Last Saturday I awoke feeling unwell. Not vomitous or queasy or too sick to go to a big-ass barbecue miles out of the city and suck down 15 lbs. of prime grade A Porterhouse grilled on a gas fucking grill accompanied by something the lovely Leslie called “hot dish” in a vaguely Wisconsin accent which was made up of thinly-sliced potatoes, thinly sliced onions and something that must have been angel meat (because it was so fucking godlike delicious) all bubbled together with 27 kinds of cheese and sour cream and the entire contents of a cow’s udder.
I did not eat the baby.
Anyway, I was already unwell but the food was plentiful and delicious and amazing and what could I do but eat until I could still taste the last thing I stuffed down my gullet all the way home because a beef bone was sticking out of my mouth and I was drooling.
I awoke Sunday morning feeling much, much, much worse. I felt like someone had reached through my sternum and forgotten to close up the hole again. Something inside there, something near my heart-al region, felt hot and sharp and hard and thick and awful. And this awfulness was climbing into my throat and scraping metal rasps against my tonsils. And when I drank something cool, it throbbed like a brainfreeze. And when I ate something, it went down as if I had wrapped the bite in barbed wire.
And not the good, fun kind.
I still managed to pull my bike out and go for a long ride, thus forgetting what time it was altogether and fortunately missing a trip to the Metreon to see the abortion AKA The Hulk. I also got this weird tan on my hands where the sun shone down on my whale-white skin through the biking gloves leaving an oblong kiss right on the back, and my farmer tan is getting better (or worse) every day.
Monday, things were no better. In fact, the pain in my chest and throat went up a couple of notches. I wondered, at that stage, if the eating of the Indian take-out was probably “not a good thing.”
But that was all runny stool under the bridge and I was in misery. But like any good, red-blooded American male, I denied that anything was actually wrong and chalked it up to “My heart must be exploding… verrrry… sloooowly…”
I went to Walgreen’s and got some Zantec 75 because somewhere in the back of my head, I remembered a fleeting glimpse of a commercial I was TiVoing past one day that showed an animation of a cross-section of a person and they had apparently eaten lava and it was erupting inside like lava is wont to do and they termed the condition not “excess lava” which would make sense, but “acid reflux” which sounds more clinical and, therefore, treatable with drugs rather than a voodoo doll or witchdoctor or something that actually would work instead of just covering the problem in a soothing coat anti-depression.
Zantac is a tiny pill, and the box warns you that you shouldn’t take more than two in a 24-hour period. I’m a little scared of drugs that are smaller than a Tic Tac but will apparently end your life if you take more than two in a 24-hour period, so I took one, waited for the miracle of pain relief and read the first 200 pages of that boy wizard book with the scar and the gremlins and the floating marshmallow ghosts.
Nothing happened. Except that the lava decided that it wanted to also start knifing into my spine at that point so that I wouldn’t be bothered by the inconvenience of sleep and could enjoy a nice, relaxing evening of moaning at the cat.
(My cat reacts to moaning like this: “Whuh? Shut up, you whiny baby! At least you get to go outside and eat Indian take-out! I’m lucky if you set down the empty yogurt container so I can lick the edges. Baby.”)
Coincidentally, this was the week that San Francisco decided it was actually Phoenix, and we had three days of 90+º weather. And, I should add, no one here owns an air conditioning unit because we have all fooled ourselves into thinking that the ocean breezes that freeze our butts off during June will last and last and, hey, throw another down comforter on the fire, my balls are freezing!
It should also be noted that because of said cat’s proclivity to want to be outside and my proclivity to not have a dead cat that I cannot open my windows more than an inch (no bugs in San Francisco perfect climate means no screens, either) so, hello sweat city!
On Wednesday, with no end to my misery in sight, I broke down and called the doctor’s office, choking up blood on my B&O phone as I explained, “Help, my chest cavity is filled with lava and the life-threatening pills are not working, what shall I do. And also, Jesus God stop the hot, already. I mean, honestly, how much does a guy have to take? I’m already not having any sex and still pining for that… hello? Hello?”
Flash forward to today, and my current prognosis. I can now function rather normally except for two things: Eating and drinking.
Here’s the thing, so, okay, I went to the doctor and really, what I wanted her to tell me was either “Here’s a miracle drug that just came on the market, and it will cure anything! Immediately! Oh, and also? It makes you more virile and muscular and handsome and that guy at the gym will totally be writing a weblog entry about you by this time next week!” or “You’re right, your heart is filled with lava, or maybe it’s microwaved Cheez Whiz or like when you bite down on a Hot Pocket and it’s surprisingly hot and it scalds your tongue and that stuff? Whatever that stuff is? You’re bleeding it. From all your heart valves. And you’ll be dead in about, oh, let’s say, this time tomorrow? How does that work for you?”
But instead she nodded a lot and clicked her tongue and said “You appear to have had something, but it’s getting better on its own, so I’m going to prescribe you some Ativan (rock!) and advise you to take something to line your stomach, like
Maalox (retch!) and hand you this convenient two-page printed set of instructions that tells you not to eat anything fun for two weeks.”
At first I though, not a problem, I don’t generally eat anything too fun, however I ordinarily have a cast-iron tummy and can chow down the hottest of salsas, the garlickiest of breads and the richest French sauces you can pour over a rare slice of meat.
Then I looked at the thing and realized I was in for a challenge, because among the things I cannot imbibe for 14 days are anything dairy, anything fried, anything spicy, anything citrus, anything tomato, anything salty and anything minty.
Consider snack foods for a moment. What’s left? Raw rice cakes? I said snack foods, not torture implements.
Then it occured to me that next weekend is the Fourth of July. Which means cookouts. Which means chips and dips (salt and dairy) and salsa and tortilla chips (spicy and salty and fried) and potato salad (um, mayonaisey?) and beer and cookies and… everything I can’t eat.
Oh, plus, I can’t eat “big portions,” whatever that means. So she said I could eat more often, but not as much, because the ‘esophgeal sphyncter isn’t closing like it should.’ Pretty!
So if you think I was cranky before, just you wait. I have two weeks of dietary challenge coming…
June 27, 2003