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war on the united states of me
making a mountain out of a mole
by michael d. driscoll

I was draped in a large Brawny towel with nothing but my boxers on when the guy came at me with a wet needle, a razor and a serious look on his face. I told him I wasn’t going to watch, he laughed.

I had been lying on my back, feet out in front of me, when the needle went under my skin forming a perfect bubble lump under the first piece of my body to leave me through unnatural causes. That was the last thing I saw before closing my eyes. Skin cells and hair jump off me every day in their quiet display of cellular suicide and follicular euthanasia, but this was different. I’ve never left a piece of me behind. In fact, I’ve been very careful not to leave parts of me anywhere. When I leave a room my arms go with me. When I jump in the pool my legs always follow. Even in the vulnerable state of intoxication I can’t lose myself because I’m always there, intact, until this moment in this exam room.

Oddly, secretly, I wanted to feel it. I wanted to feel the tug and pull of something being ripped from my body to match the other things I wanted to feel: deep loss and a deep burden on my soul that would plague my dreams, make me read stories about horrible events like women who give their children away at birth to faceless couples or people with bad feet. I wanted to drink Earl Grey and weep openly wearing fuzzy slippers.

When it was over the doctor looked into my eyes. He began touching the top of my nose and let out a hmph noise. “That’s a spider whositswhatsits,” I distinctively heard him say. “We’ll take that off during your visit today, and it’s good to get to it now,” he said as a matter of fact. “Hell, you could be driving down I-75 one day and suddenly…” he made the motion of blood exploding from the top of his nose into the air; his wavy hand, simulating splattered blood, landed on the counter next to the red needle box. Visions of driving on I-75 filled my head. I imagined the sudden burst of confusion of blood spewing from the top of my nose covering the windshield, the angry swerving across lanes to regain control of the car. He wanted to make me afraid of my body and it was working.

“Uh, before you remove it,” I asked, clearing my throat. “What will I look like at my 10 o’clock meeting?”

“Oh you’ll be fine — really.”

“Really?” I needed a hug or a punch on the shoulder. I got neither.


Instead of attacking from the side with a wet needle and razor he trudged head-on grabbing the chord of something that appeared to be to be connected to a non-threatening mounted hotel hair dryer. It reminded me of happier days, before the War on Moles and Whositswhatsits, when I would dry my hair after a long shower before leaving a hotel in search of a museum, historic locale or shoes. The memory faded quickly as one-hundred-eighty-quadrillion volts—of something that was definitely NOT a hair dryer—began to zap me on the nose in what can only be described as shock therapy for the facially insane.

He was on a killing spree across my body and all of his warnings came 20 seconds too late. “You may tear up a little,” he said midway through the attack. To my surprise I didn’t tear up. I cried, sobbed actually. Cut up, shocked, and disoriented I mumbled something about a mole near my right nipple before I could regain composure. He smiled and left the room as I pulled the Brawny towel to my chest and stared at the door waiting. Why did he have to leave? What tool doesn’t fit in this exam room? Did he go get restraints?

A few bedwetting minutes passed. The door to the exam room opened, but no one entered. I could hear the doctor talking to someone about his schedule when slowly I began to notice his hand creeping inside the door holding something resembling a blow torch. Was this really necessary — to show me the device and let my mind wander into the deep regions of absurdity without context? I looked down at the mole near my nipple but I couldn’t see it anymore. I was certain it too saw the blow torch and jumped off my body, ending its own life, but I had only imagined it away.

“See…,” I would say to the doctor as he struck the flint to ignite the torch, “…all gone, all better. Take that thing away and give it back to the blacksmith you stole it from.”

It was mid-way through the liquid nitrogen torture treatment of my right nipple when I felt the most shame. There I was, mostly naked, high above the city in some back room on the 12th floor with a strange man I had paid to turn my nipple into crème brulée (for some of you, that’s a great Saturday night, for me, it was the last battle of the war). And right on time: “It’ll turn dark and fall off,” he said as he held the cold devil machine to my breast. He had won. I was wounded on the battlefield and the score was not going to change.

Doctor with the creepy tools: 3
United States of Me: 0

“Will there be any else,” he asked, torch in hand.

If I had a white handkerchief I would have raised it. There was nothing that couldn’t wait until later. I had lost pieces of me and was going to lose more over the next few days as the flesh around my nipple would turn black as a result of the extreme blast of compressed nitrogen secretly working its death magic beneath my shirt.

Resting on the table after he left I began to think about the first mole he removed and how it was captured so easily, taken, sealed for transport with a one-way ticket to the camps in Pathology. Would it make friends with the other prisoners? I had to get out of there, so I did.

Later that day I was the first person in the conference room for my 10 o’clock meeting. Nobody noticed the red spot on my nose, or they didn’t mention it. Little did they know that earlier that morning a battle had raged against the United States of Me, a sovereign nation under siege. At the end of the meeting a close friend and colleague asked how my mole patrol visit went and I replied, “Oh it was fine, but I’m never going to see that dentist again.”


Curious about everything, Michael plans to do it all. A ruffian by day and a lover by night he's managed to go where no one else has gone. His slight forgetfulness means he is curious about everything and plans to do it all. A ruffian by day and a lover by night he's managed...

more about michael d. driscoll


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almost too tired to rage against the dying of…anything
by michael d. driscoll
topic: humor
published: 7.28.04

an open letter to paris hilton
from hair to eternity
by michael d. driscoll
topic: humor
published: 10.20.06


sandra thompson
8.25.06 @ 7:22a

As a refugee from the nitrogen gun concentration camp, I could laugh with the beautiful prose you used to describe it. Every five or six months tiny pieces of me are frozen off my arms and hands because of a life spent in the Florida sun. My face, neck, legs, even my back are inspected just to be "safe." That little spray can of nitrogen is not really a gun, but I think of it that way. Dermatologists: can't live with 'em and they keeping telling me I can't live without 'em. Sigh!

I really enjoyed this column, Michael. Thanks.

tracey kelley
8.25.06 @ 9:40a

I, too, experienced the Nitrogen blast and, unfortunately, a razor blade on some skin tags that had formed on my rib cage.

However, fortunately for the doctor, they couldn't be reached without me being topless. Bet that doesn't happen to a dermatologist every day.

alex b
8.25.06 @ 4:05p

Wow, what an experience! You're making me pray that I'll never have to wage any Nitrogen war on a mole I've got on my right cheek. Great to read, terrific piece.

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