For years, I’ve had a cluster of tiny cysts growing on my left forearm. Just little nubs that could be anything, really: extra soft tissue that happened to decide that they wanted to live close together. That’s what Dr Chan, my long suffering dermatologist, told me when they first started growing and I was convinced that I was about to die some horrific agonizing death involving complications arising from a botched amputation. Actually, his official diagnosis was, “You do know that your hypochondria put my kids through private school, don’t you?”
The thing was, like the doddering old lady who rents the flat down the hall from us, they never really bothered me. And I live by the motto ‘Live and let live’, so I let it go and pretended they were mosquito bites. “They’re mosquito bites,” I would tell people when I caught them looking out of the corner of their eyes. They always looked unconvinced.
“They’re really disgusting!” cooed my flatmate Saffy with a delicious thrill of horror the first time her eyes lit on them. This, after we’d only just been introduced. She looked up and stared at me. “Have you had them looked at? I saw this show the other night about someone who had a whole nest of worms living inside one of his boils.”
“It’s not a boil,” I said, even as I inched away from this obviously crazy chick. “It’s a mosquito bite. Please step away from me.”
Recently though, I was looking at the cysts and finally decided I was going to get them taken out. I made the announcement at dinner with my flatmates, Karl and Barney Chen.
“It’s about time,” Amanda exclaimed. “They’ve got to be the yuckiest things I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m a lawyer!”
“It’s so butch of you to go for elective surgery,” said Barney with deep admiration. “I faint when I even think about a scalpel!”
“I’m coming with you to Dr Chan’s!” Saffy announced.
“What? Why?” I said automatically.
“Because he’s my future husband, that’s why!”
I sighed. For years, Saffy has carefully nursed the fantasy that one day Dr Chan will look at her and realize that he’s been wasting the past 15 years of his life with his current wife – the very sweet gynaecologist, Dr Chee – and that he must have Saffy at any cost.
“I swear, I’m so hypnotized by those lush lips of his,” she would say. “They’re begging for me to kiss them!”
“You are wasting your time,” Barney once told Saffy kindly. “If he’s going to leave his wife for anyone, it’ll be for me! I’m so obviously his type!”
Even Amanda has tried on several occasions to break up that marriage, making up the flimsiest dermatological condition just so she could have an appointment and flirt madly in her sheerest Blumarine chiffon dress.
“I don’t know what the attraction is,” Karl once said after a visit to remove a rather unattractive mole from his right shoulder blade.
“Are you mad?” Saffy said, her fabulous bosom puffing up. “He’s like the love child of Takeshi Kaneshiro and Ken Watanabe!”
“And Teo Ser Luck!” Barney growled, his eyebrows knitting together at the sheer improbability of such a sensational genetic union.
“I just don’t understand why he’s not responded to my charms!” Saffy wondered, while peering down at the deep caverns straining beneath her tight tube top.
“Because he’s happily married to a wonderful woman and has four beautiful children!” I said.
“Because he’s never seen me in a swim suit,” said Amanda. I noticed Karl shift a little uncomfortably in his chair.
“Because he’s obviously thinking about me,” said Barney.
“Who are you people?” Karl exclaimed.
And so, I’ve made an appointment with Dr Chan. “It’ll take about an hour to get it all out and you shouldn’t have any scars by the time I’m done. I’m rather good with my stitches,” he said modestly, as he peered at my extended arm. “By the way, how’s your friend, Saffy?”
My eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Why do you ask?”
“You told him you might have leprosy?” I yelled at Saffy later that night.
“Oh my God! He told you that?” she shouted back. “What ever happened to client-patient confidentiality?”
“It doesn’t apply to made up skin diseases!”
“Well, I might have had leprosy!” Saffy sniffed, still clearly appalled at the ethical breach. Later, Amanda said that Saffy was good. “I would never have thought of leprosy,” she said with approval.
Barney says the girls had better watch their backs. “And not in a good way, either,” he adds.