When in Doubt, Throw a Wedding in Your Pool Part II
FOR THOSE OF you not fortunate enough to have been reading my extremely in-depth account of my rapid descent into acute liver failure or for those of you who want a quick refresher on the ins and outs of my extreme denial about my condition, you can find Part I of this story here.
Sunday rolls around, after our big night out at the cinema, and I’ve had another sleepless night but we are going ahead with this wedding reception in the back garden with our above ground pool, it couldn’t be any more perfect except I’m retching like a champ and one step away from a nervous breakdown. I feel the need to be some sort of consummate host for Barrie and Anne when really they are pretty laid-back about the whole thing and basically just want a casual party. It’s some insane stricture I decided to put on myself, most likely as a distraction if we’re going to Freud me up.
At this point, I thought I might have Hepatitis E (since all the other hepatitises had been ruled out) or some other tropical disease and so I was concerned about doing any of the cooking in case I infected anyone. But the doctor at Urgent Care on Saturday said it was probably a stomach bug and gave me some antacids. This shows you how informed I was: Hepatitis E is a self-limiting infection. To give me a bit of credit — there were for sure some other brutal contagious diseases not yet ruled out, I had just come from Indonesia after all. And I was also getting conflicting advice from medical professionals: on the one hand, I had Hepatitis E? On the other, it was a stomach bug and antacids were the cure? WHAT WAS GOING ON IN MY BODY?
The farthest I got with the preparation was making guacamole and buying beer and some boxed wine — I couldn’t really do any more than that. In my head, I was going to do a speech and make a cake and all this ridiculous (and unnecessary) stuff, which I don’t think they even cared about or wanted, anyway. They had to settle for guacamole and beer. Plus all the other great food all their other friends made. I think I also cut an onion if I remember correctly. They both had a great time, which is the main thing.
I vaguely remember there being some drama about the ‘wedding reception’ — and I use that term loosely — not even happening but I can’t remember why. In the end, it did, and it was a really fun and beautiful day. It was completely non-traditional and it was basically just a barbecue in the back of our Greenpoint apartment with a ton of lesbians and me, half dying. My roommate, Keenan, suggested I take a Xanax since it might settle my stomach and get me through the day. It did keep me from vomiting and going into the evening. I was so pissed off. I love to celebrate, and I love to celebrate other people’s love, especially. It’s a real compulsion of mine. But I had to float in and out of the party and basically not really participate.
Tara, who I consider my sister, was on Cloud 9 all day and into the night. She is effervescent at the tamest of times but her recent freedom from law school finals meant that effervescence was magnified. I was watching her from afar and enjoying all the interactions she was having. She lives in DC, is a Type A personality to the nth degree and is almost a lawyer. She has done law review AND moot court (people don’t do both, only crazy people do both), she teaches yoga in her spare time and works with refugees on the side. YA I KNOW DON’T GET ME STARTED. She has been working full time and getting some sort of degree for as long as we have known each other. She’s the most impressive person I know. Tara has said that she remembers looking at me in her ebullient state as I tried my best to be engaging and fun and she could see how much pain I was in and she knew it looked bad but she didn’t know what to do or how to help, especially since I was putting on a show and I wasn’t letting people know how bad it was. She has said in retrospect she couldn’t believe she didn’t do something or cotton on to the fact that something really serious was going on. I’ve told her, in turn, that I was angry at her that weekend. I felt like she didn’t believe that I was sick, that me explaining it didn’t seem to be enough for her, and that I needed more from her. But that was just that weekend. I realised, in time, that the truth is no one could have helped me at that moment, because I was unwilling to accept what was happening to me and I wasn’t letting people know that, actually, this was unlike anything I had ever felt before and I was in dire need of some help.
A guy I had sort of been seeing in the Spring came through and said hello. I sort of hoped that he would want to continue seeing me, but this was the last time I would see him and it was clear he was no longer interested. I invited him for some unknown reason, to try to glean if there was any chance whatsoever he would want to keep seeing me, even though he had essentially ‘ghosted’ me a month prior. He stayed for 20 minutes and then left. That was the last interaction we would have before my near-death experience, and although it wasn’t really a painful thing, in the coming weeks I would learn a lot about loving and respecting myself to not allow myself to be treated in such a flippant way in the future. I learned my worth and how capable I was of loving and being loved and that, in my opinion ‘hanging out’ is just another word for ‘I’d rather not get to know you that well but I would like to have sex with you for a while and then just disappear into thin air because I can hide behind technology and how busy I am in this crazy city life and never contact you again’. Men and women both do it, and it’s boring, tired and unproductive if you’re looking for a real connection. I expound upon the self-love thing here. The NYC dating landscape is such that people are allowed to escape commitment and intimacy and skip out on actually telling someone they’re not interested, just letting it hang in the air and leave the other person guessing. This is what happened with this guy last Spring. I am happy it’s behind me because I know that that is not at all what I’m interested in ever again. And a lot of it had to do with having respect and love for myself.
My friend and his girlfriend came who were visiting from London, which I was so excited about. I hadn’t seen him in years. Again, I struggled to have a sustained conversation with them. I tried to make conversation and put my best foot forward to be a good host and have a great party. The pool helped. People drinking and carrying on helped. I managed to get through to the evening and I think I had maybe 3/4 of a beer the whole day. I could barely eat or stomach anything. I don’t think people really noticed, to be honest.
My sweet, wonderful and ever-observant friend Alex, who stopped by later in the evening, also has a memory of me floating around in my pool, beer in hand, trying to fight through it and sort of projecting the idea that I was actually ok. But physically? I was clearly a mess. Just one look at my eyes and you could see something was seriously wrong. But Alex didn’t understand either, and she saw me every day because we worked together. And I was slightly angry at her, too, for not getting it, for not reading my mind. How could anyone have read my mind? Or been so adept as to know how to act or react to such an extreme and peculiar situation?
On the same, day, Tara and I managed to watch the Tig Notaro documentary on Netflix. It’s excellent and I highly recommend it. The reason I mention this is not to drag this story out and give you every little detail until your eyes bleed but because the timing of watching a documentary about illness and death at that particular moment was uncanny and it always gives me chills to think about. Why did we watch it then, in the midst of a party about to happen at my home? In the middle of a July day in my hotbox of a room, fan on full blast? Tara might tell you it was because I was trying to lay still for fear of vomiting on my guests, but it just gives me pause to think of that as our choice of viewing since I relate so viscerally to Tig’s story now. In case you are not familiar, this is the trailer:
I ended up (down the road in my recovery) getting C. Difficile twice, Tig also had C. Diff and talks about it a lot in both her comedy and the documentary. The story of me and my buddy c. diff is for an entirely different post, but having it was the absolute lowest point of my life, hands down, for a number of different reasons. Of course, watching that documentary that day, I felt for Tig Notaro and I was inspired by how she took something dark and transformed it into something light and was so impressed by how she found comedy in the darkness. But I had no idea how much I would eventually understand that so deeply and connect with it so much. And I kept remembering that when I was in hospital in the weeks to come, that we can always find humour somehow, even in our darkest moments. Sometimes, at least in my opinion, that’s where the funniest shit happens. And oh buddy, were there a lot of those moments to come.