Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Plum On My Heel

The Health Services building at the University of Rhode Island sits sunk at the bottom of the campus like a clump of leaves sucked down a drainpipe. There is something unnerving about going underground to talk to a doctor and the squat dingy white brick structure did nothing to counteract that lack of confidence. I have two stories of medical incompetence that emanate from that place, one which I can't even bring myself to publicize. But the wart? I'll talk about that fucking wart.

It was what should have been my senior year except I knew I was taking a 5th year to spend in France. So what do you call your senior year that isn't your senior year? Junior the 2nd? I'm not really sure. This slippery nomenclature must have ruptured the time/space continuum because my senior-not-senior-second-junior year was a fucking train wreck.

As usual, my life centered solely around the theater department. What shows were scheduled, what classes I'd be taking, what costume shop duty I could avoid. This last question loomed large because I'd finally decided to officially declare as a theater major. I'd not done so before because if you were a theater major you had to work BACKSTAGE to fulfill certain requirements. Somehow by NOT declaring as a theater major I could act in all four main-stage productions without setting foot backstage.

But by this point I'd taken so many theater classes that a degree was well within reach. Which meant that there were certain classes that I'd have to take in order to finalize the deal. One of which was a Costume Class. Are you getting the picture yet? The costume shop was, for me, a place of darkness and terror.

Now, don't get me wrong. The Costume Shop at the University of Rhode Island theater department was actually GENIUS. True artists ran it, true believers bought into it, true sewers muscled those sewing machines towards magical creations.

But all I wanted to do was act. I put off taking the Costume Requirement until second semester, the LAST semester of my senior-not-senior-second-junior year. This will become important later on.

Senior year began with a production of 'Crimes of the Heart'. I played Barnette Lloyd, the lawyer who becomes smitten with the youngest sister. This production was, to say the least, troubled. The entire play takes place in the kitchen of a small farmhouse. The design team created a kitchen that you could comfortably plop Versailles into. I found myself playing intimate scenes across a teensy kitchen table four hundred feet of fake linoleum away from any audience. Total disaster.

Next up came 'Camelot'. This play featured a live dog and a live horse. I gave a terrible audition and didn't get the part of Arthur which I think I would have been great at. Instead I played King Pellinore who is supposed to be old. I affected a Monty Python accent, put flowers in my hair, and let a cocker spaniel upstage me every day.

Except for the day the spaniel didn't show. I pranced onstage to my horrified cast members and asked if they'd seen my dog. I was upset that I'd lost my dog. I held the leash sadly. This was my favorite moment of the whole run.

Somewhere in here a wart began to form on my heel, the inside of my right heel. At first I ignored it because, you know, I was in college and drunk most of the time. But by the time spring semester rolled around it had started to hurt. I was also in Costume 412 poking myself with needles to get a theater degree.

The final project of the class is a dreaded conundrum called a 'Fabric Morgue'. It is a testament to my inattentiveness that I do not know what the hell this means. To finish it you had to write some sort of thesis on fabric, subject every sort of fabric known to man to flammable tests, water-proofing, cloaking properties, scratch-and-sniff lacquering and simple draping.

This might as well have been a particle physics exam for me. I was going to FAIL.

The week before finals I finally had to do something about the pesky wart. It hurt to wear shoes. My girlfriend and I were in our own downward spiral of disaster that rivaled the impending 'Fabric Morgue' catastrophe. We'd started seeing each other at the end of my first junior-not-senior-year. Just as it got serious an old high school friend that I'd had an on-again off-again long-distance flirtatiousness with wrote to me and said she wanted to be with me for real this time. I broke up with the new girl, had second thoughts, bounced between both of them for several months and probably stressed myself right into a big-ass wart on my heel.

Cut to the low-brick Rats of NIMH evil experiments building of Health Services. The incident that I will never write about publicly still filled me with dread when I thought of going to the URI doctors but in spite of the fine sheen of sweat that accompanied the making of the appointment, I shuffled down there between classes.

The same nurse who'd bungled my previous visits of course was on shift. She apologized for the earlier lawsuit-worthy fuckup and then proceeded to use about four times the amount necessary of liquid hydrogen on the wart. Of course I didn't know she used too much at the TIME. No, I walked out of there under my own power and was told that there might be a little swelling, I might get a bit of a blister, but it was to be expected.

The next morning I woke up and there was a blood blister the size of a plum on my heel. I thought it was hard to put on shoes with the fucking wart; this was like trying to shove a bowling ball into a change purse.

So accustomed was I to bullshit health occurrences, I didn't even THINK ANYTHING OF IT. I went to a Theater History Final. I went to a Chemistry Final. All wearing flip flops and apologizing to my vomiting classmates who wondered what the fuck was on my foot. During a lunch conversation with my now-on-again girlfriend I was raving a bit and vaguely almost passed out.

She convinced me to go BACK to Health Services. When the doctor came in he took one look at my foot and said, "Oh my god!" Not what you want to hear from your doctor. They held me down and LANCED the fucker, with blood spraying all over that bitch of a nurse who'd burnt my god damn foot off.

When I say it was the size of a plum I am not exaggerating. Imagine a plum sliced in half. Then glue it to your heel. That's what this looked like. The wart sat white on top of the dark red blood blister like a glaring white eye and I'm so sorry that I've spread that image from my brain to yours but I've got to get this OUT there and move the fuck on.

Okay. So. I'm on painkillers and crutches AGAIN. I get a note from my doctor saying I won't be able to study too hard for my finals because, you know, he just CUT OFF HALF OF MY FUCKING HEEL.

The silver lining? I was relieved of the requirement of producing a fabric morgue, which was lucky because I still didn't know what the hell it even was.

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