A modern tragedy

“Where were you when you got bitten?” I ask my 19-year-old patient.

“Biarritz,” she tells me. “I was walking on the beach in Biarritz when I got bit.”

My ears perk up. Intrigued, I ask, “Did you see what bit you?”

She shakes her head. “No. I just noticed the redness and the swelling afterwards. It itched, but I didn’t see any bug.”

“What did you do for it?”

“I put my leg up when we got back to the hotel,” she says. “And I put ice on it.”

“What happened?”

Thoughtfully, she reaches down and strokes the outside of her slender ankle. “It seemed to get better,” she says. “But now there’s a little bump there.”

I bend down to examine her foot. I run the pad of my index finger over the site and detect a slight thickness in the subcutaneous tissue. There is no tenderness. She has full range of motion of the joint.

“You didn’t see any ticks on you?” I ask.

“No, there was no tick.”

“Good. Well, I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about. This will most likely subside on its own. Call the office if it persists.”

Satisfied with my pronouncement, she steps down from the exam table and smoothes her sheer dress over her hips with her hands.

“How long were you in Europe?” I ask, as I open the door for her.

“Ten days,” she says. “We flew into Paris, then traveled to Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz, then crossed over into Spain to Pamplona and on to Madrid.”

Suddenly, I remember a literary fictional excursion that took place along that same route. I glance at the calendar on the wall. “Did you see the running of the bulls in Pamplona?”

“No. We arrived two days before the Sanfermines. They showed us where the bulls are brought in before they run through the streets to the arena. We watched it on television in our hotel room in Madrid.”

I wonder if it weren’t the Hotel Montana.

“When did you arrive stateside?”

“Late last night,” she says with a slight yawn. “I need to get some sleep.”

To sleep, perchance to dream. To be in Spain at the opening of the Sanfermines, only to have to watch the drama unfold on TV. A modern tragedy in the wake of another smaller tragedy: a bug bite on the beach in Biarritz.