I have of late, wherefore I know not how, acquired a new friend – a close companion, one might say. It all started about two months ago when I developed a rash. I realise in these modern times that the rash usually follows the close companion, rather than precedes it – but in this case, I assure you, the rash came first.
It was not an alarming rash, just a small itchy patch on my foot. I’m afraid rashes (and skin fungi) are part of life when you work in the ocean (and you thought I had such a glamorous life), so I didn’t think too much of it. In fact, I still had some cream left over from the last rash, so I started applying – end of story.
Except, the rash didn’t go away. It occurred to me that perhaps I had not been dutiful enough about applying my cream; I also considered that I had been busy at work, and so in the water an awful lot. To be honest though, I only ever thought about it for a minute or so, and only every now and then.
But the rash was doing something! It was slowly spreading up my foot, towards my ankle. I say spreading... but actually it wasn’t getting any bigger, it was just moving. I mentioned this to a friend a few weeks ago; he made a scathing comment about not even being able to put cream on properly.
Last week I decided to stop bothering with the cream. It simply wasn’t working. I would experiment and see how ‘doing nothing’ worked out. The rash started getting a little smaller. "Aha!" I said! "Doing nothing works! I should do this more often!" Upon reflection, I thought that if I dedicated any more time towards ‘doing nothing’ I would be in danger of slipping into a coma, and so decided against it.
The rash, however, wasn’t going. It was getting smaller, but harder and more raised. It was condensing into a lump. Last night whilst watching TV I got fed up of it. I sterilised a needle and pierced the lump. Twice. Nothing came out. It was very unsatisfactory.
However, this morning whilst indulging in an early morning, absent-minded scratch, I noticed the lump had got smaller! "Aha!" I said in delight! (I am easily pleased) "The needle did work!"
Then I looked more carefully. It was true, the lump had got smaller, but it was also spreading again... well kind of... it was just longer... more stretched out...
Stretched out... oh! Then it dawned on me. A nasty slow realisation, like having a glass of very cold water, slowing dripped down the back of your neck. "It’s not a rash," I thought, "It’s a creature!"
It’s a worm. Poor bloody thing: that cream must have been driving it mad! It climbed all the way up to my ankle to get away from it. When I stopped putting the cream on, my little wormy friend probably curled up for a snooze. Only to be rudely awakened with a hot needle. Twice. Not surprising he’s decided to move on again. He’s on top of my foot now. Resting. And now that I realise what it is – I can quite clearly see his wormish shape just underneath the skin. I don’t know why I didn’t see him before. (By the way, I am aware that I am referring the worm as ‘he’. I am not sure why that is; I didn’t plan to do so – that’s just the way I wrote it. But I am sure it says something very depressing and negative about my psyche – and is probably connected in some significant way to the reason that I am nearly always single.)
I asked a Filipino friend this morning:
"Ronny," I said, "Are there worms that can get inside your skin around here?"
Ronny jumped and instinctively looked back over his shoulder in alarm. "Are there what?!" he said, with absolute horror.
"Look at this!" I showed him my foot. He laughed.
"Oh!" he said cheerfully "there is a worm inside your skin! My friend have one before."
"I thought so!" I said.
"You should put some cream on that" he said.