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Strove to find a way to punch people in the face by using the Internet.

11/06/2003

DIARY OF INDIGNITIES
August 11, 1992: Sometimes in life it’s necessary to let a motherfucker stick a razorblade in your eye. Really.

Ah, I sense your skepticism. Please allow me to explain.

I have an uncle-in-law who’s a builder. Back in the early ‘90s he would occasionally employ me for odd jobs at his various construction sites. Because I didn’t have a car, he’d pick up me and my hangover, drive me to a worksite while talking about Jesus, drop me off and leave me to do stuff like smash up pesky chunks of cement or sweep up the beer cans, burger wrappers and crack pipes left by his crews.

I like this uncle. He’s kind of like a cross between Ned Flanders and G. Gordon Liddy. The house where him, my aunt and their two kids live is chock full of flavorless religious health food, wall hangings stitched with inspirational homilies and the kind of Christian analogues to secular pop-culture items that make me feel like I’m standing on the edge of a deep, dark hole. Did you know they made a board game out of What Would Jesus Do? Or that you can buy a Noah “action” figure? Or that Bible Trivia was released in a portable version? Those kids are going to grow up to be axe murderers.

My aunt and uncle are also always involved in some pseudo-religious Amway-styled scam or another. My uncle would always have some entertaining, cockamamie endorsement of some damn thing or another to share, like when he was on this preposterous blue-green algae kick.

“You know, I was puttin’ up a fence the other day, and a piece of the post snapped,” he once started telling me. “The tension from the wire swung that post around, and it ended up smacking me in the arm real hard.”

“Really?”

“Yup. And you know what I did?”

“Nope. What?”

“I made me a poultice out of some of that blue-green algae and put it right on the spot where the post hit. It didn’t even bruise. Now, this thing hit me hard enough to almost break the bone, but I didn’t get a mark on me. Blue-green algae. That is some wild stuff.”

“Wow,” I’d say, while thinking, “Shut the fuck up.”

This is the same uncle-in-law that was responsible for one of my favorite Christmas memories. A few years back, we had convened at his place to open presents. He was telling me about the radical construction materials he had used to build the place, including plumbing made entirely of blue-green algae, and invited me upstairs to take a look at some exciting new insulation. Well, I’m hardly one to turn down a chance to check out some insulation, so I followed him up to the attic.

He grabbed a handful of this stuff that looked like the weird powdery cardboard material in padded envelopes that gets everywhere if you open ‘em wrong and spread it out on his palm. Then he put a penny on top of the material, grabbed a blowtorch and melted the goddamn penny. I mean he melted that fucker. Right in his hand.

Then he asked me if I liked brandy, and we went down to the garage to drink some he had stashed out there, away from the womenfolk. I noticed a big, wooden board in the corner that had a bunch of knives sticking out of it.

“Oh, those are my throwing knives. It’s a great stress-reliever,” he said, then started giving me a demo. Thwok! Thwok!

“Hey,” he said, “Do you like guns?”

“Sure!”

He unlocked a trunk that contained dozens of pistols and started pulling out a few of his favorites.

“Here, hold this Beretta 9 millimeter. It’s not loaded – go ahead and dry-fire it, you won’t hurt it.”

So I’m standing there next to a board full of throwing knives, holding a gun and a glass of booze, and my mom calls out to the garage to ask me to take her home. Shit... Just when I was starting to feel all Christmas-y.

The whole eyeball thing started when this uncle hired me to lay some sod at one of his job sites. While wearing contacts, I had got a chunk of the stuff in my eye. I just wiped it out and kept working. I slept in those contacts, and the next day woke up startled to see my eyes shot through with an intricate network of bright red, tiny veins. At first I was hoping that this was the fulfillment of a lifelong wish; that I had finally been granted the ability to make things burst into flame just by staring at them. But it was not the case.

I peeled the contacts off of my eyeballs and tried to get on with my life, but I could tell something had gone horribly awry. My eyes were itchy, turning redder by the minute (I estimate at least .7 on the Tommy Chong scale) and extremely sensitive to light. I always hate it when a formerly compliant body part turns rogue on me, and the fact that I use my eyes fairly often made this whole thing pretty disconcerting.

So the next day I visit that paragon of advanced medical technique, the University of Florida infirmary. Now, I had visited the infirmary plenty of times before, but never as a patient (the infirmary’s where college girls go to get their Chlamydia cleared up, so it’s a good place to meet chicks that are willing to, you know, “do it”).

After a bit of the usual stuff anyone has to go through when visiting a doctor (you know – sitting in the waiting room for three hours, filling out questionnaires, signing release forms absolving the clinic of responsibility after they accidentally graft a hamster head onto the side of your neck, having a gallon or two of blood needlessly drained, having a few different people stick their fingers in your butt, becoming increasingly restless as various screams, gasps and desperate pleas for mercy echo down the hallway), I was sent to see a nurse. She put down her cigarette, took one look at me and pronounced that I had pink eye.

I was skeptical. “I’ve had pink eye before, and this sure doesn’t feel like pink eye. Are you sure?”

“Yes... Well, no. We’ll perform a few more tests, just in case.”

I was ushered into a room filled with the latest medical technology, circa whenever Dr. Frankenstein stitched that Herman Munster dude with the square head together. They strapped me onto one of those Frankenstein boards, spun me around a few times, punched me in the face, cackled, threw a few of those big wall switches, fired up the antenna thingy with the little lightning bolts and shined some really bright lights in my eyes. As the winds outside howled and the roar of the thunder built to a hellish crescendo I passed out, and when I woke up there were pictures of me on the Internet naked and getting a blowjob from what appeared to be Ernest Borgnine. They also said my eye condition was beyond their understanding, and I should hoof it over to Shands Hospital like pronto to see just what the fuck was wrong with me.

Shands is a fun place. You can walk around in there and see all kinds of weird shit you’ll wish you never saw, like two-headed babies in jars. I had just finished a summer job there, Xeroxing gigantic, wasteful stacks of paper designed to ensure the daily dumpster-capacity quota was met. While I spent a lot of time at that gig freaking out secretaries by sticking paper clips through my recently abandoned nose-ring hole, I had overheard a thing or two about sick people getting better there, so I figured Shands would fix me up right.

Well, Shands is the kind of place you want to go if a tornado drives a coat hanger through your skull or some weird bug crawls into your ear and lays its eggs in your brain. But it’s a teaching hospital, so unless you’ve contracted something really interesting from a meteor or you’re holding your brain in with duct tape, the real doctors can’t be bothered with you and will send out some medical students or residents to practice on you some.

During the check-in, I had a conversation with a resident that went like this:

“Mr. Hughes, are you allergic to any medicines?”

“Yeah, penicillin.”

“What happens when you take it?”

“Huh?”

“I said, ‘What happens when you take it?’”

“Uhhh, I dunno. I’m allergic… So I don’t take it.”

“You don’t know what happens when you take it?”

“No, I don’t know, motherfucker! Maybe I sprout wings and fly away!”

Someone snuck up behind me at this point and whacked me across the back of the head with one of those big reflex-testing mallets, knocking me unconscious. When I woke up, there were pictures on the Internet of me wearing a Speedo and getting dangled over a balcony by Michael Jackson, and the resident said I had some kind of grisly, sod-induced infection on the surface of my cornea. They were going to have to scrape my eye to clean out the infection.

Scrape my eye.

So they put a few drops of an anesthetic in my eye. I had to sit in this chair and stick my chin on one of those things that eye doctors use when they’re torturing you with that air-puff glaucoma thing. They turn the lights out, shine a beam into my left eye, and a guy pulls out this disposable scalpel with a blade pretty much exactly like one of those X-acto knives.

And starts scraping. Scraping my fucking eye.

I had always thought of my eyeballs as being kind of squishy, like a pair of jelly donuts or silicone implants or something that’d just pop and spew eye-juice everywhere if you poked ‘em too hard. But the surface of my eye provided a surprising amount of resistance. I could feel the keen edge of the scalpel pressing into my eyeball, as well as see its shadow moving across my field of vision.

Chances are that unless you’re picking this site up on a metal plate in your head you’re sitting at a computer right now. To get an idea of the noise and texture of this scraping, dig your fingernail into the edge of your keyboard and pull it toward you. Now imagine someone doing it to your fucking eye, cutting through the tiny, moist layer of surface gelatin to grind at the brittle goods underneath… Scrape, scrape, scrape… Scrape, scrape, scrape…

They did it to me for what was 20 of the longest minutes of my life.

And that wasn’t even the last indignity they were going to visit upon me. They loaded me up with a bunch of eye-salves and drops and shit, and informed me that I’d have to apply ‘em around the clock for a few days. The catch was I had to wait two full minutes between applications, which meant that I’d get up at four in the morning or whenever, put some drops in, try to focus on the clock for two minutes while hallucinating rows of soft, comfy beds dancing around me and listening to fluffy, imaginary pillows seductively whispering my name. I honestly spent more than a few minutes wondering if having eyesight was even worth this bullshit.

After a few days of this exquisite torture I went back to the hospital. My eye sockets had swelled up, the actual eyeballs were still as red as a baboon’s ass and some kind of foul jism was seeping from my tear ducts. The resident gave me a pill that made me dizzy, and I passed out. When I woke up, there were pictures of me on the Internet wearing a Catholic school girl’s uniform and a saddle while getting ridden around the room by a very excited-looking Al Roker. I also overheard this conversation:

“Doctor, we called you in because this guy’s eye is all evil and puffy, and it’s seeping some kind of wretched goo. We can’t figure out why”

“It says here you gave him penicillin-derived eyedrops. But his records say he’s allergic to penicillin. Why in the hell did you prescribe him that stuff after he told you he was allergic to penicillin?!”

“Uh, we didn’t believe him.”

“Didn’t believe him?!”

“He said he’s sprout wings and fly away.”

Well, the fuckers eventually got it all straightened out, and I retained the use of my eyes. And I have to admit, the experience did have a few positive aspects: I got to wear a cool, pirate-y eyepatch for a couple of weeks, even though I never really needed it, and I got a blowjob from Ernest Borgnine. Apparently.

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