By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 6, 2014
I was moping around the house Thursday afternoon when I decided to clean out my ears.
As is so often the case, this had the opposite effect from what I’d intended: The wax was compacted in my right ear, thereby occluding my hearing. I’ve previously described what this is like:
[S]ounds are fuzzier and softer and just harder to make out… [I]t leaves me with the sensation of being trapped in my own head. It also makes me feel slightly dizzy and fatigued.
I’ve been walking around like this for a few days now. There has, however, been a twist: On Friday, without my doing anything, my left ear canal closed up.
My right ear isn’t great, but it’s better than my left ear now. Except sometimes when they switch. It’s all very confusing.
Also on Friday, I walked to a coffee shop — the first exercise that I’d done since falling off my bicycle on Aug. 17. On my trip back home (the round trip is about a mile, depending on how far I deliberately go out of my way for the sake of getting in some additional walking), I was just ambling along when something happened.
I was moving up the sidewalk, looking at the house to my left, when my right foot caught — well, something. The object, which felt like a strand of barbed wire, whipped up and curled around to my left side. A barb, or so it seemed, nicked my wrist and slid along the outside of my pinkie.
I cursed and swung my head around. My sneaker had swiped not a piece of metal but some kind of vine that had been placed by the side of the road along with stray limbs and other unwanted yard debris. The thorns of the vine had pricked my wrist and left a shallow one-inch-long cut on my finger.
I swore again. I would have to apply Band-Aids to my new cuts. This is something I’d normally do, but it seemed especially urgent because I’d just been reading an essay by a reporter who had visited one of the African nations that has experienced an Ebola outbreak. There, skin-to-skin contact is avoided whenever possible, because invisible breaks in the skin can serve as a point of entry for the deadly virus.
This little incident — getting caught up in the whipsawing vine — was also embarrassing because some other people were walking on the street and presumably saw my klutzy stumble.
But there was nothing to be done about that. I continued walking home, fuming all the way, feeling self-conscious and trapped in my stuffy head.