I’ve had surgery on my face.
When I tell people that, they get excited, imagining, perhaps, a disfiguring car accident.
In actuality, it isn’t anything to get excited about: they just needed to fix a malfunctioning tear duct. Of course, it didn’t work, this fixing, but that didn’t keep them billing me the equivalent of, say, a yacht payment.
I went in, they doped me up, broke my nose, set it, introduced a length of fine plastic tubing and voila, as we used to say, fish and chips.
I awoke in Post-Op, drunk on anesthesia. The world was whirling; the pain, painful.
The time between “coming to” and finding myself at home, in my bed, cannot be measured.
My sister is leaning over me.
“You want to see?” She is holding a mirror.
“You look ghastly,” she says.
And it’s true. There is a plastic form up my nose, covered by a surprisingly bloody bandage. There is another bandage, unbloodied, over my right eye. There are splotches of dried blood on my cheeks, my chin. I am breathing out of my mouth.
She hands me a lemon drop. I suck on it without the benefit of taste and salivate anyway.
“Do you remember that Dylan is at his dad’s ‘til Sunday?”
“And that me and Kyle are going to a cabin?”
I nod again.
“I’ll be home in a week,” she says. “You going to be okay?”
I hold up a thumb and its corresponding index finger: A-OK.
“You got drugs?” she says.
“I dot a prescription,” I say. I hold up a bottle of Tylenol 3.
“Seriously?” she says. “They break your nose and you get Tylenol 3? We got cousins that get OxyContin just for being good liars.”
I lift both palms: What are ya gonna do?
“Hmmm,” she says.
A friend visits the next day. We sit on the porch, where she studiously avoids looking at my bloody bandages. In a codeine-assisted haze, I listen to her read my horoscope.
“Today,” she reads, “is a good day for entertaining.”
I spend the rest of the day sleeping.
On the evening of the third day, I realize that I’ve eaten nothing but a bag of lemon drops since the day before the surgery.
It is 3:30 in the morning. The street is quiet. The house is quiet.
My belly is decidedly not.
I wrap myself in a robe, hobble feebly to the kitchen.
The fridge is, essentially, empty. There is a small container of curdled and/or curdling milk. There is a jar of pickles that, strangely, has what may be a crouton floating in it. There is a bottle of ketchup, a jar of capers, two open containers of Miracle Whip, both half-gone.
But wait – what’s that? Behind the pickles is a ziplock-baggied container of shredded cheddar cheese.
Cheese! I tear at the bag. The fridge door open, its light washes over me, streams past my shaking hands, pools onto the linoleum floor. I stare without seeing as I shovel cheese into my mouth.
It is on the fourth fist full of dinner that I notice that my tongue feels funny. I can’t taste anything, of course, but the feel… There is something wrong with the feel of this cheese. This doesn’t really feel like cheddar.
Knowing what I will find, I look anyway.
The cheese in the bag is, conservatively, 80% mold.
And just like that, I’m not hungry anymore.