Has Anyone Seen My Skin?
January 29, 2003

I avoided it all last semester. Around me, students succumbed like snarfing trees felled by a phlegmy form of Dutch Elm disease. I wore a surgical mask, held my breath on the T, and carried on. Until now.

Now my nose is stuffed with pieces of Kleenex to prevent the oozing. I hate the oozing. It wakes me up at night when it sticks a toe out of my sinuses and makes a run for the nostril-border.

Now my throat and ears take turns tickle-torturing one another with such perfect continuity that I spend most of my day attempting to scratch the roof of my mouth in that time-honored tradition of imitating a cat retching, while desperately jiggling my fingertip around my ear canal. When my husband heard me do it one morning, he thought the steam heat had finally kicked on.

Now I have a slight, but tenaciously persistent, sniggle in one nostril (it switches sides every two hours) that slowly and painfully works its way up to an indifferent sneeze. After all that fanfare, it's a bit of a let-down really. However, before it manages to achieve its disappointing denouement, I am forced to scare people as I walk around town with one eye twitching in suspense.

Now Mentholatum becomes my constant companion and accompanies me everywhere. Anytime the sniggle finally reaches completion, I wipe, wince at the touch of Kleenex on my lacerated nose, and soothe with liberal smears of the miraculous green ointment. I am so redolent of mentholated analgesic that people can anticipate my approach from three blocks away.

Sniggle, twitch, sneeze, wipe, wince, smear.

Now I suck down obscene quantities of green tea, orange juice, fizzy water, and hot toddies.

Now I spend so much time in the powder room, uh, powdering, that I'm beginning to think a kitchen-slash-bathroom could be more than a sitcom punchline.

Now the only relief I get is from standing in a hot shower, taking deep gulps of wet air. The only problem with that is as soon as I get out, I can't feel my skin. I put a finger on it and my fingerpad can sense the skin under it, but the skin cannot sense the fingerpad. I slather on vats of Neutrogena's thickest anti-itch Swiss formulas, but as nothing seems to penetrate the layers of sandpaper, I'm seriously considering dipping into my Sam's Club bottle of Colavita. Not to be left out of my winter's discontent, my eyelids are doing an off-broadway rendition of a molting chameleon that has recently been deposited in a patch of ripe tomatoes while suffering from a bout of eczema.

Now every single, individualized, little cell on my body itches and the more I scratch, the worse it gets. I've managed to scratch myself bruised a few times. Granted, I bruise far too easily, but it's still one for the Annals of the Extremely Pathetic. Last night it hit me: I'm the Morton's Salt chick. Except, it's not salt I'm trailing. It's skin.

Sniggle, twitch, sneeze, wipe, wince, smear.

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