“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.” – D. H. Lawrence
I’ve always maintained that the lead-in quote is sort of a lazy man’s way to begin an essay, but you’ll have to excuse my sloth. I’ve been puking and shitting myself for the better part of three days, now, and my brain feels like it’s full of frijoles revueltos. I have little cleverness to offer this warm, tropical evening.
But I do aim to please, so if the aforementioned quote has a bit too much in the way of ipso facto sentimentalism for your taste, how about this one?
“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” – Paul Theroux
That feels very true right now.
Wednesday night went off without a hitch. Morgan and I, playing gin rummy and drinking off a bottle of rum and giggling a lot and watching “The Big Lebowski” before bedtime.
My stomach started rumbling as I drifted off to sleep to the sounds of a bunch of wasted Saldavoreans playing a drinking game across the street. I’m not sure what the premise was, but at least one of the rules seemed to dictate that everyone scream as loud as possible each time someone took a shot. Which many, many people did, over and over and over.
By four in the morning I felt woozy and my whole body hurt. I couldn’t think straight and I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t wake up and there was all the time this terrible, terrible feeling in my gut. I knew something bad had been done, was coming, and you pick which end from. You can fill in the rest. It was violent. It was ugly. It was excessive and excessively noisy. It was accompanied by fever, and a sleep so deep it felt like being dead.
Three days later, it’s still not done.
I don’t know what got me in this state. I don’t know if it was the generous amounts of pickled lettuce and chili pepper I’ve been unadvisedly slathering onto my pupusas, or perhaps the chicken and cheese quesadilla with fresh salsa on Wednesday night that remains, as it happens, the last solid food I’ve eaten in half a week. I don’t know if it was the swimming pool, or the licuados, or those couple of times I brushed my teeth with tap water. I’ve been fairly careful, but there you have it.
Theories abound. Some nasty stomach virus is going around town, or so my friend Stav told me when I ran into her on the street last night. It was one of my first outings since becoming ill – Morgan thought it would be good for me to get up and do some walking – and I would have stayed to find out more details, but was a mere minute from pooing myself and had to not-so-gracefully bow out of the conversation.
It’s mostly been like that. At this point in my convalescence, I’ve graduated to violently expelling matter from the lower half of my body only, and I’ve even become able to stomach plain pasta and salty soup a few times a day, but the problem remains that my body usually allots me a five-second fire drill before the floodgates open, which means I pretty much throw my fates to the wind every time I venture more than a few dozen feet from my toilet.
Even in a one-caballo town such as Tunco, where public bathrooms come in short shrift, that limits my mobility pretty significantly.
I met up with a friendly doctora in the hostel this morning who escapes the capital to surf here each weekend, and she was kind enough to take stock of my symptoms.
It is most likely salmonella (umbrella term for any number of bacteria that cause food poisoning, and can lead to typhoid fever if not treated, in case you were curious, as I was) or perhaps a parasite, or perhaps that nasty virus Stav mentioned.
The doctor took me to the local “pharmacy,” which was basically a glass case full of random medications in a shuttered Internet café. We chatted for awhile as she and the shopgirl dug through baggies of free-floating blister packs and half empty boxes of medications in search of Ciproflaxin and Metronidazole, which were both blessedly there.
So now I’m on my way.
Morgan has been my savior. He takes my temperature with the back of his hand, pours Gatorade down my throat, makes me chamomile tea and insists he’s “not bored,” even though we’ve done absolutely nothing in four days.
I’m trying not to be upset about my ill luck, even though, just saying, if you add the duration of this illness to the duration of the flu I caught when I arrived, it equals up to me being knocked on my ass ever since the day we arrived.
I’m trying to enjoy the rest. I’m reading voraciously, sleeping ad infinitum, drinking lots of fresh fruit shakes, and biding time, waiting to be shot of this insidious thing that has crawled into my gut and delayed my fun.
There’s one of those evil, evil Life Lessons in here somewhere, I’m sure.
“Everything is good for the story,” editors are fond of telling stymied reporters.
I think it’s a sentiment that can be writ much more broadly. Everything that happens is, in its own demented way, sort of good for us. Illness builds character. Adversity breeds, well, maybe more character? I dunno. I’m stretching, here. It’s hard to be profound when you’re on the supermodel diet.
I’m gonna sign off here. I need to go buy a new toothbrush and a coconut with a straw in it. Doctora’s orders.
Your pity is welcomed.