Lesson number 2 in vanity, near death and a broken water heater.

I wish I were joking.

Friday night, I made stir fry. I hadnít made it in awhile. I threw in a bunch of random spices. A half hour later, I was working out, and sweating a lot. Suddenly, I started itching all over, almost as if I were having an allergic reaction to my own sweat.

I ran upstairs to take a shower, and when I started stripping and looked in the mirror, I saw how severe it was. I was swelling up quickly and breaking out in hives everywhere. I hesitated for a second debating between showering or calling 911. I calmed down for a second and noted that everything appeared to be external.

I wasnít having any trouble breathing, I wasnít sick to my stomach, I didnít feel light-headed. I figured it was safe to shower.

I swelled up to such an extent that I couldnít even turn my earrings. I did not even look human. It was more like a post-human, whose corpse had been left out in the sun for a couple of days.

All I had in the house were a couple of expired Claritin-Dís (the kind that is no longer available over the counter). That brought the swelling down to something more human-like, but still ugly and my hives were still present.

While having my crisis, I was talking to Tony, who believed I would be fine and there was no need to go to the emergency room. A Philadelphian emergency room late on Friday night is the last place I wanted to be, so I chose to take his advice.

However, he was the one to suggest that I go to the store to pick up some hydrocortisone, more Claritin and some ibuprofen (the bottle I owned magically disappeared earlier in the evening). I imagined myself out in public, in a state that would look the phantom of the opera look pretty.

I just donít have the kind of face that can swell up attractively. I told him about my reservations about going out in public looking that way.

He scoffed at me. I told him that this past summer, there has been only one time that I truly missed having a boyfriend. It was when I found a large, dead slug in my garage. He said, ďAnd this is the second?Ē

I said, ďYes, Iíve finally discovered another use for a man.Ē He laughed at me and told me to go to the store.

I went to the store closest to me because it is the store closest to me, but itís a store I never visit because itís ďfull of ugly people.Ē Something I wouldnít normally admit to thinking, but the potency of my lesson wouldnít be evident if I didnít mention that.

It was late. The store was mostly empty. I felt like Igor hunting for bodies in the aisles, dressed in a way that suggested that I thought the whole world was my bedroom.

The first person I saw, I wanted to burst into tears and say, ďI donít normally look like this! Iím having anaphylaxis!Ē

Along with my drugs, I also bought some ice cream sandwiches. I figured I needed them at that point. I got to the checkout and the lady looked at me and my purchases and said, ďYou really do need a treat, donít you?Ē

I sighed heavily and said, ďYes, thatís exactly it.Ē Then we both laughed.

The next day, the swelling wasnít completely gone, but it had gone down enough that with a pair of sunglasses, I only looked like I got collagen injections from a not-so-professional plastic surgeon.

I went surfing yesterday afternoon. By then, I couldnít see anymore traces of the reaction, but I still felt like the swamp thing in a wetsuit. I had a great time, though. Like I mentioned before, I donít have to look at me all day, the rest of you do. So, too bad, for you.

Anyway, I woke up this morning. There was a hissing noise coming from my basement, and I went to investigate. My water heater broke and there is water everywhere (yes, as I write this).

Fortunately, I donít keep anything, except a heavy punching bag in my basement, so nothing was ruined. Unfortunately, the basement is finished and the carpet is soaked. I turned off the water heater and called the plumber. He says he wonít be able to come until tomorrow morning and itís going to be $600. I know itís possible to purchase a water heater for much less, but I donít know how to replace it and neither does the non-existent boyfriend (I mean, if I had one, Iíd be surprised if he could).

My dad could, but at this point, both of us would rather shell out the cash than do another project together. Oh, and god knows where he is, right now.

I better start doing some freelance programming because I canít keep up with the house otherwise. The business partner hasnít done anything to drum up business. I donít care because Iíd have to share the profit with her, anyway. Iím better off just doing freelance work on my own. Also, Iíve just been too busy to care, lately.

Once again, Tony was the first to hear about my misfortune. He was more sympathetic about the water heater than my brush with death from anaphylactic shock.

I didnít die from anaphylactic shock, and it was an old water heater. I knew I was pressing my luck with it, anyway. Everyone has been very sympathetic, even the plumbers I spoke with (I didnít call just one).

This cramps my style a little bit because I was planning to go see an allergist tomorrow. I still donít know what caused the reaction, and it was severe enough where I am sure if it had been any worse, I wouldnít be typing this right now.

If he canít help me identify the cause, I should have a drug on hand in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, there is something in my house (most likely in my cupboard) that could potentially kill me.

Alright, Iím going to deal with my wetsuit that I left in my car last night, clean up my basement and get some food.

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Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007 at 1:30 PM