I was on the phone Sunday afternoon with my friend Julie when I noticed my left thumb had swollen to approximately twice the size of my right. As I had spent the last four days in a cold medicine haze, fighting some upper respiratory malady, I wondered if I had absentmindedly burned it on a mug of tea without noticing. (Would this be the same fugue state that prompted me to view Threesome for the first time in fourteen years via that Netflix “Watch Instantly” feature?)
Later, as I was heading out to the diner for a bowl of soup, I noticed my foot was tender, making it hard to walk. When I got home and inspected closer, my foot, also my left, was swollen and I could barely wiggle my toes. My fever had broken and besides a bit of a lingering cough, I was pretty much over the cold. So this, this was something new and unforeseen. From googling, I was able to determine it was some sort of water retention (ew), and even though unlikely, I wasn’t ready to rule out gout. Paranoid I would somehow die in my sleep, the swelling overtaking every part of me like an alien virus, I tried to reconstruct the journey of my illness from Thursday on, noting the symptoms in my Moleskine notebook along with what over-the-counter medicines I’d taken. That way, should I be discovered days later, even the most cut-rate detective would hopefully be able to piece together the clues of my demise. That’s me, always thinking ahead. I attempted to sleep with my feet elevated to maybe alleviate the swelling, but as I was also trying to prop my head up to be able to breathe, It was probably moot.
To my horror, I woke this morning to find my lower lip and chin had ballooned, as puffy and misshapen as if I’d been pummeled in a bar fight or had undergone extensive dental surgery. I called in to work and managed to wrangle an appointment with my doctor, enduring the ride downtown with the left half of my lip plump as a Vienna sausage, keenly aware I was being studied by my fellow subway riders.
After forty-five minutes in the waiting room, then a modicum of chit-chat in my doctor’s inner sanctum, he finally fixed his gaze on my face and asked, “What happened to your lip?”
Well, thank you, that’s exactly what I’d like to know!
He listened to my breathing and felt of my swollen feet, jotting copious notes in my file. Putting my shirt back on, I caught sight of myself in the mirror and noticed my lip had grown to three times the size it was when I first woke up.
The doctor determined it was some sort of allergic reaction to the blood pressure medicine I’d been taking for the last two months, an angioneurotic edema, I think he called it, but he might’ve said anal retentive adobe for all I know. Neither would’ve made any cognitive sense in the moment. I just wanted my face and feet to return to their proper size. He said to stop the medicine I was taking and wrote a prescription for a steroid to deal with the swelling.
I trudged back uptown on the subway, attracting even more stares, and then to the drugstore to fill the Rx.
I popped the first doses of the steroid when I got home and probed my swollen face. If I were a Hollywood actress of a certain age trying to regain my youthful visage through elective surgery, the tabloids would snidely say I have “trout pout.” A veritable Melanie Griffith after an injectables bender. But even that would be too kind. No, it looked as if I’d flown to Mexico for and found some back alley quack to fill me with syringe after syringe of collagen. My lower lip was so engorged it was positively Jocelyn Wildensteinian, or Amanda Leporian if you prefer. Pete Burnsian even!
By late this evening I was able to walk without wincing, my feet having deflated a bit, my lip reduced in fullness to what would be called pleasantly bee stung, as if I used that plumping stuff that was all the rage with the ladies for awhile: Lip Venom, or Lip Strychnine, or Lip Agent Orange, or whatever it’s called.
Crisis averted! Yet, I’m now taking pills to counteract the allergic reaction to the pills I was taking that were supposed to make me healthier, or at least as healthy as I should be for my age. Bah.
And to be honest, while I usually don’t like intense physical scrutiny, there was something weirdly powerful about walking around looking like an aberration, a freak freed from the circus, mentally daring strangers to gawk at me, knowing, thankfully, I’d soon be able to blend back in.