If we begin with the right cuff, then truly, there is no problem with it.
The right cuff, then. The entire right sleeve, in fact, assuming it is correct in its length, and most of them are, does its job admirably and no one is the wiser. If you should see this cuff, this sleeve – on me, I suppose – you would have no suspicions, no objections. No. You would say to yourself, if you said anything, and why bother, “Here is a perfectly ordinary man wearing a shirt.” I am covered.
To my right arm I apply, daily but sparingly, at last, Triamcinolone Acetonide Cream USP 1%. O, that’s what it says upon the crinkled tube. Left behind by an old girlfriend, long ago, who knows which one?
It helps, I believe. The little holes in my skin do not spread beyond the reach of my right cuff.
But if it should happen that, for some unknowable reason, we come to speak of the left cuff, now the situation is not identical. To my left arm, I apply no cream but rather, hydrogen peroxide. It is a failed experiment. It could be worse. The holes are only a blemish running down the underside of the left wrist. Onto my palm. Not noticeable at all, really, even among friends.
And so far as the collar is concerned, now that I wear a necktie daily, it reveals a neck, only a neck, or part of one, much like any other you might see.
With my shirt, necktie, slacks, socks, and shoes all in place, just so, I proceed with my days out in public.
One evening at home, suitably inebriated, I determined I would perform a surgery upon myself. The rows upon rows of holes upon my right leg were still red and squelchy in those days. Taking up a set of old tweezers – wherever would I have found them? – I pushed down into the hole in which I had seen the movement.
I remember the pain. I could relive it now, at will, if I sought to. The pain convulsed me and in the throes of my convulsions, I imagined I heard a scream bursting out from the tiny hole within my leg.
I will do no more surgeries.
My left leg now. As I write, it rests here across my right knee. The holes, maybe only one hundred in all, perhaps even fewer, have dried, their edges hardened, like those across my back. What remains of my skin, it is not so bad, after all, a bit like a dried husk. Sometimes it seems as though a large eye observes me from within a hole, here or there. Sometimes, many eyes, each with its own hole, of which there are probably no more than one hundred, in my leg. It could be worse.
An antenna poking out, or a claw or the odd hairy leg, now and then, these are but rare occurrences and cause me no troubles whatsoever so long as I do not gaze too closely or too long. And the tongues? The tongues were tiny and anyway, that was all my fault for having spilled a delicious salty snack upon myself.
As for the whispers, I have determined these are not whispers at all, but merely the sounds of chewing. They are louder at nighttime.
We are all covered up by clothes most of our lives and in this, I am no different. The holes, therefore, and whatever it is which – for lack of a better term – resides within the holes, they do not interfere with my job. Or with my writing, such as it is. Or with my weekly visits to Mom and Dad. Each of us has our burdens in this world, so don’t complain, old Harry. Others have it much worse.
At any rate, how much life could be left to me to live with it? Twenty years. Perhaps not even that.
I believe it’s better today. Better than last week.
So long as no one else can see the holes, the holes are not a problem.