I feel unwell. Not in any specific way. Just vaguely uneasy.

I nurse a rum and coke. It feels thick in my mouth. Syrupy. I switch to rum and ginger ale to try to calm the growing tightness in the bottom of my belly. I can't drink it. It's horrible. So I trade it in but get no further than a couple of sips before I decide that I can't drink the cola either. Yep, I am definitely unwell. In a specific way, now. And I don't want to admit it yet, but vomit is definitely on the horizon. I just need to get out of here, away from the noise and the lights, and I'll be okay. I'll be able to talk myself out of it. I've done it before.

But as I begin to put on my coat, that familiar indefinable urge overwhelms me and I start to walk, swiftly, in the direction of the girls' bathroom. My stomach muscles contract, gas escapes my throat in a sour belch, and I'm running now and I know I'm not going to make it. As I push the door open, my stomach clenches, squeezes, propels the puke upward into my throat and I hold it in my mouth because I haven't quite made it to the toilet. Oh Christ this is horrible. Hot and sour and chunky and there's too much of it I can't hold it can't swallow it and it erupts from my mouth in a foul gush and splashes onto the toilet seat, the floor, my jeans. My stomach heaves and I vomit effortlessly, sushi and strawberry daiquiri, rum and coke, a steaming red stew of filth.

I'm crying now, spitting pieces of puke into the toilet, wiping my mouth with wads of toilet paper. I wipe the vomit from the toilet seat, clean the floor, flush it all away. Run the tap until the water is cold, rinse my mouth, spit. Rinse again. My reflection is a mess.

I leave the bathroom as two girls enter. I have been blessedly alone in my ordeal. I get my coat and walk out into the cold night.

Vomit and a Cheeseburger

Involuntarily, my mouth begins to water. I swallow, feel the lump in the back of my throat. And begin the mantra: don't puke don't puke don't puke. Aw hey, man, come on, does he look 18? I came all the way from London to see this show. Would you let us in for a twenty? How about a blowjob? He'll give you a blowjob if you let us in. What if I'm on the guest list? What about then? Hey, does anyone around here know where we can get fake ID? Queen Street? Fucking Queen Street? Anywhere in particular on Queen Street? Fucking christ. We are on the highway; there is no shoulder, no plastic bag, no hope. I curl up in the back seat, press a comforting hand firmly against my stomach. Don't puke don't puke don't puke. What's your favourite Bowie album? I don't know, man, I get tired of him after four songs, I can't listen to a whole record. Which version of China Girl do you like best? You think Iggy is over-rated? Seriously? I close my eyes. This doesn't help. Don't puke don't puke don't puke don't puke don't puke don't puke. How can you not know how to play euchre? How old are you, man? Three of spades leads, asshole. December 1969, no contest. Santa with her legs spread. These cards are distracting. Is it my lead? I am shaky, weak. Please just let me get some food in my belly to soak up the poison. Salt and grease, the antidote. Don't puke please don't puke. What am I? What am I doing? Hand. Hand. What is box? I'm sort of worried that I'm gonna get gang-banged in my sleep. Don't rape me, okay you guys? Naw, it's okay, I'm good here. Here is good. Here is good. Strangely, the urge to vomit passes. I feel a little better. Standing in line, suddenly, violently, my stomach bucks, heaves, I cup a hand to my mouth, feeling sort of silly (do I really think that I am going to somehow catch the vomit, contain it in my hands?), half-run to the bathroom, bang open the door to the wheelchair stall, lean over the toilet from the waist god there's nothing worse than puking in a McDonald's bathroom my nose runs my eyes water my stomach heaves wetly but there's nothing really in there just thick wet sticky sour strings of bile. When my body is finished, I rinse my mouth out at the sink, gargle, spit, rinse again, take small sips of water from my cupped hands. The cheeseburger is delicious.         

Vomit (4)

Suddenly desperate to get out of the cab. This is good, I mumble to the driver. Here is fine. I shove my cabmate a twenty, stumble out of the car. I can't walk in a straight line at the best of times, let alone after a half a bottle of wine, a couple of malibu and fruit juices, countless rum and cokes, and a shot. For a slight girl, I sure can pound them back.

Not always without consequences, of course.

The night is cool, and lovely. The breeze an ancient lover's caress on my bare skin.That sounds ridiculous. All I mean is that the wind is old, as old as the earth, and soothing. A sensual comfort in this, my time of need.

Tomorrow is garbage day in suburbia. Identical grey trash cans line the street, blue recycling bins their dance partners. Cars tucked snugly into their driveways for the night. The air smells faintly of refuse, of freshly-mown lawns, of gasoline, of dandelions and dew.

My stomach heaves. Taking me by surprise. In the moment between the heave and the upheaval, I cast about vainly for a proper receptacle. Unwilling to puke into a garbage can, because collecting trash is probably unpleasant enough without the addition of fresh vomit, I bend over at the waist and spill my guts, hot and wet and thick, into the gutter. Careful not to puke on my shoes. My nose runs, my eyes water. I cry and spit, gagging on the stringy bits that stick in the back of my throat. God, what I would give for a glass of water. But the amount of vomit is surprisingly small, and I feel immensely better having rid myself of it. I also feel kind of shitty about puking into someone's gutter, and hope that ants have cleaned the mess up by morning. Mother Nature's trash collectors.

And I stumble the rest of the way home in the cool night air.

Vomit (3)

Temptation and betrayal and tequila make her giddy. Standing at the bar, waiting for the bartender to pour the shot, she is aware of the noise around her, the dull roar of laughing and flirting and rock and roll. The smells assault her, too: perfume and beer and sweat. The bartender places the shot in front of her and she hands him her money and smiles as she shakes salt onto the flesh between her thumb and forefinger. Still smiling, although the bartender has gone on to the next customer, she licks the salt from her skin and feels the taste buds become erect on her tongue. She tilts the shot glass back and downs the tequila, feeling the liquid wash over her tender tongue, harsh and stinging and sour. She gives an involuntary shiver and bites into the lemon, grateful for its tartness. She feels the heat spread in her stomach and she is grateful for that. She feels the liquor begin to dull her senses, and she is grateful for that, too. She licks her lips. And orders another.

As she weaves her way through the crowd back to her table, she holds her hands up, triumphantly, ten fingers in the air, and she hears herself announce the number of shots she's consumed. And then she gags and her stomach contracts and she can feel the last shot coming back up her throat and she pushes her way to the bathroom. The first stall is empty, thank god, and she falls to the floor as the vomit erupts out of her in a great hot gush. Again and again she vomits, her stomach clenches and horrible guttural noises come from deep within her, wrenching her guts, twisting them, in the effort to rid her of the poison. The bathroom stinks and the floor is wet and the toilet is dirty but she is grateful to be here, grateful that she is drunk, grateful for the lack of thought that is demanded at this very moment. She is dimly aware of someone holding her hair back, and then she is being pulled to her feet and dragged down the stairs, a muscled bouncer under each arm. They carry her out into the night and the air is cool against her hot skin and she shivers.    

Vomit (2)

She arrives late. As she turns down the dirt driveway, she can hear music playing faintly from an old ghetto blaster and she sees the smoke from the campfire and she smells the sweet smells of pot and dried wood burning. The June air is warm and still and she can discern the vaguely forboding shape of the old farmhouse at the end of the driveway. As she pulls up, two large German shepherds bound toward the car. She gets out and a voice from the darkness calls the dogs and they give her a perfunctory sniff before bounding back toward the fire.

She waves hello to the people around the campfire and is greeted by slurred voices and laughter and she takes a hit off the joint that someone offers before she pulls open the screen door. The light inside the farmhouse is glaring and harsh and she blinks a few times, adjusting to the change, before wandering through the kitchen to the living room. Empty beer bottles are lined up along one wall and a bunch of people she doesn't know are sitting in the brown checkered armchairs and on the floor around an old record player, listening to Time/Life collections from the 70s. She sees her boyfriend in the corner playing euchre with some friends at a small brown card table and they wave her over and give her a plastic cup and a handful of mushrooms. She fills the cup with the purple jesus the boys have mixed in a cooler and she chews the mushrooms, feeling the woody, rubbery texture of them between her teeth. She washes them down and feels the heat of the liquor spread in her stomach.

She has a lone hand in hearts and is on her fourth cup of purple jesus when she becomes suddenly aware of the aural shift and she looks around at the people sitting at the table with her and she laughs and asks them if they hear that, too. The record player is suddenly too loud and the voices of the people around her melt into each other and the room with its bare lightbulb is oppressively bright so the five of them decide to go upstairs into one of the bedrooms to enjoy the high together. And on her way up, the vomit comes effortlessly, without warning, technicolour purple Koolaid floods the bare wooden stairs, and she laughs, shocked at the suddenness of it, and she hears the echoing laughter of the boys ahead of her and, holding the handrail, she skips those steps and continues up.     

Vomit (1)

She is seven years old and it is past her bedtime. But the adults are having a party and there is cake. The birthday smell of blown-out candles mixes with the sweeter smell of their cigarettes, and the air in the basement apartment is cloudy with smoke. The smoke makes her sleepy but she can hear music and the sound of their laughter and she can hear forks against plates and she feels her mouth water. She gets up off her mattress on the floor and opens the bedroom door, careful not to wake her little brother, and walks down the hall to the kitchen and asks please can she have some cake? And because it is a celebration they let her have some and then send her back to bed.

She wakes up a few hours later with a feeling in her stomach that she tries to make go away by holding her hands firmly against her belly. Trying to keep it in, keep it down. And then suddenly she knows, although she can't say exactly how, and she jumps up and runs to the bathroom and feels the cake coming up. Her stomach clenches and she is crying and she tastes that sour taste in the back of her throat and feels the warm, thick mess in her mouth before she vomits chocolate cake and mandarin oranges into the toilet bowl. She feels the heat in her stomach and it clenches again and she gags and up comes more cake and more oranges in a stinking brownish flood, stinging her throat and making her nose run. She spits and cries and then her mother is there with a glass of water and she swishes the water around in her mouth and spits it into the toilet but she can't quite get rid of the taste. She flushes the toilet and watches the water wash it all away and the toilet bowl is cool and she folds her arms across the seat and rests her head on her arms and her mother places a cool cloth on her forehead and she feels better.      

The Vomit Chronicles: Now with diarrhea! (April 6, 2010)

I sit at the computer, listening to the last part of the MAG podcast, playing spider solitaire. (And losing, but I keep at that game. I am nothing if not persistent.) It is after 2 a.m. I become aware of my stomach, wonder if I'm hungry, decide it's time for bed. Head upstairs with a slight growling in my belly. Hmm.

Crawl into bed. Lie there, feeling the discomfort mount. Are you awake? I ask Ryan. No response. A shift in my bowels, and I cross the hall to the bathroom posthaste. I am no stranger to diarrhea. I have a fast metabolism. Food tends not to stick around in my body for very long. Takes what it needs and moves on.

Back in bed, I realize that something is not right with my body, in that abstract way one becomes aware of these things. Ryan is now awake. Impossible not to be, considering what has just happened in the bathroom. We have a small house. Do you feel okay? I ask him. Yep, he answers. One hundred percent. I feel like throwing up, I tell him.

Not Easter dinner food poisoning, then. I think back to the previous evening's dinner: sushi in Toronto. Probably the best sushi I have eaten. You wouldn't do this to me, would you, sushi? We've been pretty good pals until now. And why would you wait so long to attack?

While I wonder these things, I realize that my salivary glands are working overtime. Ah fuck, no, I think. No no no. Concentrate. Don't puke don't puke don't puke. I am no stranger to vomit, either. I know the signs. My stomach cramps (Jesus this hurts) and off I head across the hall to the bathroom. The faint aroma of baby shit lingers in the bowl, makes it impossible to contain the rush of vomit. I wrap my knees around the cool porcelain and my stomach heaves its contents into the bowl, greenish-yellow, bits of undigested romaine lettuce floating in the muck. My eyes water, my nose runs. And, interestingly, my bowels release a squirt of shit into my pajama bottoms. This is a new turn of events. I feel a little better, though, and remove my pants, wipe the shit from them, toss them into the laundry basket, put a new pair on. Rinse my mouth, brush my teeth, head back to bed.

But not for long.

This time when the cramps come, they come with a vengeance. I sprint to the bathroom, heave my body over the toilet, splash a hot sour rush of puke into the bowl as my rectum contracts and sprays shit into my fresh pajama bottoms. I half-stand, step out of my pjs, still vomiting, diarrhea running onto the floor. I don't know how to handle this. I have not had the opportunity to develop a strategy for this particular brand of illness, having never experienced it before. In the past, the toilet has been my puke receptacle. What does one do when one needs this same receptacle for watery orange fecal matter? I decide that for the moment it doesn't matter. Fuck the shit on the floor. Just get it all out. Tears stream down my face. I sob as I puke and shit.

When this bout subsides and I feel marginally better, I clean up the bathroom, wipe the vomit from the toilet seat, the shit from the tile floor. There is shit on my thighs, my feet. I run some water into the bathtub and clean myself up. Dig a pair of panties from my drawer. I am out of pajama bottoms. Curl up in bed in the fetal position, whimpering, shivering. (I am afraid that I was rather cruel to my cat, who just wanted to snuggle. I shoved her, kicked her off the bed. She has a habit of walking across my stomach, curling up on my thighs. Not tonight, kitten, sorry.)

The pain in my gut is unreal. It's not over. But at least I have a plan. The next time my insides contract and I rush to the bathroom, I shove aside the shower curtain, sit down sideways on the toilet, arms crossed on the ledge of the tub, head hanging over. Thank god for small bathrooms. The troll in my belly is angry, wants out, the force of this vomit is going to rip me apart, I make horrifying deep guttural noises and spit out clots of opaque yellow bile that collect and creep toward the drain like horror movie blood. While I fight the troll, watery shit gushes out of my ass into the toilet. I hope that there is enough room back there, that I'm not spraying shit all over the side of the vanity.

With an established system in place, I spend the rest of the night repeating the above, ad nauseum (pun intended). Sometimes I just shit, sometimes I just vomit up that awful thick bile, sometimes I do both together. Between expulsions, I moan and shiver. No, not again, I protest. No no no, I don't want to do this anymore. The pain is excruciating. I am weak and exhausted.

Should we go to the hospital? Ryan asks. (He has to be in court early in the morning, and I feel distantly apologetic, but my body's needs trump any other concern.) No, I say. I can't. So he calls Telehealth Ontario, asks me a bunch of questions via the nurse on the other end of the line. Since things appear to be slowing down, we decide to wait and see what happens. Eventually, I somehow manage to fall asleep, with only minor interruptions, for the rest of the night. There is nothing left to expel, but still my body finds things to rid itself of. In bed, I place my hands gently on my stomach, comforting the troll, who eventually falls asleep himself.

I am a fever.

I am a fever. And I don't mean that in a Killsian "ain't born typical" way. Where does the heat come from? Is it in my blood? I'm burning up. And I don't mean that in a Madonnian "uh uh uh" way. I am a set of disparate components. Nothing is working together. My blood is hot; pain laps at my temples in little waves; my pores rid my body of moisture in a frantic attempt at cooling my skin and the sweat pools in my navel and under my breasts and it dries and waves of cold wash over me and I shiver and pull my knees up to my chin and cocoon myself into the blanket and it is so hot and I stick my feet out into the cool air, then my arms, my chest, and the sweat dries and waves of cold wash over me and I shiver and pull my knees up to my chin and cocoon myself into the blanket and it is so hot and I stick my feet out into the cool air and I wonder why my blood is so hot and there is a thickness in my throat that makes it hard to swallow the ibuprofen that promises to cool my blood and my back aches and the cat steps on my face she wants something but I ignore her and dreamwalk into the basement while I wait for the drugs to cool my blood and I write about being a fever.