It started two weeks ago, tiny and white and blameless in
the mirror, an embryo lump on his left earlobe. But of course he
couldn’t let it alone, in his vanity, of course he pinched
and rubbed and worried at it until it woke and protested, quietly.
The next week it was softer, larger and
pregnant with obscure meanings, affecting dabs of camouflage red.
Every time he turned in sleep he felt it shift and slide and swell
a little more, like a sac of spider eggs. A boil is a small, negligible
thing, not a sign, not an admonition, not yet, he thought, it must
just run its course. But on breaks at work he still touched and
teased it, hoping it might disperse and flee down his jawline in
a gentle welt, but no luck, it grew and grew with attitude, with
purpose. He complained only to himself, for it was no more than
he deserved—he smokes, drinks two pots of coffee before ten,
he indulges most of his impure thoughts.
But this week he doesn’t sleep at
all well, it wants to breathe free and forces him to stay on his
right side, and when he wakes from fitful half-dreams of long-ago
college parties in rooms like furlined wombs, his right arm dangles
numb and bloodless over the bedside, as if he’s had a stroke.
Just this morning his mother called, and as he gingerly cradled
the handset between boil and shoulder, it absorbed her words—something
about a dentist, a play she walked out on, her own pains in her
own elephant feet—and made a caress of them, threatening to
pop and dribble down his neck and leave him all alone, Early
to bed, early to bed, touch me, kiss me, you fool.