Over the last couple of days, I fell sick with some sort of bug. On Wednesday, I went to dinner at a girlfriend’s house where she cooked brussel sprouts and a pre-packaged shrimp entree. Four hours later, I had a migraine unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and felt a pressing, dull pain in my stomach.
My grandmother died rather suddenly from cancer in 2016 and I’ve had a pronounced fear of illness and loss ever since. I imagine these are common but whenever I am laid up with the flu or an encounter with Norovirus, they return to my mind with severity.
Physical illness is a harsh reminder of how little control we have over our very own being. We do nothing to will our hearts to beat or lungs to breath, yet they do.
There is no guarantee of waking tomorrow yet up to this point, we have.
Since I wasn’t coughing nor had a sore throat, I assumed my symptoms were a result of gluten-poisoning and googled what we had eaten for dinner as I recounted my earlier meals.
None of the ingredients showed any indication of wheat but all the usual symptoms were there— a foggy mind, nausea, and a severe tension headache that made it impossible to think or pay attention to anything. At 3 a.m. I was still sleepless due to the discomfort and well into a few rounds of vomiting.
The next 20 hours were spent in a fit of running to the sink from my bed and answering emails between the clanging in my head from the migraine. It hurt to lay my head down on any of its sides and I cried my way through the tiredness more than once.
In the brief intimacy I had with suffering, I realized how removed my day to day life is from it.
I thought of strangers whose realities are ridden with grief like the many families around the country demanding justice for loved ones lost to police brutality. As I struggled to catch my breath after throwing up, I thought of COVID-19 patients across the country, their families worried for them and their neighbors eager to forget them as they deny a pandemic in exchange for dine-in privileges.
My body relented to the rejection of what I had eaten again and again over the course of twenty-four hours while l thought of this week, this month, this year and how many times it has hallowed us out.
I considered the violence this country has hollowed us out against in exchange for maintaining the status quo.
The result is a vacuum of injustice demanding our conviction and courage. A spine, if you will. In the wake of the suffering surrounding us, we are asked “who am I?” and “who will I become?” not just new year’s dawn but every single day. The kick in the teeth is just what our lazy sense of American exceptionalism needed.
I am feeling back to normal. We have yet to see how much else for us ever will.