A Pox on All Our Houses

in Culture by

So now we gotta deal with monkeypox…

That on top of COVID, which is still at pandemic levels, by the way, only everybody’s so over it that they catch it and don’t even report it—they don’t even bother getting tested at home. I guess they figure if it kills them, or their neighbor, the lady at the checkout counter, or even somebody they care about, it’s all a wash anyway.

Then there’s the rising sea levels, while the lakes and rivers are drying up. Our planet is like a man losing his hair and growing a beard.

Lake Mead has gotten so low that they keep finding dead bodies nobody was ever supposed to know about. Every foot lower equals another corpse, or something like that. I’m no good with conversion rates.

Half of California is on fire every year. Wildfires are such a normal part of the California lifestyle in these times that now Californians only talk of three seasons: award, sweeps, and fire.

And now the inferno has spread to Spain, where the rain used to fall mainly on the plain but doesn’t fall anywhere at all anymore.

Next door in France it’s even worse. They’ve already seen 39,812 hectares go up in smoke, which, again, I don’t know much about conversion rates, but that’s gotta be a lot of hectares or else they wouldn’t have reported the number.

I never even knew Europe could burn like that, outside of war. Then again, I never knew monkeypox was a thing, and now people tell me they’re not leaving their houses, preemptively quarantining, for fear of catching it.

Citizens everywhere are at each other’s throats over issues they sorta understand. It’s the fear of not knowing that makes people go crazy and violent. When in doubt, start swinging.

Half the world is plotting against the other half. Russia and China are still teamed up against America, but Russia and China don’t even trust each other because each one knows that the other wants to be top dog, or bear, or dragon. Russians are chauvinists like the Chinese and the Americans are, each country believing wholeheartedly in its own supremacy.

Then, of course, we have the slow, painful dumbing-down of society into idiocracy. People are really getting stupider these days, even me. I can feel my brain gently turning to mush, fed on a steady diet of Internet babble, made-for-middle-school videos, big flashy movies, and TV shows that aren’t great—not like The Sopranos, or how The Simpsons used to be—but just good enough to string us along till we get so bored that we stop watching and forget we even watched at all.

We’re all being strung along, like the donkey with the stick dangling in front of its nose, plodding along with half-closed eyelids.

I’d swear the world was coming to an end, and I’m not even panicking. If I were, would I be writing this nonsense? Maybe, but really I’m writing this because I’m extremely bored with the looming apocalypse, bored to an unhealthy degree, and I’d rather spend my remaining milliseconds doing something I enjoy, even if it’s pissing in a shitstorm, than sit and worry about the end of days.

I’m like those guys on the Titanic who heard the ship hit an iceberg and was going down and rushed to get suited and booted for cocktail hour. Seems like a lot of us are that way. Since it looks like we’re all going to be fish food sooner than we’d hoped—if there’s still fish left to feed—we might as well look our best and get our drink on.

This monkeypox, though, looks like a real shitty time. I saw this ratchet white girl on Instagram saying she had just caught monkeypox, showing everybody her busted lip, rashy hands, and swollen face. It looked like a bad case of herpes simplex 1, the kind you get on your lips for putting them on something nasty.

I caught it once, herpes, for kissing my ex. She was my ex when I kissed her, I mean, so I guess I deserved what I had coming.

We had been high school sweethearts, or I was hers, and then we broke up in college but were still living together and fucking around every few months or so, whenever we were drunk and horny and were in each other’s presence for more than 30 minutes, which was few and far between toward the finale. Those last months we were like roommates with benefits. She was a ghost I sometimes caught a glimpse of and occasionally boned.

Anyway, it was Valentine’s Day and we figured, what the hell, let’s go on a date for old time’s sake. We went to Cheesecake Factory and ate calamari. I drank a couple tallboys. She had this nasty sore on her top lip, and she had a tiny mouth so the sore was the only thing you saw. She tried to warn me but I was drunk and horny and nasty myself, so I kissed her anyway.

Later that night we fucked on the bare carpet in the half-dark living room like two junkies clinging to each other in an abandoned building.

Sure enough, a few days later I had a big stupid blister-like thing on my bottom lip, my gums were all swollen to the point where I couldn’t chew, plus a fever and sore all over. I just rode the fucker out since I had no health insurance.

Days went by with me on the couch moaning and groaning like a diseased Quasimodo, drinking shakes cuz my gums were so swollen. Even then my ex hardly noticed me as she went about her normal life, probably spreading her nasty all over Chicagoland.

Eventually, gracias a Dios, the swelling in my gums came down and I was back on solid foods, maybe a week and a half in. Then the lip sore went away. It flared back up from time to time over the next few years, the same sore in the same spot, only smaller and smaller. Last I saw it was in 2012 maybe.

There’s no known cure for herpes, that I know of—not for the upper kind or the lower kind. So me and Usher gotta live with this monkey on our backs for the rest of our lives, though I’d much rather have my kind than his.

And that wasn’t the first time I caught something from kissing a girl. In fact, the first girl I ever kissed infected me. She was our neighbor back when me and my brother lived by the Brickyard with our dad and our Italian stepmom—Italian from Cicero, not Sicily.

She got chickenpox, our neighbor girl did, then me and my brother caught it, which is how the grown-ups found out that we had kissed her. I guess my brother and I found the red blotches on her soft brown skin just too irresistible.

I don’t remember the kiss, or the pox that came with it.

But times have changed a lot, and so have I. Now I wouldn’t dare kiss a girl who sneezed or even sniffled once. Shit, I wouldn’t kiss a girl with flat feet.

What’s the world coming to?

 

Featured image: A costume worn by doctors treating the plague in Europe during the Renaissance. (davide.alberani/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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