Curiosity Hurts

Sometime around the age of five, I passed from the hazy netherworld of a toddler into a dawning recognition of the world around me. Adult conversations began to have meaning, words magically appeared from what had been a mass of letters and even those messages between my favorite shows, commercials, began to make sense to me. As with any life passage, this was not an entirely pain-free journey.

I recall a brisk winter day some 14 years ago. My brother and I were cloistered around the television, sharing a warm blanket. It was a comfortable routine as we discussed the latest turn of events in our favorite cartoons and lounged in front of the screen without a care. On this particular day, I was in some distress due to a small but nagging pain in my . . . groin area. Subliminally, words began to drift into my consciousness:  “for the temporary relief of muscle pain, count on Ben Gay.” I stopped, on the verge of an epiphany. I heard the words, remembered them, and understood what they meant. Unfortunately, it did not end there. My quick little mind made a connection: I had seen a tube of this miracle balm before.

My parent’s bathroom was a place of extensive exploration during those years. My parents’ artifacts, near mythical creatures at that time, held some fascination for me. And I was not beyond hands-on experimentation, having emptied the better part of a can of shaving cream onto the floor on one occasion. It was during one such foray that I had noticed the tube of Ben Gay. So, there I was, a boy with “muscle” pain and a ready solution close at hand. I crept inconspicuously into my parents bathroom and stood on the closed toilet. Inside the medicine cabinet, just as I remembered,was a tube of Ben Gay.

I scooped the tube quickly into my hands and stole away to my room. Sitting on my bed, I opened the tube and sniffed it. A strong, medicinal aroma met my nostrils. Satisfied that this was indeed the cure I had been seeking, I sat and marveled. A vista of possibilities floated just ahead. What other problems might be overcome so easily and naturally? Cutting my reverie short, I attended to the business at hand. Not wanting to be greedy, I left fully half a tube for my father’s future use. The difference was in the palm of my small hand. I applied the cream liberally to the affected area.

After a moment, I noted a soothing warmth begin to spread gradually where I lathered the balm. It built slowly: warm toast, roasted marshmallows, hot soup, forest fire — MY GOD, I WAS ON FIRE!  I bolted from the room, careening off the hallway walls like a pinball hit by lightening. I couldn’t move fast enough as I tried to outrun the three-alarm fire that had broken out in my pants. Finally, I was snatched up by my father who quickly got to the root of the problem.

After a prolonged bath and cool compresses applied to my. . . groin, the pain gradually subsided. Beyond the pain, however, was a keen sense of bewilderment. I had heard the commercial, made the connection, followed the rules and found debilitating pain.

Needless to say, I never shop with QVC.

© Ryan Artman 11 December 2012

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