Thursday, November 03, 2005

Speaking of Unorthodox Medicine...

The following essay chronicles my experience with self-medication a couple of years ago.

Wishing each and every one of you a Happy Cold and Flu season,


Cherry Flavored Monkey

It was a religious experience—a transcendent moment in which I was transported to that oft rumored astral plane. I have seen things few mortals have ever dared to glimpse and witnessed visions of both great beauty and depraved monstrosity. I’ve been privy to undiscovered truths and unspoken mysteries. Over the period of four nights one July I embarked on a NyQuest.

Some have said it was the combination of medications I was on. I’ll admit it, between the allergy meds, hormone pills, diuretics, sleeping aids and occasional aspirin for the rogue migraine, I felt less like a person and more like a Pyrex beaker. So accustomed to the ritual of self-medicating was I, that occasionally I tossed small bits of food into my mouth, swallowed whole with a chug of water. Then I caught a cold. Not a bad one as colds go, but a pesky cough kept me awake nights. Hallelujah, I’d found a bottle of NyQuil in the cupboard.

Now, I’ll go a long stretch before throwing back a shot of that nasty syrup, its metallic fruit taste forever clinging to my tongue, but I had reached my breaking point—the coughing had to be quelled. So I stared at the triangular carafe, and it stared back. I hesitated. It promised all night relief. I thought of the too-sweet-too-bitter syrup coating my taste buds before dripping, languid, down my throat, and made a face at the bottle. I read the dosage and the words Poison Control jumped out at me.

Not missing a beat, the wily bottle promised that “marked drowsiness may occur” on the condition that I ingest the required 30 milliliters. It sounded like a fair compromise. So I poured my water chaser, and measured out my dose of the daiquiri-flavored lava. A cloying, hyper-cherry odor assaulted my nostrils, so I held the little plastic cup at arm’s length, breathing only through my mouth. Down the hatch it went. To my disgust, the water didn’t so much chase the residual film as reconstituted it.

Several hard swallows later, I waited for my cough to subside.

An hour ticked by. Still coughing, still miserable, and still wide awake, I fumed about swallowing that overrated, non-potable battery-acid-Robitussin-wannabe for nothing and then… I stood in a desert, red sands warmed my bare feet, woolly clouds sailed through salmon skies. Chanting and drumming piped in through the ethers—astral Musak. A Native American character appeared and the Buddhist dharma wheel was a four-ticket carnival ride. Kaleidoscopic hues flashed in and around a jumbled, chaotic dreamscape, but I slept. Hard. Like a corpse. Roused by daylight from my medicinal spell, I puzzled over its bulldozing tactics. It never suppressed my cough, but I think I was clinically dead for six or eight hours.

I didn’t hesitate the next night, and ‘accidentally’ filled the cup a little above the thirty milliliter line. If the recommended dosage could launch me to the astral plane then a smidge more just might get me a private audience with God. Loathe to divert the remedy’s mysterious vision inducing properties to such mundane symptoms as a cough, I sucked on a lozenge while I waited to flat line.

I sneezed. Great, now my allergies were riled up. I got out of bed in the middle of the night and popped a Tavist, and discovered that this particular combination made it possible to bring back messages from the dead. I had become a cross between John Edwards and Timothy Leary.

By the third night I didn’t have much of a cough anymore, but I filled my little plastic goblet with that brilliant ruby elixir anyway, running my finger along the sides, collecting every precious drop. Instead of drinking water, cough drops disguised the taste and agitated the medicinal film on my tongue, coaxing it down my gullet and into my eager bloodstream where it could work its magic. The last thing I remember thinking was I’m gonna start wanting this stuff during the day.

My dreams continued in their Technicolor splendor, but the barrier between worlds had become nothing but a swinging saloon door, unable to contain this mind expansion within the dream realm. In my waking hours, logic surged past formal boundaries when I realized that mayonnaise was a sandwich lubricant. Mayo is to sandwiches what KY jelly is to… people sandwiches.

People need to know this.

Those poor mayophobes, ignorant of the oily condiment’s necessity in preventing painful hard palate food friction. I knew the moment the epiphany occurred, that this knowledge was not of my conjuring. It had been divinely rendered. Maybe from God, or my guardian angel, I didn’t know to whom credit was due, but winked up to my unseen muse.

My sauce tangent was interrupted by an urge to psychoanalyze the Super Friends. I suspected those avengers of evil harbored childhood traumas and deeply repressed hurts. I thought Aquaman was likely a bed-wetter, and maybe a fire starter too. A youngster experimenting with the elements as he worked out his frustrations of having a controlling mother and emotionally distant father. Superman and Wonder Woman, as their pseudonyms indicate, exhibit classic narcissism. Their double lives and alternate identities indicative of multiple personality disorder as well. Why wasn’t anyone reaching out to these wounded saviors? We expect them to pluck us from the jaws of peril, but we can’t sit even one of them down and offer a sympathetic “Is there anything you’d like to talk about?” It doesn’t take X-ray vision to be a good listener.

I had to cut myself off. It would just be a matter of time before people started asking questions like, “Do your pink teeth have anything to do with that cherry smell?” or “Who are you talking to?” and “Why would I want to know what my totem condiment is?” No more. My cold was gone and I’m too young to have nursing home breath. I closed the cupboard and cursed the Red Fairy, “I don’t need you.”

Ok, just one more night. My throat was a little dry and I could’ve gone into a coughing spasm at any minute. Might as well take a Tavist for that tickle in my nose too. That was definitely my last dose. Really, I promised.

It looks so unassuming on the grocery store shelf. Harmless, FDA approved, labeled attractively, this rhino-virus remedy sits benignly, its scarlet contents catch a ray of fluorescent light—glinting for your attention. The commercials flash across your mind’s 19 inch Magnavox: “the sneezing, coughing, blah, blah, blah… so you can rest medicine.”

The initiated know better. We’ve partaken of this concoction, its fabled origins steeped in voodoo, and have lived to tell about it. I‘ve kicked that cherry-flavored monkey off my back for now, but as my dreamscapes fade into muted sepia and black and white—content in their blandness and tedium, I pine for my cure, then my heart quickens when I realize that cold and flu season is just around the corner.


Blogger KlevaBich said...

Wow. I have dreams like those all the time, seemingly regardless of liquor consumption amounts, but they never overlap into conscious thought. Nyquil. Who knew?

Mmmm, mayonnaise. I KNEW sandwiches were good, but...

4:50 PM  
Blogger Cindy St. Onge said...

That means you're a carrier.

5:25 PM  

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