One Thousand Words on Vomit (Sorry!)

Two of my favorite people in the world don’t throw up. Ever. At least they haven’t for decades.

And strangely enough, they can both remember the exact date they last vomited.

For my mother, that was August 13, 1970. The day I was born.

She tells me that the moment she became pregnant with me until the day I was born, she was sick. Nauseous, dizzy and puking.

My parents set up cots and beds in every room of the house because she couldn’t make it down the entire length of the hallway without stopping to rest.

I picture her, very pregnant and wearing a white sleeveless blouse (the one she’s wearing in the only picture I have ever seen of her pregnant with me) moving slowly from room to room, taking hours to go from the living room to the kitchen.

I’ve always felt guilty that I made her so sick, almost like my presence was some sort of poison to her system. How can two people who love each other and have so much in common be biologically incompatible in that way?

I’ve also always felt guilty that she was so sick that they had to give up the two foster children they were taking care of at the time. Like I ruined their chance for a normal life, away from a mother who locked them in a closet in order to go out with her friends.

Of course, my parents divorced two years after I was born, so I suppose that would have sent them back onto the system anyway.

My friend Nan last vomited on her sixteenth birthday. I met Nan in college so I don’t know the story behind her birthday illness, only that she has always been proud of her non-vomiting record and wants to preserve it for as long as possible. I haven’t heard that her streak has ended recently.

Is there a Seinfeld episode about Jerry ending a long stretch of non-vomiting?

Unlike my mother and my friend, I do throw up. I don’t mean regularly. I’m not bulimic or anything like that. I can’t even imagine habitually making yourself vomit. Blech.

But when I’m sick with some sort of stomach ailment, I do puke.

I’ve even had the pleasure of vomiting on the side of the road. Twice.

The first time was in high school. It was either the summer between my junior and senior year or just after graduation, because I worked both of those summers in the high school guidance office.

I had gone to work that morning, but became ill during the day so I left early.

I hadn’t driven very far when I realized I was going to throw up.

I pulled into a bank, drove around the back and puked in some bushes.

I wasn’t lucky enough to have shrubs around the second time I vomited in public, but it was under the same circumstances.

I left work early because I was sick (this sounds like I’m always sick and leaving work, but I’m not. This occasion was at least five years later. And I don’t get sick very often at all) and decided to stop at the drug store for some sort of medicine.

I was sitting in traffic in the shopping district and suddenly knew that puking was imminent.

Luckily my car was right beside the delivery entrance for a local grocery store. I swerved in and made it out of the car just in time.

Without the benefit of underbrush, I was fully visible to the cars inching past.

And to make it even better, there was apparently some sort of alarm set up so employees in the store knew when I delivery truck pulled into the driveway.

After just a couple of minutes, the back door of the store opened and a young man peered out. When he saw my car he started toward me, probably to tell me that I couldn’t park there, but when he saw that I was throwing up, he hurried back inside.

Why all this puke talk? Because I was sick last night.

Just a couple of hours after writing less than one thousand words saying I didn’t feel well but I never get really sick, I was so cold that I couldn’t stop shaking. Even with every blanket I own piled on top of me. It was a bone-deep cold that caused me to quake from my core, tremors that I couldn’t control.

Laying there under the pile of fleece, I realized that I was probably going to throw up. All I could think was that I needed to wait as long as possible to go into the bathroom because the cold would kill me.

In my fevered mind, I was absolutely convinced that I would die of exposure if I left my bed. And I wasn’t all that sure that I wouldn’t freeze to death even under the covers.

After what felt like several tortured, shivering hours, but was probably just minutes, I braved the frigid temperatures and made my way to the bathroom.

In my opinion, one of the worst feelings in the world is the long moments, or sometime minutes, between knowing you’re going to vomit and actually doing it.

You’re so nauseous and feel worse by the second until you finally puke. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s almost a relief.

The moment I threw up last night the cold I was convinced was going to kill me subsided. I stopped shaking and was able to shed some of the layers of blankets when I returned to bed.

And I could finally fall asleep. Really asleep, not that half sleeping, half awake misery that accompanies illness.

So even though last night was wretched and I’m still pretty sick today, I’m thankful that I am able to vomit. I know that sounds strange, but if I were more like my mother or friend I might still be lying in bed shivering violently and waiting for death.


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