Not long ago, my friend Rob hosted a BBQ in honor of everyone’s favorite made-up holiday, Titmas. In an attempt to be a good guest, I asked if I could help with anything, and he handed me a bag of jalepenos and asked me to cut them in half, de-seed them, and fill them with cheese to go on the grill. My friend Emily took care of the cutting, and Jason was in charge of filling them with cheese, so I got down to business with the de-seeding, and we all had them done in no time. While performing this task, I made an offhand remark that jalepenos were really not much hotter than green peppers, and this, for the loyal and careful reader, is what’s known as foreshadowing. Or comeuppance, for those with a strong sense of justice.
We ate and then sat around and chatted. After a while, I began to notice a burning sensation in my fingers and around my mouth. I excused myself, ran my hands under some water in the kitchen, and rejoined the group. The burning sensation grew. By the time we left for our second engagement of the day, my hands felt like they were composed of rods of flame, and my upper lip was prickled with droplets of burning sweat. We stopped along the way to purchase some milk, which I lamely dribbled over my fingers in the parking lot, fully aware of how ridiculous I looked, so I stopped and brought the rest of the milk over to Tristan’s.
Tristan and Jason ended up discussing some new game while I was perched over the kitchen sink, cupping milk into one hand and dipping my lips into it, attempting to join the conversation by burbling my responses through the milk. Even after the milk was gone, my hands continued to burn, throbbing through True Blood and beyond. Jason did some online research and suggested I coat my hands in rubbing alcohol and then wash them with the hottest water I could stand. The rubbing alcohol brought temporary relief, but the hot water brought the pain back with a vengeance. I ran rubbing alcohol over them again, and the pain subsided for about thirty minutes, and then began creeping in again. I tried aloe, which helped for about five minutes. I somehow managed to get to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, I didn’t feel any pain.
…Until I rubbed my eye, which immediately began tearing and burning. During the day, I would forget that my hands were still instruments of pain, and I’d again accidentally touch an eye or put a finger in my mouth and the pain and burning would begin anew. On our way to Zumba class, I told Jason that it didn’t matter how many times I’d washed my hands, they were still coated in burning oils, and he refused to believe me. Eventually, we stopped at a red light and I crammed one of my hands into his mouth. He recoiled (not from the inherent grossness of having a hand jammed into his mouth) but from the burning sensation. “You weren’t kidding!” No. No, I was not. If only more arguments ended this way: “You don’t want me touching your radio dial? Fine, suck on this!” …I suppose it doesn’t work for most situations.
The important thing is that I learned a valuable lesson about being helpful. Namely, that I shouldn’t do it.