Stage I – Come Down With “Something”
Be idle and inoffensive. Calamity only strikes when you’ve done little to nothing to provoke it. Just sit on your futon and watch a Degrassi marathon until it happens. Until the mystery lump appears.
Or maybe it’s more of a bump than a lump; it could even be a hive, several of them, really. It could be a discoloration or an infected something or a personality disorder that had gone unnoticed until now. “Do I suddenly seem more anxious/ unable to pay attention/ depressed?” you wonder aloud. Your heart begins to palpitate, it’s beating with urgency, and at that moment you commit to the notion that something is terribly wrong with you.
The ailment is inconsequential – all that matters is that you are suffering from something that will leave you changed, perhaps irrevocably. There was you before the sickness, and you now. You’ll spend the rest of your life apologizing for the latter. “I’m sorry, I’m not the same person I was. I wish I could turn back time… more than anything. I’m trying to move forward, but it’s hard,” you’ll say to no one in particular. Christ, what has happened/is about to happen to you?
Stage II – Call Your Mom
If you don’t have a mom to call, call someone older than you – preferably someone who has a medical background or is old enough to have fallen ill many, many times. Explain the proverbial lump. “It’s behind my ear, it doesn’t hurt much but it is kind of itchy.” Pause so that they can ask questions; answer them to the best of your ability. Get frustrated when you don’t know the answer. “I don’t know mom. It’s behind my goddamn ear, I don’t know the exact size.” You’re sick, you’re dying, why doesn’t she understand?! “It sounds like a pimple,” she’ll say. Recognizing that you’ve milked this cow for all it’s worth, get snippy and indignant as you end the phone call. “…(Audible sigh)… I can’t talk to you anymore. I gotta go figure this out. Thanks for the help.” You don’t mean it, of course.
Stage III – Consult the Internet
Google your symptoms. “ear bump itchy mystery.” Click through every search result and read through every forum. Scan each post and draw hasty conclusions about the origins of the poster’s disfigurement. Pimple. Mosquito bite. Pimple. Pimple. Pimple. Bee sting. Flea bite. Infected scratch. Pimple. Bed bug bite – BED BUG BITE. That must be it! You live in Brooklyn and your five-month-old mattress was on sale when you bought it. Nevermind that bed bug bites usually appear in groups of three, this thing is behind your ear, how are you supposed to know what exactly is going on back there?
Run into your bedroom and rip the sheets off of your bed. Inspect the corners of the mattress for bug communes. Examine a piece of lint for what is probably an excessive length of time. Feel overwhelmingly itchy, but find no concrete evidence of bed bug infestation. Remain wary of your bed regardless and commit to a week of sleeping on the futon.
Stage VI – Ask a Friend
Hang around with your friends until one of them notices that you’re uncharacteristically quiet. “Are you okay?” they’ll ask. “I’m fine… hey uh, would you mind taking a look at something for me?” Give them a look that says, “Promise me, no matter what takes place over the next few minutes, you won’t deny me your friendship. Promise me that.” Show them the lump.
Stage V – Diagnosis
“That’s a fucking pimple. You’re kidding me with this shit, right?” Peer up at your friend. If they’re shorter than you are, make sure you’re sitting down during Stage IV. “Are… are you sure? I can handle it if it’s worse than that.” Place your hand on something sturdy and brace yourself for the truth. “Yeah, I’m pretty positive. Want me to pop it?” Contemplate this for a moment, but decide that you’d prefer to let nature take its course. “No. I’m okay.”