Refried Flashback Friday, in honor of Halloween: Blood, guts, and spinach, originally published 30 October 2009.
On this very night, five years ago, along this very stretch of road in a dense fog just like this, I was smitten with the worst case of food poisoning I've ever had.
OK, actually, it was not this very night - it was closer toward the end of November. And it was in Syria, not America, though it was kind of cold, if not exactly foggy. But one thing is for sure, and that is that I've never had food poisoning as bad as I did that time. In honor of Halloween, I'm going to tell you a tale of horror, a tale of midnight surprises, a tale of wild rides through crowded, foreign streets and of needles seeking a vein. It is a tale, my friends, of spinach gone terribly, disgustingly bad. Get ready.
Our landlady in Damascus lived a few floors down from us in the same apartment building. She was fond of sending her kids up to us with home-cooked food, in the hopes that they'd be sent back downstairs having been tutored in English a little, by me. This arrangement was fine by us: our landlady was a good cook, and her kids were cute. It was a win-win situation.
One afternoon, she sent us up some spinach cooked with spices and nuts. Jeremy and I both ate it. I've never been a big fan of spinach, but it tasted all right and we didn't think anything of it.
Until a little after midnight, that is, when we both started puking it up at almost the exact same moment. This was more than a little awkward, considering we only had one bathroom.
We also only had one couch. I don't know about you, but for me, there's only one place to languish in sickness, and it's on a couch. If I ever needed proof that Jeremy loves me, it was that he let me have the couch while he scrunched up on the loveseat, even though we were both equally sick, and he is taller than me.
The hours passed. We were so very ill. Somehow we managed to rustle up our landlady's son and have him go get us some 7-Up from the corner store. But even that was proving difficult to keep down. By late morning, Jeremy was in a bad way and decided to make a run for the local clinic to get some IV fluids in him. He grabbed a plastic bag to use in case of barfing and hobbled down the four flights of stairs and out to the main road to get a taxi. Meanwhile, I continued being sick in the comfort of our own home.
After a few hours, Jeremy came home from the clinic feeling much better. I, on the other hand, was still struggling. I had thought I could hold out long enough to recover before I had to go to the clinic, but when Jeremy came home feeling relatively chipper while I was still puking, I decided to give in. Following Jeremy's lead, I waited until I had puked and then set out for the clinic, hoping to get there before the next bout of sickness hit.
I'm sure the taxi driver was just thrilled to have a sick American girl as his passenger. I remember the ride to the clinic being extra swervy and trafficky, which really emphasized my symptoms. I did, however, make it to the clinic without puking in the car.
After I arrived at the clinic, however, I realized that the car may have been the more attractive place to puke. At least I could have done it in privacy. The only bathroom at the clinic intended for the use of patients was located right off the waiting room. There was no way I was going to puke my guts out in full earshot of all the people waiting for innocuous blood draws, or stitches, or what have you. So a nurse led me to a back bathroom, through odd hallways and cramped doorways and finally into a storage room and what is best described as a broom closet with a toilet in it. It was dark, it was gross, but I did what I had to do.
The horror continued when they tried to get an IV into me. I have notoriously invisible veins, and despite the efforts of what seemed like dozens of nurses, no one could get an IV line in the right place. They were literally sticking the needle into me and then digging around inside to find a spot. Finally, someone had the bright idea to use a children's needle, and that worked.
In just a little while, after some fluids and anti-nausea medication, I was feeling a lot better. We paid the bill and went back home to settle in on the couch and loveseat. Even though we weren't puking anymore, we were still in that late-sickness haze, so we just turned on MBC2 (MBC4 and OneTV didn't exist yet) and zoned out. The movie that was playing was A.I., and to this day I still can't even think of it without feeling a twinge of nausea.
I think the saddest thing to come out of all this was that we could no longer eat our landlady's food. Slightly less sad is that neither of us has been able to stomach spinach since.
I hope you enjoyed this horror story for Halloween. Click here for last year's Halloween Flashback Friday, and here for another scary tale. Happy Halloween!