The Infected Knee, the Gallbladder, and the Summer of Love

Summer, 2004 / No. 12
Art by Ian Phillips
Ian Phillips

It is perfectly fair of me to be upset with you because you won’t sleep with me. And if you think otherwise, then I am afraid we can’t be friends.

This issue has me all tied up in knots. My stomach hurts all the time, even right now, as I type this. Because of you. And your stupid morals, too. I can’t even go to the bathroom until all of a sudden when I really, really, really have to go to the bathroom. One day, when this happens, I may not make it in time. I think you should know this about me.

Yesterday (which was my second time at the ophthalmologist’s in my whole entire life), I was sitting in the waiting room waiting to see the ophthalmologist, when the nurse came out and dripped three drops of solution in each of my eyes. Now if that were the end of this story, it would be fine. But I insist on telling you what happened next. It is your fault, after all.

No sooner had the last drop of solution descended from the eyedropper and, after a brief taste of flight, plopped onto my left eyeball, did I feel the familiar lurch in my stomach. It almost knocked the breath from me, you know. You have no idea what kind of effect you have on people like me. People you won’t sleep with, I mean.

I tried to get up, but the nurse told me I had to sit down. I hated you and the nurse just then, even though I knew that wasn’t fair. So, I sat in the chair, very still, with my eyes closed, and I tried very hard to imagine everything inside me freezing up and going still, one big cold gust starting at my bum, slipping into my anus, and spreading through my large and small intestines into my stomach, cooling the gallbladder and liver as it passed, up to my esophagus and into my mouth, leaving my tongue lying motionless between my jaws. For an instant, I felt relief, sitting there on my small plastic waiting-room chair, unable to move, barely breathing, my body a frozen shell of ice, full of ice pathways and ice tunnels worming their ways through my torso, when a second, unstoppable spasm sent me careening out of the chair, my arms outstretched on each side, crashing into walls and people, upsetting a sun-faded poster of Van Gogh’s bedroom pinned onto the wall, unable to navigate through frosted vision, until I finally managed to find a door to push through and run outside. Now, I will not regale you with the kinds of indignities I endured there. I have too much respect for you to do that. Even if you won’t sleep with me.

This is really killing me, you know. I mope around the house all day, and sulk when I have to answer the phone. I’ve been having shitty sleeps. It was during one of these fits of weakness I’ve been having that your mother called and told me to be grateful it wasn’t biliary tract disease, which is something like pancreatitis. Did you know that your mother has that?

You know, friend, just because I understand the reasons why you can’t sleep with me (and there are, admittedly, more than a few), it doesn’t mean I have to like the situation. Actually, I am very depressed about it. That, and this sore knee of mine that I’m not supposed to do anything with. It’s a real drag for someone like me, who likes to keep moving. You know how terrible I am at sitting still. You should also know, Clarence, that I am still a little pissed at you about it, because at the time of injury, before I fell down that hill, I really believed that of all the possible outcomes of the situation, including the possible bang-up of a knee, there might be a chance that sleeping with you would be one of them. But it wasn’t. Now I know. I am in need of ointment. My shins hurt.

I think it’s perfectly fair of me to be angry with you for not sleeping with me the other day. Especially with all these dietary concerns. I don’t really understand how our friendship could get in the way of our sleeping together, but I know there are other things, too. Such as same-sex marriage and common-law relationships. But I was talking to Sylvia last night, and she said that she thought if I explained myself clearly to my special other friend (like I’m doing right now, with you, for example), then my special other friend might understand. After all, I like to think that I would understand if my special other friend had a kind of friend like you. One to love and sleep with, without all this.

Yes, I like to think so. Don’t you?