double, double, boil & trouble

So I’m waiting in line. The room is crowded and populated by the kind of people who make you feel the need for an immediate shower with almost unbearably hot water. The two women in front of me are certainly no exception. They are dressed in a way that suggests they haven’t really done much of anything that day…or any day in the past twenty years. One look at their hair makes me glad I have no sense of smell.

One of them is holding a napkin to the left side of her face, just above her lip, right where her mustache probably ends. The moment I see it I know I don’t even want to know.

The other woman approaches the woman at the window. It’s not immediately apparent that they know each other, so when she pulls a small tin of Vick’s lip-balm out of her pocket and starts raving about it, I’m left sympathizing with the woman at the window who, I assume, probably doesn’t really care about perceived top-of-the-line lip-balms or at least cares about them way less than the room-full of surly, smarmy people she’ll have to deal with. My sympathy sort-of bleeds out though when the woman extolling the lip-balm begins going on about the fever blisters on her lips. It is replaced by revulsion.

She even does that thing I think most of us reserve for closed-door bathroom mirrors, in which she leans in real close and pulls her lower lip down. It’s the fact that the woman at the window doesn’t puke or even retch that clues me in that they know each other. And, worse, that this is likely just par for the course with this woman.

My stomach clenches. But I keep my cool. There are fewer things better for reminding you of the need for cool-keeping than a small throng of unsavory characters.

The woman with the napkin to her face joins in the fever-blister conversation. The word blister is repeated more times than at an albino nudist colony. The the napkin-woman changes course by saying, very loudly, “Oh you don’t even want to see what’s under this!” Which, yes, she’s right: I mostly certainly do not. Would rather suffer a prostate exam while eating a Vegemite sandwich.

But of course I know that her saying that means the very next thing that will happen is the reveal. And I’m right. She removes the napkin to reveal something like a pustule on a lab experiment gone horribly awry.

Not actually her. I think.

It’s gooey in that way that only necrotic flesh can be. There’s a trail of…something…from her face to the napkin and I want to hurl. She says, “It’s a boil!” The woman at the window is in no way repulsed by this. In fact, of the four people privy to this conversation I seem to be the only one suffering a major case of the howlers. For a moment I consider that this most likely points to something being wrong with me rather than BoilLady and her FeverFriend. But the revulsion is too strong for me to dwell on this question right then, though I am impressed that the woman at the window is unfazed. If I ever come down with some really disgusting pathology and have to show one person, I’m choosing this lady, who will apparently not think less of me in any way no matter what it is.

BoilLady says, “I’m telling everyone it’s a bee sting!” She says this as though it’s terribly clever even though it’s the beginning of January in northern Ohio and the only bees anywhere are on boxes of Honey-Nut Cheerios. The staggering stupidity of this statement – and by extension everyone she knows who swallows that line – is enough to distract me from the sheer grossness of the situation just enough to give me the strength to ask if I can just cut-in real quick with a question. They say sure, but I can’t tell you if they were smiling when they said it; I wasn’t looking.


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