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I Have An Itch

It was time -- about 6:00 p.m. -- right on schedule.

It happens most every day.

Right about then.

My ear begins to itch.

Not both ears, just one.

My right.

And it nags me, like a little kid in the checkout line who won’t stop asking his parent for a candy bar. Or a bird that keeps pecking at a window because she sees something in the reflection.

It’s not deep, my itch. It doesn’t inhabit the places where people use Q-Tips or other long, thin objects even though the experts say – and for good reason -- not to use them because you could damage your ear drum.

It’s in what I call the “scrambled eggs” part of the ear; that area with all the folds and creases, the things that make ears look like deformities or strange growths, except since we all have them, no one really thinks about their physical appearance.

After all, they’re ears right?

If you don’t have itchy ears, or as in my case, an itchy ear, first of all, I congratulate you. You must be doing something right. On the other hand, you probably can’t identify with my experience. Let me explain it the best I can.

It’s like when the bottom of your foot itches while you’re wearing shoes, but you can’t do anything about it until you get to a place where you can take off your shoe and give your sole (not to be confused with your soul) a good, long scratch. Usually, these itches occur when you’re in the middle of a business meeting … or church … or in any other place where taking off one’s shoes might be frowned upon.

Except my ear isn’t wearing shoes. I have full access to the source of the itch. So, unlike that churchgoer or business-meeting attender, I can scratch it whenever and for how long I choose. But what makes it similar to the situation I described above is that, although I scratch, I don’t get relief. It’s like no matter how much I scratch, it’s like I haven’t scratched at all. Because it lives just under the surface, protected by one or more layers of skin.

It’s like it – the itch, not the ear – has a mind of its own, immune to what I do, think or say (and I do talk to it, never in a kind way), and it will go away when it’s good and ready, and not a moment before.

Or maybe I’m not thinking about it in the right way. Maybe the itch is working in cahoots with the ear to tell me something; something I’m not hearing (metaphorically and ironically speaking).

Last night’s itch lasted about 20 minutes. That’s average. Sometimes, it goes on longer, maybe an hour, a constant presence that I try not to let bother me, but how can I? It’s there, doing its only job as an itch … that is, it’s being itchy which is, by definition, annoying.

Occasionally, it comes and goes, on for a few minutes, then off. Then, just when I think we’re done, it comes back for a second act, then a third, and often, for an encore.

I can’t say I ever get used to it, but I have learned to live with it. After all, it’s just an itch. It’s part of me. It’s my itch. And given the pantheon of aches, pains, cracks and creaks a body endures as it ages, I guess I should count myself lucky to have “just an itch.”

It sucks, don’t get me wrong, and it frustrates me every time it arrives. Sometimes, I get upset about it; not “punching the air” or “yelling at the top of my lungs” upset. Just a level of upset consistent with what it is: an itch, one that will eventually go away, only to return tomorrow … and the next day … and the day after that … at around the same time, for about the same amount of time.

At first it was my nemesis (because we all need a nemesis, don’t we?), but now, maybe I’ll change my tune about it. Maybe I’ll start to view it as a reliable old acquaintance who visits me every day; one who fills my ear with the same “itchy” stories over and over, sometimes frustrating or upsetting me, but one who might have a message for me. I just have to figure out what it is.

Or maybe I’ve overthought this whole thing, and at the end of the day, I simply have an itchy ear.

© 2023 David R. Haznaw

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