Sick in public

Yesterday I felt sick to my stomach at work, and as I was leaving to go home someone came up to talk. Great.

The more we talked, the more I felt sick and anxious. If I replied to her one more time I was certain it was going be all over her feet. I visualized myself doing it and already felt humiliated, anticipating the whispers and finger-pointing at work in the next few days:

(whispered) OMG. Him. That’s him. He threw up all over his workspace. It took the steam cleaners until midnight, to get it out. Gross.

And, the obligatory jokes:

Hey, I didn’t know that’s how you felt about us.

Thankfully I escaped the conversation, my workspace, and the entire office vomit-free. Aside from a few shaky moments on the subway I made it home and was huddled around my toilet in time for the fireworks.

After my close call, I thought about the last time I was sick or someone I knew was sick in public, during the day, without it being alcohol related. Not an easy task. The only clear example that came to mind was from way back in elementary school.

Our class was watching the movie Poltergeist. (A crazy choice, thinking about it. Had this been played in a class today, I’m convinced parents would stir up such hell it would make Poltergeist’s version seem Disney like). I think it was near the end of the year and the teacher had run out of things to teach us, or were plain tired of us and used movies to kill time.

There’s a scene in the movie where a female lead falls into their backyard swimming pool. She flails about, grabs a skeleton that’s resting in the water and lets out a loud horror-movie scream. Right then, a girl in my class, sitting on my left, snapped her head to the right to look at me. She had a look of resignation, as if she couldn’t hold back something she was about to do. Oh, I thought, she’s going to cry.

No, vomit. All over the ground.

Panic. Desks and chairs flew to the side of the room as if magnetized, while we scrambled out of the splash zone.

After another minute, when it was clear, the show was over, everyone left the girl alone with her thoughts and a puddle of half digested popcorn.

But even today, the one-two-three sequence –  the high-pitched movie scream, her sad look and finishing sound effects  – BLEEECHHH – play like a song, which still makes me laugh.

She could win a Field’s medal, outwrestle a shark in an underwater cage match, create a lemon/lime fruit hybrid – Lemime!, or be the first person to juggle swords while riding a unicycle across Canada. But the first thing that would come to mind is her sad face and heavy heaving.

It’s entirely unfair.

And, that’s why I’m glad I made it home.

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