Two events happen when you get it, and neither can be accurately described. The first is the excruciating pain combined with overwhelming nausea, as if your guts are collapsing in on themselves like a star system, only to explode and rip you apart. When I was a little, I had a piano teacher who had to suspend lessons for months, because, as my mom said, “his stomach was trying to separate from his intestines.”

I imagined it like North and South America, caught in a tectonic plate shift at the Panama Canal, both continents trying to cleave from the other, as angry oceans rushed in. Every time I’m up at 4am with something like this, I think of my piano teacher, and how his Central American isthmus wanted to shred itself, drifting into oblivion.

And that’s the other thing: it only happens at the deadest time of night, the quiet still of a world so asleep that nobody could possibly help. Pain is a solitary venture; it can’t be shared, and at that hour, it can’t earn empathy. This is you, and it might be how you’ll go – many years from now, sure sure – but it’s a possible snapshot of the last thing you’ll ever know. My grandma, beset by a cancer missed by a mammogram she never got… is dying alone optional or mandatory?

I reached a low point last night, a full day after I’d already resigned myself to the ghetto of toast and broth, when I glimpsed “not wanting to do anything anymore.” I saw not wanting to do any of my projects, finish a script, write these words, play in a band, plan any more social events, travel. In that moment, I reached a bottom I hadn’t seen in five or six years, and even the iridescent glow of my family, sleeping in adjacent rooms, barely penetrated the darkness.

I went to bed and pulled the covers up clear over my head like I used to do as a kid in Iowa, during the most brutal winter nights. I remember daring to look out my window at the sub-zero blackness, my chin on the yellow glossy windowsill, my breath fogging the glass, then instantly freezing. I could write my name in the tiny ice with my fingernail.

And then, under covers, trying not to move because my body had formed the only warmth in the bed. I tried to remember what it was like, pillow over my head, the sound of the vaporizer whirring nearby. Maybe my dad was in another room watching “All in the Family” or maybe the house was silent, the peculiar, haunting quiet of a busy train station closed for the evening.

I close my eyes and think of having the adults take care of everything, of not having a plan, sitting in the back seat. I pull the covers up further. Just for this moment, just until I get to sleep, I think of the only thing I want: not to be responsible.

0 thoughts on “shush

  1. Anne

    monheric: Damn straight.
    Ian: When I’m that ill, I turn into a mewling helpless baby. Fever and aches strip away the veneer of adulthood. Not a pretty sight!
    Feel much better very soon.

  2. Killian

    As weird as this may sound, moments like yours (although I have never described them so vividly) have always afforded me at least ONE bliss: any *emotional agony* I was consumed by/could not escape from/never imagined being freed of at the time (men, money, bulimia, the next concert) receded slowly from view as I struggled not to move the covers. Suddenly there was a time and place when *it* was no longer foremost in my thoughts, and I could sigh relief. Being THAT sick put me in a space where I could actually experience not giving a flying f**k
    a magical moment of perspective. and as I got well (physically, anyway) it was nice (in the throes of of emotional despair), to remember back to the time when it actually did not matter. .
    Now I just take cymbalta.
    I hope you feel better soon and that the iridescent glow from the next room grows ever brighter!!!

  3. Tanya

    Ugh. This reminds me of a time about two years ago when Caleb came down with a terrible stomach bug. Brad and I both tended to him, and just as he was getting better, we BOTH got sick. I mean, really, really, sick and incapacitated. I don’t know which was worse, the bug itself, or having to try to care for a newly-healthy, hyper 2 year-old. We didn’t have the heart to ask any family members to step in and help, because they would’ve surely caught the bug too. (hell, they may not have agreed to help in the first place!) Those were probably the longest, most miserable days of my life. I don’t know how single parents do it.

  4. jje

    I know this is really random, but I had to share (and maybe it will make you smile)…
    Guess what showed up on my doorstep today?
    Williams’ Family Orange Rolls! And they are everything I always dreamed they’d be – LOL!
    My baby boy, Graham, surprised us by showing up a little over a week ago at 36 weeks, so we’re in the midst of enjoying food dropped off by neighbors and friends. One of my close friends – a great cook – whipped up the rolls as a special treat for me. Oh, and I guess for my husband and Connor, too. ;-) Sigh…sharing is so overrated.
    I lift a roll in your general direction and wish you a speedy recovery!

  5. Caroline

    It’s going on for too long, Ian. I think it’s a bug, not food poisoning. Not that it really matters because you can’t do anything about it but wait it out.
    I’ve totally felt like that before. I actually have felt so badly that I literally just wanted to die. You feel so badly you simply can’t picture getting better. Nothing matters any more.
    There’s just nothing worse than running to the bathroom only to wonder which end to stick in the terlit. I think everyone chooses the correct end but there’s always that moment of truth when you really have to decide. The idea of shitting yourself typically gets you over the decision hump, though, huh?
    Feel better. And maybe drink some alcohol. Seriously, it could kill whatever you have.

  6. Rebecca

    Ian, Maybe you should take a break for the month of August. “Recharge the old batteries”, as they say. You deserve it.

  7. Neva

    Hope you feel better soon Ian. I agree that you sure seem prone to this. You know you’re supposed to cook those eggs, right? Stop licking the spoon so much!
    And, jje, congrats on little Graham. Hope all is well. 36 weeks is usually enough but must have been scary for you. Here’s hoping he was ready for this big world.

  8. GFWD

    Rebecca, hush your mouth. Ian, pay her no mind.
    Breaks are for pussies.
    You don’t need no stinkin’ break.
    Code Words, Guest Bloggers, Baby Pictures. We’ ONLY got a few months til the most interesting election in recent times and I come here first for my enlightened debate.
    I’ll find you the dadgum Wii FIT, just don’t listen to my friend Rebecca. She’s not herself lately! Smile.


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