- Poison oak on my crotch: 0 stars
- Nell (immediately after relief from the poison oak): IN-FUCKING-FINITY STARS
- Nell (two years later): 0 stars
Was it Worth It: Take your pants off, please
Somehow that’s none of your business but also “I honestly don’t know?” I ended up with poison oak on my private dancer. Like, all over my private dancer and I don’t think I realized it at first, I was just, you know, sort of itchy in a way that guys— look, I’m not interested in explaining a man’s crotch because it’s mysterious, anyway, and sacred.
The point is, my penis was covered in poison oak and it became known to me via the fact that what happens when your dick is engulfed in itch is this: it gets VERY puffy. And maybe at first you think, “FINALLY*.” But then you think, hmm. And then it’s the worst and you’ll take several long showers a day because under hot running water everything makes sense, finally, and you stop scratching yourself and you start living. Until you have to get out of the shower.
You will also try coating your penis in Head’n’Shoulders because at the time it made sense.
[* And you think “finally” because that’s a fun anxiety men have that is also stupid and one time in your life a guy you will date after this story, but several years after, and who, if we’re honest, you shouldn’t have dated anyway for a variety of reasons that amount to “oh, he’s going to give me crabs at some point and then introduce me in an off-handed way to the guy with whom he’s been cheating” but I’m getting away from the main point, and that’s that one time you’ll be drunkenly stumbling from one bar to another and he’ll pull you into a store-front doorway and you’ll think, “Maybe this is it? Maybe he’ll say something like ‘I love you’ or ‘this feels right’ or ‘i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)'” but instead what he’ll say is “I’m not sure if this is going to last or not because I like guys who are bigger” and you’ll say “oh” and he’ll say “I mean bigger like, bigger endowed” and you’ll not correct his idiom because of course it’s clear what he means, was clear from the start, and your heart will break a little but this is all in the future and also now in the past but it is still tender only you can also laugh a little because you will be friends with him on Facebook for all of 10 minutes and he looks terrible.]
I see a doctor. I see a doctor because we have now moved beyond “puffy” to “mildly disfigured” and the doctor, a calm woman named Theresa, says, “Well, show me.” And I say, “Excuse me?” And she says, “You’ll need to drop your pants.” And I look desperately for a porcelain doll on whom to point, in the general area of my situation, while looking demurely away in the hopes that the other wives won’t hear of my curious condition and attempt to woo the shogun away from me, is how I think this happens, in history, right? But I am also the clever wife so I think I’ll win in the end and then everyone else will have to tap the bottoms of my feet lightly with those sticks and didn’t a lady fall off a roof in that movie?
Theresa wants me to take off my pants and I want to die. She says helpful things like, “How bad can it be?” and “I am a trained professional, you know” and “Listen, I’ve seen a lot worse” and “It’s probably just a rash of some kind – maybe jock itch” and finally I just whoosh my sweat pants down and stand there in whatever glory is available to me as a fragile child of a loving God and Theresa makes a sharp sucking-in sound and mutters “JEEsus” and then says, “Ooof, that’s poison oak.”
“How did you get this?” she asked. And we’re back to the beginning of this piece where I say “somehow?” and “I honestly don’t know” and the thing is, please believe me, because I honestly don’t know because at that time in my life I wasn’t the sexually confident man you see before you, but was instead did things like leave awkward notes on mostly-clean napkins at restaurants to waiters whom I thought were cute and would be charmed, just charmed, by my wanting to take our relationship to the next level because I thought being conscientious meant saying things like “What do you recommend?” and “I am a patron who wants no part in being responsible for his choices because it’s a cute look on me and also I didn’t learn how to tip properly until about 5 years after this story.” My guess is it was when I peed outdoors. “And then you wiped everything off with a poison oak leaf?” How dare you.
We left that mystery as an offering to the universe and Theresa just said, “I hope you know what to look for next time,” and I said, “ ” – which is nothing, because I’m not going to learn botany, I just took the prescription for some sort of cortisone cream and these other pills, pills for itching, and I tried to wait until I was home but instead just rubbed lotion all over my tenderness in my car because I make great choices and let me tell you:
The itching stopped.
Whereas before my whole life had been rounded with aggravation I achieved a state of mental and spiritual clarity that I had never experienced before. In that time and at that moment I transcended whatever one transcends in situations like that; look, the point of the ineffable is that you’re not supposed to eff it, but just know I was full of Buddha nature and that’s why I decided to say yes! to life, yes! to love, and yes! to seeing the movie Nell with two friends who were also a couple who often needed a witness to their terrible relationship, in a theater, with other people.
It was the best movie I had ever seen in my life.
I started crying almost immediately, because I really identified with the mystical mist that settled over the mountains where Nell was living, by herself, after her mother died, but literally, the actual mist. I was free of bodily concern and as gentle to myself and others. I sobbed openly when Nell was tricked into lifting her dress up above her head when Liam Neeson and the Richardson who died took her into town because I had had to, sort of essentially, raise my own metaphorical skirt above my head by whooshing my sweatpants into a puddle of itch and shame at my feet. The friends with whom I was seeing the film had to pull me back down into my seat each time I tried to stand and applaud because acting like this deserved, in my opinion, a standing ovation. I mouthed the beautiful words that fell from Nell’s lips along with her – your “Tays inna winn*,” yes, but also the immortal “may’n’ma’n’ma’n’may” and, too, “Nell caw Mi’I – an Nell an’ Mi’I – ye.” When the Richardson who’s dead now tried to police Nell’s budding sexuality I said, “NO, Richardson whose full name I can’t remember, I WON’T ALLOW IT” and I keened in that Baptist way of the recently redeemed when the movie ends while Nell looks at a child, heartbroken both for what that child will never get to experience – life in the woods on its own with perfect teeth and a skull kept secret in the hollow by a stream – and what Nell will never get to experience: sex with Liam Neeson.
[* You can tell your Basic Bitches from your True Fans of the movie Nell by what lines people quote. Anyone who opens with “Tays inna winn” is not a fan of the film, but a fan of attention.]
I left that movie a changed person – both because my penis was on its way back to a normal shape that seemed representative of human genitalia; but also in my heart. Nell in the movie Nell was also a story about Mike. I told everyone I could find about how amazing that movie was – sometimes with even a catch in my voice. “THIS MOVIE WILL COMPLETE YOU,” I said. A lot. To many. For, like, a while. (“HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MOVIE?” I said to the usher as we were leaving. “Yeah, a few times, I work he–” “BUT HAVE YOU REALLY SEEN IT?” I demanded, before my friends pulled me away to the safety of anywhere but there.)
Several years later, I am living in Portland, Oregon – but actually Beaverton, Oregon, which has a food festival called A Taste of Beaverton! because we hate women to this day but also back then – and my roommate Michelle and I are…not getting along as great as I had hoped, now that we’re both living away from our own homes and with each other in a town we don’t know and lives that don’t yet make sense. “Nell is playing at the dollar theater,” she says to me, one afternoon, out of desperation and a need to leave the apartment. “Will you shut up about it if we see it?” And I said, “Shell Gordon, I will only see this movie if you are ready to have everything about your life completely changed.” She said– who can remember what she said. But we went. And it was awful. That movie is the worst movie that has ever been made and it wasn’t long after that that we both sort of said, “But what if we each spread our wings in different directions?” And maybe I thought a little bit about Nell, on that rock, and her new life, full of possibility, which is what you’re supposed to say, but maybe actually not that much possibility because it’s a tough job market out there for people who haven’t been raised in the woods with no language but twinspeak. Part of me, at that moment, thought that maybe the world was about to open up for me in exciting new ways; but, instead, it remained sort of familiarly closed and often lonely.
And that is my review of the movie Nell, starring Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson, and the Richardson who is dead.