Pink Eyes, Bloody Nose
I get cold sores, which I guess means I have Herpes. Most everyone has this type of Herpes, but only special people like me actually get symptoms. It’s the same thing with Mono. Everyone has it, but only the few experience symptoms. I tried to explain this to a boyfriend in college when I got Mono, but he still refused to kiss me, so we had sex without kissing, and I felt like a prostitute…but I digress. Back to the other virus I have and carry with me always.
Cold sores can be triggered by stress, so in high school, when I memorized text books the night before exams, I had a lot of cold sores. I always get them in the corner of my mouth. It feels like a paper cut, and every time I eat, I reopen the wound. Now a days, I have an ointment that prevents them from getting infected, but in high school, when I was a mere minor dependent on my parents for medical care, we never went to see a doctor. So I perpetually had an infected, dime-sized scab on a corner of my mouth. It was really bad and probably part of the reason the small private school was the best option for me. It was like a leper colony.
I’ve brought this up with my mother, basically accusing her of neglect. Why didn’t we get help? I was obviously in pain, but she always says she didn’t realize there was something a doctor could do for cold sores. Instead she took me to the Herb Room, a Santa Cruz institution. The place infuriates me. It looks like something out of Harry Potter: floor to ceiling pills and bottles and dried unrecognizable things in jars. It’s dark and smells like patchouli. They sell dream catchers and cloth sanitary napkins. The women who work there wear fairy wings and glitter. They have names like Cedar and Kamala. Cedar and Kamala will tell you how to treat anything, even fatal diseases. So my mother marched fifteen year old me into the Herb Room and said very loudly, “My daughter has Herpes.”
She might as well have announced, “My daughter’s a dirty slut.” I knew there were two kinds of Herpes, and since I was beyond, beyond virginal, I knew it wasn’t sexually transmitted, but I worried other people might think it was, but for them to think I was sexually active, in those orange paratrooper pants, would have been impossible.
Cedar, who spoke very slowly and sighed between each sentence, as if she was constantly wading through acid flashbacks, recommended a natural hemorrhoid cream to put on my mouth. This was just what I needed. The final insult. Your mouth and ass are equal.
I wish I could say that the cold sores were the worst of my high school ailments, but I also got frequent nose bleeds. They were so bad that I stopped trying to stop them, and I just went to class with toilet paper stuffed up my nose. Teachers might have been worried that I was abusing coke, but the toilet paper suggested I was running with a different crowd, one that stayed home and listened to NPR.
I also got pink eye. This one was nice because it immediately got me sent home. Keep in mind that my high school had no nurse (we were a school of 100 lost souls), so the receptionist essentially decided if you were good to go. Pink eye though doesn’t make you popular (like cold sores and bloody noses will). I got it again in college, and I guiltily asked a doctor if it had something to do with poop. Was I not washing my hands enough? I hope you never have to tell a stranger that there’s a possibility your own shit has made its way into your eyes. She looked horrified at the suggestion and assured me that shit has nothing to do with pink eye. Since Knocked Up had recently come out, she’d been fielding a lot of questions about roommates and feces. College doctors must see it all (there’s an idea for a TV show).
I don’t feel comfortable going into the sex tax that I pay–the UTIs, yeast infections and bacterial infections that I can’t pronounce. Let’s just say that my body is delicate, and perhaps because growing up I had an acupuncturist before a doctor, I go to the doctor willingly and frequently.