Now I’m a seasick sailor

It’s 3 AM, 3:18 to be exact, and I know because I’ve been watching the digital numbers change, a 15 becoming a 16 becoming a 17, every digital number able to be made out of the seven straight lines that form a digital number 8. I think I’m actually going to vomit – is that right? I haven’t done this in years. And I’m perfectly sober.

I make it to le toilet in time and as I’m viewing my dinner in reverse, I’m not sure what to make of this nausea. I’m definitely not pregnant, unless it’s Jesus’ baby, and it’s not food poisoning, because my date is fine. Right after, this cold clammy sweat covers my body and I roll over and reach up for my orange robe that’s hanging on the back of the door, give it a good tug so that it falls and covers me in soft folds of fleece. I then exchange it for my nightgown, all without leaving the bathroom floor. I’m thankful I mopped before I left for the holidays as I lay my cheek down on the pink tile.

The rest of the night and next day proceed similarly, except I make it up to the couch to watch some “Top Chef” reruns that I doze in and out of. I flip through the same Lucky Magazine so many times that I begin to think Rosario Dawson herself has poisoned me. By the next night, after a good dose of “Arrested Development,” I feel better and can only guess I caught a bug traveling.

I would say this whole incident gave me new respect for bulimics except that when remarking this to my friend who actually is recovering from her eating disorder, she says that when you get sick on purpose, you have none of the cold clamminess and you don’t spend the night on the bathroom floor, because it’s all under your control. It’s just another part of your day. I can’t think of the last time I had no control over my body. As I was cheek-to-floor in the bathroom, I wondered if this is what it’s like to be pregnant, at the mercy of your hormones and the creature growing inside you. Your body is no longer your own.

That night, I pulled the orange robe up around my neck, tightened the belt, en-fleece-ing myself. I couldn’t leave the bathroom. Which was terrifying. At first. And then… this weird wave of relief came over me: all I have to do is be still on this floor and wait for this to pass. And get the oil changed. But the oil change would have to wait. Working out would have to wait. Everything in fact, would have to wait. This moment on the floor demanded, and got, my full attention.

Normally, my tempo is rushrushrush – pick up the dry cleaning, zip through the yellow light, skip to the end. But this weekend, I was in the moment. My body would let me be nowhere else. And I wonder what I have missed by not being “in the moment” for the other parts of my life.

I think about the last person I dated, whom I really had no business dating, but while we were in fact dating, this movie of our future kept playing in my head. There was a Levi’s commercial like this once, about a guy that meets a girl on the elevator. In a blink, we hear “I Think I Love You” and suddenly we’re in his head, projecting the future of their relationship: he imagines asking her out, they take romantic hikes over lush fields in mountains, they have lots of sex, they wed, have more sex, and then a baby… which snaps him back to reality along with the DING of the elevator. He steps off at his floor, deciding not to ask her out.

While dating Last Guy, I realized that most of the time we spent together, I was imagining that we were somewhere else. We would be at dinner and I would, all Levi’s commercial-like, be imagining us in the future, our sun-kissed hikes in the mountains, our sex, our baby, even. The soundtrack was more Eels than Partridges to be sure, but at times there were three entities in our relationship: him, me, my daydreams. I could’ve been afraid to be “in the moment” with him because I was afraid of something real actually happening, which is ironic, I know. But daydreams offer relief from responsibility. They also have the ability to make a situation much better than it actually is, gussying up reality to make it accord to your dreams.

Dating again is like rolling into a multiplex; whenever I sit across from a guy, a new movie unspools. I try to imagine meeting his children, and wonder if his daughter will stare straight forward as I introduce myself, ignoring me as she tucks her hair behind her ear. I wonder, would my dad like this guy? Or would dad smile politely at him as they stood by the fire, beers in hand. Around this time, the movies stop, because it’s usually time to order appetizers. Mind you, there’s two or three or eight more courses to go. Pop the popcorn; get comfy in your chair.

This movie-in-my-mind happens to me all the time, not just on dates. I’m at work and should be listening to my boss, but instead I’m picturing myself in the grocery store, figuring out dinner. I’m driving and rather than give my full attention to the road, I’m back in NYC, walking down Mott Street, headed toward Rice To Riches. I’m rarely all in the same place at once. But I’m always me, and not some Walter Mitty-esque West. That kind of surreality is saved for my actual dreams, which if they’re about anything, are usually about airplanes.

I was glad to feel better but miss the way nausea constantly pulled me down to earth, consciousness an orange robe that needs to be knotted around my waist.

12 responses to “Now I’m a seasick sailor”

  1. wendy — what a great post. i was with you on that floor the whole way. funny how bodily awareness can make you feel out of control and grounded all at once.

  2. Jeremy says:

    Brilliant post, WW. I relate most here to the “movie-in-my-mind” moments, especially in regards to dating, which is always about projections, substituting all the things we don’t know about the person with everything we desire (and then slowly–or quickly–realizing that, oh wait, I’m not dating myself…).

    Otherwise, I’ve realized that I sort of like being sick–not because it grounds me but because, on some level, it does the opposite, absolving me of my daily responsibilities, giving me permission to retreat from the world, if only for a bit…

  3. ssw says:

    Glad you’re feeling better Wendy.

    Did you see the Science of Sleep? OF course you did–that movie offered a fantastic example about the fuzziness of what’s real versus imaginary. The main character had a lot of trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality and the audience doesn’t get confirmation about which ‘version’ of what you see (did some of these things even happen?) so that you lose trust in him, and get the feeling that he began to hurt other people he cared about because of his inability to separate the two, although he also seemed to be cared for, nevertheless.
    So, I have a question, if we fantasize about people we know, does it impact them in real life?

    On a separate note, I related most to the actual barfing part of your post and the connection with pregnancy! “Your body is no longer your own” Considering I had a pregnancy in which I threw up every day for a few months, I can relate. There is a certain giving in, because you aren’t ‘in control’ and then, and then living with it. That theme, of the unrelenting pressure to give in and submit to your body only escalates in birth, and to a certain degree, parenting as a whole. At times though, the tables turn, and I feel more in charge and in control. I’m mystified by women who seem so in control throughout the whole process–but for me, I was pretty young, and it took a lot of time and hard work to “take back” my body, and unravel myself from all those changes. anyway…

    GREAT post WW. You create vivid images and write well-crafted sentences. xoxo

  4. PB says:

    I got food poisoning on a trip once. Bad chicken salad. It was a nearly-pass-out-in-the-store, had-to-be-driven-back-to-the-hotel kind of crazy sickness you describe. I remember laying in the bed of this strange room thinking, I am going to die and no one will know and I will just stink and housekeeping will put me in the sack and . . . I fell asleep eventually. But I related so much to your sense of in-the-moment. Because in a perverse way, I was a little relieved to be sick. No work, no kids tugging, no guilt about “doing my share,” I could just puke and sleep and be alone. How often do I just try to get to the next thing? Finally your body just says, stop, and your head has to just be “fleeced.” Great post and great link.

  5. Stella says:

    Your world is all too familiar…it is perverse when you’re in total physical distress but suddenly lying on the floor on cold tiles becomes the greatest thing that could ever happen. I also had a phase of migraines a few years ago, and the relief and pleasure and escapism of recovery almost made the migraines worth it.

  6. Lisa Tremain says:

    So, was it food poisoning? A flu? No matter, you rest up, dearie.

    My food poisoning story involves leg convulsions among the other involuntary eliminations. I was too out of it to imagine I’d die. Now I wonder if maybe I was close…?

    I love reading about Wendy West’s trials, travails, and travels.

    I feel a fancy West Coast dinner coming on…

  7. WW says:

    I think my bug was just another perk offered by American Airlines. And y’all are right about the absolute pleasure that can come from temporary illness. Justified escape! Obligation free time! I’ve found that for a day I even tried to streeeeeeetch out the nausea, in a gleeful attempt to avoid meetings and phone calls that were less interesting than whatever was coming up on IFC next.

    And SSW – what a great question – sometimes I think our fantasies about others does impact them in real life – at least how we view them/treat them in real life. However, despite whatever fantasies I may have about, oh, I don’t know, George Clooney, we still haven’t had that weekend in his villa.

  8. ssw says:

    Yeah, the only real-life loss there is that George doesn’t know what he’s missing.

  9. WW says:

    Marry me.

  10. PB says:

    hey WW, back off, if ssw every remarries, she is mine. And I believe there is a waiting list.

  11. PB says:

    Maybe I meant EVER, not every.
    hmmmm, a slip perhaps.

  12. MarleyFan says:

    I really like “future tripping/movie-in-my-mind” details, projecting the future before it happens…