There are many kinds of pain. There are the small angry pains of a papercut and the dull, lumbering pain of sore muscles after walking home when your mom forgets to pick you up from school again.
Pains also live in different places. The pain that happily splashes around in a pot of boiling water is very different from the pain that lives in a field of jagged rocks, for example. There is even a special kind of eye pain that lives almost exclusively in the Museum of Things that Go Sproing.
I picked up a pain once at the bus stop. There is not much that is painful at a bus stop, except of course having to wait at a bus stop in the first place. I was leaning against the bus stop sign when I felt a sudden pain in my arm.
I didn’t think much of it since pain tended to find me very attractive. I was always meeting strange pains that wanted to hang out for a while. However, after a few hours, I was starting to wonder. I took a few aspirin and went to bed.
The next day when I woke up, the pain had moved to my back. I called my doctor.
“How do you know it’s the same pain?” she asked.
“I know my own body,” I said. “I picked up a strange pain at the bus stop and now it’s living in my back.”
“Hmm,” she said with the skepticism reserved for patients who kept her number on speed dial. “Well, come in and we’ll take a look.”
I went to the doctor that afternoon. Because my parents had a very charitable insurance company, my copay was actually -$5. That meant that the hospital gave me $5 every time I visited. I checked in, got my five bucks and waited to be seen.
The pain in my back was even stronger now, as if it knew the end was near. I was shown in to see Dr. Alanazi.
“So where is the pain now?” she asked.
Hmm, it seemed to have disappeared. She did a few of the press-here-and-tell-me-if-it-hurts but everything seemed fine.
“I’m not making it up,” I said.
“No, you’re not creative enough for that,” she agreed. “I think what you have what is known as an MSP, a Migratory Shy Pain. I saw it once on House and once in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.”
“Is there anything you can give me for it?” I asked.
“This kind of pain can usually dodge most pain killers,” she said. “You take the medicine and the MSP just hides until the medicine wears off and then comes back. No, I’m going to schedule you a visit with an externist.”
An externist, or doctor of external medicine, as Dr. Alanazi explained, was a doctor that worked outside of a hospital. “They are a type of wild doctor,” she said. “They have no office and no schedule.”
“So where do I meet with him?”
“Oh, he’ll find you,” she said in a way that wasn’t entirely comforting. “Shy pains tend to hide as soon as doctor’s come around. I’ve scheduled your appointment for sometime in the next three days. Maybe.”
I left not knowing what to think. The pain reappeared as soon as I left the hospital. It had moved to my head.
I wasn’t sure what an externist looked like or how I was going to spot him. So I struggled on while the strange pain bounced around my body like a superball in a soup pot. We had a test in English class and the pain showed up in my hand. Then it shot right to my knee for last period when we were playing basketball in gym class. It’s like it knew exactly where to go to be the most annoying. What a pain.
I was just going to the bus stop when a man ran up and pushed me onto the grass. “Where does it hurt?” he shouted into my face.
For a minute, I was too stunned to answer. Then I realized what was happening. “My arm! My left arm.” The man pulled out a syringe and plunged it into my arm. I screamed at the sheer shock of it. Then the man pulled me to my feet.
“Dr. Franklin,” he said, shaking my hand. “Nice to meet you. How does it feel?”
I felt my arm. “Actually, it feels a lot better. Thanks.”
“No problem,” she said. “Dr. Alanazi said you had a shy pain on your hands. It was either this way or to hold you down and stick every part of your body with a needle to make sure we got it.”
I was glad I hadn’t known that was an option.
“Just let Dr. Alanazi know if it comes back. If so, we’ll be seeing each other.” He gave me a meaningful look. He turned to leave, then stopped. “Oh yeah, I almost forgot.” He handed me five dollars, then walked away.