image of a pen and a stethoscope resting on a notepad
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I have an itch.

Ever since I’ve been home from the hospital, my back and my head have been itchy.

I’m on the phone talking to my friend Janet, complaining about how dirty hospitals are and that maybe I picked up bed bugs. I shove a long stick down the back of my sweater, scratching.

“It’s bad enough I have to shlep every minute to the pulmonologist, cardiologist, walk like there are bowling balls between my legs, and now I itch. I want to move on. Once you start with the doctors and the pills, you’re done. Everything goes away by itself.”

“Be patient, honey,” she says soothingly.

I complain to the apartment manager that I itch and that there might be bed bugs in my unit. The next day, Armando Silva, owner of Marina Pest Control, arrives.

A handsome man with a kind face, he listens intently as I rant about the hospital, that I itch. I show him my bites, babbling about the medications I’m taking. He looks sympathetic.

“Not to worry. Relax,” he says.

He takes apart my bed, even the wood slats. Carefully, he examines every corner of my apartment. He places traps everywhere. “No bed bugs here,” he says, looking relieved. “Not even a dead flea. If I were you, I’d go to a dermatologist.”

Relieved, I call several dermatologists and finally locate one with an opening the next day.

I arrive at his beautiful office and wait for what seems like hours. At last the door opens and in walks a 70-ish, drop-dead-gorgeous white-haired doctor. No smiley face. No handshake. “What’s up?” he asks crankily.

“I have an itch. I think it’s bugs from the hospital.“ I launch into my shpiel about the dirty hospital, my meds, what I’ve been through. I show him the bites on my legs, pull down my sweater and show him the red bites on my shoulder and back. Barely glancing, he frowns. “It’s not bugs,” he snaps. “Forget the bugs.”

“Then what is it?”

He lectures about what kinds of soaps I should use, and writes a prescription for Gabapentim. “Try to relax,” he says. ”You’re very nervous. I want to see you in two weeks.”

Out the door he goes.

At home I call my daughter Bonny. I rant about my itch, my new prescription and that it’s not bugs. She’s already on Google.

“Oh my God! That’s a drug for shingles and nerves and you can get seizures,” she says. “Get a second opinion.”

The second dermatologist, who looks to be about 12, says that I picked up “nasty bugs” from the hospital. She gives me a cream.

Which doctor is right? Meanwhile, I itch.

“Who needs all this doctor business,” I complain to Bonny. “I’m going holistic. I don’t want to spend my good years at doctors’ offices, on pills and yelling at the insurance companies about their prescription drug prices. I’ve had it.”

“Now you’re going to wear bells and garlic around your neck!,” she yells. “The itch will go away if you stop the obsessing!”

I change the subject. “Tonight I’m going on a blind date. He’s a retired dentist. Ten years younger.”

“Well, don’t tell him you itch!  Men don’t want bugs!”

So, covered with itch cream and decked out in high heels, a black pants suit and silver earrings to my shoulders. I arrive at a North Beach cafe.

My date looks older than he said. He has a small head with pale, thinning hair and long arms. He gulps down two glasses of water, lecturing me that it’s very important to drink water, while I’m enjoying a dirty martini.

Suddenly his Apple watch goes off and he holds up his arm, Hitler-style. He places his fingers on the back of his phone, using an EKG app.

He eyes me intently, asking, “How is your health?”

“I have an itch,” I reply.

He frowns.  “That is why I prefer younger women,” he says. “The only itch they have is lust.”

“Uh huh,” I respond.

At midnight I’m on the phone with Bonny.

“I told you not to tell him about your friggin’ itch,” she says.

“I’m glad I did. He was a nightmare.”

“Mom, you have to play the game — or you’ll be alone.”

I lie in the dark. I inhale the scent of the lavender roses in the yellow vase next to my bed. Soon I slip into sleep and dream of meadows of roses, where everything is in bloom. In my dream, I don’t itch.

Barbara Rose Brooker
Barbara Rose Brooker

Barbara Rose Brooker is a native San Francisco author. CW is making a pilot for a TV series based on her book "The Viagra Diaries." Barbararosebrooker.com.