NEST OF HAIRS

I thought I had bruised my tailbone falling off my bike. But the pain only got worse throughout the week. Eventually I was unable to sit or walk comfortably. On Good Friday, my girlfriend went downtown to see the symphony. I begged off, explaining that I wouldn't be able to sit still in a seat for that kind of time.

At about 9:00 pm that night I went to my bathroom. I pulled down my pants and found my boxers drenched in blood. I decided whatever I had, it wasn't a bruised tailbone. I drove to the Queen of Angels ER.

Dr. Fog saw me that night. He was a stocky guy, in his early 30s, with a goatee. I described my symptoms. He told me to strip, put on a robe, and lay down on my stomach. In the meantime, he would have to call in his nurse, Lorraine.

Lorraine and Dr. Fog donned their protective gear and spread my butt-cheeks.

"Well, well, well. What does that look like to you, nurse?" "Infected cyst." "Yup, that's what it looks like to me, too."

Dr. Fog swivelled into my line of sight.

"You have an inflammed pylonidal cyst. It's a cogentital defect found primarily in men, typically hairy ones like yourself. A bunch of ingrown hairs bunch up at the base of the spine and cause an infection. In fact, 'pylonidal' means 'nest of hair' in Latin. Ha ha."

I stared at him. I wasn't sure where this was going, with the Latin and all.

"Anyway, we have to slice it open and drain it. I could give you local anaesthetic, but frankly it's so infected now that administering the pain-killer would probably hurt more than making the cut. So, we'll just do it 'au naturel,' OK?"

With that, he moved back into position behind me. I didn't really have time to think before I felt the scalpel slice me. I inhaled quickly and buried my face in the pillow. I started running lines from "The Deer Hunter." I have no idea why. I jammed my face into the pillow and hissed, "Three bullets! I do three bullets! One, two, three!"

Behind me, Dr. Fog said, "Wow, that's a lot of blood. Nurse, let's suck this up."

Lorraine jammed a small vacuum hose, like the one used by dentists, under the newly-created flap of skin on my cyst. She swirled it around, sucking away all the blood and pus that had built up over the past week. I gripped the gurney as tightly as I could and breathed into my pillow. Lorraine might as well have been using a hot poker on me, so sensitive was the infected area. "Put an empty chamber in that gun, Nicky! C'mon, Nicky!"

Dr. Fog asked, "Did you get it all?"
"Take a look, doctor."
"Hmmm. Yeah, looks pretty good. Let's pack it up."
"OK, right."

Lorraine then started to stuff a long strip of gauze into my deflated cyst. Even though she was wearing gloves, I could feel her nails everytime they scraped past the entry-cut they had made. I was sweating hard now. I worried about hyperventilating, but when I tried to control my breathing the agony became too much to bear.

Dr. Fog swung back around and faced me.

"Do you have someone who can pick you up?"
"My girlfriend's at the symphony," I whispered.
"Your friend has symptoms?"
"No, no. I don't have anyone."
"Well, that's too bad. Because the pain-killer I wanted to give you, I can't give you, if you plan on driving. So, I'll have to give you some over-the-counter stuff for tonight."
"OK."
"And listen. You're going to have to turn around and sit on it for a while before you can leave. To stop the bleeding. I'd say about 15 minutes or so. Here, turn around. Yeah that can't feel too good, I know. Ha ha. Now just sit on it. No, really sit down on it. It needs pressure. It's not too comfortable, I know, but we have to stop the bleeding. Yup, like that. Just settle in there while I go get your medicine."

He walked away from the gurney. Lorraine disappeared behind a curtain. I was alone, shivering in a gurney. I closed my eyes and tried to control my breathing. My girlfriend had taught me some Buddhist thing about counting my breath. Breathe in, hold, breathe out, count. One. Breathe in, hold... But it was useless. When I looked up again, there was a woman standing in front of me. She was in her late 40s, with steely ice-blue eyes. She looked straight at me. She had eyes that don't blink, like a newscaster.

"What's the matter tonight, son?"
"Pylonidal cyst."
"Oh," she said. "Well, the doctor will come and see you soon."
"The doctor's already been here."
She stared at me a little harder. Everything around me was becoming increasingly more surreal.

"I see," she said. "Then you must put your faith in God. He will look after you now."