SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
February 19, 2012

The Unspeakable Bump Part 2: Oozing Cyst Blues

 

The story all began so long ago that I can’t even remember when it started. Suddenly one day I had a cyst the size and shape of a human eyeball perched on my skull, just a bit right of center. It was a mighty lump, and prompted any number of wisecracks about homunculi, parasitic twins, Indian manitous, and encroaching two-headedness. It was almost like the lumps cartoon characters used to grow after being hit with a hammer, except mine didn’t rise above my hair and wasn’t accompanied by tweeting birds.

        The lump didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother it. It didn’t hurt, it wasn’t noticeable unless you went groping about my head (no one did), and it confused barbers. It was all fine by me. After a while I came to have a real affection for my bump.

        Then, slowly, in the summer of 2010, the bump began to grow a little arm, or tentacle, or something out of its base. This I found curious. I was anxious to see what would happen next—would this third eye finally open and see? Would it grow another arm, followed by a torso and legs and one day just stand up and walk away? It was obviously undergoing some kind of transformation into a higher state, and suddenly things became much less pleasant between me and the lump. For the first time after all these years, the lump began to ache. Clearly these were growing pains, and with each passing day they grew worse.

        The obvious thing to do at that point would’ve been to take it to a doctor and let him handle it in a professional and safe manner. Instead one night I got drunk, grabbed my trusty shoe knife, went into the bathroom and removed it myself. I’ve become quite adept at home surgery over the past two decades—I have my technique down to an art—but I had never removed anything quite this big before. It made quite a mess.

        After cleaning up and slathering the hole with antibiotics I felt around. Things seemed to be okay for the most part. A few days came and went with no obvious signs of infection, so I figured I was in the clear.

        Oddly, there was something a little strange and lonely about having a normally-shaped skull again. I actually missed my lump.

        A few weeks later the site of my former bump began leaking. It was an oily substance that smelled of decaying vegetable matter.

        Well, I figured, it was just one of those things. The wound was simply cleaning itself out as it healed. It had been a mighty big cyst, after all. It started to ache again, too, but I figured that was par for the course. Biology at work.

        Over the course of the next twelve months I began to worry, as it seemed the former cyst, relentless little fucker, wouldn’t stop leaking or hurting. That rancid stench coming out of my head was all I could smell. What’s more, the lump—obviously pissed at me for having removed it—began to grow back. So every couple of days I squeezed it out again and hoped it might get the hint. This was not a pleasant job, and it hurt like hell. Worse, it only made the lump angrier. The pain grew worse and the leaking continued unabated.

        Then a bad thought occurred to me. What if the shoe knife had plunged a little deeper than I realized, and punctured my skull? I’d heard the urban legend about people leaking brain fluid until they dropped dead one day.

        Well, I didn’t let that bother me either. Better than rotting away in a hospital, I guess.

        Finally after pointing out to Morgan that this thing on my head hadn’t stopped hurting or oozing for a year, she suggested that maybe it was time I asked a doctor about it. I didn’t really think this was necessary, that it would stop eventually, right? But still I agreed.

        I liked this particular doctor. He was a smart, enthusiastic fellow who was always in the mood for a self-surgery tale. The only thing I wasn’t thrilled with was his office itself. You couldn’t help but wonder what sort of creeping mange had infested the patient sitting next to you, or who’d been sitting in your chair before you showed up. And had the doctor washed his hands? He seemed pretty cavalier about everything. But again he was a nice fellow, and I can’t say as I’d ever contracted anything in his office in the past. But as they say, there’s always a first time.

        Now, this oozing, stinking head of mine seemed like it would be a very simple problem to solve. Some kind of salve would take care of it, or an ointment, or tincture, or a little blast from a laser. Every time I see this doctor, however, my problem always seems to run a little deeper than expected.

        “Okay,” he said, after leading me into the examination room. “Before I begin, I need to yell at you for that pack of cigarettes in your pocket.”

        I almost told him to take a damn number, but instead just said, “Yes, well.”

        “Good, now that that’s out of the way, let’s see . . . ” He sat down and looked at my chart. “It seems you haven’t been here in five years. I could swear it was only a year ago that you were in here with another one of your weird problems.”

        “Yeah, I seem to have that effect on people.”

        I gave him a thumbnail sketch of what had happened up to the point the lump went away.

        “And then the cyst just vanished?” he asked.

        “Well, not exactly. There was a shoe knife involved. And some Wild Turkey.”

        “Okay, that’s fine.” (I guess he’d come to expect that answer from me.) He examined the oozing spot in my head for a second. “You ask me, I’d say just leave it alone. Don’t do anything about it.”

        “Really? It’s been leaking for a year now. And it hurts.”

        “Okay then, do something about it. I’ll give you the name of a surgeon.”

        “Surgeon?” I’d really been hoping a salve would be in order.

        “Yeah, she’s nice. She’ll just give you some anesthetic, slice open the skin, scrape the area out, and sew you back up. After that, though, you need to be real careful that hair doesn’t grow into the incision.”

        “I . . . see.”

        It’s funny, but after he sent me on my way a minute later, my oozing cyst stopped hurting. And that rotting smell emanating from my head suddenly smelled of wildflowers, coffee, and pancakes. I began to think it was something I could live with. I’d be happy to welcome my old lump back.

 

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