And the saga continues, of the time when I thought I was growing a tail, but it really just turned out to be a kiwi-sized lower back cyst on the urge of violent eruption. No big deal. If you haven’t read “The Tale of My Tail, Part I,” then I highly suggest you do, in order to get up to speed with this story. But in case you didn’t and are too lazy to do so now, here’s the SparkNotes version:
When we last left our heroine, (me), I was laying face down on an examining table in the pediatric ward of a shitty Bronx hospital with a slew of hair weave-clad nurses prodding my naked butt with their rubber gloved fingers.
Raise your hand if you have been more dehumanized in the past week.
I had just been diagnosed with a pilonidal cyst in my lower back, a cyst I was born with, and when infected, grows to a size so large the body cannot capacitate it and it explodes out the top of my ass crack. Like seriously, how messed up is my life? I was handed a hot compress and told to keep it on the cyst at all times until it burst. In the meantime, I was also handed a full bottle of codeine. For the first time in days, things were starting to look up.
My dear friend Gwen, who accompanied me to the hospital, took hold of my arm and dragged me toward the exit of the hospital, partly because I could no longer walk, and partly because a heroine junkie we had met in the ER earlier was trying to offer us a ride home. Tempting as it was, we opted to take Fordham’s Rambulance back to campus instead. As I sat in the Rambulance, the pain I experienced took on a new personality. Before, it had been consistent, and no doubt excruciating, but it had this sort of dull quality to it. Now, perched on one butt cheek in the van driven by some dumbass 18-year-old in my Spanish class, the pain heightened and developed sharpness. It was if I was being repeatedly stabbed in the nape of my butt crack with an ice pick.
I asked the Rambulance driver to drop me off at my dorm, since walking was no longer a an option. Of course, a slew of college freshman were loitering around to gawk at me while rolling out of the Rambulance and hobbling into my building. I heard one whisper to another, “You think she has a UTI? She’s walking like she had a lot of rough sex last night.”
When I got back to my dorm room, I changed into sweats and immediately assumed the fetal position in bed. My roommate had gone home for the weekend, so Gwen sat with me so I wouldn’t have to get up when people knocked on my door. Ya know, I’m just that popular. My friend Tom, the stereotypical college smartass, came by to see what was up, and was clearly surprised to see me pale and decrepit under my blanket. I explained to him what had happened.
“Wait, wait…” Tom said, “You trying to tell me that you have a cyst…ON YOUR BUTT??!?”
“It’s on my natal cleft, you douche muffin,” I retorted. This drove Tom into a fit of grand male laughter, and entertained him for hours. Every few minutes he would swagger by my room shouting something like, “Hey everyone, Romeo has a cyst…ON HER BUTT!” and, “Sarah, I’m really sorry that you’re in so much pain…ON YOUR BUTT!” I have not yet forgiven him, and he will pay.
I had Gwen warm up my heating pad in the microwave, and then I promptly shoved it down my pants (if I had a nickel for every time I said that…). I thought that the warmth of the heating pad would offer me some sort of minor comfort, but alas, it failed to produce even the slightest of soothing. So it was time to bring out the big guns: codeine. I’ve never been big into opiates, so I figured just one would do the trick. But as the hours passed and my pain refused to cease, I introduced another dose, and then another, and by 3 in the morning I was taking two at a time. By that point, I had finally reached a state of euphoria that briefly distracted me from my pain.
But while I wasn’t focused on the discomfort, my mind, muddied by drugs, was now fixated on the notion of the cystial time bomb ticking inside of me. I didn’t know how or when it was going to happen, but I imagined it being loud. Like a bang or a gunshot. I imagined an explosive stream of hot, steamy fluid shooting straight out of my lower back like that of a geyser or a whale’s blow hole. I thought of all my internal organs being ejected with the contents of the cyst; my lungs, my cold and blackened heart, my harshly abused liver, and my womanly peanut of a brain all being splattered against the walls and ceiling of my dorm room. I knew the explosion was coming, and I was frightened.
By 5 am the euphoria of my codeine dosage had worn off, but it was too soon for me to take another one, and the pain was stronger than ever. I didn’t know what else to do, so I decided to take a shower. I shuffled down the hallway into our community bathroom. I stepped into the shower, turned the water on hot, and let the jet of water blast full force onto my throbbing cyst. Briefly, the stream created a twinge of pain, but then: RELIEF. It was the first time in a week that I had felt any sense of release from my continuous atomic wedgie of pain. I turned the water hotter and hotter until it was on maximum heat. My flesh was pink and scalding, but I didn’t care. The hotter the water, the more relief I felt.
I was blissfully happy in the shower (if I had a nickel for every time I said that…). But standing there amidst the fog, I realized that my hearing was starting to fade. Within seconds, I was completely deaf. Then, fuzzy, navy blue splotches crowded my vision. I became aware that due to the combination of drugs, lack of sleep, and intense heat, I was about to black out on the shower floor. Now, I have never blacked out for reasons unrelated to alcohol, so in my semi-sober state, I was not familiar with the process. I leaned my body against the stall of the shower and prepared to succumb to the forces that were taking over my body.
But leaning there, plastered to the wall, I imagined the sheer wealth of filth and VD crawling on the shower floor. I wouldn’t allow myself to catch syphilis that way. If I’m going to contract the clap, I thought to myself, I am going to do it with dignity, through a night of drunken, anonymous sex. Somewhere inside, I mustered the strength to push myself away from the shower wall. I shut off the water, grabbed my shower caddy in one hand, and my bathrobe in the other hand.
And then, I ran.
I made a stark-naked mad dash down the hallway. But this was not your average early morning nude sprint. Since I was about 75% blacked out, I barreled down the hall, smacking into doors and walls on each side, breasts and thighs bouncing asunder. I was a stray bullet of wet naked flesh. And when I finally made it back to my room, I collapsed into a heap on top of my bed and passed out.
When I woke up at 7 am, the cyst had still not burst, and I realized that taking care of myself was no longer an option. I called my mom, and luckily, she’s only a two and a half hour drive to school when the traffic is good. So Peg saved the day and picked me up.
I curled up into a ball in the back seat of her Honda CRV and braced myself for the ride home. You see, my mom is one of those nervous drivers who slams on the breaks if she spots a cat in the middle of the road 250 yards away. Thus, all the way up I-95 we would go from about 70 to 0 every ten minutes or so whenever she detected a slowly moving car about a mile ahead or so. Needless to say, it was a rough ride, but I slept most of the way.
When I got home, I stepped out of the car with relative ease. My mom asked me how I was feeling, and surprisingly, I felt okay. Good, actually. I yanked the heating pad out of my pants, and lo and behold, it was drenched in a gooey brown, yellow and red substance. Thanks to my mom’s horrible driving technique, the cyst had released itself during the car ride while I was asleep, and I hadn’t even felt it. THE PAIN WAS OVER.
I stayed home for the rest of the weekend while my cyst drained. It took THREE EFFING DAYS.
In the end, we found out that pilonidal cysts run in my family. My paternal grandfather had a few, and my dad’s sister, Lis, had one exactly when she was my age, and it never came back. I’m hoping our fates serve to be similar. Another interesting fact I learned is that it’s more common than you think; during WWII there was a pandemic of pilonidal cysts among soldiers, which they called “Jeep Disease,” because they spent so much time covering rough terrain bouncing up and down in Jeeps…I think you get the idea.
My advice to you is if you think you might be at risk for a pilonidal cyst, don’t smack your ass on anything. It’s really not a fun experience and I didn’t gain anything from it, besides a lot of butt jokes from my friends that carried on through the summer.
On the other hand, by the time all was said and done, three doctors, two nurses, both my parents, Gwen, my brother, and anyone who happened to catch a glimpse of my early morning burlesque show had seen me naked. My level of inhibition has been drastically reduced as a result of that weekend. Plus, I got to legally try codeine. So I think we can all agree that this story ends with a silver lining.