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


My Latest Costanza
“I wonder what kind of dying guy I’ll make?” I thought. “Will I mope around making everybody feel bad? Or go nuts and start shooting up heroin and robbing banks? And what’s the best way to parlay this into getting blowjobs?”

You see, I have this thing I do, where every so often I’m convinced I have some sort of fatal disease. I mope around for a few days, hyperventilate a little. Try to figure out who deserves my CD collection. Wonder if God is going to be mad that I don’t believe in him, that sort of thing.

I usually do this during those rare periods where things are going well for me, or even looking a bit promising or hopeful. With nothing else to focus my gigantic neuroses on, I cobble together a handful of half-imagined symptoms and perform some complicated algebra in which the answer always = imminent and painful death. The Internet is a big help, though I started up this little hobby without its assistance a long time ago.

From what I can remember, the first time I convinced myself I was about to die was when I was about eight. I was visiting my dad for the summer, playing a game in his bedroom where I had to hop from his bed to a square patch of sunlight on the rug. As the day progressed, the patch would move farther and farther away from the bed. To raise the stakes, I would bet God that if I couldn’t make it, he could kill me within three days.

I pushed the game just a little too far that day. Couldn’t make the patch. I tried again and again, becoming more hysterical with every jump. Fuck! I couldn’t do it! I was going to die! I started to hyperventilate, pacing back and forth. God was going to kill me! And there was nothing I could do! I mean, a bet was a bet.

I ran into the living room, where my dad was lying on the couch watching TV. Tears running down my face, I shook my hands and frantically hopped around.

“What’s the matter with you?” Dad asked.

Somehow, divorced from reality though I was, I knew telling him that I lost a bet with God about how far I could jump and was going to die would just make me sound like a dipshit.

“I... don’t... know!” I choked out.

Dad sat up and stared at me for a few minutes while I gyrated and paced around and generally acted all hysterical. Eventually I tired myself out and kind of collapsed, resigned to my fate. No blood was visible, so my dad could safely chalk up this display to just more incomprehensible, borderline-autistic behavior on my part and go back to watching TV.

I spent the next three days hunched over and fearful, glooming the place up and wondering how it was going to happen. But God spared me that day. Obviously, he had a few more tortures in mind before my clock was going to get punched.

Like in ninth grade, when I was hanging around this guy named Lee Larko. Lee looked like Donny Osmond and was an awesome guy. He knew all kinds of slutty girls to fingerbang and had a hook-up with this dude at the Majik Market who would let us buy smokes and cheap wine.

He also had this great idea where we would get poker games going in half-built houses — at this time Palm Harbor, Florida was little more than a few thousand acres of scrub brush and half-abandoned orange grove in the process of being converted to cheap subdivisions, so there were plenty of construction sites we could use. We’d squat down on the cement floors, pour out handfuls of change and go to town, smoking and pokering it up like big shots.

One time a uniformed Realtor, showing the house to a couple of potential customers, walked in on us while we were doing this. There was an awkward moment or two where we all stared at each other in surprise. Then, as if following some unspoken agreement, everybody ignored each other. We went back to our game, and the Realtor continued showing the house. Nobody said a word.

Awkward, sure, but not as awkward as the time Lee shot me. I was peeing in his bathroom and he started shooting a BB gun through the door. Fucking thing hit me in the arm. I started yelling, zipped up and threw open the door.

“Motherfucker! You shot me! That fucking hurts!” I was pretty pissed.

Lee looked a little green, like he knew he was in trouble. “Is the BB actually in there?” he said.

“Shit, I don’t know.” We looked down at the hole in my arm. I poked it a few times. “I don’t feel it. Maybe it hit the bone and bounced out?” Using this remarkable jump of logic, I convinced myself it wasn’t actually embedded in my arm, mostly because I just didn’t want to have to explain the whole thing to my dad.

Of course, the BB was in there. The lump became all too apparent as the hole healed. And I was obsessed with it. For years I would run my finger on it, convinced it was slowly dissolving into my bloodstream, poisoning me. It would keep me up at night. “Would they amputate my arm before I died?” I’d wonder. God forbid I just, you know, died. I’d need to be mutilated in some fashion first.

And so it’s gone throughout the years. At various times I’ve been convinced that I had AIDS, schizophrenia, pleurisy (though to this day not excactly sure what that one is), lupus, multiple sclerosis and a variety of cancers. I’ve come to call the phenomenon “my Costanza,” from the episode of Seinfeld where George freaks out, thinking he has cancer. “I knew it!” he wails. “I knew God wouldn’t let me be a success!”

So my latest Costanza took place last week. I was fresh out of the tub and rubbing some Tinactin on my foot fungus (one of the many minor daily indignities I now forego reporting here, so as to focus on the big crowd-pleasers) when I noticed a dark spot about the size of a quarter on the bottom of my foot.

“Holy shit, that looks bad,” I thought. “I better look this up on the Internet.”

I fired up Firefox, knowing full well that it was a bad idea. And it was. Turns out skin cancer on the bottom of your foot pretty much means you’re fucked. The Google image search provided all the impetus I needed to quickly become hysterical, from huge bubbling lesions eating away the foot to small, fairly innocuous blotches that nonetheless no doubt spelled doom for the unlucky bearers. Of which I was now one.

Now remember that the power of my Costanza is so strong that it can override any contrary evidence. Instant-doom foot cancer, for example, apparently affects Asians and people of African heritage in overwhelming numbers, and even then generally hits the elderly. In my mind, though, this is no consolation.

And, of course, I spend anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week training in kickboxing, performing repetitive motions where I pivot on the exact spot of my blotch over and over, grinding all 6’ 2”, 200 pounds of me into the ball of my foot hundreds of times a day. Not exactly light on my feet, I’ve had blisters there, bleeding, literally torn circular hunks of flesh out of that spot on the dojo carpet so many times that I don’t even think about it anymore and just track blood all over the damn place when I do my thing.

You’d think I’d find some reassurance there, but no. This time I was sure. Even more so than the last dozen times I had cancer, but didn’t.

You see, I, like many crazy people, have little voices in my head. But my voices are a little different. You know the old-school crazy stereotype, the normal guy who hears the voices telling him to kill and go awry and stuff? And he fights those voices off for as long as possible before just snapping? I’m the opposite. I wake up with the urge to kill and go awry, and the voices in my head go, “Jesus, don’t be such an asshole.” It’s my last — hell, maybe only — line of defense, pretty much.

This go-round, though, my little voice was no help. “Dude, that thing on your foot looks bad,” it said. “You’re fixin’ to die.”

At work my boss and supervisor just laughed at me. “That’s a blood blister,” my boss said. “I’ve had a million of them.”

"You're like Costanza in the one episode of Seinfeld!" my supervisor said. "'It's cancer! God won't let me be a success!'"

I was still convinced otherwise. I called my dermatologist and made an appointment. I didn’t know what good it would do, other than to put an official stamp on my fate.

On the drive there I mulled things over, wondering which dying-guy tack would be the best to take. I was really hoping that chemo wasn’t going to keep me from getting hard-ons, because I planned to milk the sympathy thing and get as many blowies as possible before croaking. People always talk respectfully of the stoic guys after they croak, but I knew there was no way I was going to get laid if I kept quiet about it and acted all strong.

I was also kind of feeling like an asshole, considering how moody and depressed I get, walking around thinking, “I should just fucking kill myself.” Oh, Mr. Suicide doesn’t think dying is such a great idea now that it’s actually going to happen, does he? Man, I was a total hypocrite.

The dermatologist took a look at my blotch. “It’s probably just hemorrhage, but I’ll need to define it,” he said. I climbed on to his dermatology table while he daintily poked at my foot. I relaxed a little. Shit, maybe I wasn’t going to die! Maybe it was just my Costanza kicking in again!

“Hmm, your epidermal layer is very thick. I’m having trouble defining it,” he said, picking away. “I think we should do a biopsy.”

Biopsy?! Fuck, that’s exactly what you do for cancer. I started panicking again. "Now, Mr. Hughes, a biopsy will require one or two stitches in your foot. You'll have limited use and blah blah blah..." he said.

“Whah? Can’t you just carve that sucker out?” I asked, swiveling around for a look.

“No,” he said, looking bewildered. “I’m trying to not cause you any discomfort.” Yeah, like a fucking biopsy, stitches in my foot and waiting for lab results wouldn’t cause me any discomfort.

“Just go for it,” I said. He seemed frustrated. “Look, doc, I grind that spot into a carpet until it bleeds on a regular basis. I can take it.”

He still seemed reluctant, but started picking away anew. “Oh dear, you’re bleeding,” he said. I could barely feel a tickle. “Yes... Yes... OK. Well, this is dried blood. It flakes, and the skin is pink underneath. And I see the source of the hemorrhage. I’m reasonably sure this is just hemorrhage as a result of your training.”

Reasonably sure? That wasn’t good enough.

“I’m going to prescribe a salicylic acid pad. I want you to wear this pad for two weeks, then come back and see me,” he said. “It’ll macerate that thick epidermic layer so I can take a better look. But I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

I left, not really feeling better. Sure, he said I didn’t have anything to worry about, but he seemed rather grave when he said it. He’s just being nice, isn’t he? He knows I’m a goner and is just trying to give me two weeks of false hope as an act of kindness. Fuck!

I got home and read up some more on this foot cancer business. And once again, the Internet did not fail me. In short order I was completely hysterical.

“Fuck this,” I thought. “I’m not waiting no two damn weeks.” I pulled out my pocket knife, inserted the tip in the incision he made and in a few short strokes sawed off the thick yellow skin.

I held it up to the light and looked closely. “Gross,” I thought. Then I swabbed at the skin with a fingertip and some spit. The brownish shit came right off. I got in the bathtub and scrubbed my foot. The whole area was soon pink, except for a few light reddish-brown patches.

This still wasn’t good enough. I spent the rest of the weekend looking at the spot in different lights, scrubbing at it and poking it. I showed it to my friend Kalpesh. He smiled. “Don’t die,” he said. “We still have a lot of fun left to have.” Does that mean he thinks I’m going to die, I wondered?

After my Sunday morning shower the area was completely pink. I started to relax a little. I looked back on the hysteria of the past few days and thought, “Man, I’ve had blood blisters in that spot a bazillion times. What the fuck is wrong with me? Why get so worked up over a blotch there now?” But that’s just it. That’s the way the Costanza works. Shit, and now I have to make up some lie for my dermatologist. I can’t tell him I sawed the skin of my foot with a pocket knife... Well, actually, you know what? I think my dermatologist might be kind of a douche bag. Fuck what he thinks.

But I am starting to relax over it. A little. Although... My BB is starting to throb a little, I think, and... Oh, the BB? Yeah, still in there. I forget about it, most of the time. Last October it set off a handheld metal detector at the airport, and I had to roll up my sleeve and explain to the guy that Lee Larko shot me there with a BB 22 years ago while I was taking a pee. The airport guy just smiled and looked confused. He didn’t speak English.

C’mere. Wanna touch it? You can touch the BB if you want. Go ahead! Rub it for good luck! Touch it!


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