Nowhere To Go But Up

What with all the year-end compilations, best ofs, and tributes scattered about the web on this, the last day of 2015, I thought I’d put a twist on things, and for your reading pleasure, share what was probably the low point of my year. If you have a weak stomach, I implore you to look away now, for those of you who choose to soldier on, don’t judge.

My husband’s mother passed away in July. Losing a parent is never easy, but they were very close, and the preceding weeks had been incredibly stressful. She died on a Wednesday, was buried on Friday, and our first day back to work was the following Monday.

My commute to the office is pretty easy, no more than 20 minutes on an average day, and I set out on this bright summer morning, feeling pretty good given the circumstances. As I drove though, I started to feel a little shaky. I hadn’t eaten much over the weekend, was fairly run down, and thought maybe some breakfast to settle my stomach wouldn’t be a bad idea.

After a brief McDonald’s drive-through detour I was back on the road. After a few bites of a Sausage McMuffin it became clear that food wasn’t helping. I put the rest of the sandwich back in the bag, and continued onto the freeway. I really didn’t feel well, began to sweat, and tried to will the queasiness away in a futile mind over matter exercise. At once the entire construct of my digestive system rose up in fierce opposition to my attempts to stomp it into submission. I could almost hear the chorus of Do You Hear the People Sing as the contents of my gastrointestinal tract overturned horse carts, furniture, and cannons, and rushed onward wielding torches, demanding to be liberated from the restrictive confines of my body.

My brain, in a race to counteract this massive internal revolution was racing to find a solution to the impending and unstoppable upheaval while driving at 65 miles per hour in rush hour traffic. The McDonald’s bag! I grabbed it, and smartly threw up into it, without a second to spare. Crisis averted. I’ve always been a graceful puker. Ask my friends about Wiederholt’s Supper Club. But I didn’t count on the aftershock. No worries, right into the bag. It’s all good, I figured I’d make it into the office, splash some water on my face, and carry on.

One thing I didn’t consider was the structural integrity of a McDonald’s bag. You don’t need to be a physicist to realize that the thin paper construction of said bag is not sturdy enough to withstand a sudden influx of heavy moisture, but my mind wasn’t focused on the mechanics of the situation. Next thing I knew the contents, still on their radical journey for freedom, broke through the bottom of the bag, and were deposited all over my leg.

At this point the scene shifted into a Kafkaesque nightmare that should have been musically overlaid with Adagio in Strings. Covered in puke, with only one or two meager napkins available to mitigate the damage, I began to retch violently, and pulled off onto an exit, threw open the door, leaned over, and began to vomit somewhat outside the car, while circling around the ramp like a carnival ride from hell until I got to the point where I could come to a complete stop and properly weigh my options.

Cars were lined up behind me, and it didn’t take long for me to deem the situation a Grade A Cluster Fuck. Continuing on to work was out of the question, finding a gas station would only prolong the agony, so I decided to return home. I got back on the freeway, in the opposite direction, and for good measure christened the westbound onramp as well, my head feeling like it was being whirled around at zero gravity. Battered and spent, I pushed the button to call home. Thank God for Bluetooth in the new mini-van I was driving, purchased not more than two months ago. So much for that new car smell.

My 12-year-old son, Cameron, answered. I explained to him in a tone that commanded blind obedience, that I needed him to meet me in the driveway with a roll of dry paper towels, a roll of wet paper towels, a young priest and an old priest, a rag, garbage bags, Febreze, carpet cleaner, and whatever kitchen, all-purpose, or bathroom cleaner he could round up. Thankfully he didn’t question it, and when I mercifully arrived at home, Cameron, Justin, and Alex were all waiting outside with puzzled looks on their faces. Once they saw the horror that had transpired, they quickly backed off, and didn’t ask questions.

While my dog howled at the door, super excited at her great fortune because I came back home, I set out to clean up what probably should have been handled by a team of professionals who disinfect murder scenes, occasionally loudly demanding more wet paper towels. When finished, I turned the garden hose on myself, threw my clothes in the washer, took a decontamination shower, and fell into bed, texting my very patient boss that I was probably just going to call it a day.

I woke up a few hours later, battle-scarred, but ok, a victim of stress and exhaustion that had manifested into one wild ride. And that, my friends, is not how I want to remember 2015, which was otherwise a fairly good year.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz 2015



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