December 17, 2017 by unclespike218
Two stories, one theme. Here is the second story. (First story is here.)
As 2000 was drawing to a close, I had been living in Portland, Oregon for over a year. My boyfriend had moved to Portland that February, and our relationship had slowly and steadily been dissolving. He had discovered the frustration of being a medical school widow, and realized that he had been relegated to second position in my hierarchy of priorities. As such, his eyes had begun to wander. By the end of the year, he had discovered a co-worker who was in a similar position. In the co-worker’s situation, though, his bitter husband was suffering from full-blown AIDS, and there was little hope of him surviving for much longer.
In early January, both frustrated with each other, we soon discovered that we both were also becoming tremendously itchy, and did not know why. I couldn’t go more than fifteen seconds without itching somewhere on my body. Since I was at medical school and could visit our clinic for a pittance, the responsibility fell upon me to figure out what was going on. It took nearly until the end of January, multiple visits and unsuccessful treatments to figure out what one resident figured out in two simple questions: that we had scabies. (For the record: is the itching worse with the heat of bed, and are you itching anywhere above the neck line. The answers: horrifically, and no.) The itching had gotten so bad in the meantime that I could not sleep with my boyfriend, and had moved to the couch. With the diagnosis, the treatment was Elimite, a cream that would kill the scabies. But the itching, caused by the feces of the scabies (ew), would not end until enough skin had been sloughed off naturally – roughly 3 weeks later.
Around the time of the diagnosis, my boyfriend – such as he was – decided to spend the weekend with his co-worker in Seattle. He said that he would be back on Sunday afternoon. But that came and went. I went to bed on Sunday night alone, and woke on Monday alone. I returned from school that day to an empty house and resumed studying and making dinner. When dinner was almost done, finally the boyfriend showed up. He walked in. I did not hug him. In my eyes, we were done. It was obvious where his heart was. As I took a shower after a tear-filled (him) and bitter (me) dinner, he asked if he could run back to his new boyfriend’s place for the night. I told him to get the hell out, and that he was not welcome in bed with me ever again.
I toweled myself off once the door was closed behind my ex. Sat on the couch with the heat lamp on me, furious and fuming, smelling of sulfur powder and Vaseline to help the itching. But suddenly, I felt a great relief..a great weight lifted off my shoulders as I realized I was now free and not bound to him. And despite the itching that persisted, I fell asleep that night with a calmness that had eluded me for weeks.
Within the next month, I found a studio in the posh NW 21st-23rd Avenue section of Portland, survived midterms of what was popularly believed to be the toughest quarter of the toughest year of medical school, and my itching began to subside as the Elimite had performed its deadly magic perfectly. The studio was expensive, but a splurge I felt I deserved after such a bad period of my life. Nightly hot baths began to be a part of my healing. I very consciously began to think of how I wanted my place to look, of what themes I wanted to incorporate, and what areas of my life I wanted them to support. I ate well, went easy on myself emotionally but stayed vigorously involved academically. My studio felt light, easy, lovely, and was surrounded by the sweet scent of linden blossoms. I bought a beautiful round tiled table probably better suited for an outdoor cafe as my kitchen table. I began making more delicious and healthy meals, yet sometimes just had burgers and beer or pizza or takeout Thai for dinner as well. There were times where I would go fetal on my bed out of the pain of having broken up from the first long-term relationship I had ever had with the first man who had shown me unconditional love. But those periods began to subside, and my friends began to notice that I was coming into my own and blossoming more than they had ever seen before. They loved watching and experiencing the metamorphosis as much as I loved living it. And to celebrate successfully finishing my second year of medical school, I splurged and bought myself the Disco Box Set – one of my most joyous and beloved gifts of all time.
The summer of 2001 remained delightful. Despite my preoccupation with studying for my basic science boards and my rage at not having successfully amended a non-passing grade in pathology (which, as I found out the afternoon before the boards began, disqualified me from taking them), I was floating high. I also was enjoying a summer fling with a tremendously attractive man I had met while I was with my ex (but with whom I had done nothing). I had begun seeing one of the most experienced and respected naturopathic doctors of all time as a physician, and he had helped improve my health profoundly. In general, I was enjoying a freedom and lightness in my life I had never before experienced. Everything seemed to just flow, and I was enjoying one of the greatest periods of my adult life. Ah, independence.
However, this period of freedom was not to last. I did not feel I could justify a high rent in the trendiest, toniest section of Portland for more than six months, and when a friend offered to let me live with him for a lesser rent (actually, it was more him begging me to live with him and his two other roommates), I was happy to do so. And merely three weeks before I was to move, I met the man who would become the most important man in my life for the next fifteen years. Just when I least expected or wanted it, when I was so happy to be single, suddenly I found someone for whom there was some serious, delightful, mutual attraction. It ended up being the next step of major happiness in my life. As it happened, I moved on 9/11 – the most tragic day in this country’s modern history. And the sudden recognizance that life is fleeting, that you don’t know what may happen in the future, and “if someone comes along, he gonna give you love and affection, I say get it while you can,” in Janis Joplin’s immortal words, made our mutual decision to move in together more ironclad. And so, my period of unfettered independence ended on New Year’s Eve of 2001, as we drove a U-Haul from Denver up to a townhome-ish complex in chilly, rainy east Portland and moved in to our new place together.