Estimated reading time — 9 minutes
I’ve got these strange red splotches on my legs.
At first I thought they might be heat rash. The scientific name for that is miliaria, which sounds like a cross between malaria and a rather beautiful name for a baby girl. It’s actually a disease, albeit a relatively innocuous one. It’s caused by sweat leaking into the upper layers of the epidermis, causing an inflammatory response that feels like someone rubbing sandpaper lightly over your skin, and peppering it with pinpricks. The splotches were definitely irritating like that. And I had been gardening and sunning myself like a lizard yesterday, so it would make sense that my skin might be dry and in need of a little extra tlc.
So I went into my extensive medicine cabinet, pulled out a cucumber aloe salve and a pair of light cotton gloves- not latex or rubber, because those would only clog the pores in my hands- and applied the cold cream.
Unfortunately, it only made it worse. The rash changed, from splotches into long, stringy scratch-like marks that spread up from my calves to my knees.
Then I thought- maybe it’s some sort of allergic reaction to plant matter. Ragweed has made an earlier appearance than usual in my area lately, usually it’s not an issue until mid-September, but this year it’s in full bloom in late August. My sinuses have been swollen and leaky for a week. A single ragweed plant can produce a billion tiny fractionated pieces of pollen, invisible to the eye but noxious to the skin and immune system in general.
On closer inspection of my legs, it could definitely be ragweed. Since it was attacking me internally, it makes sense that there would be an external manifestation too. Like it was eating me up, attacking me from the inside out. So I popped a couple of butterbur capsules , waited a few hours, popped a couple more. Then I made a cup of stinging nettle tea, just to be extra careful.
At this point, obviously, the antihistamines made me sleepy, so I passed out for a few hours. I made sure before I fell asleep that I changed the sheets and pillow cases on my bed, just in case it was a contact allergy with my new laundry detergent, it was 99% organic but with suspicious 1% of “natural” lavender oil. I washed the new ones with baking soda, stripped out of my clothes, slept naked on pure, crisp bedding.
But when I woke up- maybe I was scratching in my sleep and it spread, or something, because it had crawled up from my knees to my thighs, and there were little red half moons underneath my nails. It wasn’t the same angry red color anymore, but a faint pink with dark little flecks, like processed strawberry ice cream.
At this point, I’m starting to get a little agitated. I don’t have all-inclusive health insurance, the last thing I want to do is spend half a paycheck on a quack dermatologist, especially if I just can do the research and take care of it on my own. I think one of the biggest issues in society nowadays is that people are lazy about taking care of themselves, we have all of the information in the world available at our fingertips and so few people utilize it to their benefit. I work in holistic medicine- it’s my passion. And I’m very, very careful about what I put in my body. We all should be.
I feel a little silly and uncomfortable, walking through my house naked with pink, swollen legs, but I’m determined to figure this out.
I shut the blinds, so my neighbors can’t pull any peeping Tom moves, and also just on the off chance it’s a photosensitivity thing. I was on a tetracycline antibiotic for a chest infection, against my better judgment, at Daniel’s behest, about a month ago, due to the ragweed sinusitis. I thought it was all out of my system, but it could definitely be causing the rash. Better safe than sorry.
And then it could also be a food allergy. Unlikely, because I’m a raw vegan and grow most of my own food, but I figured I might as well try everything. I’ll have a cleansing night, stick to glass-bottled water, a glass of wine to help soothe my jittery nerves.
Everyone should only drink bottled water out of glass, even though it’s a little bit more expensive. Over a three month period, plastic can start leaching chemicals called phthalates into liquid, which can in turn disrupt vital processes in the body like hormone production, cause neurodegenration, etc. About a week ago I had an impulsive sip of my boyfriend Daniel’s Poland Spring while we were hiking because I was dehydrated and had already drank all of mine, I regretted it immediately. I could feel the chemicals pulsating through my body, increasing my testosterone levels, stressing the cells in my body, feeding into the carcinogenic atrophy. When I brushed my hair that night twice as much came off in the brush, even though I conditioned twice with avocado oil and rubbed capsules of fish oil into the roots.
I squeezed at my thigh while I was in the kitchen, feeling the swollen pulsation, deciding which bottle of organic wine to open. Wine’s one of my little luxuries when I’m feeling stressed, as long as it’s red, organic, and exactly 8 ounces. It’s self-indulgent, I know, but there’s been so many studies done about the beneficial qualities of the antioxidants, the arterial protective qualities due to the increased level of healthy high-density lipoproteins.
My legs looked like they had been lightly submerged in dye, like the red wine I was perusing. There was an almost perfect line on both legs, like I was wearing pink stockings. I propped my leg up on the counter, rubbing from ankle to waist, to stimulate blood flow. The rash might have been from decreased circulation- I had been lazy that day. Usually I run every morning, 5 miles on the treadmill or in the park, but today I had had a little bit of a headache when I woke up and saw the splotches.
I wanted my favorite Spanish Merlot, but Daniel had polished off the last bottle the night before. Merlot is a deep purple, borderline blue, a soothing, deep color that reminds me of deep space, with sediment clouds like nebulae. He had smirked at me while he poured the last drops into a mason jar, gesturing with his cigarette like a laser pointer, teasing me that he needed all the arterial protection he could get as a heavy smoker.
I settled on a cab from Jacob’s Creek. It was a lazy deep red, the furthest shade from the color I was trying to ignore for the night, with heavy notes of menthol and eucalyptus. Soothing, like a facial mask or a mint candy. I pull a glass from the cabinet; idly notice there’s a cat hair on the glass. Daniel’s cat, a stark white, albino thing ever-so creatively named Snowflake. He has a taste for ironic, unwanted things, like an old cat with luxurious fur, a bad attitude and uncanny eyes. He teases me that that’s why he loves me, a pretty girl with one too many neuroses for the average guy to put up with. He’s a psych major, loves to throw around words like “neuroses”, “psychosomatic” and “aversion therapy” like he already has his doctorate and I’m one of his patients.
Snowflake lives up to her name, she sheds flakes everywhere, the dander drives me crazy. She peeks out from around corners with otherworldly pale pink eyes, licks her anus, and puts us at increased risk for toxoplasmosis gondii. That’s a parasite found in the intestinal tracts of cats. On rare occasions, it can cause skin lesions. Another possible reason for the advent of my rash.
I pull the vacuum out of the closet, and a few citrus-acid based disinfectants, decide to give the house a once over. My legs pulsate but I forget them for awhile, lost in the cleansing. The gently angry purr of the vacuum, the sharp, biting smell of concentrated citrus. I sip the wine, careful not to spill it and ruin the carpets.
The cat wanders in, looking suspicious, arching her back and spitting at the new smells and the noise of the vacuum. I imagine, in her tiny walnut-sized brain, it seems like an unnatural super-predator undoing her hard work of marking the house with her dead skin and pheromones. Her pale pink skin shows through her fur, and when she steps into the light I see dark red stain-like drops. She has the rash too.
I drop the vacuum, set down my glass, chase her around for a bit before I can catch her, careful to hold her away from my sensitive skin. Her splotches look exactly like mine before they started morphing and spreading. She struggles in my arms, trying to escape. I notice, apart from her usual meaty cat smell and the lemon in the air from my cleaning, there’s a mustiness too her, like mothballs or a cellar that hadn’t been opened in awhile. She’s been under the house again. She twists, scratches my wrist hard enough to leave a mark, and sprints for the back door with the cat flap my boyfriend built in. On her way she knocks my half-empty glass, sending wine arching in the air and onto the carpet. I’m immediately furious. Stupid, dirty fucking thing. I never asked for her, paws always stuck with litter, bringing filth and disease into my house. I run upstairs to the bathroom, scrub my hands with antibacterial soap, even though it’s way too late for that. I pour witch hazel on the scratch, then Neosporin, then sterile gauze and medical tape. I gingerly put on my robe, wincing as it hits my thighs.
I bet she’s covered in mold. She wiggled her way between the floor boards and scraped her back full of mycotoxins. All those seemingly innocent rubs against my legs, kneading in my lap- I might as well have taken a bath in spores and rubbed myself down with a smallpox blanket. I feel the bile bubble up in my throat, my mouth fills with spit, I gag into the toilet. Shaking a little, I pick myself up, wash my hands with soap again, floss, and rinse my mouth out with an aloe-based mouthwash. I look in the mirror- my eyes are bloodshot, brown circles set in spider webs of red. My cheeks are flushed, probably with fever. Hopefully the rash hasn’t spread.
I make my way down to the first floor; walk out the backdoor into the yard. I forgot to put on slippers, but I don’t care at this point. I feel my feet sink against the cool, brown earth. I walk around the house, pull my robe tighter as I crouch to open the lattice gate to the garden shed. It’s built into the back of the house, next to the porch. It’s where I make all of salves, tonics, cleaning products and such. On the way I step on one of the nubs of Daniel’s rolled cigarettes. I pick it up and pocket it.
From the shed, I knew I’d be able to figure out how the little bitch has been sneaking her way into the hellish underside of my house. I walk to the middle of the tiny room, switching on the hanging lantern in the ceiling, sending it shaking a little as it cast shadows over my little natural laboratory.
I stepped carefully around my shade plants, potting soil, around Daniel’s prone body on the floor. He grabbed at my ankle weakly, tonguing the gag in his mouth and gurgling a little. I shooed him away with my foot, feeling along the back wall for the loose board. I found it easily. I crouched down and called for the cat, making cooing noises. She came cautiously, quickly slipping by me.
I pulled a hammer from my collection of tools, quickly and efficiently setting the board back in place with a nail. Then I grabbed the cat by the scruff, making sure to be in Daniel’s line of vision. She made a deep, guttural noise in the back of her throat as I shook her. I took her paw, set it on the table, and brought the claw end of the hammer down hard. She screamed, I threw her in the corner. Daniel stared at me, shaking. Snowflake stared at me, shaking, nursing her paw.
There was a small amount of blood from the cat on the corner of my robe. I put the hammer in a mason jar with some grain alcohol and tea tree oil, reached for some scissors to cut away the blood-stained cuff. I reach into my pocket and pull out the nub of the cigarette. I have some matches for lighting my Bunsen burners, I light it up. I let it smolder until there’s a cherry, then crouch over Daniel to put it out on his thigh. He squirms and groans against the gag. There’s red all up and down his legs, just like mine, but his are covered in burns from all the butts I’ve collected.
“You brought filth and disease into my house.” I look him in the eyes as I say this, so he knows the severity of the situation. He closes his eyes, he can’t even face me. I know he’s ashamed.
I run my hand over his chest, over his pelvis. He pulls and jerks away as I reach for the disinfectant, sponge it over key parts of his torso. The cat mews pitifully, dragging herself to the door, waiting to escape. I set Daniel up with his saline drip, give him his ginseng, epimedium and damiana injections, a little concentrated valerian to help him sleep. I’ll have to start him on a feeding tube soon; he’s getting pale, thin. I find the mark, rub it familiarly. I stand up, reach into my supply drawer, and pull out one of the hypodermic needles I pocketed from the clinic I intern at. I push it through the scar, all of Daniel’s muscles tighten, he pulls at the bonds. I fill a few.
There’s been all kinds of research done on the benefits of young, healthy blood and semen, lately. They’ve been using young plasma, specifically GDF11 growth differentiation factor 11, in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia, for example. And semen is a treasure trove of beneficial proteins, hormones and vitamins, scientifically proven to decrease chances of breast cancer.
I clean Daniel up; wipe the tears from his face softly and carefully so he can sleep. I walk outside; the cat limps as quickly as she can next to me, hides behind the garbage cans. I stick a gardening stool in front of the flap- she’ll stay outside for the night, as punishment. I’ll clean her tomorrow.
I walk up the stairs, my feet leaving dirty marks on the carpet. I don’t care anymore tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll fix everything. I walk to the bathroom, strip off my robe, start filling the tub. I pour some essential flower oils in, message some macadamia nut and olive oil in my hair. I empty out the hypodermic vials into a bowl, massage the contents onto my whole body, from hairline to toes. I sit in the bath for awhile, instantly at peace. When I start feeling like I’m going to fall asleep, I rinse myself off, look in the mirror.
Not a sore spot to be seen. Rash totally eradicated.
I smile proudly.
Let’s see Daniel tease me now.