your ID. When you sit, you look like a child getting into a bath filled with water that feels too hot at first touch.

The doctor will see you now. You’re taken to a back room. As the doctor is washing his hands he says to show him where “the problem” is. By this time, “the problem” is the size of a golf ball, that whole abdominal area looks like the surface of Mars, what with all the tenderness, redness and swelling. The doctor turns around, sees it, stops and asks you if you’re doing anything for the rest of the day. You tell him you’re not. H says that’s good because you’re now going straight to surgery. You two will walk to the hospital, a block away.

You get two texts on your way over. The first is from the girl who you intend to go out with for date number two. She’s just checking on you and you tell her the facts. You’re being wheeled into surgery, but you’ll get back to her when you’re done. The second is from another ex, not the one you called, another one. She was just thinking about you and wanted to check up on you. You text back that her timing is odd, you’re about to go under the knife. Concerned, she replies back asking what hospital you’re at. You tell her.

When you wake up, that ex is there, by your side. On your phone, several text messages. One from the date-number-two girl, the other from your mom who is just checking up on you. You never told mom about the surgery, didn’t want her to freak out. But now that you’ve woken up and survived, you can give her a call.

The ex who is by your bedside looks at you with a smile on her face. She doesn’t ask questions outside of whether or not you’re okay and if you need her to bring you anything. You tell her you’re fine and you don’t need anything for now. Her being there is enough. She stays for an hour longer. When she leaves, you reach out to all the appropriate people, friends, family members. You share with them what happened and that you’ll be in the hospital for the next four days to recover. Your mom will fly out in the same amount of time and be in New York City the night you are released.

The last person you reach out to is date-number-two girl. She says she’s on the way. You tell her visiting hours are over. She repeats, she’s on her way. You barely know this girl, she barely knows you, and yet, she’s on her way to see you in the most vulnerable state you’ve ever been in. She does this every night, after she leaves work.

When you get released, your mom is there as promised. She helps you with the rest of the recovery, which still involves you staying home from work. Date-number-two girl lets you have that time with your mom. Both exes you talked to give you a couple of courtesy calls.

Doctors said the area could not be stitched up, it had to be left open to heal on its own, that’s why it looks like Peter Pan slashed you with his small, handheld knife.

Your mom is still as present as ever. You and date-number-two girl went out on date number two and continued to date for a season. But you don’t talk to her anymore, or rather, she doesn’t talk to you. The ex who you called about the ER rooms, she’s long left New York and though you two still talk on occasion, you’re in two totally different places. The ex who was there for you when you woke up out of surgery, she’s engaged now, happy as an engaged woman can ever be.

As for you, you’re still alive.

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  • Truth

    If this is about you, it is unfortunate how many opportunities you missed, I am assuming to ego. You are still alive but you won’t always be. As you continue to dance with time, and wear your life lessons as talking points, you expectations to just live will continue to offer you just that oxygen and living. But, somewhere and possibly at sometime, being in that moment of life could be too late.

  • LD

    I think you’ve totally missed the point. To me this story shows how much life can change in terms of the people who are close to you, especially romantic relationships. You can be so close to a person at one point of your life then almost strangers (at least compared to how close you used to be) at another. The point is, life changes so much but the one constant is you’re still alive.

    It never fails to surprise me how close you can be to someone one day then suddenly you’re not, no matter how many times it’s happened. It also makes me grateful for the people in my life who have always been there and will likely always be there.

  • Na Na

    Its funny how I got a completely different prescriptive than you both. i got from this story how certain physicalities of our selves can take our memory back to an old place and time. A sweater, or in this casea scar, can lead you to remember the circumstances of your life around the time you acquired it.

  • MS

    Had something similar TWICE when I was 13… The abscesses were about the size of a fist and on my butt… Only one was operated on, thank goodness; experience made me go to the doctor AS SOON as the second one started to develop… Now I’m always obliged to explain the scar from the surgery, and the lump from the second one that never went away to everyone I get intimate with. -_-.

  • kim

    A prescription of Doxycycline hyclate can save you from some of this agony.

  • T.

    Yunior, is that you?

  • rw

    this was just good writing