Saturday, April 4, 2009

I Can't Feel My Hand Any More, It's Alright, Sleep Tight

Is it true that women have a higher threshold for pain than men do? We do have to give birth, after all…Write (very graphically) about a sensation of pain that you have had or that your character is having...

Wanna know how stupid I can get?

Surgery hurts. Tumor. Gall Bladder. Wisdom Teeth. Very painful. don't let anyone tell you different. That's why they give you these little pills afterwords. They get you really high. It feels good. But really, that's only if you have insurance, or are brave and foolhardy enough to mortgage your future by having the nerve to demand medical care even when you don't have insurance. the nerve of some people. Without insurance, there's no limit to the amount of pain you're willing to live with.

It was back in my starving student days. All I wanted was a pizza. Not a real pizza mind you, but a sad , pathetic, put me in my place and remind me how poor I am, welfare Pizza. A slice of white bread, some spaghetti sauce, a few peperoni slices and cheese. Throw that beast in a toaster oven, and I was good to go.

It was an inexact science. It's not like I was reading directions out of Julia Child or anything. You just stand there and look through the glass window and hope you can tell when the damn thing is about to dry out and start burning. But, like the proverbial watched pot, that shit takes forever to feel like it's going anywhere. So I stood there bored and restless. Everyone else was watching television, but I was stuck watching the heat rod and the bottom of the toaster oven turn red.

Finally, after a few minutes, it looked about ready. I looked around, and found a battered old oven mitt that looked like it had put in a fair amount of time on the job. I guess I figured that anything that looked that old was probably still around because it worked. If it was crap at doing what it was supposed to do, then it would have been thrown away by now, right? On such unimpeachable logic, are empires built.

I put that bad boy on my right hand and opened up the little glass door. You wouldn't think that such a little box could generate such intense heat (that's what she said.) Right off, I realized that I had misjudges how how hot the oven needed to be. Even if the pizza hadn't started to burn yet, it was still gonna be crunchy. At this point, a stupid panic took over. I suppose I thought that every second was counting, as if I could pull that pizza back from the point of inedibility, if only I got there in time. What I failed to factor in was that it was only a welfare pizza, but then again, if i was eating welfare pizzas, then I probably couldn't afford to let one go to waste.

In my blind panic, I thrust my gloved right hand into the oven and grabbed the tin plate that the pizza lay on. Apparently, my battered oven mitt theory had been way off base. The heat from the plate seared through the glove. It was so damn hot, I wasn't thinking straight. It felt like a cluster on jagged needles were slowly pushing their way through the glove and into my hand. I looked around for a place to put the pan, but the kitchen was such a mess, there was no counter space. I briefly considered putting it back into the oven, but apparently my frugality would not allow the possibility that the pizza might burn and I would have to make another one. All of this, the pain, the panic, the pandemonium, happened over the course of seconds. My mind was racing with the flood of adrenalin from the burning sensation that was coming from my right hand. I just needed to put the tray down so I could get a second to breathe and consider my options. I did the thing that seemed most logical at that instant. I switched the tray over to my left hand. Again, I wasn't thinking straight.

John Hughes (yes, that John Hughes) used to be a pretty competent comedic director. I mean, aside from writing the high school pictures. He knew slapstick very well, and when he held his impulses in check, he could be very funny. When he didn't, it could be "Home Alone". Regardless, the guy knew his way around some pretty clever visual devices. Most of it was in the editing. Case in point, the inserted color card. It's a simple trick. You see it in "Uncle Buck" a couple of times. It goes like this. When Buck gets hit, the sequence is composed of four basic shots. The set up shot establishes Buck's position. The second shot is usually a first person point of view, wherein you see the object of force coming toward the camera, whether it be a fist or a bowling ball. The third shot is actually an inserted color card held for no more than two or three frames, indicating moment of impact. The third is the reaction shot, where more often than not, Buck, or the Wet Bandits or someone rolls their eyes and collapses unconscious. The idea is that the card conveys the amount of pain that the character will experience from the impact they have experienced. The more intense the shade of red, the more pain. Comedy Gold.

White. For one brief second, my entire field of perception went white. There was a very sharp ringing in my ears and everything turned to light gray shadow as the ringing increased intensity. Suddenly, I was brought back to the here and now by the sound of the tin plate hitting the ground. I remember thinking that I was now going to have to start all over, because my pizza was face down on the floor, which was what I'd been trying to avoid in the first place. That was about the last clear thought I had that night. From that point on it all just turned into "ow ow ow ow ow!!!!" and 'holy shit, holy shit, holy shit that hurts, Oh god, dear sweet baby jesus, make it stop!!!!"

Looking at the left hand, the first thing you would have noticed were the large and obvious blisters. Just like that. In an instant. They weren't there. And now they were. One fluid filled line stretching diagonally across my middle and index fingers, and one bulbous lump on the padding of my thumb. I think if the contact had been brief, it wouldn't have been so bad. but apparently, I held onto the plate for a few seconds. I don't remember that, what with the gray ghosts and high pitched tones and all. But apparently, I held onto it a full second. A full second is more than enough time for a searing piece of metal to start to cook your flesh.

You remember back when people used to say that you should put butter on a burn? That was circa right about when this story took place. The sad part was that I don't think I even had butter. Maybe I was saving up for it. I don't know. I think I used ice cubes in a fruitless attempt to get the swelling down. It didn't work. I don't remember very much else about it since it's been almost twenty years. I do remember that I didn't see a doctor because I had no insurance. I had to make do with Tylenol. Tylenol doesn't do shit. People wonder why I stockpile painkillers whenever I get a prescription. The easy, funny answer is so that I can take them later, when I can actually enjoy them. Closer to the truth might be that I never want to get caught short again if I ever need pain medication on the spot. Some of you might laugh, but some of you might have actually already taken advantage of my foresight whenever you tore a muscle or threw out you back.

I couldn't play guitar for a month or so. Oddly enough, the scar was gone after a year or so.

Múm - I Can't Feel My Hand Any More, It's Alright, Sleep Tight

6 comments:

JPM said...

(sucking air through teeth) yikes. yeah. having painkillers on the spot handy is a good thing. willingness to share with the needy is even better. :)

Beulah Viola said...

"I guess I figured that anything that looked that old was probably still around because it worked. If it was crap at doing what it was supposed to do, then it would have been thrown away by now, right?"

when have you ever had that logic? you don't throw anything away.

and the kitchen being to cluttered to set anything down? well, that hasn't changed in 20 years.

jk. i liked the story. and i was about to ask to see the scars.

sornptar said...

The description of the heat pushing through the oven mitt was perfect for me. I love the descriptives. Long live Uncle Buck!

sk said...

I would like to say that I didn't know someone else's pain could be so funny, but that would be a lie. Great story.

s i n c l a i r said...

Is it bad that i really like reading about bad things that have happened to you? You just make them so relateable and realistic, I always feel like I am there watching you like in a horror movie where you know the guy with the knife is around the corner but you can't do anything to keep the girl with big tits from getting stabbed anyway. Yeah like that. Welfare pizza = classic.

Tera said...

I'm in that club.