My thesis, an illness narrative, includes poetry and prose–some of the prose is lengthy narrative while the other portion consists of what I call ‘snapshots’, condensed moments in time. This is one example of a snapshot that I began working on while on holiday recently in Sardinia.
Ferries, full of cars and people. Yachts. Sailboats. Fishing boats. Rubber boats with motors on the back. Row boats. Buoys bobbing on the water. It’s a bustling waterfront. It’s also hot. Very hot. I’m walking in search of some place to buy a cold drink while alternately gazing at the blue-green sea shining beneath the high sun; in some places it’s gemstone clear, clear enough to see to the bottom. I’m nearly delirious with the thought of throwing myself in, anything to not feel this heat, this sweat dripping down my neck and face, the small of my back and down the middle of my bra. I wonder if the inflammation inside of me is somehow compounded by the beating of the sun. I walk and walk without success in finding that cold drink, and fear is starting to creep in. These days it seems that any and every little thing could push me over some unpleasant edge.
When I was healthy, I could push my body to quite a few limits and go beyond them still, like that time ten years ago when I stayed on the Greek island of Sifnos. With only a bag of potato chips and a bottle of chocolate drink in my backpack, I set out on a mid-afternoon hike to the church that stared down at me from its perch atop a dry and rocky cliff. I never consulted a map or a weather report. It took me 3 hours to reach the top, and the wind was so great at times I had to squat and curl my arms around a boulder so I wouldn’t be blown off that mountain. When I finally looked down at the harbor’s azure water and the ferry delivering more tourists, smiling and crunching between sips of the sweet warm liquid, I was happy that I made it to the top. I wasn’t afraid that I’d return to the village below well after sunset.
Today, as I amble along this uneven Italian sidewalk admiring the boats, I worry about dehydration. “Shit,” I say inside my head. I can say thank you, ‘Grazie’, and a few other basics, but I’ve got no clue about how to say “Help! Hospital! I’m dying!” All too often I forget my limits so I miss certain things, like making it my business to know helpful-phrases-for-difficult-situations pertinent to whatever foreign locale I’m visiting. Even if I knew what words to say right now would I get them out? All I can think about is fainting on this narrow path at the water’s edge, where all these boats are tied, hitting my head and falling into the water and sinking like a stone, unseen.