Could your back infection be metaphorical?

A Hologram for the King isn’t an especially good or bad film. Perhaps the most interesting aspect, for me, was the main character’s back infection. Having these while living overseas has become almost a hobby for me. So, as soon as the giant lump on Tom Hanks’ character’s (THC’s) back was revealed – while he was in Saudi Arabia, no less – I stopped scrolling through my Facebook feed and practically watched with attention.

Well, THC goes to the doctor, and she tells him, in so many words: we need to see whether this is the kind of back infection that Tracy gets or whether it’s metaphorical. The rest of the film made clear the differences between the two. To save you some money, here’s a synopsis:

  • Contents: THC pokes a knife into his metaphorical infection, and blood comes out. The real ones have gobs of pus, what with being infected.
  • Timing: A metaphorical back infection can be removed immediately. A not-metaphorical one requires weeks of treatment to reduce its size first, possibly to ensure that pus doesn’t squirt onto the doctor’s face.
  • Effect: The excision of a metaphorical load of disease from THC’s back leads him to regard all facets of his life with greater clarity and equanimity. After mine, I mostly felt resignation at the endless rigamarole of cleaning the wound and changing bandages.
  • Relations with doctor: The doctor who can diagnose and remove a metaphorical back infection probably is well-matched romantically with the patient. One of my doctors sometimes seemed to think the same thing, but, if so, he was wrong.
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