Tuesday, 25 November 2014

NYC (and when it is bad...)


This happened concurrently with my last post.  This was happening at the same time as all that other stuff.

I was still sick.  I woke up functional but in pain at around 5am. When I went into the living room, the couch had been put back and someone was sleeping on it. I went outside, pre-sunrise, and sat barely within wifi range thinking about how I could make this work, and decided just to walk back towards the subway station in the search for functional wifi that wouldn't involve the hostel. I was in a cold sweat and dazed but at least I was only carrying a small backpack – I left the big pack at the hostel, a simultaneous source of relief (less physical burden) and stress (it might get stolen). The theft risk was mitigated by the fact that there were mostly only clothes – valuables were all in my small pack. Sick people don't make the best decisions.

I ended up in a Starbucks in Manhattan. There were no shops or services in between where I was staying and that Starbucks, none that I could find anyways. I thought “they'll have to have wifi.” No appetite, a cup of chai tea, some dedicated time and attention searching AirBNB, Couchsurfing and Priceline for alternate accommodation... trying to download a map of Manhattan so that I could get vaguely oriented... I tried to cram a lot into that 2 hours of laptop battery. I got a few other things accomplished but I couldn't find a better place to stay that I could afford, or that would give me access to Manhattan. People in pain don't make the best decisions.

So I started walking. My friend in New York, one of the central reasons I had added NY to my itinerary, lives in the downtown section of Manhattan and was going to be free in the evening. I had a whole day to kill in the Big Apple and it was only about 9am (since I woke up so early). I walked up Fashion Ave taking note of the deathly thin women and men, the many students with scroll cases full of fashion drawings... and the nausea. The increasing sensation of pain beginning in the upper part of my guts and winding its way down slowly. I felt as if I had the body and soul of an old man, a bottle of hot sauce broken open inside of my chest, the capsacin running in rivulets across my intestines. I walked a few blocks and sat on a bench. I walked a few more blocks and stopped for awhile. I walked a few more blocks and sat on the grass in Central Park. I walked through the park a little bit and sat on a different patch of grass. It took 5 hours for me to travel from Penn Station to the Museum of Anthropology on the West side of Central Park, a walk that Google Maps says should take about 45 minutes. 

In the MOA, walking around and taking in all of the history and humanity, I could only really think about keeping track of the closest washroom and trying not to throw up on an exhibit.

Lovely masks.  May I vomit on them?

Having lived through chronic illness, as an adult now whenever I get sick there's a little bit of very intense fear that whatever sickness comes to visit me is more than just a visitor. I remember when I got sick once and instead of just passing through, it made itself an unwelcome guest for 15 years. Those scars still hurt when something touches them that closely. I sat on the front steps of the New York Museum of Anthropology and wept like a scared 30-year-old. It took me a few minutes to pull myself together again.

I barely visited with my New York friend at all. I went back to the hostel and, for various reasons, couldn't sleep until 2 in the morning. When I did sleep it was fitful. I barely functioned the next day, making it out of the hostel just long enough to get lunch and nearly fall asleep into a cup of tea. My friend sent me back to get some rest and I slept from 3 in the afternoon until 9 the next morning, tossing and turning and sweating. I must've needed the rest.

It feels like there's some significance to the fact that I had this happen so soon after leaving Lawrence. After touching the memories of being sick all the time, I had this little tactile reminder. This time, I got better. I got some time in NY. 

The light side, what I already posted, is the version that chronically ill people normally let you see. The part that's visible.

There are no external symptoms when people go through an experience like that. That kudzu vine can grow rampant and it doesn't leave marks on the outside. If you know anyone who has a chronic illness, if you love anyone who's sick in a way that doesn't make sense, reflect on the fact that both this post and the one that came before it are about the same day, the same experience, the same time in New York. Both the good and the difficult were real experiences riding alongside each other.

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