Wednesday, February 29, 2012

#61 -- A Tube

"The doctor mentioned that if it kept up, it would dissolve the esophagus altogether, and the organ would fall out of orbit, and without a stomach, I assume I would have died."

"Are you choking?"

"No. I can breathe just fine." He slapped me on the back and water fell out of my mouth, splattering onto the chain-link fence. "I'm not choking!" He hit me on the back again. I swore in my head but didn't want to waste any breath in case I was a liar. An air-bubble the size of a fist expanded in my throat. When it finally snapped, hard, air rushed out of my mouth, and this time, Alfredo sauce came up with it, and he doesn't know it, but I can feel the heavy linguine nearby, being lazy. "What the fuck, man? I told you that I'm not choking."

"Then what is it?"

"I can't swallow."

"But you can breathe?"

"I'm forming consecutive sentences, aren't I?"

"But you can't swallow? Why not?"

I rolled my eyes. "How the hell should I know?" I belched and it came up in the form of another single, thick bubble. We both froze at the sight of it. He started to laugh and an SUV drove by and honked, encouraging me to hang in there, man, it's still early in the night. I pinched the bubble forming against my teeth, then pressing harder until it finally popped. There was still a lump inside my chest made out of hardened air.

I paced, jumped up and down, feeling movement but no progress. "It's like I'm smuggling a diamond into the country in my esophagus. Shit, this sucks." 

"I thought you saw the doctor about this?"

"I did. They fixed it, this can still just happen randomly sometimes."

I started to sweat because I was embarrassed and nervous and hungry, mostly, I hadn't eaten since early that morning. After the twilight faded into night, the phantom sensation passed, I breathed, and knew it was gone and done, and I went back to dinner, asking for my friends' forgiveness and threatened their lives with death if they ever described this moment in detail.

"Something wrong?"

"Nope," I shook my head. "Not anymore. All good."

-- |  |  | --

"Is somebody going to drive you home?"

"I think so. Somebody's supposed to come pick me up. My mom or my dad." I signed in a few more spots. The pen was dying. "How long does this take?"

"Not long," the woman behind the glass answered. "Maybe thirty minutes."

"But I need a ride home?"

"Honey, they're going to put you under. You didn't know that?" I told her that I did not. "They put the tube down your throat. If they find something, they cut it out. It takes about thirty minutes, then you get to go home."

"Yeah, they said they found a thing at the top of my stomach when they did that x-ray swallow thing."

I woke up in a chair and in my hand was a tupperware container. It had a blob inside it. "Twice a day until they run out, take these," the doctor said. He put some meds in my empty hand. "And there shouldn't be any more after this one."

"Okay," I agreed through misted anesthesia. "But what caused it in the first place?"

"It doesn't matter."

-- |  | --

The lab tech took a miniature dixie cup from the metal sleeve beside the sink and after he had filled it with something that looked like white honey, he passed it to me. "Drink this."

"All of it?"

The cup wasn't totally full, I tested its consistency, tilting it side to side. It stained the sides of the cup like cooking oil. "All of it," he said.

"At once? Or slowly?" I only wanted to have to do this once.

He guided me over to a slab of wall that was different from the rest, turning me sideways so my shoulder was against it. "Like a mugshot," he said. The slab was fucking freezing.

"Don't I get some lead shielding or something?"

"Nah." He lowered the x-ray rig. "It's a longer shot than a standard x-ray but we need to see you in action so we can see where and if there's an obstruction." I leaned on the wall, pinching the waxy dixie cup as he set up the x-ray. "This is a minor test."

"I know."

"I'm going to be back there and hit the button and you'll drink the stuff at medium speed."

Somewhere, my skeleton drank thick yogurt at medium speed, and they saw it.

-- | --

"You're getting steamrolled. And I hate to see it happen to you."

Also, people that I didn't even know told me I looked like shit. My body shut down in ways that I thought were made up -- dramatized snapshots that were enlarged to emphasize emotional texture. People imagined these things into existence so they could sell books and earrings to teenagers, didn't they? No, they really did not. These things can really happen, and that disgusted me all the more. My hair began to fall out. I cut off the rest. I couldn't eat. I wanted to eat, my body would not let me, there was a physical / mental revulsion that I couldn't overcome. Naturally, I weakened, and pretty quickly. I stopped talking. I thought that it was all in my head, but then the stress of the situation had been so severe, I finally went to the hospital after three years, and learned that my rolling stomach acid had started to dissolve the base of my esophagus, and miniature, tumor-like lumps had begun to callous-up to keep the thing whole together. By then it had become hard to get much more than yogurt through the narrowing hole. They went in with a tube and saw what was happening. The doctor mentioned that if it had kept up, it would dissolve the esophagus altogether, and the organ would fall out of orbit, and without a stomach, I assume I would have died.

At that point though, my body had become such a wreck, that it had chosen to grow lumps in my stomach so it would make it harder for me to eat. 

Why would this happen to me? What instinctive trigger went off, my body choosing hardened polyps over normal digestion? I thought about why people could get so afraid that they'd puke, the situation becoming so dire that a human would animalistically vomit everywhere, just so they could be light enough and fast enough to get away from whatever short-term predator was quite literally about to eat them right then and there if they didn't escape.

I wasn't concerned. I wasn't concerned about any of it. The symptom had surpassed its origin. I just wanted it to go away.

I wasn't fast coming back. When I did, I came back different. My body healed somewhat and I began to function physically again. Soon, I could eat. The rest was taking longer. I had rust on my mind.

After a little more, I could breathe, and then a few years passed, and I was awake.

-- Alex Crumb
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