As I've already spent over a grand having my ankle lasered, I have to believe that there is some greater purpose than just turning a mediocre tattoo into a genuinely bad tattoo, which is how it appears now.
I had my most recent session of laser tattoo removal on Wednesday after work. They give me a few shots of some sort of local anesthetic which hurts like a bitch, and then they go to work. There are two of them, one is a nurse, I think, and the other is a laser technician. They like to weigh in about my life and career while they burn the top few layers off my skin. "Watch out for those European boys," the technician told me this time. "They're all drunks," she said knowingly, and then added as an afterthought, as she turned up the strength on the laser, "Living in the suburbs isn't so bad." She knew from my winces that I was trying to decide where I want to spend the next few years of my life.
Usually I'm grimacing and unable to respond to any of the life advice they give me. Sometimes, when the novocaine isn't strong enough, I scream "motherfucker!" and the ladies administering my treatment look away and act as if they hadn't heard.
I went home after my treatment this week and was in bed at my normal, early hour. I had a dream that my right foot and lower leg were on fire, and I woke up in terror around midnight. I realized that there was no fire, but the pain had not been imagined. My leg resembled a small tree trunk, if trees were red, swollen and tattooed. I took a few ibuprofen, checked my email for marriage proposals, and went back to bed.
I was unable to sleep, however, as the tears that were sliding down my cheeks refused to abate. I briefly considered calling my mother, as she now lives horrifyingly close by. (Hi Mom!) However, I thought it would be a good test of my mettle to take care of this minor incident on my own. If I plan to move to a country filled with spotted dick, I'm going to have to learn to fend for myself.
So I headed to the nearest emergency room at approximately 2 am. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Bay Area, I'm not going to give you a lesson in socioeconomics or how the crack trade has influenced the population here. Suffice it to say, I would not recommend using Oakland emergency rooms in the dead of night as a source of health care.
I was greeted, as I limped towards the door by a man in a crown. A crown made of rich burgundy velvet and bejeweled gold. In addition to the crown, he was also in possession of a princely coach (read: wheelchair) and an overwhelming stench. Ignoring the royalty, I forged ahead and found myself waiting to be triaged in a near-empty emergency room. The only other patient ahead of me was a hipster boy with angular cheekbones and precision sloppiness. I tried to diagnose his illness, but there was none apparent. After noting what appeared to be a squirm of discomfort (could it have been from my examination?) I decided he was obviously the possessor of a rectal foreign body and acknowledged the veracity of him being triaged ahead of me.
As it turned out, the staff having naptime was also triaged ahead of me. Interestingly, this did not include the woman who took down financial information. She, I was able to see within 10 minutes of entering the hospital. After filling out about a hundred papers where I signed my soul away in exchange for two minutes of medical attention, I returned to the emergency room and my brethren. A man in a wheelchair appeared. He seemed to be in possessions of only a single limb, which grasped a greasy bottle of Tropical Fantasy.
The Torso, as I dubbed him, had a companion with him, who was pushing his chair. The Torso, much like the royalty in the lobby, stunk. He was not only willing to bring the music, but the funk as well. The funk of forty-thousand years, from the smell of things. But what really hit me was that the Torso was not here in the emergency room by himself. He had a friend, willing to not only be his source of mobility, but to provide him with low-cost sugary drinks. If you counted the gerbil in the cheekbone boy's ass, I was really the only person there who was on my own.
It wasn't until I had been sitting in the emergency room for two hours, and had broken into loud, uncontrollable sobs, that I was allowed to see a doctor. He prescribed the antibiotics that I had requested when I first arrived, and after gauging my tear-stained face, enough painkillers to cripple an elephant.
A little after 5 am, I arrived home. The pain in my ankle had been nearly replaced by a headache and the return of the repetitive stress injury that I've diagnosed myself with. I took a handful of antibiotics, and went to sleep for two hours. I dreamt of the things I would tell my co-workers when I arrived at work that day. I imagined my hardcore rap career flourishing once the tale of how I survived a gunshot wound circulated around the water cooler. "Oh," I would say, blushing, "It was nothing."