We drove the through the Okanagan valley for a weekend getaway in wine country. The mountains, smothered with verdant trees and plant life, accompanied our car alongside the narrow winding roads. The heat of the sun poked through the peaks and bored down on the dark roof of our car. We emerged from the cover of the mountains out into the open; hot parched land surrounded us, offering little protection from the sizzling heat.
We stopped for a break and I popped into a restroom to apply sunscreen. My chest looked a bit red; tiny bumps popped up on small patches of skin. I paid them no heed, as I’d often had heat rashes in the past, and I figured once my skin cooled the rash would vanish.
My delicate summer dress exposed my neck and shoulders; as we drove, I unwittingly scratched at an itchy patch on my chest and my skin began to heat up. I pulled down the visor and flipped open the mirror; my reflection revealed an ugly bumpy rash invading my neck, shoulders and chest. I looked down my dress to see it spread over my torso, down to my waist – the sun’s rays had tripped the sensitive reaction of my medication. I pulled some allergy pills from my purse, hoping they would help reduce the appearance of the rash. I couldn’t take my eyes of the bumps. I felt awkward, wondering what people would think when they saw this ugly beast of a rash consuming my arms and shoulders. My partner tried to reassure me, telling me it didn’t look that bad. “It looks like you’ve had a bit too much sun”, he chirped. Over the next several hours, the rash crept up my neck to the base of my chin. Lighter bumps popped up around my hairline; I thought I’d have to wear a veil for the rest of the weekend. I covered myself with a wispy scarf and a wide-brimmed hat.
Overnight, the rash subsided a bit; the remainder clung to me for the next 48 hours, and despite its unsightly spectacle, I did my best to ignore it and enjoy the rest of the weekend. On our last day, most of the rash had scattered and dispersed.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.