I had a mission. Clear out the manky damp jungle of our backyard and replace it with sweet foursquare herbals and lettuces. Wrought iron lawn chairs and sophisticated yet bohemian yet authentic yet drunk-and-falling-over-in-the-fire-pit companions. A spit on which to roast unfortunate lizards and the rats that wander through my ceiling at night. Possibly tiki torches and other forms of complex lighting.
Well. The yard has struck back. Day before yesterday I saw the creeping redness on my wrists and the desperate grinning horror with which I always greet poison ivy started pulsating in my eyeballs.
It moved up, as it always does, no matter how good I am, no matter how I fail to scratch. Slithers up the arms, around the hairline, onto the jaw, ears, eyelid, lower lip. I am badly badly allergic.
So there came a point where I broke, as I always break. Last time I broke was in Minneapolis, in full rash, when I was trying to play the guitar and the ivy blister between my fore and middle finger busted and shot pus into my eye. This is when I dissolve into giggles that rapidly turn into sobbing, and then back, and forth, and back. Then I call for help. I broke yesterday because I washed with Tecnu and it helped for, o, ten minutes, and then came back worse, and redder, and more vicious. I said I was going to the doctor, to Urgent Care. (I have no doctor down here). Aaron told me to wait, that he would come with me, but then there was a miscommunication. He thought the Tecnu had fixed me and that I would be okay waiting it out, so he said I shouldn’t go. I started to cry. I was heaving and saying individual words over and over because I didn’t have the breath to get them out all at once.
“You-you-youHAAAAAGHyou can’t-c-can’t t-tell meHUGHHHto w-wait for you and thenHOOOOONKsayHAUGHyou won’t go.”
He took me to urgent care. WHERE. They were very very kind and stuck me in the bum with a steroid shot and gave me a prescription for more steroids and an anti itch pill, which sort of works not very well but a little bit. Turns out it wasn’t poison ivy, or oak, or sumac. It was some plant to which I am charmingly and uniquely allergic. So that’s exciting. They always told me in school that I was special (no they didn’t, they tried to put me in their jello mould but I was insufficiently gelatinous so they just left me alone) but now I find out that I truly am chemically unique!
We went home and I got in bed. Aaron sat up and read and I dozed against his side, and woke up and read a little bit, and slept again, until it was quite late and he had to go off to play a show at the Dragon’s Den. I don’t have the eloquence to tell you how kindly and comforting this afternoon was, so you will have to take my word for it.
Unfortunately, about two hours later, my chest seized up. I couldn’t get a full breath, it felt like there was something sitting on my chest. I got up and stretched. Nada. My parents called me and I was trying to be suave and unalarming but then I started crying (again!) and told them about my poor chest and we all went on the internet in our various locations for a while, trying to find out if steroids could kill you, and then I went to the ER.
I took a cab, because I had offered the car to Monsieur (it being a blustery and foul sort of night). I took my pulse with an internet stopwatch. 120. Not bad, but I usually run about 65. I tried to breathe. I wondered if maybe I was gonna die, and tried to be okay with that as a Buddhist sort of exercise, and failed. I did not want to die, it seemed wasteful and inefficient.
There was nobody, but nobody, at the ER. Patient wise. Someone walked behind me and I felt the flap of their gown and a smell of dry urine, but there was almost no one there for a Friday night in New Orleans. The woman at intake, short hair, many tiny shiny facial piercings, sweat shirt and a voice like your favourite aunt, baby-ed, honey-ed and sweetie-ed me through the process. They took me through to a back triage room and took my vitals and told me stories about the sexual exploits of now defunct doctors while they stuck EKG tags on my boob and chest. I was x-rayed by a quiet technician. I told him his x-ray lab looked like a mad science lair. A big lady in blood red scrubs (handy, no?) came up with a machine called, I kid you not, The Ergotron, and took all my medical info. I sat around and texted my mom. I was summoned to a small and sterile room where a traditionally handsome Asian nurse bro-slouched up to me and offered me blankets and drugs. I declined both, no doubt due to latent Calvinism.
I slept for a while. God but those beds are uncomfy. The doctor came in and told me it was an allergic reaction to a preservative in the steroid. I have yet to call and find out what that specific steroid was, but it’s on the list. He said he was going to check my vitals and come back. The nurse wandered back in. I condescended to accept an Atavan. They are very casual with their pills, in Emergency.
I slept some more, with my scarf over my face pressing into my still burning and itching hives. The doctor came in and released me, quite gently, with more anti itch prescriptions, a different kind of steroid, and an acid reducer that’s supposed to piggy back on the anti itch. The Aunt Nurse called me a cab. I went home.
I don’t know what to tell you guys. I thought the small things didn’t matter, but they do, but not in the way that I thought. They matter because they’re beautiful, not because they need to be done. I bought a second hand dryer today for 125 dollars. It was sitting on the sidewalk, at a lean. It is beautiful. I could have not bought the dryer. I could have washed my car. It wouldn’t matter. I think the specific tasks aren’t important, it’s just that we exist well while we’re doing them. And something about existing demands tasks, of any kind. The work brings us into focus.
These daily things, these business parts of living, they are a different animal from art. Creation feeds some other part of us. But they both are necessary? I believe? Complementing each other. We keep ourselves fed and warm and that lets us art, which vivifies our shiny goop (soul, essence, you know), which pulses in our bodies and makes us excited and full of feeling, which makes us hungry, so that when we come back to food and warmth it is so good and we can keep going in the cycle.
I have always tried to achieve a perfect stagnation. I have a loathing of cycles. If I could either exhale or inhale forever, it would be some kind of OCD paradise for me. When I am driving, I do not want to stop and do it grudgingly. When I am at rest, my inertia is enormous. It is not that I dislike change. Whenever change happens, I’m usually going, “oh hey, groovy, that thing changed and now life is slightly different and isn’t contrast an excellent lover?” I just resent and fear the idea of change. And work. Uch. Maybe this is just laziness. But maybe laziness is just your brain not wanting to do a different thing than the thing it is already doing. Some peoples brains just get stuck in a sitting-on-the-couch trough and they do it so much that the trough gets deeper and deeper, until it is almost impossible to do anything else. Depression makes the inertia heavier, the troughs deeper, the vitality harder and harder to reach through an increasingly cloudy inner landscape. If you have this, my darling, the best thing I can recommend for you is to repeat a name of God in some language, in some tradition, and to change your location. If you are in a place you have never been, you cannot fall into old grooves, and you may get some brightness back.
This, writing, this is my art. I have other arts, and they may feed me in other ways, but none help me so much as this, make me feel so much like I have passed a hard and worthy thing out of my body to give to whoever will take it. The fact that you respond to me, that you read it, makes me able to write it. You give me a gift. Thank you.
I have something called interstitial cystitis, apparently. It’s one of those disorders where the doctors have a name for a thing but no real idea why it happens or how to treat it. But they gave me a nice pamphlet about it anyway. It means my mucous membrane in my bladder is all messed up because of past trauma/injury and stress. If I want to not hurt I have to control my stress. Also, not drink alcohol, coffee, citrus juice, or consume additives or artificial preservatives. It’s forcing me to be healthy, which I resent, which stresses me out, which hurts, which reminds me to calm down and drink some dandelion juice and enjoy the goddamn moment.
It is not as difficult as I thought it would be to be a teetotaler in New Orleans. Ah, I also can’t have carbonation, so I can’t drink soda, so when I go to hang out in the bars (as one does) I now drink milk. Bartenders, for the most part, have been very kind about it.
I go on smoking jags as a final desperate bid for teenage style independence from dumb grown up taking-care-of-oneself but then I get a headache.
I’m going to be so healthy, you guys. It’s going to drive you crazy, how healthy I am. Ugh, and productive. Happy. I’ll probably start wearing paisley and smiling for no reason. I’m going to be a cult of one and paint sunflowers on my face and sew petunias to my pants and just walk around and shout aphorisms at strangers real loud in a Russian accent.
OH! Spicy food. I can’t have heat. That’s the kicker. I could bear up pretty well under the others, but sambal olek is lost to me. Sriracha. Tabasco. All the sweet and tender lovers of my past. Even red pepper flakes. I don’t know about wasabi. I have to try and see, but I have a small hope that she will be different from all the rugged red spices.
I had oatmeal for breakfast. *spits on the ground, twists up mouth, looks off into distance like after-school-special hoodlum about to deliver street wisdom*
Aaron has made the observation that this is kind of forcing me to return to a mid century hearty Minnesotan diet. Potatoes. Mildly flavoured hunks of meat. Boiled vegetables. Damp, meek puddings.
Okay, no, I’m fine, it’s cool. We’re cool here. All good.
I’m actually mildly excited under all my angsht (say it like you’re an extra in Cabaret). I never had the willpower to eat in a style that would make me feel pretty okay. So this Pavlovian torture exercise may be the only way, and is certainly the most effective and speedy way, to enforce health on me.
Okay. I’m going to find some pants and go to yoga. Cult starts now.