If you consult a doctor’s library of common illnesses, you’re likely to have the impression that a boil-- or furuncle-- is a garden-variety skin disease caused by the infection of hair follicles by Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of bacteria that normally lives on the skin’s surface. The follicle accumulates pus and other dead tissues and becomes a painful lump as the body’s immune system fights off the infection. Said body will be well acquainted with this mean cunt for a few days since there’s no other way to cure it but to let it run its course. Shortly after a yellow ‘head’ appears on it, the boil will burst and discharge pus. Thus ends one’s brief friendship with the furuncle.
Sterile medical language, I must say, fails to invoke the sense of Biblical awe that a boil rightly deserves. Friends, you have never known suffering if you haven’t had a boil on your thigh mere inches from your nuts. Such misery transcends humanity. It has been known to turn peons into poets. Consider:
Exhibit A: Ernest Hemingway
Novelist and AA poster boy Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to one of his many amours, admitted it was a recurring boil that most influenced his writing rather than the horrors of war. He developed his famous writing style-- the economic use of language-- not because of any conscious effort to reject artsyfartsy bullshit but because his boil was such a nasty sonofabitch that he wanted to get the work done as soon as possible so he can hit the bottle. His characters were stoic not because stoicism’s manly but because with chronic furunculosis, it’s either that or suicide. In the end, though, even stoicism failed to save Hemingway from the torments of his infernal thorn. In 1961, he leveled his shotgun upon Mankind, pulled the trigger, and used his face to catch the blast.
Exhibit B: Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Romantic poets were the emo kids of the 19th century. Most times they hung around bohemian cafés, trying to outdo each other’s public display of sissyhood by weeping over glasses of absinthe and screaming about unrequited love and how the whole world does not understand their passions. They talk a lot about how much they avoid fucking women. Their definition of a hot chick is a sixteen-year-old girl dying of consumption. Despite the scientific impossibility of it, they think that the ultimate sign of coolness is if your hair turns white overnight because you’ve been thinking a lot about that consumptive jailbait next door.
One of the most celebrated members of that group is the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. He wrote intellectual shit like Ozymandias and Rambo III. After his death in 1822, Shelly’s notebooks were discovered and the source of his genius was finally revealed. You guessed it: a boil. That infected follicle was such a big influence on Shelley that he actually wrote a poem about it-- a miniature masterpiece brimming with youthful enthusiasm and raw genius in iambic pentameter:
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
You infestation come from times of yore
You Testament of Pharoah’s bitter sin
You swollen, murd’rous thing besmeared with gore
And filled with glist’ring hatred deep within
Come stray me from my promised golden path
Come fill my nights with thoughts of bloody death
Come bring me God’s o’erflowing cup of wrath
And scourge me naked with Anubis’ breath
For there to pain my corpse’s fleshly length
For there beside old Adam’s fatal sons
For there to feed and make your wretched strength
And there like unto incandescent suns
O ache beyond all human reckoning
O gnashing teeth and dark, draconian toil
O guilty Philistine and crownless king
And friend and love-- my nameless, heartless boil
I suppose I can go on some more on this pedantic path and educate you on Caucasian literary giants yet I’d rather watch you in ignorance so I’ll just go on with the story of my boil.
March 7, 2007
After the doctor examined my boil, I went through my day trying to ignore the stupid fuck (the boil, not my doctor). The pain forced me to walk around the house with a cowboy’s bowlegged swagger, prompting my wife to hum the theme music from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I proceeded to beat her. To get even with me, she cut off my thumbs as I slept.
March 8, 2007
I went to Quezon City for some meetings. While on the MRT, a heavily pregnant woman pushed me aside so that she can get the seat I was gunning for. She then smiled apologetically at me and told me her legs hurt. I smiled back at her and then kicked her disgustingly swollen belly. When she started bleeding, I quickly made my escape.
All throughout my meetings, my boil was acting up. To take my mind away from the pain, I went out into the street and kicked random children on the head. The cops appeared just as I finished dashing a baby’s skull against a wall. I again made my escape.
March 9, 2007
My boil started speaking to me in my dreams. When I woke up, it already had a pus-engorged head.
March 10, 2007
I had this conversation with my wife:
Wife: Take some pain killers, o Prince of Perfection.
Squid: No. Pain killers are for pussies.
Wife: It’s okay. I won’t tell anyone you took some, o Baron of Benevolence.
Squid: But that’s not the point. It’s the principle that matters to me. Would Hemingway have taken pain killers? I think not. ‘He went to the river. The river was there.’ A writer who could piece together a line that manly would have spat on pain killers.
Wife: Just take the fucking pain killers, o Hierophant of Heaven.
I again proceeded to beat her.
March 11, 2007
During breakfast, my wife fed me bread with rusty razor blades and used syringe needles hidden in them. I used one of the needles to prick my boil. I even took pictures: