Saturday, February 25, 2012


The boy threw up on my neck. I hate being touched, or kissed, or caressed on my neck. I am a meats and potato lover. No tickling or fancy soft touching. I want to be unteased. When I have wet, warm, half-digested food on my neck, it is more soft and touching than I can bear. I hate it more than even puke in my hand, and not knowing what to do with it. Throw it away? Rinse it off? What I really want to do is scream, shake my hand, and run far away from these barfy little people.

There was almost no escape from the virus. It was ON! MY! NECK! And yet, in the day proceeding my sickness, it seemed to want me to feed it large quantities of food, like chocolate covered almonds and rice cakes. Mango nectar and tofu. Probiotics and quinoa. It lulled me into a false sense of security. The virus is a hippy. A smelly, stinky, stomach-churning hippy.

When I began throwing up, I thought about how long it had been since I vomited and how often I used to do it. Through my pregnancies with morning sickness and through my twenties and early thirties with undiagnosed alcoholism. My head rested on the toilet seat, knees tucked under me. I dry heaved, and felt the muscles all over my body tighten and release. The pain surged down my shoulders. The nausea, vertigo, stomach churning minutes before you know there will be a clutching from the inside out. My husband asked me if the vomit suddenly overtook me, and I said no. It was more like when you drank too much and could go either way, but know it would be a better morning if you just vomited before you went to bed. The feeling that you need to get the poison out of your body. So, you go to the bathroom, kneel, and wait. You think of disgusting things, like the inside of the toilet bowl, or the things clinging to the toilet brush. That was what it was like. He cocked his head. Then I remembered he was a normal person and had no idea what I was talking about.

I didn't miss drinking this week. I was reminded of that feeling in the morning, the feeling at night, the feeling in the daytime. I always felt bad--a low-level nausea and headache that I never knew was a hangover until I didn't have it anymore. I had vertigo and was shaking, like the early days of sobriety. And I was throwing up.

I miss drinking when I was sophisticated and free. Charming and funny. I wore snakeskin boots, had a flat stomach, and painted deep red lips. I had a bravado that challenged people to kiss me hard in a bar, then I would knee them in the groin. I smoked cigarettes, and belonged to no person. My drinking was victimless, if you don't count me. I twisted my hair up in chopsticks, and I cussed like a sailor, because I was a sailor and a longshoreman and a whore and a virgin. Actually, I don't know if I was ever that person, not really.  But it is the film that drinking played in my head, over and over, distant, mysterious, exotic, liberated, sexy, macho. Loading the docks, unloading the ships. I drank a whiskey and chewed tobacco and spat into the garbage strewn water.

I bought a sewing machine. It is the anti-drinking move. I am too impatient to be a seamstress, but it feels good to be able to construct basic things, like pillows and meditations mats, aprons and hems. Nothing is straight, or cute. I am adopting the idea of wabi sabi and calling it a philosophy.

I just wanted to write today.

I don't have a purpose, really. No larger musing on grief and viral attacks. I just feel stranded on this island of sick. I have a friend who always says when you are suffering or sick, it is all you can pay attention to. It is true. When I was first grieving Lucia's death, that sentence would bounce around my mind often. When you are grieving, it is all you can pay attention to. It demands everything. When you are sick, it is equally impossible to be giving. I thought a lot about being sick, and what that used to be like versus what it is now. And I thought about what like would have been like if I had quit drinking ten years ago, the first time I asked for help with my drinking. I thought about the friends that are gone. And whether they are cleaning up puke too, whether they think things could have been different. But that is a dangerous road to walk down.

What are you thinking about these days?


  1. I hate that you are sick.

    What you wrote about being sick or suffering being all you can pay attention to is actually one of the good things that comes of being sick or suffering. Because after the vomiting, after the aches and shaking, after saying goodbye, after grieving so hard you feel like you are breaking into a million tiny pieces... the world comes back into focus.

    I was throwing-up-sick 2 weeks ago. I had not thrown up since before Calvin, so it was sometime in 2009. I had forgotten how terrible it feels to lay on the bathroom floor and pray for it to end. How the cold tiles feel terrible and wonderful all at once, and how the pubic hairs around the toilet seem to commiserate with the misery of being there, on the bathroom floor.

    And then it ended, and the world was washed over with beauty. Everything I saw, everyone I came in contact with, every song, every moment when I wasn't throwing up--it was like a miracle. But the only thing that was different from the days before I got sick was me. It's the gift of the virus.

  2. Ugh, I hate vomiting. I had bad morning sickness with Lyra, and worse with Simon. And then in the last few months sometime I got a bacterial infection, and was by the toilet all morning and in the hospital all afternoon. That's my vomiting history for the last 5 years. As if you needed that.

    Hope you bounce back quckly...I think it takes a few days before your body's muscles feel they can fully release the memory of all the horrid retching. And of course eating...

    Sending love and strength.

  3. I have a neck thing, too. I can't stand the feeling of anything pressing against my neck. Even a turtleneck. It makes me feel like I'm being strangled.

    These days, I always feel like that even though there's nothing there...something on my throat, pressing, choking.

    "When you are grieving, it is all you can pay attention to." Yes. I shut my hand in the back door a few days ago because I wasn't paying attention. It hurt and I cried and cried, but I was really crying for my baby. I can barely keep my mind on anything but Molly for more than a minute at a time.

    I'm sorry you've been sick. Vomiting makes me think of The Exorcist. I hate that movie.

  4. Oh, sweetie, I hope this week is getting better and everyone is well. It's true about illness (and grief) demanding your focus, islanding you.

    I have to say that vomit on my neck would unhinge me. I would have said, "I know you're sick, but I really need to take a shower. Wait here."

  5. As we are in the midst if this awful stomach virus over here, I remembered this post. Dude, you nailed it. And kast night as I was willing myself to hurl, I was reminded if all thise nights of drinking, knowing it would be better to just barf and get it over with. It is the worst. Thanks fof this.


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