Friday, March 23, 2012

Cold Sores

I fucking hate cold sores.

I also wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't spent so much of my childhood suffering them. My parents have a VHS recording of my first birthday: I'm standing alone in Drake Park, holding bread and surrounded by geese, and I can't do anything but stare in the direction of my mom and cry because my lips are angry red strips of swollen blister. If I could step back in time and see my one-year-old self, I'd give him a knuckle to the shoulder and call him champ, and then tell him to get the fuck used to it.

I didn't just get cold sores - I'd get cold sores on top of cold sores. Any uninfected crevasse between quivering heaps of blister would soon fill, and I seem to recall having painful lips so often that the stretches of time from birth to ten years old without suffering a constant agony were something of a miracle. Cold sores of such magnitude do two things simultaneously to the sufferer: they make you extremely self-conscious and extremely detached from the present-tense, real-worldness of the situation. The blisters are so sensitive to movement, touch, water, wind, etc that the only way to survive them is to remove your thoughts as completely as you can from the horribly exposed, raw-nerve-ending type feeling that is your mouth. Conversely, such massive sores are also extremely embarrassing, and if you're forced to do anything social while you have them, their disgusting hulking presence is more or less the only thing you can think about. "How can anyone look at me? I can hardly look at myself. This is disgusting. I'm disgusting. God it hurts."

And over and over, and so on and so forth. For weeks.

I developed a coded system of grunts to converse with my mom, and was usually excused from participating in class. I went through so many tubes of Blistex it's a wonder I haven't suffered some strange medical side effect. More important, though, was my lesson learned in keeping my face absolutely stoic at all times. I can play apathetic really well, and most of the time I don't even realize I'm doing it - I just know how to not move any muscle in my face from years of experience.

Also, my obsession with time (how it passes in novels and film, how long activities take, punctuality) stems from literal years of sitting around waiting out the festering sores on my lips. There's nothing else you can do when the most sensitive erogenous zone on your body is on fire other than grasp for one passing second after the next, which leads to the next minute, and then the next hour, and so on. It sounds melodramatic, but I can't tell you how many times I've told myself (in a very Gandalf tone of voice) "this too shall pass" and almost wept because it's such a true statement. And this propensity for staring into the future, longing for a day when I could again shower without having to shield my face from the high-pressure agony that is water on a cold sore, is what I believe led to my constantly looking for the next thing in life. I'm just not ever as content as I should be with the present, even if it's the best present-tense moment I could ask for.

I'm lucky that as I grew up, my cold sore outbreaks became much less frequent. Now they're an annual event, and even then I usually only get one very manageable little blister. Plus, let's all just take a moment to thank whatever that they never spread South. I'm writing this now because I've developed my annual cold sore, and it fucking sucks. But all I need to do to make the present tense more bearable is to think back to all the more horrific moments that slipped by way back when. You always get through it, you just have to take one minute at a time. That, and plan on spending your weekend behind shaded windows and locked doors. Aint no one seein' this shit. After I finish work today, that is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi I have so many questions as a fellow sufferer.