Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Carpal Tunnel of Love

Sometime during the summer of 1991 I was bitten by a deer tick in the woods of Richmond, Rhode Island. I was working at a group home for adults with developmental disabilites. Part of my job was accompanying them on their jobs and aiding the completion of tasks. We were out in a wooded area felling trees to clear the way for a house.

I didn't know I'd been viciously attacked. All I know is that one day I woke up with a rash on my groin. It was fiery red, circular in shape, and roughly the diameter of a small frisbee. I went to the doctor expecting to be told I had a rare deadly sexually transmitted disease. Which, if you really think about it, I did. Lyme's Disease. That deer tick and I hooked up and she gave me lifelong pain.

I had no symptoms. I started taking the antibiotics that day. I had a date scheduled for that evening to go see an evening of one-act plays in Providence. I called my date and she said it wouldn't be a problem if we cancelled but I insisted that I was fine.

A few words about my date. She was a gangly girl who kept bread in her purse and wouldn't let me in her room at her parents small apartment in Newport. I'd been set up with her on a date by an old friend. An old friend who I wound up dating a mere month later. Oops.

We had gone on a few dates so far and shared a couple of cursory good night kisses. She was really cute and funny but I was still quite stung by the relationship I'd just gotten out of and I couldn't refrain from a cold sweat every time the engine of the car cut off and we faced that end of the date lip lock two step.

But I was determined to go see this play. I picked her up in Newport and we headed up to Providence. Now, remember, I'd been at the doctor's a mere HOURS ago. As far as I was concerned, I had to take my medicine but I felt fine. No symptoms except for the rash, which is a lucky break in point of fact, because if you don't get the rash, you might not know you have the disease and then you wind up blind and paralyzed.

My willingness to go on with the date in spite of my illness seemed to signify some sort of fervor to her and she was extra gangly, extra funny, extra cute. I was extra sweaty.

We sat in our seats and awaited the first one-act. By the time the lights went down I was in agony.

It felt like someone had snuck up behind me and cast a spell, weaving a length of rusty chain throughout my skeleton. I couldn't turn the pages in the program. I felt as if the chair I sat in was designed specifically to elicit confessions from terrorists. As the first 10 minute play came to a close I told her I'd have to call it a night.

I struggled out of my chair, each crevice of my joints filling with hot lead. I told her she'd have to drive me home and that I'd call her a cab to take her back to Newport. To her credit she was a good sport about it. She helped me into the car as I writhed around. It's 17 years ago and I still squirm when I recall that feeling.

I spent the rest of the summer on my couch watching Goodfellas and Crimes and Misdemeanors over and over again. I also curtailed the late nights sweating in the car trying not to kiss this new girl and started kissing my old friend instead. This effectively ended their friendship. Like I said. Oops. There was no overlap but it still vaguely reeked of sleaze.

I still fondly recall that afternoon before I felt the symptoms, before standing at an ATM for 5 minutes felt like waiting in line for hours on a cold day, before I slid into that long dark tube of pure adulthood.

I don't think I've had an ache-free day since then.

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