It has always been my wish to have been a dermatologist in Philadelphia during the Great Depression. While others took more pleasure in extracting shrapnel from the sleekly muscled hides of young soldiers, or replacing a mislooped section of bowel in a delicate hernia operation, I've always been more interested in the surface of things.
And so they would come to me, these young men damaged by rashes and I would undress them and examine them. I would say this is a very interesting case, I must photograph it. And I would bind them to the table or the chair with long strips of cotton so they would not move during the long exposures.
Nights I would carefully hand-tint my photographic plates by lamplight. I have a very good memory for colours. There are not enough words to describe the possible purples of a blotch, the crimsons of a blush, so we must turn to pictorial representation for diagnostic efficacy.
They would offer their afflictions to me. I know what this is, I would tell them. And it will not heal if you touch it. Only I am allowed to touch this part of your body. And I would bring them relief with salves and ointments and medicated poultices. Relief from the constant itching. Relief from the infernal stench of erupting pustules. And I would delight in their afflictions, for if their skin were whole and unbroken I would not have the opportunity to touch it, or to look upon it.
And in this manner I would acquire great wealth and social position.
Be my leper, be my love.