It starts with a hacking cough and an uncontrollable watering mouth. I throw the covers off and run to the bathroom. Every follicle on my body reacts but I cannot say that I am cold. I vomit. I stop vomiting and wipe the tears from my eyes and sit in the silence of the early morning, surveying my current situation. I chalk it up to drinking too much the night before and get to my feet. I brush my teeth and find the light switch. Joe pulls the covers up so that I can get back into bed. I am still both hot and cold but snuggling seems like a good option at this point. He said something—probably questioning me but it’s a mumble and I can’t really make it out. I nod and get back into bed.
It happens again but it isn’t exactly the same. Diarrhea. The tile is cold, cold, cold on my feet. All of me is cold and none of me is hot this time.
Joe hears all of it. I sit on the toilet, sweating, bracing myself by keeping one hand on the wall. I imagine Joe laying in bed—so big that he provides his own heat, he doesn’t even need the assistance of covers. He hears me on the toilet and he just lies there and continues to love me. I don’t get it most of the time. I guess he likes my personality, but honestly that isn’t even that great. Is it Easter? It’s Easter. I have to be up in three hours to get ready. I then have to drive forty-five minutes to meet my dad at church.
I go back to bed. Joe puts his arm up and once I’m beside him he puts it back down and I’m warm again. I sigh and he asks me—with less mumbling—if I drank too much wine the night before. I say that I have but I am wrong. He laughs at me and it reverberates even more beautifully than usually because of the silence of the early morning.
“Hey, you know what I just thought of?”
“I really good idea for an airbrushed t-shirt would be ‘Breathe if You’re Horny’”
“Molly just had one made that says ‘Bonafide Hustla Spring Break ’08”
“I also like ‘Have a Bitchin’ Summer ’86’”
I giggle and bury my head in his chest and I go back to sleep. I love this man.
“What time do you have to be up?”
He laughs at me.
“Get up, you have to go meet your dad.”
My stomach is uneasy and I once again throw the covers off, pushing Joe out of the way and stomping blindly to the bathroom. He knocks at the door.
“You gonna be okay?”
He laughs at me.
I’m scared to drive forty-five minutes while in the midst of a diarrhea attack. I would rather watch a kneecap operation or go to Disney World, but it means a lot to my dad and sister. I guess it means a lot to my stepmom, Pam. I quietly wonder how many people have stepmothers named ‘Pam’. I bet I know at least three if I really concentrate. I don’t have to use the bathroom…I don’t have to use the bathroom…I don’t have to use the bathroom
I have to use the bathroom. I pull into a clean-looking BP station. I notice a man in an older truck pulling right behind me. I park and he parks far too close to me—in a perpendicular fashion. I get out of the car and I don’t want to talk to anyone but I do want to go to the bathroom and it is urgent.
“Hey, you looked like your car was overheatin’”
“Hey, man, well itellyawhat you just have a nice…nice Easter.”
I arrived at my father’s house but I storm past him in favor of the bathroom.
My dad, sister, and stepmom are waiting in the car where I join them. We leave for church and my dad begins to question me. Had I been drinking the previous night and yes I had and do I think that’s why I’m so sick? I was really beginning to have my doubts. My dad and stepmom exchange glances. I come to the realization that my stepmom thinks I am pregnant and is looking at my father with oddly suggestive glances. She’s a nurse and she enjoys diagnosing things.
It is the last line of the last song of the sermon. I have been sitting here for what has felt like forever. I have watched a baptism. The flowing water has taunted me. Only now do I storm past all of the other people seated at the same pew. I make it to the lobby before I have to cover my mouth. I am speed walking and coughing and the girl watching colicky babies scowls at me disapprovingly. I see a wastebasket on my way to the ladies’ room. I pick it up mid-stride. I need the wastebasket. I am embarrassed but I make it to the bathroom where I am sick some more. I am angry and sweaty and an old woman scampers out of the bathroom before having to confront me. I hear her and I vomit again. Organs are playing which means that I don’t have to say goodbye to anybody—I’ll just take the back exit and meet everyone at the car.
Once I am back a home, I go straight to bed. I am shivering and cold and these blankets are doing nothing for me. I yell for my sister to bring me some more. She isn’t used to seeing me in a position of vulnerability and so she takes care of me. Dad brings me Pepto Bismol and I turn the bottle up. I think for a minute.
I can’t believe I threw up at church. I didn’t have that much to drink last night. Maybe I ate something. I tried a new sushi place with Joe yesterday. I didn’t want to go to Samurai J’s but he insisted on something other than Daruma’s. I threw up at church. I’m going to have to change churches. That old lady in the bathroom thought someone just drove the demons out of me. The girl watching the noisy babies just thought I was a drunk. I have food poisoning. I have to get up and go to the bathroom.
I get up and go to the bathroom, which is almost unbearable. Once I get out of the covers I can barely breath because it is so cold. I finish up in the bathroom and try to bundle up back in bed. It’s difficult to stay warm without Joe. He is nature’s heating blanket. I try not to think about his absence too much.
Dad walks in to check on me. He’s brought me a Sprite because he says that usually helps him when his stomach is upset. I groan because my stomach is turning and I tell him I need to go to the doctor. He melodramatically places his hand on my shoulder. I know he’s still wondering if I’m pregnant or not. This, for me, is an adult moment involving a decision. Do I tell him that ‘yes, I AM pregnant…and I am HAVIN’ this lil bastard…come hell or high water!” or do I spare him some heartache. I looked at him and the compassion he was showing me when I knew that all he wanted to do was go watch the Andy Griffith show. I bet Opie never ate any bad sushi and made people think he was drunk or pregnant. I think he killed a bird once, or broke a streetlight or something.
I let him know it was food poisoning and we talked about that for a minute. He told me that he could go to the store and get me some Dramamine which would help the nausea but would knock me out. I told him I had no problem with being unconscious for the remainder of this.
Dad brings me the Dramamine and a bottle of Gatorade. I appreciate the effort but I know I won’t be able to drink the Gatorade except for with pills. It will run right through me. My lips are dry and so is my throat. I drink the Gatorade and as soon as I put the bottle down I can feel it passing through my stomach. I go to the bathroom. I wonder, while in the bathroom, how many times I’ve been to the bathroom that day.
I go back to bed and the Dramamine takes hold. My eyelids droop and I am motionless. I fall asleep.
I am awoken by my stomach. It is telling me to get up. The Dramamine is making this very difficult. I sit up, take the covers off, and rise. I begin to walk but my body feels like lead. I stumble like a baby fawn who is just learning to walk and I fall down. My sister hears me and comes into the room. She laughs at me but helps me to the bathroom anyway. She waits at the door to make sure I can balance myself on the toilet and to talk about things I wouldn’t normally allow her to talk about because she is annoying.
“This other night these two fraternities got into a fight over me. It was awesome, Rachael—you wouldn’t even believe it.”
I didn’t even believe it. I raised my head, groaning. I summoned my strength.
“Look, Molly—I already like you…you don’t have to make up some little lie just to get my attention. You probably wouldn’t have it anyway because I just don’t care right now. Take me back to bed.”
I wake up again. The Dramamine knocked me out completely and now I am awake and sweaty and confused about what day it is. I think for a minute and I groan as I remember what day it is. I remember a dream I just had. I pick up the phone to tell my friend, Megan. She’s batshit nuts so she’ll appreciate it.
“I dreamed that Richard Simmons decided not to be gay but he didn’t know how to talk to women. At the same time, Sasquatch comes to him in a headband—looking to lose weight to ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies’. As it turns out, Sasquatch is quite the ladies’ man and can help Richard Simmons out if Richard Simmons will help him drop a couple of pounds. So Richard Simmons goes on a couple of dates and Sasquatch is, y’know, hiding in the bushes at the park or in the backseat—telling him what to say.”
“I collect Richard Simmons vinyls.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot you did that. Do you have ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies’?”
“Yeah, but that’s not the best one. My favorite is ‘Reach’. It’s just a bunch of obese people reaching. You can see sweat stains.”
I tell her about my incident earlier that day at church and I lead up to why I was sleeping so soundly at 7:00 at night, which she didn’t previously feel the need to inquire about because I suppose it didn’t strike her as particularly strange.
“That’s so funny because I passed out last year while singing for my church’s Easter cantata. People thought I was swooning and I got a standing ovation, but really I just get low blood sugar. I did take out an old lady who was standing next to me, though.”
I get out of bed because I’m feeling better. I get to Dad’s room by following the sound of his bass guitar. He usually practices by himself on Sunday so he’s ready for full band rehearsals on Monday. His band’s name is Geezer, which I think is pretty clever considering they barely know enough about Weezer to have fun with their name. I think it’s cute.
“I’m feeling better.”
“Good, good. You slept for a pretty good while, hmm?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t mind.”
He laughed at me. “I don’t blame you.”
“Did you learn to play ‘Gigantic’ like I asked you nicely?” This is something that my sister and I have asked dad ever since he picked up the bass guitar again. It’s beyond his canon of music but we feel like we have to play tiddlywinks with his emotions by suggesting a song he doesn’t know. It amuses us.
He played the opening but that was all I got out of him—he was being nice because I was sick. I knew he found no real joy in playing music that was born after 1980. Molly walked in when she heard it and she sat next to me, placing her head on my lap.
“We just learned ‘Under My Thumb’, wanna hear it?”
“Yeah, I totally have my xylophones in my car.”
“We usually get around that by just having our keyboard player piddle around with his thing and when he plays it it just sounds like a xylophone. When’s Joe gonna come over and play his bagpipes for us? The guys would love to play something with him.”
“Y’all are gonna have a jam sesh with some bagpipes?” Me and Molly laughed at the thought of this. Joe usually played at weddings and funerals, but I just couldn’t see him rockin’ out with my dad. It was weird.
“He could play ‘Mull of Kintyre’.”
“Yeah, that would be pretty special.” I shifted and moved Molly’s head off of my lap.
“I have been sick literally all day why would you choose to put your head on my lap? You are a fungus.” She giggled and hugged me.
“Is Andy Griffith on?”
Dad paused to think.
“You know what? It might just be.”