That Which I Recall is That Which I Regret

by Jim Knipfel

Every once in awhile, Sunday mornings can be okay. I was awake before the alarm went off, the sun blasting through the windows onto the bare white walls that surround my bed.

The day before had been a bad one–grumping about, staring at those same bare white walls, getting nothing done, smoking. But Saturday’s late afternoon mail had delivered, much to my surprise, with a check from an insurance company. I'd heard that this check might be coming, but I didn't expect it. I've never had anything but trouble with insurance companies. In the past, I'd been forced to flee three cities under cover of darkness because of troubles with insurance companies. Yet here it was, a check for $200–$200 I wasn't expecting. I set it aside, planning to deposit it early Sunday, before it dissolved like cotton candy in the rain.

I lay there in the bed for awhile that morning, listening to the radio, planning out the day. It was going to be a sparse and simple one. After the check, maybe I'd think about sweeping, maybe even cleaning off the stove top. Then I'd putter about, smoking and drinking and watching the television.

In short, it was going to be exactly like every other Sunday in recent memory.

I rolled out of bed, stomping my right heel down into a large, cool pile of orange cat sputum.

"God-damn it! Cats!"

They were still curled up on the bed, the Big Guy raising his head only slightly, opening his eyes a crack to see what the hubbub was. That done, he closed his eyes and put his head back down.

I hopped into the bathroom on one leg, so's to not smear the sputum further. Sat down on the edge of the tub, wiped off my heel with a swatch of toilet paper, then rolled off another handful and took it back to the front room to gather up the rest of the wet pile.

That mess flushed away, I stumbled over to gather up my clothes, only to step into another pile.

"Shit! Damn you! Cats!"

I looked around the floor as best's I could in the morning sunlight, to see the apartment littered randomly with sputum piles. If there's one thing I hate, it's sputum. I sighed, went back into the bathroom, ripped off more toilet paper, and set to mopping up.

One of the piles turned out to be not sputum at all, but the body of a small mouse. Looked like another heart attack victim. My cats, not being trained hunters, never kill and eat mice., They just watch the mice, obviously scaring the tiny vermin into cardiac arrest. Then they leave it lay where it dropped dead.

The day was beginning to take–no, actually, was long past taking–one of those turns.

After depositing the magical check (which, much to my surprise, had not disappeared overnight), I came back to the apartment, sat down, and lit a smoke. That's when I saw the big shopping bag sitting on my little bench. I'd forgotten about that. Inside the bag were hundreds of sample boxes of Paxil, an antidepressant, given to me by a contact within the medical community. It didn't much matter to him that I hadn't taken Paxil in four years–he just didn't like all these little boxes cluttering up his office. He'd rather they cluttered up mine, I guess.

I dragged the bag into the front room with a fresh beer and a couple of the mason jars in which I store my useless drugs, turned on the television, and set to punching these hundreds of pills out of their foil packets.

Three hours later, by the time I punched out the last of the pills, I had a mighty blister on the tip of my thumb. Thinking simply, "Well that's mighty annoying," I stuck my thumb between my front teeth and chomped the blister off. Big mistake, that. As I chewed up that tiny circle of flesh, the new hole in my thumb started to throb.

"I've got to stop doing things like that," I thought.

I finished off the first sixer of the day and set to work on a second. Despite everything–or rather because of everything–it had, indeed, turned into a typical Sunday. I went into the kitchen and started putting some dinner together. When it came time to shake some salt and pepper on top of my macaroni, the salt and pepper shaker combo-thing exploded in my hands somehow, spilling its entire contents into the pot.

I stared at it for awhile, even tried to spoon something edible around the mounds of foul spicery, before I decided that the whole meal was simply done for. I flushed that disaster and set to work on a second dinner, which I ruined equally well.

As I stomped over to the kitchen table to have a smoke and try to figure out what to do next, I stepped in a fresh sputum pile. This time I didn't bother to wipe off my foot or clean up the sputum. My eyes narrowed as I felt something bad churning in my chest. I jammed a cigarette in my mouth and lit it. I reached over the sink and grabbed the bottle of Wild Turkey and a glass. I went back to sit in front of the television and drink myself away.

After the third or fourth shot, nothing much on the television, one of those notorious bad ideas of mine started poking me in the ribs. This particular idea was an especially bad one since I'd done it before, and knew full well that it was a bad idea.

I really hate that cyst.

Several years ago, this little cyst started growing on my scrotum. As the time passed, the cyst grew bigger. Doctors told me that they wouldn't remove it because it was "nothing to worry about." They further warned me "not to obsess about it" and to "just leave it alone."

Doctors, pah! What do they know, these cystless men? So one night in a drunken stupor, I cut it out with a shoe knife. Very, very bad move. Especially since it didn't work all that well. Oh, I healed up all right, and things seemed normal for a few months, but then the damn thing started growing again. Though I had removed the body, I hadn't removed the root.

Now, two or three years later, it was bugging me again, and I was just about drunk enough to do something about it. Having done it before and having failed then, I stupidly figured that I'd know how to do it right this time. Who needs doctors when you have an apartment full of sharp objects?

This time, I figured, instead of going after it with a big ol' shoe knife, I'd go after it with a big needle. I'd just poke a hole into it, and squeeze the offending pus out neat as can be.

Well, as neat as pus can be.

So I found a needle, pulled the cotton balls and rubbing alcohol out of the bathroom cabinet, shucked my pants off and sat down on the edge of the tub. I carefully swabbed the area around the cyst, and cleaned off the needle. I grabbed that little knot and squeezed it tight to the surface. Then I drove the needle into it.

There was no pain–just a slight, wet crunching noise.

I slid the pin back out and squeezed. A tiny, clear dribble appeared at the entrance wound, but nothing more.

I repeated the process, with the same result. This was getting frustrating, so I came up with a new plan.

"What if," I thought, "I punched a whole bunch of holes real close together? Then I bet I'd drain this thing lickety split!"

So I grabbed hold again, and poked six or seven holes into the offending lump, all right around the same spot. I set the needle down in the soap dish over the sink, and squeezed again.

What I had done without thinking about it was create a perforation in my flesh. Suddenly I found myself sitting there, naked from the waist down, with a smeary yellow-white cyst on the outside of my body. That's not right. The entire thing had punched its way through the hole I'd made like a toe poking through the end of a sock.

Problem was, like a toe sticking through a sock, it was still connected on the inside.

"Well, this certainly is a pickle," I thought as I stared down at my little predicament. Do I try and shove it back through the hole and forget all this foolishness, or do I go get a scissors and snip the thing off? Goddamn needle wasn't doing me a damn bit of good.

I swabbed up the blood, which by this time was dripping down my thighs, staining the towel at my feet, dabbed some more alcohol on my wound, stomped out to my desk, grabbed the razor-sharp shoe blade from that last time, and sliced that motherfucker wide open. That made it much easier to squeeze all the grainy pus out.

That done, I looked down again. Well, the body of the cyst was gone, but now I had a big hole in my scrotum. That's no good, either. Oh, but I am a stupid man.

For a second–just a second–I considered sticking an earring into the hole, just so's I could be like everybody else. Then I realized that I'd be much happier being "just like everybody else" who didn't have a hole in their privates.

After showering (just so the blood would run down the drain instead of all over my floor) and washing things out good, I daubed it mightily with a bunch of your antiseptics and antibiotics, slipped a pair of underwear on to prevent undue leakage, and went to bed.

By God I hate Sundays.

Copyright Jim Knipfel. Published originally in the NYPress. All rights reserved.

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