Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Through the Porcelain Looking Glass

Saturday MZA and I cleaned the house top to bottom in preparation for a big dinner party with four couples from Nick’s school and ten of their children!!!

I made two polenta and black bean casseroles, MZA made an Uzbek spring salad with yogurt, cilantro and radishes, then he made a big traditional green salad, topped with feta and toasted pine nuts. He also made Margaritas.

We had everything ready—psychotically ready—so we wouldn’t be in a pre-dinner flap. With that many people involved, you don’t really want anything left to chance.

Everyone arrived, festive, cheerful, all toting one and two bottles of wine, a beautiful spring candle, and the kids all immediately filed into a chaotic formation—a band—of power energy that scaled all three floors of the house, invaded the rainy back yard, came back in and swarmed about cheerfully. The adults were all so convivial—I think it was the right time to get everyone together after the winter doldrums and before the summer free fall. Everyone stayed until 11:00, there were hugs all around, I felt really happy and proud that we pulled it off. They were all really appreciative too, and that was nice.

Sunday we lazed about and in the afternoon MZA and Nick were about to go on a bike ride when Nick uncharacteriscally was complaining of a stomach ache. His face lost all color and I told him to go upstairs and lie down. The next thing I knew, the mayhem had begun—nonstop vomiting, cold washcloth on forehead, Nick lying on the bathroom floor looking up at me and saying, “Thanks for taking care of me Mommy.” Crrrrrrrrrrrack. Sound of heart breaking.

I threw the shower curtain in the wash, mopped his floor and Cloroxed the toilet. I was on top of it! It was a desperation borne of, please God don’t let the babies get it. God answered my prayers and gave it to: me.

I know. I KNOW I exaggerate and am given to drama and a heightened sense of everything, but I’m giving this to you straight: I have NEVER been so sick in my life. Food poisoning? Been there. I was in PEACE CORPS, for crying out loud. Food Poisoning is practically my middle name. I would have WELCOMED food poisoning on Sunday night. It would have been a balmy relief from what I was going through.

As I clung to the porcelain parapet of my bathtub, staring down into the narrow abyss between the pedestal sink and the tub wall, at the black and white tiles of the floor, I thought: I have reached the n-a-d-i-r. That’s what I thought. N-A-D-I-R.

Then of course I thought about Elvis Presley and how we shouldn’t have all made such fun of him for dying on the bathroom floor, especially since I was also about to die on the bathroom floor.

And the PROBLEM IS, I deal with medical symptoms a lot with my job, and so I had LOTS of medical symptoms going through my head like “renal failure” dyspeptic coma, diasporic convulsive sporazoa, nadiraphobic dysphasia, death pallor virulentia, etc.

The violence with which this thing took me, stunned me. At one point, during the porcelain parapet nadir bathroom floor moment, I thought I might quite honestly die. I thought, that’s it, MZA is going to have to call an ambulance. They are going to have to take me away. But then I got afraid of barfing off the side of a gurney and I felt safer and better in the cold white calming embrace of the mid-century bathroom fixtures.

When I lay back in bed, I felt myself start to lose consciousness—I was going somewhere much deeper than the troubled semi-slumber that had plagued the endless night—was I fainting? No, it felt like a slip into a deeper realm. I told MZA the next morning that I was going to ask him to call me an ambulance and he said, “There’s nothing an ambulance can do about barfing.”


My husband is an incredible, loving, sensitive and unselfish person, however he indulges me not at all in any drama. Which is good, in a way, because it keeps me grounded and gives me perspective. At about 11:30 the next morning he came up to the bedroom and said, “How much longer are you going to be in bed?”

Um forever?

I said, “I don’t know, why?” And he said, “Because I want to clean the sheets and vacuum the room. You can put clean sheets on the bed.”

I said, “When I put on the sheets can I get back in bed?”

He said, “After you take a shower.”

He brought up the vacuum and said, “After you’re finished make sure you sanitize the handle.”

I took off the sheets, duvet, blanket, everything and he took them downstairs, where he was manning a massive laundry initiative. I vacuumed the room, in all my skuzzy fineness, wondering, “How many women have to sanitize their own sick room?”

I unplugged the vacuum and put it back at the top of the stairs. I sanitized the handle. I got in the shower, all shaky, not quite sure I was ready for a soapy sudsy immersion, but it felt like heaven. I got back into bed, in a clean nightshirt, amid clean sheets and I thought, somehow, he’s always right, even when I resist it so completely.

I felt so much better to have the midnight slime removed and to lie in uncontaminated sheets. As I lay there, the sun shone in through the windows, amplified by the pale yellow walls and I looked out at our giant elm (it might be a maple…I’m kind of bad with tree identification) in the front yard, that is just starting to get some feathery leaflets, and I felt at peace.

Then a fully recovered Nick and MZA came upstairs with a smoking tray of white sage and smudged the bedroom, with three ceremonial waves over my formerly possessed body. Nick was loving the “ceremony.” You see, Uzbeks also burn sage to “purify” places, much like the Native Americans do, so we always have a stash of smudging gear on hand, when the spirits become particularly sinister.

I read my friend Nani’s book, The Sea of Tears. Thought, fuck she is an amazing writer. Then I closed the door, turned on my side and slept, quietly, peacefully, uneventfully—without any guilt—I wasn’t shirking any duties kind of thing—until about 6:00 p.m. I woke to the chaotic turmoil known as “Ian” flying through the house, screaming, laughing, crying, yelling: instigating. The bambini were home from daycare. There was a sound of another woman downstairs. I thought: that’s it, I died and MZA has remarried…

I went downstairs and a mommy from the bambini’s daycare was over with her daughter. I descended the stairs looking, I am sure, like Beetlejuice. I sat on the stairs and Nick came up to me and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this Mommy, but you won tickets to go see Jon Stewart’s show in New York!”

I won tickets through a school raffle. I filled out each of my eight raffle tickets so carefully, thinking, you know, as you always do, I will never win this…

But I did.

We’re all healthy so far. And this “near death” experience caused me to have a real and very important epiphany.

More on that later.


Cynicism is another word for reality

Email me, you derelict wastrel

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