The first time I saw it, it was nothing.
On Monday Feb 6th 2005, like every other morning, I shaved and washed my face with my favorite hypoallergenic soap. While I was drying my hands, I took one last glimpse at my reflection in the mirror, and I noticed that little bump on my forehead.
Smaller than a coin, it barely existed. Nothing was noticeable about it. If I wanted to, I could ignore it completely. Why should I have worried? The color of my skin hadn’t changed, and even if there was no hole on the top of the bump, still everything indicated that it was just an ordinary mosquito bite.
So I headed to my work like any other day.
But the next morning, I didn’t have to pay attention to see it. It had gotten bigger, like a little ball, right in the middle of my forehead. Anyone looking at me was going to feel uncomfortable. I changed the style of my hair to cover it before leaving. That was a busy week at work, so the next mornings I skipped washing my face or staring at the mirror.
After all, I knew many people with strange looking moles or birth marks. And then, there are all these people burned in accidents, with bizarre looking marks on their faces. With purple skin, lost fingers, broken bones, missing kidneys, fake hearts.
My bump was nothing.
Saturday morning, I woke up at noon. I walked into the bathroom and as soon as I turned on the light the horror hit me. The red tip of my bump, as big as an egg, shone through my long bangs. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I pulled my hair aside to study it closely. It felt soft, almost as if something alive was hiding inside. Touching my skin, I felt my nerves beating like a heart. What if my forehead had become the house to a bizarre insect? What if it was going to eat my brain?
I forgot all my lovely plans for that weekend, and rushed to the emergency room.
No matter how big my bump was, the nurse didn’t take me seriously and the doctor laughed at my face. Still, he wrote a prescription for an anti-bacterial ointment with extra cortisone. The pharmacist averted her eyes and asked me to wait to pick up my prescription. I walked impatiently in the aisles without buying any chocolate or even looking at the latest models of cellular phones. My name was called before everyone else in line, and they all looked at me with pity. At home, I rubbed the ointment every hour (as I was told) with force and in circular motion.
It was all I did that day, and that evening.
In the short time left between the ointment applications, I watched the bump like studying my enemy and as long as I stared at it with fervor, it didn’t grow bigger.
I stayed up until 4 in the morning, but I couldn’t hold longer and fell asleep.
The next day it was as big as an apple. A big granny apple, or maybe a peach, as I could feel an irregular movement under my fingers.
“I’m not going to sleep tonight,” I said to it.
I called my boss and asked him to take the two following weeks off.
As long as I stayed awake, my bump remained the same size. But, on the fourth day, I fell asleep.
After sleeping for 26 hours, I woke up. I felt heavy. I couldn’t lift my head. I couldn’t get up. When I finally got up, I couldn’t take a step. My head pulled me down. I crawled to the bathroom and dragged myself up to look at my new face. The bump was as big as my head, and it made me look like a bald man with a large forehead.
My bump was going to kill me.
I called the police to tell them that I was desperate. They kept me on hold. After 15 minutes, a nice voice told me that this was not an emergency, because their job wasn’t helping desperate people, unless they were trying to kill themselves. So I told her that I was planning to die, so maybe she could take me seriously.
Touching the bump, I knew that I was touching my destiny, something that was challenging my whole purpose in life. As I was rubbing it, I could hear its pulse. I could see its growth. My bump seemed restless.
I called the ointment doctor, and he told me I should go to a lab to get a biopsy. I followed his instructions. Even if I wore a hat, still everyone stared at me. But I wasn’t offended. After all, I was this strange looking creature with a moving bump. A man who kept losing his balance and fell to the ground with no shame. Still, I was a man who stood up each time, and didn’t mind dusting the dirt off his clothes and his face.
I wasn’t angry. If I was one of my spectators, I’d have stared at myself with the same full attention.
The lab technician made me lie down on a white bed, and injected a blue liquid into the bump. It made me lose my senses as if my bump had gone for good.
I closed my eyes, dreaming, and woke up like awakening in the midst of a nightmare.
My lab technician, reminding me of Jesus, ordered me to stand up. I told him I couldn’t. That I needed him to help me. He took me to the bathroom, to prove that he wasn’t who I thought he was. My bump, like a throne over my head, had reddened. Immense, and imposing. Some new holes were barely visible on its surface. I was told to go back home, waiting for the result of the biopsy.
I returned home, wondering.
Three days later they called me and told me they were forced to inform the Health Department. That I was a new case in the medical history. They said they didn’t want to alarm me, as they weren’t sure of their own finding.
“We can’t promise you something that isn’t proven yet,” they said. “It was up to the government to do more testing.” Still, they reassured me that this was not life threatening.
How could I not believe in them? Their voice sounded like the voice of god.
Strangers I had never met started calling me and asked to take a picture of my bump. They kept asking me questions to which I didn’t know the answers. They visited my apartment, searching for something mysterious. But I only wanted to go back to my normal life where I wasn’t desperate and nobody knew my name.
After only two weeks, my life became impossible.
I called the officials at the health department. I told them that I was going to kill myself (I didn’t lie this time) and that my life wasn’t a life I could bear anymore. They told me to call 911. “We just care about your bump,” they said.
The 911 operator had a husky voice, like an old smoker, someone who had never taken her life seriously.
“You should wait,” she said and coughed. “Somebody’s coming.”
I waited for the sound of sirens.
Three minutes later. Two police cars and four officers rushed in to take me to jail. They said I couldn’t kill myself; it was against the law. I told them I only wanted to be like everybody else. I told them about my bump and how much I hated it and they wrote down my every word.
“Your doctors have forbidden the surgery,” they said, reviewing my file. “You’re a unique case, Sir.”
I begged one of the police officers who couldn’t hide his sympathy. He told me that he understood my misery. He also told me secretly that he knew a doctor who might help me.
I wanted to kiss his hand, but as soon as I bent I lost my balance and dropped to the ground like a dead leaf. The four of the policemen had to lift me. They carried me to their car and I was happy to be taken care of, even in a jail.
But the happy times never last.
They freed me after only one week. My only consolation was my policeman’s number written on my palm, and his promises.
The next day, he called before taking me to a little dark clinic where we met his doctor friend, Dr. Kuoutuioeyuie. My bump had become almost as big as my belly; in order to walk I had to keep my balance by opening and stretching my arms like a circus acrobat. Dr. K. touched my bump. This time, I didn’t mind.
He looked shy. “Even if I cut the bump, it could always grow back,” he said. “These things once they come, they’d always be there.”
“You’re my last hope,” I said.
He smiled. “It’s hard to get rid of them for good. Sometimes, it’s even impossible,” he said. “But I’ll do my best.” Then he injected anesthesia that made me sleep.
I woke up a few hours later. My head felt light. Was the bump gone for good? The room seemed too dark. Where was the light? I wondered what had they found inside my bump. Was it filled with small insects? I imagined my bugs flying everywhere, as soon as they cut me open. Did my abnormality scare Dr. K.? Or was three a kind of strange creature never seen by men? What if they had found another heart beating faster than mine, or maybe I had turned into a woman carrying a fetus in my head?
What if it was another brain inside my brain, contradicting my original thoughts?
What was there inside my bump? What my bump was hiding from me?
I wondered, staring at the dark ceiling.
But my anxiety ended when the door opened and a beautiful nurse turned on the light and smiled at me. I smiled back at her. Life seemed normal, and I decided not to ask anything.
A few days later, they let me go back to my apartment. I wasn’t interesting anymore. Nobody was waiting for me in my living room.
But it was fine.
I had made the choice of dying one day like any other human being, and it made me laugh.
A few hours ago, my policeman came for a visit. “Your case is classified now,” he said. “Do you want to know more?”
“I don’t care,” I said. “No.”
But he didn’t listen to me. “The researchers had analyzed the fluid inside your bump,” he said. “They told me that your extreme fatigue and the lack of sleep combined with iron deficiency in your blood is to blame for your bump. You’ve suffered from some kind of skin allergy.” I also learned that I had broken the record of the Guinness with the biggest bump ever seen on any human beings in history. They also found some trace of rare exotic bacteria which normally lived on a faraway tropical island. Somewhere I had never set foot.
“When they cut your bump open, the blood inside it splashed high and reached the ceiling of the white surgery room,” he said, scratching his chin. “You won’t believe, but they’re still trying to clean away its trace.” He tried to hold his laugh. “Your blood has an extra acidic component that makes it impossible to wash it away,” he said, glancing at my desperate eyes. “But you’re famous now. There’s a new chapter in every medical book just about you.”
I was devastated.
“From now on, you’re eternal, no matter your choice,” he said, and grabbed his glass of Martini. “But don’t worry. Who’s going to reads these books anyway?”