This tattoo is making my arm awfully itchy. Karen reminds me that it’s a sign of healing – cuz getting it is like having a skin irritation or bad sunburn; it first stings and then peels – though it feels right now like having mild poison ivy.
Speaking of which, in the lore of spending my summers at Point O’ Woods on Fire Island was one day when I was biking with my buddy Dave along this rail-less wood walk elevated 3-feet over swamp and which ran between the main path and the path that ended at the yacht club. It was an arc of about 90 degrees and 100 yards long, with only two walkways jutting off to the right leading to houses, so it was a fairly safe place to bomb along, if you were feeling particularly risky and if you were feeling particularly 14.
What made the path even more risky to the Rapidly Moving Teenager was that the swamp over which the path raced along was covered in reeds and poison ivy. Mainly poison ivy, and where there wasn’t poison ivy, lots of reeds.
I was bombing along behind Dave and of course when you bomb as a teenager, you usually stand up to get Extra Pumping Power. He was equally committed to making our way along the path in about seven seconds, yet all of a sudden his chain caught and his back wheel went into an uncontrollable skid. I, being 14 and committed to racing, was about three feet behind him, pumping while standing up and thinking probably more about either the Pop Tarts we just ate or the bikinis that our female friends were wearing that day, and did not have time to react to this skid. My bike glanced off his back wheel, careened left and I went over the side into the swamp…and reeds…and poison ivy. Lots of poison ivy. With my bike landing on top. I looked up, and Dave was examining his calf, which I must have hit on my way into the swamp.
I sought help.
He offered none.
I sought some kind of acknowledgement that I was lying in a pile of vegetation that God must have created just to remind us that we are depraved sinners and need to be humbled at times. At the very least, He must have created it when He was in a bad mood.
Either hours later or maybe after twenty seconds, he reached down and pulled me up to the path. I biked home, not bruised but interested to know whether showering with soap and water would actually stave off the impending poison ivy the way “they say” it does.
Perhaps this is what the medical textbooks tell you that you must do to neutralize the rash-inducing urushiol that poison ivy contains. Perhaps I thought that – surely – just because I had fallen in the swamp with my arms and neck and backs of my legs soaking up that urushiol like water to a dry sponge didn’t condemn me to two weeks-plus of scratching and Calamine Lotion-ing and at times lying in bed wishing that my legs – covered practically from thigh to ankle with the rash – would simply fall off even if it meant that I would never surf again or walk or be able to kiss a girl who was over two feet tall.
But heal I did. And my wife is 5’2”. And she is down with my tattoo.