I haven’t been poisoned by gluten in a long time. I am beyond careful about what I eat, especially when I’m out. At my closest local bar/restaurant, I only eat fish tacos because I know they’re “safe.” Of course, the staff there totally gets the Celiac thing, and they stock a pretty decent gluten-free beer for me called Red Bridge.
Thus, I could not understand why I could not shake a pretty horrible hangover yesterday. Sure, Upset Waitress and I had tied on a pretty good one the night before, but still.
“We need breakfast,” said UW when she picked me up yesterday morning. “A huge breakfast, which I know YOU can eat because you eat like a damn pig all the time. Why you’re so thin…oh, never mind.”
UW is always so good to me.
We scarfed eggs and bacon and hash browns, and when UW and her husband didn’t finish their has browns, I ate theirs, too. They were greasy and crisp fried. In other words, perfect.
Within an hour I felt horrible. Worse than I had when I woke up. Within two hours I felt like I was going to be sick.
“Let’s go get a beer at the other place near your house,” said UW.
“Um, I cannot drink anything except Coke. I am a frickin’ mess,” I told her.
Like many places down here, the spot she was referring to has a pool, so if you’re eating or drinking there, you can use it.
“You can go to the pool and I’ll sit inside at the bar, if you want,”
I was not laughing. I was thoroughly ill. Pool, hot sun. Maybe I could bake this stupid hangover away.
So began a bizarre day of dunking myself in the pool, getting sunburned and stumbling back and forth to the inside bar to refill my Coke, while UW regaled the local and tourist crowd inside with whatever UW regales anyone about. She’s never met a stranger, and she knows every local in town. A party always swirls around her.
Meanwhile, outside, I dozed in the sun and willed my head and stomach to settle. My will had no effect. I felt worse and worse as each minute passed.
At the exact moment I was sweating and shaking–even as I was still soaked from a quick lap in the pool–a text came in from the boy who’d ditched me the week before: “U ok? Bad hangover?”
And he knew this, why?
“Yeah, u drunk texted him last night, then deleted it. I guess you sent it after all,” UW laughed while I did not.
I told him I was baking away my troubles at the pool, and he asked if he could stop by.
I woke up an hour later to find him standing over me. “Hey!”
He rambled on about a friend coming to town, about how he’d had too much to drink at lunch and now had to get ready for work, haha. I don’t know what else he had to say, because I felt like my stomach was in 17 knots and my whole body ached. WTF kind of hangover was this, anyway?
Suddenly he bent over, kissed my forehead, and said, “I still miss you.” Then he walked away.
In my aching, sick state, I asked myself what I ever saw in him. In my aching, sick state, as UW laughed and carried on inside and the boy was gone yet again, I asked myself why I tumble into like with such immature, unavailable guys who promise their care and adoration and great intentions and then flee–almost within hours of stating them. In my aching, sick state, I wondered what the hell was wrong with me, on all levels.
And just as I was ready to throw myself down the rabbit hole, it dawned on me–the hash browns. Those deep fried, greasy delicious patties. I’d eaten almost four of them. Of course. Most hash brown patties are made with wheat. I avoid them all the time. What the hell had I been thinking when I ate them several hours ago? Right, I hadn’t been thinking. I was tired and hungover, and now I was really sick.
It had been so long since I’d had an “attack,” I’d forgotten how awful it was. And I’d really done it this time. What an idiot.
The irony is that May is Celiac Awareness Month. No one is more aware of Celiac disorder than those who know they have it. And here I was, smack in the middle of May, sicker than sick because of wheat-infused hash brown patties.
Sometimes, however, you can see your life clearly when you’re battling just to keep from doubling over in stomach pain. Suddenly, the boy is not such a great catch. A pal, perhaps–but nothing more. Suddenly, the beauty of the Keys is colored by the nonstop partying, where every hour of every day can be measured by quantities of draft beer and shots of Nassau.
Suddenly, you just see it all for what it is and isn’t. And you make peace with it, because this is the life you’ve chosen, for now. Mostly it’s good. It’s fun. It’s hilarious. But it often takes you to the edge, and then a dance with gluten brings you back to reality.
Take care, you say to yourself. Take much better care. No one else can do it for you. No one else ever will.