I'l Have Another!; or, The Phantom of the Opera is Bullshit
I thought I looked and felt grotesque on Wednesday. I thought a shot would do the trick. Ha. HA!. I had a dream Tuesday night that I was all better. I woke up Wednesday morning to find that my face looked as if I'd gotten drunk and said some unkind things to Roy Jones Jr. about his mother. My left eye was completely shut, and the swelling was all the way down my face to my jaw. It was puffed out a good inch. Plus the oozing rashy goodness was all over my face, my neck, my arm, my leg.
Great. Just great. Supposed to go away this weekend and I can't even see out of my goddam left eye. I called the doctor, screamed "SOS!" until they agreed to see me, and once again was on my way to their office. Now, yesterday I mentioned they had a new physician's assistant (and she is a PA, not a doc) named "J" who is pretty as pretty can be. I hoped she wouldn't think I was making excuses just to see her. No, I think the disaster area that is my face would take care of that.
The receptionist looks at me and jumps an inch out of her seat. I'm quickly whisked to the consulting room and there's a tap on the door. A ridiculously pretty blonde woman walks in wearing a lab coat. OK, I can't see worth shit, I've not depth perception, but this isn't J, is it? Blonde, pretty, coat, yeah, that all seems right. I had my glasses on the table and I picked them up and used the one lens like a quizzing glass as she asked how I was doing.
Different woman. Another PA trainee. Great. GREAT. I look like the Phantom of the FUCKING OPERA and I'm surrounded by attractive women. Who can't look at me without wincing. The new PA (I see from her badge her name is "L") gently touches my cheek to see if it feels warm. Her touch is like a kid testing to see if her bike tire is properly inflated. My face could use some air taken out of it.
The doctor comes in and says something along the lines of "Your face doesn't look so good". I agree with his diagnosis, like it when he says he's going to prescibe me a big messa Prednisone, but like it less when he wants me to go see an opthomologist to make sure my eye isn't, like, going to turn to mush. Driving isn't my strong suit right now, so the idea of motoring into town doesn't thrill me. But the idea of spending my life with my arm extended, whiffing time after time as I try to grab my beer off the bar and misjudge the distance, motivates me. He starts to write down the name of the doctor when there's another tap on the door and J walks in. They want her to look at me to get her opinion on how my condition is changed. She winces too. Is this to be the story of my life going forward, to have lovely women look at me and cringe with pity? Well, cool, that's an improvement.
My left eye is swollen shut, and I have J and L standing about a foot in front of me. My eye couldn't focus on one of them at that distance if I tried. I put on the brave face, I tell jokes, I laugh at the horror I've become. I've a strong personality, I'm saying, and someday yinz oughta see me when don't look like John Merrick. I don't know how far they've gotten through their studies, but they have the compassionate smile down.
I go to the front desk, fork over another copay, and get the office number for my next doctor. As I'm waiting I hear a voice behind me. "Geno?". The voice is behind me to the left, my blind side, and I have to turn 180 degrees to see that it's my friend Rico. "The hell you doing here?" I ask, and he says he's meeting one of his agents who works in the building. He looks at me. He winces. "What happened?" he asks, and I tell him. I was going away to Rick's lake house this weekend, before all the...horror, and I tell him that the odds are probably better that I'll be spending the weekend in the hospital than at the house. He wishes me well, and I hope I can avoid seeing anyone else I know today.
I drive with my left eye pried open to Bloomfield and West Penn Hospital. Bloomfield is Pittsburgh's Little Italy, though when I used to work downtown our Happy Hour spot was the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, Pittsburgh's preeminent Polish restaurant. Spend many a happy and drunken hour there. You'd get there around 5, they'd be playing polka on the jukebox and there would be older gentlemen and women wearing babushkas having dinner. A bit later on you'd get a younger crowd listening to classic rock. Then, on the weekends, the BBT played host to some of the weirdest punk/thrash/metal/miscellaneous bands you'd ever want to see. We'd have a coed table 15 strong and the lead singer usually had more piercings than our whole crew put together.
But I digress. Well, not totally--as I cut up Liberty Avenue I passed Del's, good Italian food, passed Tessaro's, legendary hambugers, passed the Pleasure Bar, which sounds like Pauly's kinda place but is in fact another good Italian place. I parked my car in the garage, found the doctor's office, got checked out and found that my eye was fine, and was on my way, all within 20 minutes.
Getting out of the hospital was another matter. I won't go on and on, but why the hell is it so hard to navigate in hospitals? I needed to do down one flight, but the stairs had these huge signs that said they were fire exits only. I waited forever and a day for an elevator, by which time there were 10 others waiting. Being gallant I let the women and children get on first. I was also a bit embarassed to be seen with my face looking like this. A little boy looked at me and while he didn't wince, his eyes couldn't tear away from my eye. I smiled at him, which probably made me look even more grotesque.
I finally got free, finally got out of the parking garage, got back on Liberty and headed home. Well, no--I had to get my scrip filled. Went to my local mega-grocery store, dropped it off, and was told to come back in 25 minutes. So I got to wander the store for what turned out to be 40 minutes, trying to avoid letting people see me in profile, eating 2 free samples of meatloaf from the hot foods department (pretty damn good), two slices of baguette with butter, and a piece of chocolate brownie. Did some shopping, finally got my 'roids (I think I'm going to spend the weekend really blasting my quads) and headed for the homestead.
It was so nice, after the past two days, to put on comfy clothes, take my medicine, and lay down on the couch. I was out for 2 hours, and when I woke the swelling was definitely down. I could actually see out of my left eye. My buddy Mark, the doctor, came over to pick up my poker chips to take to the lake, and with his usual bedside manner laughed in my face and said, "I wish I had my camera."
"Har dee fucking har."
"You know who you remind me of? Harvey Dent. You know who that is?"
"Two-Face, from Batman? Yeah, I've heard of him. Hey, why don't you move within punching range?"
He left with my chips to go party and have fun. I still look horrible, but I can go to work tomorrow. So I look hideous. I, unlike so many, have a good excuse. And I might still go up to the lake, to sit on my ass, drink beer, and watch football. Maybe even play some poker.
But. When I get home, that poison ivy bush and I are going to have a final reckoning. I'm gonna ask my cousin Terry for the most diabolical defoliant on the market. I'm going to put on a spacesuit, I'm going full Biohazard Level-4, and I'm taking this shit plant out. I'm going nuclear; I'm getting medieval. I have suffered far, far too much because of this stray collection of leaves and vines and venom. Before the month is out, I will have my revenge.