Friday, June 09, 2006

Let It Fester

“Let it fester!” he yelled to me.

“Let it what?”

“Fester. Fester. Let it fester.”

We were not talking about serious medicine here. We were discussing a wound I made to my right thumb. Flattened like a silk bed sheet under the relentless head of a hammer. Flattened while hanging a picture I didn’t really want to hang. I had promised myself I would hang it. I was nagging myself to hang it actually. What a nag I can be! After all the internalized haranguing I finally told myself to just shut up and I would hang it already.

“Why ‘let it fester’?
“Why what?”
“Let it fester – you said let it fester – why?”

My friend lingers, bathed in his own dullness. Muted color face. Large O-shaped mouth, open, empty.

“Yeah, let it fester. It’s your body. Your body is wanting to fight the germs. It’s your body’s way. Let it fester.”

So I did. I let it fester. I was festive with fester. I feasted on fester. For two weeks I was the greatest fester un-molester and watched my thumb grow to the size of a billiard ball – the eleven ball to be specific. They always teach to be specific in writing class. Well, my thumb looked like the eleven ball. Red stripe and all. It throbbed seeking a corner pocket no doubt for someplace to hide.

I see my friend and I hold the thumb up and out like a caricature of the “Fonz” going “Ehhhhhhhh.” One hand, one bulbous thumb, like hitchhiking in Texas where everything is bigger. I mouth the words slowly and my friend lip reads my mime. “Let it fester” I mouth. He comes over and nods, “Let it fester” and we both start nodding in agreement that it is a natural thing. It is the way wounds should heal. Manly. Burly. Things – we think – women would like.

Weeks go by and I meet my friend again and he asks why I am carrying around a bowling ball and I swear to Christ I want to hit him. I want to go back to my apartment and start carrying around a bowling ball just so I can hit him with it. Then he realizes what it is and he asks, “Let it fester?” and I nod and say the words trailing at the end, like I have echolalia or something, joining him on the word “fester”. I am worried and my friend senses this and convinces me to wait a little while longer. “It will get better,” he assures me.

He resolves to buck me up by buying me a beer that I cannot hold in my right hand because of the bowling ball I am apparently carrying. I resolve to get a pair of bowling shoes so at least it looks natural. And I also resolve to call the doctor next week if this does not get better.

Seven days later I am at a table at my favorite coffee shop and my friend comes in. He doesn’t see me. Why should he? He is not looking for any friends that appear to be the size and texture of an overgrown fitness ball, wearing green Keds. My friend looks directly at me and I wave, but it appears to him that the fitness ball in the corner is trying to order more coffee, or a Danish or something. He looks. I wave. He looks more. I wave more. Finally I have to shout: “Hey fuckhead over here!” and though looking straight at me, the word “Fuckhead” could only be mine and he suddenly – the way a cloud’s shadow moves noiselessly over open fields in spring –recognizes the green Keds and calls out to me, “This is letting it fester?” He is incredulous. I am no longer human but one large fester-ball. My eyes look backward, like a flounder that appears to look in different directions at once. I am wrapped in bed sheets – twisted bed sheets. As if melons could toga.

My friend whistles long and low. He knows I am pissed. Pissed at him. Pissed at me for listening to myself and caved in wanting to hang that picture. Mostly though I am pissed at me. And the hammer. Especially the hammer. The hard, unyielding hammer. These things should have warning labels, I think in a whiny internal voice.

“Dude, you should have gone to the ER when this happened man!”

I want to hit him. I really do. Instead, I push us my round body to push two tables together and they catch his hand. Now he is bleeding like an overripe tomato. A soft split tomato with red and seeds all falling out. The blood is everywhere and the satisfaction is filling the room like a spring flood. I turn my mouth now on the other side of my body because of the swelling towards him.

“Let it fester,” I tell him.


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