It’s September, but the rashes do not relent just yet. In fact, they morph into further questionable shapes. They flake off, return, display new colors. Google searches of rashes only result in a vortex of rashmania that devolves into an existential challenge to the rash. What isn’t a rash anyway? Aren’t we all a rash? The more I learn the more I realize the multitude of ways to be dirty, to be clean, and that there is no clean. I smile; I think of my rashes. Your rashes. It’s perfect. It’s meant to be.
Thursday at urgent care, I sat in the freezing triage room staring far too long at a painting of a peacock, flowers and a rainbow rising above a couplet of clouds. Feathers, petals and sky made of a child’s handprints in varying colors, their initials written neatly in sharpie below each. I was in there long enough to wonder what the intended purpose of such a wall painting was. Did it make children feel included? The adjacent wall was painted only one color of deep beige that reminded me simply of my personal life in austere offices, courtrooms, shelters in the 1980s. Misery.
One particular red smear of peacock feather lacked any hint of it’s intended shape of neither feather nor hand. Actually it appeared that the child had desperately slammed the side of a tiny closed fist against the wall and kept it there just a moment before pushing it down the surface and away. Underneath the initials neatly scribed, “J.R.”
When the doctor came in he asked my age and for the first time, truly the first, I faltered. Was I thirty? Thirty two? I think the beige and the peacock fucked me up. Put me in a different place. Finally I slovenly mustered, “thirty-six?”
I came in because I was attacked by a wasp and my finger swelled from the sting. It itched in a way that made me want to pull off into the swamp and lay there scratching in moaning in pure pleasure and addiction. I also had a hand rash. I laughed about the rash. “Oh that rash, oh who knows, right? A rash is a rash is a rash”
He sat down and took a breath and told me I have herpes on my hands.
I went to the STI clinic the next day to be sure. They looked at my palms, took my blood and sat down took a breath and told me I have syphilis.
I left the clinic in the rain. I wrapped my palms in sticky gauze. I ate xanax and tacos and Benadryl. I called my exes. I goog;ed syphillis. I googled history of syphillis. More than a rash. I slept thinking about my rashes. My rash is my rash is my rash.
I set some goals today. I made a goal chart like we do for kids with behavioral problems at school. I even have gold stars I got in a free box. I’m determined to do whatever it takes to be awake again in the world. I will not let this stop me. I must keep on. Forcing myself to check off the list until I don’t need the list,;until I am strong. I have been this way, strong. I have had many rashes. I can become awake.