It isn’t easy being me.
Well, it isn’t easy being anyone, I suppose. It’s hard to be Cheryl, Nate, John, Mary, Rafael, Fatima, or Ebeneezer, too. It’s hard to be someone.
Whenever one of us is born there’s a whole world of somethings coming after us. Viruses, bacteria, prowlers, older siblings, stepparents, bullies, peers, math teachers, pass rushers counting mississippis, playground asphalt, hem-gnawing bicycle chains, 49er fans. There is no end to the obstacles and antagonists. And that’s just through grade school.
Later in life there are even worse things causing us consternation. Like progeny. Or Conservatives.
But this particular Tom is having a particularly challenging January in this particular year because his old nemesis has reemerged.
No, actually, I’m not talking about the San Francisco 49ers – although that is an old nemesis that has indeed reemerged as well. And I’m not talking about that awkward, young adult self-doubt that plagued me through the 90s. That latter nemesis was slain, ashes scattered. The other one, in the red and gold, will never die, I know. We’ll see them in NFC Championship game on Sunday with a big ol’ monkey on our back. Winner goes to the Super Bowl. Go Rams.
No, the nemesis I’m talking about I’ve scarcely mentioned over the years because to mention it is to summon it. Like saying the name “Baalberith” out loud and bringing unto you much woe. Don’t. If you did just read that out loud, seek a priest. Or read Carl Sagan. Whatever it is you personally do to banish demons from your world, do that. I just beseech Sebastian. Works every time.
But since my old nemesis has returned, unbidden, I can speak its name.
I first encountered my old foe when I was but a child, probably in or not far out of grade school. At first it was every few years, but in my teens and twenties my nemesis would come back virtually every year to plague me literally. It would start in a tiny crevice, almost always between the fingers and toes, and it has such a specific twinge that I would know. Pruritis had come. And hell was coming with it.
To expose the demon’s arrival, I had only to walk to the nearest mirror and remove my shirt. The second phase of this usurper’s assault was the hives. Always on both sides of my torso, those little welts of agony. Soon they would be everywhere, and no part of Tom would be unscathed.
And they itch. They itch that itch of the itch of the damned. And dare you scratch them? Nay. For scratching only irritates the Legions of Pruritis, and they strike back harder and spread further upon assault.
In my adult life, from my 30s on, my old nemesis stayed adrift, finding me impossible to conquer. Fewer and fewer encounters. 5 years between at times, or more. Although there was this one year, I would say in mid-2010, when it struck twice in one volume of calendar. May, at first. Then August again. It had never happened twice before, so close together. I shudder to remember that time.
It has been, admittedly, some time since Pruritis returned. Years, I’d say. But three nights ago, I felt that twinge. To the wife I said, “My hell has just begun.” And she knew, as I looked at my fingers, what I meant. She knows me well. “Oh no!” she exclaimed, as leading ladies will when their heroes are struck.
I am struck.
A few days in now to this latest base assault and I can feel it starting to subside. It only ever lasts a few days – for which I am grateful. To see me during each day you would not know that under my garments I am scaly and red and blistery and coarse. I ride it out. I persevere. Like Peter Parker, I endure.
It is only January in this year of 2022, but already I have faced many a foe. On the 9th of this month those 49ers beat my Rams for the sixth time in a row. Two days later I was positive for Covid. By the 24th, Pruritis had come.
I itch right now. I itch everywhere, but I am not in agony. Not like the last two days. I am recovering, as I did with Covid, as I will from Ninereria on Sunday when we vanquish that demon (Baalberith-willing).
It isn’t easy being me. Not as easy as it looks, anyway. I cut. I bleed. I cough, I sneeze. I itch. I itch a lot.
But let us leave our demons behind us now, this January of 2022. Man your stations, mount your stallions, and steel your resolve. What does not kill us only makes us stronger. Every challenge we face only levels us higher. Diamonds are formed under pressure.
Surely, then – after these hard times – we must all now be a cut above. ✊🏽