Why infections and old romances are more alike than you think.

Two funny things happened the other day. Well, neither one was individually funny. But, the funny part about them was that while both were seemingly unrelated incidents, taken together, they showed me something important.

The first occurrence was that my toe became infected. Most people who know me understand that if I see something I can pick at, I will pick at it. Ripping off peeling paint is a hobby of mine; tearing cuticles off my fingers is transfixing. And so it happened that, as I was cutting my toenails, a small shred of skin was half pulled off. Figuring that it would catch on the threads of my socks, I promptly began picking at it with my fingernail. It was painful, and it bled, but I eventually got it off and thought no more about it. One day later, it had transformed from a scabby little cut into an inflamed, germ-infested, gooey infection. Beautiful, yes?

The second incident was, while cleaning out old e-mails from my Hotmail account, I happened to wander into my Sent messages folder. There, I encountered messages I had sent, long ago, to my boyfriend that I had met online. Many dated back to early 1998 -- a century in computer time. Poring over these long-lost outpourings of devotion, I was struck by how it all seemed so long ago, yet its romantic fervor and acute heartache were still so fresh in my mind that it seemed to have occurred only yesterday.

After I had read a representative sample, I decided to look over the old e-mails that he had sent me. Like an amateur archeologist, I dug through his letters without the gentle touch such an expedition required, and when I had finished, I was left confused and melancholy.

Our relationship left off with more of a question mark than a period. Despite our nine months of solidarity, unity, and love, the inevitable occurred: flesh-and-blood females pulled on his heartstrings, and so, the internet romance was lost to cyberspace. What it left behind, however, were intense feelings of loss and loneliness for over a year. Having not dwelled upon the matter for quite some time, I was surprised by how acutely these sensations came flooding back over me.

I am on an antibiotic for my toe infection now. It is still lingering, and taking its dear sweet time in leaving, but I don't mind. My boyfriend Dan, no matter how much he frustrates or annoys me, is helping me to fight off any sad, tormenting emotions which haunt me still, just be being with me. He is my daily reminder that what is done is done, and what is now is promising.

I learned my lesson from both the infection and the e-mails. Some things -- whether they are cuticles or memories -- are best left alone.

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