Pinned and wriggling on the wall

Wikipedia: according to a British medical journal of 1972 haemorrhoids “are common in economically developed communities, rare in developing countries and almost unknown in tribal communities, where the influence of Western countries is slight.”

This is not true. Mugabe is a haemorrhoid. He is not Aids, cancer, leukemia or malaria—those things that can kill you.

The haemorrhoid is an inflammation of veins in the rectum and anus. It seems like a fairly harmless thing to have. After all, what can an 80-something-year-old man with a Hitler moustache do to damage a country of more than 10-million?

The thing about piles is that they hurt so much they can completely debilitate you. They are embarrassing—and often comical. You and your intimates laugh when you see that Zanu-PF face screaming on Youtube after an election rally. Then they empathise when you moan and are unable to go to work.

Much of the crisis that involves these tiny inflammations has to do with pain. Too painful to go, but you need to go to relieve the insane pain. You can’t work, can’t laugh, are too scared to eat and when the things get aggravated you are sure you are dying.

Then they become chronic and you eventually go to the doctor. You did not go before for fear that he would examine you. Doctor says the only thing is to operate and to do so right now. You bolt out of the hospital as if pursued by 15-year-old veterans. The idea is traumatic: more pain for a while, more pain than this insane pain. Which is better? Your stomach screaming or the batons waiting at the voting booth?

You know that hundreds of incensed and goonish nerve endings will be rampaging through your body for weeks after the operation to remove the haemorrhoid: cutting and beating and screaming. You are bewildered. After all, your brain is fine, your heart, your limbs, muscles. How can these tiny bunched-up veins mess you up so much?

Everybody suddenly has an opinion. “Vodka and warm baths,” says somebody.

It is because of the gland issue, you are told. You ate too many rich foreign foods and that messed up your glands, says the homeopath. “Eat traditional vegetables, that will sort out your glands.”

Fasting, that’s it! It will remove all the toxins. You are awash with debilitating toxins. The haemorrhoids are actually good for you, you are told. They are there to remind you to do the right thing about all your toxins.

Rubber bands! A relative calls you from abroad. There is a special foreign procedure available in British hospitals. Tight rubber bands that will restrict the blood flow and cause the haemorrhoids to die naturally.

“Take garlic,” says Mbeki, your neighbour. No, no—in your mouth. “I’ll call your doctor and tell him I am taking care of you,” he says, his voice deep with reassuring authority. “I am a registered internationalism nurse. I belong to Kneepad. I used to be a proper doctor, but now I just use dialogue and organic supplements. Talk to me, brother, lay your aching bum on my Kneepad.”

“Erm …” you say, “erm ... I’m a bit uncomfortable. Maybe I should go to the doctor.”

“Nonsense. I am a registered internationalism nurse. I studied haemorrhoids on the internet. I have a certificate. Come. Sit. Ah!”

So, as the damn things get worse, it becomes harder to do anything about them. Mbeki’s remedy is not working. You want chemicals, toxins, you want cocaine if necessary. Your skin smells of garlic. You are sick of garlic. You want to sleep.

You go to an American doctor and she suggests haemorrhoidolysis. Your eyes widen.

Some people call it galvanic electrotherapy, she says, or the Kenya option. We run an electric current …

You leave her office before she finishes the sentence.

You are back to chewing garlic. “Good,” says neighbor Mbeki approvingly. “We have to save electricity anyway.”

You don’t tell him you are taking painkillers and looking for other options. You talk to your other neighbours. They tell you Mbeki is amazing. “He sorted out my ulcers!” “He started our neighbourhood watch!”

Soon enough your neighbours stop taking your calls. You are scaring their children. It’s all a bit embarrassing. “Man, we are tired of babysitting your kids.”

“Sorry bru, I am on duty on neighbourhood watch today. I can’t talk.”

You find support groups on the internet. The terms these comrades use are straight out of a horror movie: cryosurgery, laser, infrared, bicap coagulation, stapled haemorrhoidectomy.

“After a haemorrhoidectomy incontinence is a possibility,” says one former victim on Skype. “Adult diaper’s r not sooo bad, the technology has relly imporvd …. good luck …. [sic]”

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