Saturday, December 24, 2011


so let me tell you about quinine

bitter potent bells and locusts and swarms of stinging things ringing
and crashing and sawing in your ears. voices from the north and from
the south and oh yeah that was east and a person from the west just said
hi but i turn and wait they were in front of me

sounds are coming at you screaming through water,

imagine you are swimming in a deep green pool, you and your best
friend. and you are playing a game where you take a deep breath and
tread deep in the water and you scream secrets into each others ears.
and the sound is coming to you through a bell jar and you are in a bell jar

and you view the world, the world of distorted sound and the sounds and
the shapes merge and collide, crash and dissolve and you have
conversations that you don't completely understand and you wonder what
exactly you said but then you are too distracted by the ringing in your
ears to think about it for too long.

and let me tell you about swallowing quinine. it is cold and metallic
and bitter. and no amount of juice can wash the from your mouth and
even after you eat a brownie or a bowel of soup that fishy muddy talcum
taste lingers and scrapes the roof of your tongue and your count your
pills and oh thirty more to go

and the reason you are taking quinine.

malaria. the elusive enemy, the one that will strike you. silent. but
you know your turn is coming. i thought i could cheet it. i thought
that i could haphazardly take Fansidar and drink small sips of gallishly
bitter neem tea, a tea that barely even deserves the name. it is the
worst brew in the world. imagine the most outrageous root in the
universe, a root so deeply grounded in the Terra firma that only the metallic clang of a shovel can wrest it free. imagine stirring this sordid
green mess over a kettle and then forcing yourself to drink it. all in
the name of anti malaria.

but that didn't work either

i made it three months, one day.

and the the five days that the malaria was multiplying in my
bloodstream, disrupting the structure of my red blood cells, i choose
those exact days to begin a rigorous workout.

and the 4 days before i was sure, before i saw that dreaded 0.05%, those
days suddenly i couldn't eat any more. my favorite foods, i couldn't
put it in my mouth.

the 49 hours after i learned i had malaria were some of the worst in my
life. i still couldn't eat, i was trembling, forcing myself to drink
water and take quinine on an empty stomach, taking as much phenergan as
safely possible, and drifting in an out of a nightmarish sleep.

once i finally dragged myself out of my bug net 2 days later, walked the
mile to the hospital, and collapsed at the table for christmas dinner,
then i felt better. kind of magic i guess. the magic of an actual meal
not cooked over a tchadian fire.

but right now, its christmas eve, i'm feeling half way human again,
grateful for brownies and grateful for life.

merry christmas.

send me telepathic christmas love, not that i could hear it anyway.

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