under my skin

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Under My Skin

Biology, fourth or fifth period, depends on if you had lunch A or B. We had Lunch A, my sister Courtney, also attending cape may tech, informed us this was the better lunch. For whatever odd reason, it made no sense to me. So technically that makes McKinley’s class fifth period for me. In the hallway with his yellow stopwatch, Mr. McKinley greeted the class. He was a stickler on arriving on time. There were no excuses, he was the lunch monitor as well, there was no stopping at the bathroom and there certainly was no time to chat with your friends headed to B lunch. “30 more seconds Miss Nichols,” He’d always shout. “Not my fault, locker was jammed!” He didn’t know I waited for Courtney very day before class to grab my books. Her locker was conveniently located on the opposite side of the school than mine.

“Ugh just in time,” As I plopped in the cold arm shaped desk, “Don’t worry Adian and some of the boys aren’t here yet,” Lindsey’s face with a tiny bit of sarcastic fright. We sat next to each other in the back row of course, but not by choice, fate had it, Mallon and Nichols, just was the way the alphabet fell and the seats were lined up. Farrah, Collins, was annoyed because she almost sat front row; we’d give her a wave every now and then, it would just push her over the edge. She’s lucky labs were done in groups, she would’ve been lost.  Sam, honors Biology of course, nothing less for the Harvard bound. “ Okay troops,” Mr. McKinely started his lesson for the day and I started to feel uncomfortable, itching and patting my back as if I forgot to fully take off the tag.

“Okay, were gonna head to the back and get this lab started, were not going to have time to finish it today, but tomorrow is our lab day, so we’ll finish it then. Alright, sound good?, Great okay, let’s go crew,” barked Mr. McKinley.

Farrah headed towards us, “I hope you guys were paying attention, because I just blacked out, I have no idea what were supposed to be doing,” Something I heard frequently thinking in my head.

“Uhhm, I think something with heating water and testing how different temperatures affect the growth of algae,” I said as I was reaching behind my shoulder and scratching my back. 

The classroom desks were set in the front of the room and the three long black lab tables were lined in the back. Behind the lab tables was McKinley’s pride and joys, fish, in big blue tubs, pumps were all around the tubs, making it had to fit the whole class in there. most labs took place at the back tables, the class honestly wasn’t that large with twenty students or so.

Farrah, Lindsey and I always work at the middle table at the far end. McKinley circled around the room assisting all the groups with the lab.” “I hear a lot of giggling, are you ladies doing the lab?” “ Yes, Mr. McKinley, I’m trying to keep these two under control, it’s hard…” I jokingly replied with my eyes wide open and hands slightly rised.. He rarely laughed, on the other hand I literally couldn’t shut Lindsey up, she’d get a case of the giggles and honestly could not stop. Sometimes it would be annoying and sometimes I wouldn’t be able to stop laughing along with her. At this point I’m ignoring the fact that I’m itchy because acknowledging the fact you’re itchy just makes you itchier as the myth has it.

“Ugh, what is that smell?,” I was curious, “Ohh, definitely the gas,” Farrah declared with assurance. Hm, I shrugged it off knowing we didn’t start the lab yet, maybe another group had gotten that far already. Lindsey whose deep into laughter, almost off her stool, by now we’ve started to ignore her since she’s laughing at anything and everything. Time flies, thank god, because these periods are torture; sometimes it was almost impossible not to dose off . We’re cleaning up and I still am smelling this gas, “What the hell is that…” I’m checking the knobs frantically, “Should we tell Mr. McKinley?” Lindsey bursts out in laugher

 “Ohhh my Godddd, would you please get it together!” I said losing my patience.

Lindsey grabbed my arm and pulled me down, because she was bent over her stool in laughter. “It’s me,”

 “Huh,” I replied,

“It’s been me… I’ve been tooting.”

“AAaah ha ha” A loud screaky laugh from Lindsey alerted Farrah from across the room, she came dashing at us.

“Meemommm,” Lindsey screeched,

“What, oh my god what?,” I shot her a confused glare.

Lindsey stared while winking back. So confused I went on with cleaning up the lab, Farrah trailing me, “what was that about? What happened to her memom?, is she okay?”

“Yes”, I chuckled, not knowing if I should blow up Lindsey’s spot or not, “She was farting, idunno she’s hysterical over it because I thought it was the gas leaking the whole period.”

Just as confused as me, Farrah shrugged, walked away and grabbed her back pack. We all continued onto gym for sixth period.

Sam joined back up with us for gym, Mrs. Miller, ironically lives four houses down from my Dad, “Miss Nichols, how are we today?” “Good, how are you?” the iconic phrase of the century, but do we even care how the other person is truly feeling? Do we even answer honestly? If I were to answer honestly, I should’ve said, “I want to freaking go home and take a nap, I’m tired and freakin itchy.”

Assigned gym lockers, something I was not used to, so essentially assigned spots to get changed next to someone was odd to me. To my left was someone I had never met, but I felt like I knew her based on overhearing her various wild weekend stories and to my right the scholar Ms. Samantha Howard.

“Whoa, your back Carley!” Sam frantically said as she was dragging me to the full length mirror.

“I know… crazy scratch marks I bet. This shirt was really irritating me in Bio” … I was expecting Sam to be dramatic over the scratches I had inflicted on myself but instead she was noticing something else.

 “What is this, this has never happened to me before!”

“They look like hives, but I don’t know for sure.” Sam suggested to me.

 I shrugged, threw my shirt on and headed out to the gymnasium before we were marked late.

I wasn’t worried about the hives, the nurse most likely wouldn’t be able to anything for an itchy back. I continued through gym class as if nothing was going on, still nonchalantly tugging at my shirt. I never said anything to Farrah or Lindsey about Sam’s discovery, it was no big deal, it’d go away.  We returned to the locker room and all rushed to get changed and head to our next forty-five minutes of required education.

When I arrived home that evening after swim practice my mom greeted me with the phrase every student probably hears every day, “So, how was school,” “good,” I responded like a robot, “What did you learn today?,” normally I’d answer nothing, but today I had something to share. “What do you mean? Did you take a picture? What did you eat different?” She was throwing questions at me like it was batting practice. I had nothing to respond with, I didn’t do anything different, I should’ve taken a picture, but I didn’t… rookie move.

As the days past and the weeks went on the rashes and itching did not stop. I found myself scratching at my lips and legs even though no bumps were present, I couldn’t control it, it’s like my body was one giant bug bite I couldn’t get rid of. My mom suggested I kept a food diary to see any patterns:


Monday 1/19/2011:

Breakfast- Sausage egg and cheese on an English muffin

Lunch- Salad bar (croutons, Honey mustard dressing, onion, cucumbers, tomatoes) Cream of chicken soup

Dinner- Pork Chops, string beans, apple sauce, potatoes

Snacks/dessert: Strawberry shortcake, oreo cookies, fruit roll up


Similar to this affect, I would record every time I would break out in hives and/or feel itchy.

After a month, I finally got in to see the only local allergist in Cape May County, Dr. Dadhania, “So vwhat vrings you vin here to day?” “uhm, I’ve been very itchy lately and sometimes form red bumps on my back.” I answered slowly not sure if I understood the question right.

“Vwell vwhen these vreactions happen vhow long do the vumps last?”

“Well, it depends, I’d say an hour or so, but I’m still left gnawing at my body.”

 “Mm vokay vi see,” Dr. Dadhania, a small petite Buddhist, then directed me onto the patient chair wrapped in crinkly medical paper. I didn’t immediately sit on it because I am not sick, nothing was wrong with me I just was itchy.

“I’m just going to check your breathing and then we will run some tests.” Dr. Dadhania left the room, and his technician came in with a tray of what looked like essential oils.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“This is a skin allergy test, you can hop out off the chair and lay your arms down onto the seat. I am going to test many different foods to see which makes a reaction.” said the technician as if she was on cue.

“Well how do you keep track of which oils spot is which food?” It seemed like there was a lot of room for human error.

 “I go down this list in order and use this permanent marker to mark where I inserted the oils, now this is only gonna be a little prick.”

Five minutes later and wow, the reaction was happening, I couldn’t believe my eyes. At least four markings turned into huge raised red dots. “Mom, you’ve gotta come over here and blow on my arms, I can’t take the itchiness.”

“You’ve got to relax” she replied, just what everyone wants to hear as they’re starting to panic.

Dr. Dadhania reenters the room, his teeth almost blinding me, I don’t think his smile could get any better.

“vHm, vwell, tree nuts, dairy, and vbeef,” Dr. Dadhania mumbled out.

“So im allergic to all that? what do I do?” I softly said.

 “Yes, des voods are causing you vuch pain, you must not eat them. Eviminate them from your viet, okay?”

“Well what should I eat? Does this include peanuts?”

“vno dairy at all, you can use soy milk or coconut milk, but no valmond milk, tis a tree nut. Peanuts are not, dey are vkay to eat.  I vwill see you in six months.” Dr. Dadhania rushed out of the room.

 “That’s it?” my mom sounded confused.

“I’ve never been allergic to anything, steak is my favorite, and what am I supposed to do about not eating Ice cream? I just don’t understand.”

“Well, I guess were headed to the grocery store after this.” My mom’s confused face turned serious. I started to feel like a nuisance, now my mom was going to buy all separate groceries just for me.

“Courtney, guess what those rashes were from?” I darted into her room as soon as I was home. “What?” she replied unenthusiastically. “red meat, dairy, and tree nuts,” I exclaimed. “Wow really, that’s so odd, I doubt that’s true.”

Little did I know, I’d have to deal with that for the next seven years and even still to this day, people question me, “well what happens? Oh that’s not that bad.”  Maybe it doesn’t sound that bad, but until I gave my body a detox, I didn’t know what feeling good even meant. I was so used to feeling sluggish and itchy I didn’t notice these as signs my body was rejecting the food I was ingesting. A tongue ulcer, a weekly ritual it seemed like, and what a day ruiner those were, too much acidic foods I’d blame it on. But how come it’s 2018 and I don’t use that line anymore, but still have absurd amount of ketchup and spunky fruits? Because the tongue ulcers aren’t from acidic foods, mine were a reaction to a toxin I was ingesting. Food allergy symptoms are often over looked because they can be miniscule. Like Lindsey for example, just a little gassy after lunch, no big deal, everyone has gas. Could her gas be linked to what she ate for lunch? Probably…


 It makes sense though, we aren’t made to eat and digest the food marketed to Americans today. Am I really allergic or am I just rejecting toxic foods? We grow up eating what our parents put in front of our faces, and often carry on the same eating habits to our own families one day because we’ve known no different.  I ate dairy every day growing up, and in fact every day in A Lunch, I’d have myself a chocolate milk, because why not, it came free.

I struggle with believing this is real life. My real life. This is not a diet, this was and still is a lifestyle change. No one in my family has a food allergy, so this was new to everyone, I don’t go into anaphylactic shock, or immediate hives every time I eat a food I shouldn’t be eating. It’s more internal, but why am I still so surprised?

Submitted: May 01, 2019

© Copyright 2022 Car Ley. All rights reserved.

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