Monday, June 20, 2011

Enough About Him, What About Me?

You’ll have to forgive my fascination with superheroes. If I was into the therapy, I’d probably be diagnosed with an obsessive neurosis about vigilantes in star-spangled costumes.

But if I did join the ever expanding ranks of the “mentally ill”, I suspect I’d learn that a fetishist’s love of patterned granny panties or a cutter’s desire for the sting of bloody release stems from simple things.

Me, I don’t feel any pain.

No, really. There are only about 30 of us in the world. It’s called Congenital Indifference to Pain with Anhidrosis or CIPA. For those who care, Wikipedia’s pretty on top of the physical side of things:

For those who prefer life to be an unending cavalcade of summaries, let’s say that my nervous system has formed or malformed in such a way that I don’t feel pinches, burns, impacts, bites… anything that the other 7.6 billion humans would consider painful.

Hey, wow, eh? Many of you are probably now leaping-in-a-single-bound to the conclusion that I would make the perfect superhero. I’ve got my first power: immunity to pain. Sorry to disappoint, but the inability to feel a knife in your guts simply means you’ll bleed to death because you don’t know there’s a blade tickling your duodenum.

This is probably a better example. When I cut my first tooth as a toddler, I was in emergency six times in a week. Blood would spontaneously start pouring from cuts in my lips or on my tongue. It was a simple conclusion that I was biting myself; but I never cried about it. There would suddenly be a gory patch of fresh blood on my Scooby-Doo bib. My mother would gasp like a tire imploding, and little me would laugh and giggle at the funny face my horrified mom was making.

She told me later that one intelligent – read "sadistic" – doctor poked my pudgy cherubic heels with lancets. Each time, a pill of blood would bulge out, but I would continue to suck on the tongue depressor the nice man in the bright white coat had given me.

The diagnosis: CIPA. The treatment: like a leper, I had to be watched constantly. If I swallowed a safety pin, I’d die of internal bleeding. External cuts go unnoticed, infect, and I could die of advanced sepsis.

My first five years of life were spent on the inside of windows looking at kids on bikes and in swings and falling out of tree-houses. Carelessly they skinned their knees, were stung by bees, and whined about tiny splinters in their neurologically perfect finger-tips.

I went from the prison of a padded crib, to wearing knee pads and leather mittens on the rare instances that I went outside.

After twelve years of living with the learned fear of injury, surely my teenage years became a riotous release of rebellious extroversion, right?

Briefly, yes. For three months of my fourteenth year, I said fuck-it and did everything all the other kids were doing. With predictable results.

I went to the high-school dance and woke up the next morning with grapes of swelling around the knuckles of two toes which I had dislocated. My wrist had locked up around the bone-chips that I had knocked loose. Must have been the slam dancing.

I learned to drive a car. Slammed the door on a thumb, crushing it flat. Hilariously I simply tried to yank it out, like you might do when your coat or seat belt gets caught in there.

And, here’s some intimate honesty for you, I ruptured a testicle losing my cherry to Amy Rooks. She seemed to really enjoy when I slammed hard into her hole. That wet smack-smack-smack sound made her chin jut up and even virgin-balled me knew it felt really good to her. So I increased the speed and the impact. We both came. And a half-hour later my left nut was the size of a lemon. I didn’t fuck anybody again until I was twenty-two.

Amy helped re-institute my isolation by telling everybody about my self-induced testicular gigantism. I withdrew to the library during spares, lest I hear the chant of “Coconut”.

And that’s when I forged my relationship with that gallant tribe of people known as super-heroes. We had something in common: physical pain was unknown to us. Comic books were a world where I could belong.

It was natural then that I started to draw. As long as you stay away from exacto-knives, it’s really hard to hurt yourself in art class. Poking yourself with a sharpened pencil or a pen nib is manageable. It was another link, a wider, more intimate entry way into super-hero-land.

I was now creating the over-sized bosoms of the wonderful women and the mountainous biceps of the marvelous men who were my mentors and confidantes.

So, that’s what I do. If you were at a party and you needed to label me, you’d ask that: “So what do you do?” I’m a freelance graphic artist. Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, all the way down to the stone-age tools of pen, ink and paints.

And that’s why I really want this guy to be a superhero. Record-man. Diary-dude. The Masked Diary Writer. Maladaptive Coping Strategy Man. I’m forcing the issue, I know. I truly want it to be true.

Or so his sister Rebecca, the estate salesperson, told me when she called me back this past weekend and asked me out for coffee.

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