There is no doubt in my mind that if I have to contract some sort of disease or illness, it is going to be skin cancer. It’s just a fact. I totally abused the sun worshipping and then I had to go and do something so idiotic in college, that I imagine a diagnosis is right around the corner.
When I was a freshman in college, circa 1974,we weren’t too bright, I must admit. We were on the loose, away from home and are parents for the first time in our lives. We were little banshees. I think that was especially true for the kids who had very strict parents. I could point them out during the first month. They were really making bad decisions. But, alas, I had no right to talk about anyone after what I let happen.
I lived in a dorm room my freshman year with my roommate, Paula, who went to high school with me. Upstairs, Debbie and Jeri shared a room. They too, went to high school with us. The four of us did a lot together that first year and ended up renting an apartment the next year together. Debbie brought something back to school with her one weekend, and that next Wednesday evening, brought it down to our room. It was a sun lamp.
Ok, I never sat under a sun lamp before. It looked like a make-up mirror, with no mirror. I know that makes no sense, but that’s what it reminded me of. Debbie had us wear sunglasses or goggles and we all took turns sitting under the sun lamp. Except there was a big problem. We let Debbie position us in front of the sun lamp. And we really didn’t know how long was too long. I just remember that it was pretty hot.
The next morning, Paula woke up to use the bathroom about 20 minutes before we were supposed to get up. She had this biological clock going on and always woke up about 20 minutes early before her alarm was set to go off. That always woke me up. Well, especially today when I heard her sort of scream in front of her mirror, on her side of the dorm room.
“Oh my God, Vickie!. My face!!!!” I sat up, still pretty groggy and asked her what was wrong. “My face is so burnt! Come look!” But, I guess I took too long getting up, so she bounced over to my bed, turned my night stand light on, and said, “Oh MY GOD!!!!” I didn’t think she looked that bad. I mean, she was pretty red, and had lines where the sunglasses were, but she didn’t need so many exclamation marks in her voice.
Found out pretty quickly that she wasn’t talking about herself anymore. “Um…Vickie, you better go look in the mirror.” The look on her face was hard to describe. Pity, sympathy, wonderment…something was going on. I got up and walked over to the mirror. What I saw was not me. I am not exaggerating with this description.
My eyes were ok. So far, so good. But, for some reason, they were swollen a bit. Maybe that is because the rest of my face was swollen. Never mind the redness, let’s talk about my lips. My lips were swollen to the point that my upper lip was under my nose, blocking my nostrils a bit. My lower lip was just as swollen and covered most of my chin area. The only thing I could say, and it was in a whisper, was “I look like a Ubangi.” I was shocked. I looked over at Paula, and she looked sick, like I was going to stay that way for the rest of my life.
“Call Debbie and tell her to get down here, NOW.” Debbie didn’t particularly enjoy being awakened so early, but Paula told her it was an emergency and to come downstairs. I just sat on my bed, cross-legged, cradling one of my pillows. Paula still had that, “You are the ugliest thing I have ever seen in my life” look on her face. I looked at her and said, “And so, what were you wanting to tell me about your face this morning?” I felt like the Elephant Man. “I am not an animal. I am a human being.” Except that that movie didn’t come out until 1980. But, that’s how I felt. Like children were going to scream and run away from me. My peers were going to laugh at me. Ok, like in “Carrie.” “They’re all going to laugh at you.” (Damn, 1976…) Ok, you get the picture..
I realized that it was hard to talk when your lips are swollen.I found that I had to take a finger and raise my upper lip up a bit so I could talk. But, that made breathing harder. I was screwed. When Debbie came into the room, I knew what her reaction was going to be. She laughed at me. Like really hard. Paula felt so badly for me. She was burned a little, as was Jeri. Why did Paula and I get so burned? “We all sat under the lamp for the same time”, she stated. I moved my lip up so I could speak, which made Debbie crack up. “Ok, Einstein, how close were we to the lamp? You put the glasses on us and had us sit down in front of the damn thing.”
I wanted to punch her in the face when I heard her answer. “I think you guys were like right up to it.” I don’t know why the idiot didn’t think to move us back from the lamp. First of all, we found out that we sat under it way too long. Well, that was obvious. and secondly, we were right up to the lamp. So, that explains why I looked like a plastic surgery nightmare. Remember the Twilight Zone episode where everyone had to wear masks until midnight and then they couldn’t take off the masks, because the masks became their face? Well, that I did feel like.
Well, I couldn’t go to class, that’s for sure. Paula brought me back breakfast, which I had such a hard time eating. She brought me back a piece of chocolate cake after lunch, which took me a very long while to eat. I told them to not tell a soul what I look like. Yeah, like that was going to happen. Some of the guys on the football team that we were friends with and I was sort of seeing one, were standing below my window for a glimpse of the Elephant man. Great.
I took Friday off and drove home Thursday evening. I had to pull over numerous times because my eyes were burning and watering like I had allergies. My mom asked me “If Debbie jumped off a bridge, I guess you would too, right?” She felt sorry for me because after all, I would have to live looking like this for the rest of my life. Thank God my dad sort of laughed at me. I was beginning to like getting laughed at than the pity, omg, you poor pathetic ugly girl scenario I was getting from everyone.
For some reason my mom didn’t take me to the doctor. I am pretty sure I had second degree burns on my face. My mom and dad had company Friday night, and the people brought their son, who was about 3 years older than me and was studying to be a priest or he was already there, or almost there, because he was a brother? I don’t know what the hell he was, but I do know that I lied to him.
“Oh my goodness what happened to you?” I told him that I was driving in my car and had the window down and someone in front of me had hit a utility pole and the pole fell over and I was burned from the live wires that surrounded my car.
“Why wasn’t the rest of you burned?” he wondered. “Because I had my bee suit on.” I went on to tell him that I had a bee-keeping class as part of biology class and that I wore my suit home because I was running late, but took my head part off, but still had my gloves on, etc. Said it while holding my lip up with my index finger. I am so glad this was a priest/potential priest I was talking to, because I am sure I was pretty darn appealing.
Speaking of a-peeling, my skin started looking like layers of skin on top of skin. I later peeled so much it made for a bed bug feast. There was skin everywhere.
Anywho, I didn’t see the future priest for about a month. I had come home for the weekend and we went to visit them. When we pulled up, priest boy met me at the car….with a wheelchair. I guess he was ready for my next lie. I forgot to tell him I was lying, and his parents told him in the car about the sun lamp episode..I guess he laughed, but thought of a way to get me back. Wheeling me around in a wheelchair,to me, seemed like the joke was on him again…I enjoyed the scenery and stayed in the damn thing the whole time we were out on their patio.
So, if you are going to use a sunlamp, don’t let someone who is a ditz place you in front of the lamp. Just sayin.
Enjoy this story? Jumping in Mud Puddles is now an ebook that you can download on your Kindle. Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Amazon will let you download their Kindle app FREE…Yes, free. Have a look see. My literary debut….. Amazon.com for $3.99. It’s sort of funny.
Jumping in Mud Puddles: A Memoir of a Picky, Hyper,
Big Fat Liar