My Roof Tile Disease

A week ago, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I was dying.

My stomach felt as if someone had stabbed me with a blade, then the metal had melted and spread through skin. Furious Googling lead me to believe that it was not appendicitis, since the appendix is on the right side and this was my left side. But being alone in my new apartment lead me to some light whimpering and thoughts of the police finding my bloated body several days later.

Well, hopefully not TOO bloated - I did just start a new diet (more on that soon!).

I finally gave in to fitful sleep, and woke the next day feeling tender all up my side. It was a strange, tingling feeling that faded somewhat once I began my day, but still lingered later that night. The next night before bed, I walked past the mirror and found my side covered in small, red bumps.


This lead to another night of furious Googling on the topic that strikes fear in the heart of every New Yorker - bed bugs. I moved into a new apartment about two months ago, and upon signing my lease the property manager flippantly informed me that there had been outbreaks in the building, though not on my floor. It gave me pause, for certain, but not enough to throw six months of work down the drain. Now I was staring the evidence in the face, in the form of itchy red bites circling my ribs. Still half-naked, I threw my sheets to the ground, searching in vain for the tiny telltale signs of foreign invaders. I probably looked like a heroin addict looking for invisible bugs, but no matter.

Another fitful night of sleep, and I finally gave in and called my parents. I whispered the double-b phrase into the phone, and practically felt my mother disowning me from across the receiver. Where would I live? I wondered out loud, imagining me spreading my disease from home to home, unwelcome by all.

I would have to burn all my belongings and scour my skin with harsh chemicals, then begin a new life as the Wandering Jew. My mother suggested a doctor's visit before I began cleansing my possessions with fire, and I agreed.

Now, one of the strange things about being a post-grad - and there are many - is that your pediatrician will abandon you and you will be forced to get a grown-up doctor. I thought I was young and invincible, and so I have neglected to do the adult thing and get a checkup in, oh, 20 months or so. This from a person who was used to bi-annual checkups and any number of drop-ins thanks to sinus infections, or sprained muscles, or hair in new places. I begged my way into an appointment at my old office, and found myself sitting in an exam room Sunday morning decorated in cuddly animals, discretely scratching myself.

A nurse entered to take my temperature. She asked if I wanted to get my weight as well; we locked eyes and laughed. There would be no weight taken today, thank God. I suppressed my urge to ask for a lollipop, and waited for my death sentence.

I began to try and look on the bright side of bed bugs. First of all, new clothing. Second of all, don't they send over cute little bug-sniffing Beagle puppies when you call the exterminator? That would probably help alleviate some of the disgusting reality of the situation. And finally, burning things is incredibly fun and I bet my new 55-inch TV would explode if I burned it while it was still plugged in to the outlet.

The doctor entered, interrupting my puppy/flames fantasy. She took one look at my skin, and told me I had shingles.

Uh... what? I nearly hugged her in excitement. "You're the happiest I've ever seen someone with shingles!" she exclaimed.

I skipped out of the office, and immediately stopped skipping because HOLY SHIT EVERYTHING HURTS. Shingles, for those who don't know, is basically a relapse of chicken pox times a million. The chicken pox virus never leaves your body - it simply stays dormant in your nerve endings, waiting for a compromised immune system or stress or old age to allow it to spring forth in itching, painful sores.

Remember, these aren't little pock marks on your skin - it's your freaking nerve endings opening up, resulting in the strangest, unrelenting pain you'll ever experience. It feels like I got blackout drunk 3 days ago and someone bashed me in the ribs with a baseball bat. I'm sure the bat hurt a lot, but for now it's just the after effect, and it won't go away.

It's also super gross looking, and itchy, and makes sleeping a pain and general moving around a chore. My grandfather called me on the phone and told me when he had it, it felt like someone had jabbed him in the side with a hot poker and was twisting it.

Oh yeah, old people. Shingles is mainly a disease of the old folks, though I do have two friends that got it in their 20s. Still, I have asked the rhetorical question every night since my diagnosis while lying on my couch - why me? I don't think I was particularly stressed, or immuno-compromised. I don't think I'm secretly 75 years old, although I do love CBS sitcoms and complaining. So who, in their divine plan, thought it would be cool to give me a literal pain in my side?

These are the problems of the underemployed: Days spent fruitless job-searching, nights spent moaning and bitching and telling people not to touch me. If only I were busy reporting, or writing, or interviewing, I'm sure this never would have happened. But people straight up refuse to answer my emails or give me money in exchange for services. And now no one particularly wants to physically touch me, either. I have never felt so unloved.

But the Giants are in the Super Bowl, so that kinda helps!

Also I'm super contagious so don't let me hug your baby.

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