The Optimistic Gut-Wrench or Emesis
Vomiting is a very meditative process. It completely blocks out your mind, letting you feel hot pin-pricks being sent across every nerve. There’s no thought as to how your last meal’s going to come up, or what your hair will look like while it happens. No soul notices what the girl vomiting up a Hawaiian punch-soaked hot dog is wearing, or what kind of earrings she has on. The color drains from the face. Your only friend is a racing heart. It feels like you should be sweating all over the place, dripping. But lo!, the pores remain dry. I thank those who up-chucked for showing us all a little humanity, as your digestive system reversed itself. And thank you too for all those who cleaned up the vomit with their hands because nothing else was around, or wiped and cleaned your sickened lover as they wriggled like a puppy in broken wan ness, for showing us all a little humility.
It’s a Wednesday and Shannon feels okay coming into school, another Wednesday, another thousand thoughts lost, and another hundred stealing glances to peers. She walks through the white hallway with horizontal lights burning white-hot above. Students ahead of her, following the never surprising herd mentality, push open orange doors. Their speech, steps, and laughter make one grand wave of several human audio. She falls into them, flowing. Jessica, her friend, finds her. “Hey bitch,” she says. “How screwed are you for the civics test?” goes Shannon’s response. “It’s hard to worry when the option of suicide is there. I know it gets a bad rep or something. But it’s just so available,” Jessica's words rang against the wall. “Like a grandma?” “Ha, yes," Jess yells as she turned toward 3111, her homeroom. Mr. Glentonis looked at her with contempt. He lacked a sense of humor. Shannon turned towards 1111, her homeroom, not being able to help look at Trevor and Kaylee kiss in front of it. Through the window she saw one kid with his head down, her homeroom teacher typing away. A normal Wednesday.
It’s a Friday. Cory and his friends live in a dead town in a dying country. Gas is expensive; so they’re drinking, not like they needed an excuse. In the low-roofed lightly furnished apartment of his friend Trey’s night-shift working mom, they’re throwing a party celebrating nothing. A single stereo plays music, and the alcohol floats on a glass table unopened, bathing in the light of a covered lamp that you turn to activate. Conversation hits around bottles, bouncing in the room. “Yeah, I bet Brandon Horvath actually only uses two squares per shit.” Trey answers Corey’s joke with: “Put five dollars down that he has a night light, and a blanket his mom knitted him.” “Bets are supposed to have odds, Trey,” he pauses and looks down then back up, “you were getting up in the morning on your own and making yourself breakfast at nine years old. He still wears pants around his nipples. How’s that possible?”
Sitting in her homeroom, Shannon looks over her notes for class. Because she’s a good student, and that’s what good students do. She hears the sex-induced laughter of a female. Which something in our nervous system always causes us to look when we hear it. Trevor has a pretty girl named Alyssa in his lap. She has her tongue pierced and a necklace on with black hair resting on a set of thin shoulders floating over child-bearing hips. Trevor slaps her on the ass. Shannon still watches. When people are messing around, or kidding, you know they’re telling the truth, because it eeks out of them. And when they’re completely serious you can laugh at them. He was doing what he wanted. Shannon couldn’t say anything. Nobody else would say anything. It was going to be permitted because socially successful boys can do these things. She’s horrified. Something is just wrong with this. But it’s allowed. Kaylee wouldn’t believe her if she said anything anyway. How it goes… Shannon feels hot. Anxiety and racing heart-beat of helplessness at the situation give her nausea. The homeroom teacher sees her face and some basic human cue tells him to let her go, her bloodless face. Shannon’s last rational thought is: “Will this always be how it is?”
Cory took five shots too many. His head sinks low like a slumber. He feels tired, doesn’t want to speak, to eat, to move, to blink, just to lay there. His body is too poisoned and begins rejecting the alcohol. He gasps, looking up with the horror of a movie theatre audience, from his stupor. The whites of his eyes overtake Cory’s profile. Trey knows what to do and carries him into the bathroom. If anyone really watched alcohol in action, poison in action, they’d have a very different view of it, seeing such horror mixed with such beauty.
Both feel the pin-pricks of heat while facing a porcelain god. One in a bathroom disturbingly clean, – most public bathrooms are inhumanly clean -- slamming open a grey stall door. The other kneels like at church, breathing heavily, with one arm on the toilet; another arm rests at his forehead pushing blonde hair up and back. Both can only hear their own heartbeat, like awaiting a firing squad. Huwleh, a gag, his and her abdominal muscles, along with their diaphragm contract. They know its coming. They both feel the darkness behind their eyes, that deep impenetrable darkness. There is no thought. A second gag with hints of liquid, gulheh, brings tears to Shannon’s eyes, and an animal whimper to Cory. He lets go of his blonde hair and puts both hands on the toilet. She holds herself up with her right hand on the wall. Three would be the magic number. Finally their diaphragms relax, and their abdominals contract. Emesis begins. The poison gets exhumed. Fear and anxiety flow out. This moment lasts forever to them. For a few seconds Corey understands all of human history. He sees the pyramids, the stars align, with each wretch; he understands pain and understands God. Tears stream down his face, making clear roads to the chin. She understands all of human behavior. Images of murder and of sex attack her frontal lobe. Both of their minds shut down, while life, and only life, enters them after every vomit, before the smell does, before the come-down.
Shannon laughs when she looks at what she vomited: strawberry milk and waffles. It looks like Pepto Bismol. Trey wipes Corey’s face. They’re both a little drunk, and Corey smiles at Trey. “What?” Trey asks; Corey: “I have a family picnic tomorrow, you know what that means?” “No.” Corey spits out vomit and extra saliva his body made to protect tooth enamel. “Free beer man!” They both laugh. Shannon walks in smiling at Trevor. She understands why he does what he does.
Both feel so great now, like new human beings, cleansed. Shannon knows it’s all okay. Corey watched eternities flash by. Both of them lost it by breathing and flushing rejection of their intestines away. Someone says to her, “Shannon, there’s something pink on your shirt.” She looks down at the artsy splotch on her white blouse, then up. Both of them, for a few seconds, understood all things. Though forgotten what they’ve seen, the eternities that passed through them have gone back under, but at the same time can, and will, never be lost.