The Cowering Inferno

Students of human suffering will enjoy this. If you've explored the psychological chasms of Edgar Allan Poe and journeyed to the end of the night with Celine, then you're probably ready for the experiences contained herein. I, dear reader, have suffered a pain too awful to recount, too terrible to leave unspoken. I have suffered as few mortals have.

I'm suffering right now. As I write this, I'm on my sickbed, too ill to do anything but feebly write. But I take solace in knowing that I could be feeling worse. I have felt worse, and it wasn't so very long ago.

It was during a visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I go there pretty regularly. This is because I have many friends there. And some of those friends happen to be Mexican.

These guys have more machismo than anyone I know. Not about fighting. Not about sport. Not about sex. But about food. They take pride in their ability to eat hot peppers raw. I've had to put up with sustained ridicule about my wimpy palate, accustomed to haggis and shortbread. On every visit to jalapeno hell, I must endure being slapped on the back and called a Nancy-boy while they scarf down substances that would burn my fingers if I touched them.

But every man has his breaking point. That point tends to come quicker if said man has been drinking. And so, on that fateful trip, the day of reckoning came.

We'd headed to the barrio and settled in a beer joint. Much beer was consumed, by me at any rate. We adjourned to someone's house, where consumption of raw jalapenos commenced. When the host asked why I wasn't having any, one of my chums made a face and explained, "He's from Scotland."

He said it in the same tone of voice you'd say, "He has no penis."
That was it. Alcohol and testosterone met in my veins and cascaded through me, rain on the parched desert of my manhood. I stood up. I looked at everyone. Conversation stopped. They looked at me.

"Do you have a blender?" I asked the host.
"Uh . . . yeah."
"Good. Where is it?"

In the kitchen, I filled the blender with raw jalapenos and watched as they liquidized. Then I poured the green mush into a bowl. Jalapeno soup. The New Mexicans watched in awe as I gulped it down.

I expected to feel like a walking furnace, but I didn't. Maybe the booze counteracted the effect of the soup. I drank more and lay down on a couch. Someone covered me with a quilt, and I floated away.

When I awoke in the morning, something was on fire. I realized that it was my ass. I stood up, and it hurt so much I could barely walk. I hobbled my way to the bathroom and sat on the throne. My ass actually began to bleed. My eyes watered from the pain.

When the rest of my posse had wakened, I explained my problem, and immediately learned a dark truth about rectal distress--that even when you're in the most excruciating pain of your whole life, nobody feels sorry for you. Just because of the anatomical location of your malady, even your dearest friends think your suffering is hysterically funny.

When their cruel laughter had temporarily subsided, they proposed that we go to a diner for breakfast. We all piled into a car. I couldn't even sit down properly. I had to balance on one buttock or the other. We arrived at the diner, and I had to visit the toilet again. It was the same story as before.

Suffice to say I didn't order huevos rancheros.
The trouble with this kind of agony is that it's impossible to feel heroic about it. I can just imagine being with a bunch of guys who're asked about the worst suffering they'd ever endured. The guy next to me says, "Back in 'Nam, I took a bullet in the gut, then crawled over broken glass to save my best friend's life . . ." Then I say, "Back in Santa Fe, there was this blender and some jalapenos . . ." Just not the same, is it?

The flight home to Phoenix took me through the pain barrier. I sat with my face pressed against the window, tears rolling down my cheeks. I'm terrified of flying, but I didn't care. The pain was all there was. It wiped out everything else.

On the way from the airport to my apartment, I stopped at a pharmacy and bought just about every hemorrhoid treatment it had in stock. Many and varied were the substances I shoved up my butt during the next few days. I was bedridden for most of that time. One friend suggested ice cream, saying that it had helped him with the same problem. I tried it, then called him back and told him that, aside from freezing my butt soothingly, it hadn't helped.

"I meant you to eat it, you moron."
I've now recovered. It hasn't happened since. But, should it happen again, I have a plan. I've heard about a psychic healer who can supposedly relieve pain just by touching the affected body part with his fingertips. If I have a relapse, I have a proposition that will test his dedication to the limit.

Contact Barry Graham at his online address: [email protected]

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Barry Graham