If I were to look back through my medical file to find the exact reason why it was so difficult for me to find reasonable health insurance recently, I could probably pinpoint it to the section that details my total tapeworm panic of 1998. Not that I actually had a tapeworm or had any rational reason to fear I did, it’s just that I’d recently returned from Costa Rica where I spent a week as a guest in my friend’s flooded garage, and here I was working for this big corporation with a full benefit package, so why not get a check up with complete CAT scan to ensure I didn’t smuggle any bionic parasites back on the plane with me? It’s covered, right?
I’m thinking past habits like this hindered me when I applied for health insurance, seeing as how I’m now self-employed and expected to be responsible for my medical care my own-ass self these days. Who wants to insure someone with a medical file so fat it practically has to be carried by a harness from a helicopter? The approaching holidays do not help, either. In fact, it’s always during the holidays that my hypochondria cranks into hyperdrive. For example, a few years ago I became convinced my liver was the size of a sea elephant, living inside me like an angry unborn twin with teeth and everything. I had to make an appointment at a doctor’s office in another county, because my reputation at clinics closer to home was still tainted after the tapeworm hysteria the year before.
But I had this here pain in my side, see, and it wasn’t my appendix, because that was cut out of me on Christmas Eve of 1996. So the newest pain must been another organ, and I figured it was my liver, seeing as how I’d been drinking like a frat boy at a beer fest lately. In actuality, though, it was just the result of swallowing a big bran tablet without sufficient water intake. To cure me, the nurse brought me six cups of water on a tray and stood by as I drank each one. The cost to my insurance company? $2,100.
So I’m hoping self employment will cure my of my hypochondria. Not only do I not have the money to waste my whopping $1000 deductible on imaginative ailments, I don’t the time to suck from my business in order to indulge all the doctor visits. So I’m cursed to sit with myself untended now, no longer privy to a team of crisp professionals who can separate my crazed panic from my perfect reality.
I miss them, though. They were there to tell me that the flesh-eating ass cancer I freaked about a few Thanksgivings ago was really just the result of me sitting all day in my underwear on top of a lost earring, and they were there during the monumental event during Christmas of 1996, when I got the appendicitis. I mean, seriously, they would not have opened me up and taken out an organ (would they?) unless there was something really wrong with it. See? Sometimes this is not all in my head!
Looking back I realize it all started back in grade school when, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, my Life Sciences teacher showed the class a closeup of a clogged human artery, bisected. “This is what happens when you eat crappy food,” she said in her crone voice, holding the photo aloft. “When this guy died, his arteries were so stiff you could snap them in half like a piece of dried pasta,” she added, thrusting the photo forward, which caused her upper arms to quiver like two turkey wattles. “Raw pasta,” she reiterated, and I swear, it was years before I could eat Spaghettios again. That night I had to invent an ear ache just so I could sleep in my parents’ bed, and believe me, my parents were not cuddly people, and their bed was not comfortable, either.
For one thing it had ashtrays in it, and tons of books. One in particular was The Excorcist. Jesus God, I wish my mother had hidden that book a little better, because after reading it I had never been so scared of a book in my life. So that’s the year I was possessed by the devil for the holidays. I began twitching my shoulders and thrashing my head at odd moments, because I could feel Satan simmering inside me, and I thought if I stayed still too long I’d barf up a big nest of snakes, which would be very embarrassing. Finally my mother confronted me one night — I was hard to miss, right there in bed with her, twitching and thrashing — “What is the goddam matter with you?” she shouted.
I told her the truth, that I was afraid I was going to Hell, that Lucifer’s minions would drag me down through the butthole of oblivion to the heart of all awfulness, where devils will poke at my festering sores with fondue forks for all of eternity. At that my mother eyed me keenly over the top of her book before muttering just one sentence. “Kid,” she said, “Hell is all in your head.”