The Man Without a Face (Sort of ...)

Recently, some spots on my face were diagnosed not as the distinctive markings of a rare intellect-which I had assumed them to be-but as a precancerous skin malady. In strict medical terms, the condition is known as "Having A Face That Looks Like Butter

Pecan Ice Cream," and it needed to be treated right away.

Unfortunately, this required a visit to Dr. Bob's House of Pain. That's not what he calls his office, of course, but then his is a slightly different perspective than mine. I'm the guy on the table, on my back, wondering, "Hey, what's that burning smell?"

When the dermatologist first told me he'd have to cauterize the spots, I asked him if it would hurt. "It all depends on what you mean by 'hurt,'" he replied.

I hadn't thought I was asking a complex question. But he went on to explain that people have different thresholds of pain: A higher threshold means you can put up with a greater degree of discomfort, such as network television. A lower threshold means you reach the point of discomfort much earlier, like, in my case, on the drive over.

He sympathized with my state of nervous apprehension (which at that point, was more like a continent) and assured me that Novocain would help. This assurance lasted only as long as it took him to pull out a hypodermic needle the size of a tennis ball can. He would have to inject each of the nine skin spots, he calmly related.

"Will it hurt?" I asked.

"It all depends on what you mean by...."

Fine. Nine shots, or nine burns with a hot needle-like thingy. Ikept waiting for the third option. (Slow lingering death? Okay, I'll take that one.)

I helpfully pointed out that my dentist uses a desensitizing cream before injecting Novocain, but the doctor replied, "Oh, we don't do that here."

"Where, exactly, do you do it?" I asked. "I'd be happy to change rooms."

Hah, he said.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1995
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