Dealing with the Unwanted Visitor

Staph is common in the ocean waters surrounding Roatan. This is a short story about my exposure to this unwanted visitor, that affects roughly 10 out of 10 dive masters and instructors living on the island.

I too felt the wrath of staph one sunny optimistic morning. I ignored the first few blisters. Hoping they would just go away, I told myself nothing was wrong and my world was the same as the day before, green beer would be served, Bob Marley would sing and bubbles would be blown. After few became many, spreading from my armpits to my nether region, I realized that I was up against a serious test of manhood. I couldn’t ignore this enemy and I faced it head on.

I had heard that urine would cure the infections, so I diligently popped each little pimple, reaching between my legs with dirty fingernails and squeezing as best as one man can. I wanted to be sure and thus grabbed a keychain flashlight in one hand and popped with the other. I couldn’t really see too well, so I proceeded to get on my back arching my head up between my legs for better lighting. I was alone in the communal bathroom at the time, but as luck would have it hadn’t locked the door. With my head inches from my pimply bottom, my left hand holding a little flashlight and my right hand nervously close to my sorest area, my beautiful calm wife opened the door. I had been caught in humiliating acts before, bringing shame and embarrassment to both my wife and I, but this took it to a whole new level. The expression on Andrea’s face was horrifying and I knew that without quick words our marriage was on shaky ground. I thought fast and hard and with confidence explained my plan, "no, you see baby; I need you to pee on me." She replied, "and, I need you to put your pants on and never ever do this again." She left me on my back, door slightly ajar with my shorts around my ankles.

I pulled up my pants and ran out the door chasing her down and explained that I really did need her help. I showed her my blisters forcing her to watch the train wreck of me bending at the waste and spreading my naked bottom. "Here right here," I exclaimed pointing to my most humiliating body part. Only after my desperate pleading did she agree. We returned to the bathroom and stripped out of our clothing, I assumed the position curling up at the bottom of the shower and she peed. A day later the blisters were worse. Urine was not the answer.

For my next attempt, I went to the West End pharmacy. An old white man with a Caribbean accent set at the counter, his shirt completely unbuttoned, a plump belly covered in gray hair folded over his khaki pants. He ignored me as I browsed the dust covered medicine on the sparse shelves next to green plantains and individually wrapped rolls of toilet paper. Medical labels are for doctors and nurses, it’s a language spoken only after eight years of medical school and two years of residency. Now put a Spanish twist into the mix and you’ve got a whole bunch of incomprehensible potions and spells straight out of an alchemist’s lab. I went with the tried and true approach of common sense. I figured like medicines are stored in like places. Thus around penicillin, the only name which I recognized, would be the antibiotics. Furthermore, I figured that a lotion would be for topical purposes like for instance a skin condition, perhaps even a staph infection. Finally, I went with the most logical of all common sense rationality. You get what you pay for. So, I picked the most expensive topical ointment in the general vicinity of the penicillin.

At the counter the old man seemed pleased with my decision. I took his approval as a sign that he knew what ailed me and agreed; this magical ointment would indeed cure me of my puss filled blisters. I happily left the pharmacy with my bowlegged labored shuffle knowing that my suffering was nearly over. After applying the expensive ointment to my armpits and unmentionables three times daily for a week’s time, the blisters remained defiant. All was lost, I would never get better.

That’s when I made my third and final mistake. I went to my boss Justus. First, I told him I had the curse. He looked back with glazed eyes, he had no idea what I was talking about. I told him about the blisters on my "you know" and a wave of knowing came upon him. "Oh, of course you have blisters, you wear a wet suit!" he said, following with "everyone gets them -- no big deal, they go away." Clearly his hadn’t at least since we had been on the island. I showed him the nearly empty tube of expensive ointment that I had applied religiously. "This is junk -- won’t work," he chastised.

"Why not?"

"It’s for your eyes."

"No, really?"

"Yeah, it’s for pink eye; who told you to buy this?"

I had been taken. The reason that old man had been so pleased with my choice at the pharmacy was because my purchase clearly paid for a rather nice dinner that night. He hadn’t been concerned with my discomfort at all. Everyone on the island suffered. Why should I be any different? Justus tossed me a bottle of penicillin and told me to stay out of the water for a week.

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