I discovered a rash on my arm yesterday. Its eating me from the inside out. I can feel it melting my skin; burning, itching pains that won’t subside. Its obscene. I haven’t eaten anything strange. I don’t think so. I haven’t been near any particularly long-haired or scruffy animals. My neighbor has a dog. She’s white with really short hair, though. I can’t imagine it’d have given me something. I don’t think I’m allergic to dogs. Not that kind, at least. When I imagine myself allergic to something it usually looks more like a vulture. Or death. Semantics in some places.
The rash has started to blister. I know this because I’ve been staring at it off and on all day. It’s gotten bigger. I know that because when I last looked at it, it had gone past the second freckle past my elbow. It wasn’t there before. My eyes have gone all squinty from staring at it. It feels weird to open them up again. Like I’m using some new muscle or something. The blisters are popping and oozing. I hate that word, oozing. I could swear I haven’t touched it. Its doing that on its own.
I took my arm to Mom, so she could look at it. She held it up close to her face and made her eyes all squinty just like mine.
“I don’t see anything,” she said.
“You must not be looking close enough”, I told her. Her eyes got even squintier and she looked at me weird for a second.
“I think you’re imagining it,” she said. I went back into the house.
I know I’m not imagining it. It stings and itches like the one time I got poison ivy. It feels like my skin is curdling. Like I boiled a lemon and forgot to take it out, only finding it hours later when the water’s evaporated and the fruit looks like it’s been left in bathwater too long. All pruney and dry-like, with just the fleshy parts and rind left. But with yellow stuff coming out. Its atrocious. I tried to reach the top shelf of the closet for some itch-cream, but there weren’t any chairs around and mom wouldn’t get it for me. I tried Dad, but somehow, he knew I’d already asked Mom and said something-or-other about how that’s not how loyalty works and someday when you’re married, you’ll know. What if I never get married? I asked. He had to go to the store, he said.
The rash got even higher up my arm. I thought, soon it’ll disappear up my short-sleeve. I started to panic. The last time he was here, Uncle Owen said something about how, to solve a problem, you must know its cause. I decided to Google it. I typed, “rashes” into the search bar, and clicked the images option when it finally came up. There were a lot of rashes there, all the captions saying they were caused by different things. I just wanted to find my rash. I saw a lot of disturbing examples of poison oak, ivy, and various food allergies, but nothing even remotely similar to mine. I don’t think I’ll sleep well tonight. I’m not supposed to go on Google Images and now I know why. Perhaps if I could narrow the search, I thought- knew what to look for, I could better find what that was. It was then that I remembered something my friend Rudy had told me about his girlfriend.
“She’s allergic to the sun,” he’d said.
He was so nonchalant about it, while I was horrified. “You can’t be allergic to the sun!” I’d thought it best to inform him of this- just in case his girlfriend turned out to be a pathological liar and I had an opportunity to save him from a heck ton of heartbreak. I care about my friends like that.
“Yes, you can,” Rudy’d said. “She is. She gets rashes on her legs and stuff. I know because I asked her to the pool Saturday, and she told me she can’t cuz its outside. She’d have to wear a wet-suit or something.”
“Why can’t she?” He gave me a look.
“It’s embarrassing, that’s why.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I asserted.
“But its true.” I was starting to reconsider my disbelief.
Two minutes after it migrated to the top of my shoulder, I gave in. Mrs. Evans from Science said to migrate, is to leave one place for another in search of something. Generally, food. I looked at where the red had spread over my bicep and down, close to my armpit. I’d heard horror stories. I knew what would happen if it got there. Rudy said one time he’d had poison ivy in his armpit, once, and he nearly died, the itch was so bad. “You can’t put itch-cream there”, he’d said. “It feels weird.” I typed ‘sun rash’ into Google Images. Suddenly, I knew what it was.
Rashes caused by sun poisoning are easily treatable, Google told me. Just visit your local dermatologist. I panicked again. What was I going to tell Mom? Do I ask Dad first or Mom first? Whatever Mom said, Dad would side with, and usually vice versa, but if I asked Dad first without asking Mom… I filled a sandwich baggy with ice cubes from the freezer and held it over my arm, wincing as I waited for dad to get home from the store. Please work, please believe me. Finally, I heard the heavy-footed tap of his work boots on the basement stairs. Slowly, methodically, he reached the second set and began to ascend. I started to squirm, hating that he was taking so long, but at the same time knowing I couldn’t rush this. Dad was best approached when he was in his good moods. You had to wait, test the waters a bit per se before you introduced the topic. If he was in a good mood, you’d know it even before he opened his mouth. He’d be half-smiling a little, and you could see his eyes twinkling like he was about to make one of his stupid jokes. If he was in a bad mood, however, it’d be even more obvious. You wouldn’t even be able to see his eyes cuz his eyebrows’d be pulled so low. It'd be like they were playing limbo with the things, clearly losing. The corners of his mouth would be turned down like the dog-ears he left in his banking books to mark the page. He reached the top of the stairs and looked at me. I relaxed when I saw his mouth quirk.
“What’re you smiling about?” He asked. “And why’s your arm all red?” For a second, I was elated. Someone had noticed the rash! My high-soaring joy was quickly shot down, however, when I remembered it was probably red anyway from the ice, and he couldn’t see that cuz I’d set it down while I was pleading in my head for him to hurry up.
“Did Mom tell you about my rash?”
“She told me you were convinced you had one, but she said there wasn’t anything there that she could discern.”
“Oh, well, it’s gotten worse. I googled it and found out its probably from sun poisoning and the only thing we can do about it is find a dermatologist or,” I narrowed my eyes for the full effect, “I might die.” I knew I’d gotten too dire when his eyebrows started to droop in the middle.
“You’re not allowed to Google, son.”