It’s like a horror movie where the character’s alternate personality commits atrocities while he sleeps, unbeknownst to his conscious mind. His alternate, insomnia riddled personality, roves the streets at night killing prostitutes and dismembers their bodies, the subconscious psyche leaving clues for the police to catch him.
When I awoke that morning and threw back the covers, my feet and ankles were covered with dry, cracking, caked on mud. The sheets were filled with dirt and grass, at which point I began to believe the vivid images I thought were only a dream. An opiate fueled rage of irrational behavior that led me into the middle of the woods half naked on a moonlit May night.
I can’t stress this enough, I never take pain medication; not even over the counter drugs. It’s not on principal, or some deep seated need to feel smug over the rest of the population who self medicate; a sort of self satisfying martyrdom. No, I just never really feel enough pain to take medicine.
I know what pain is though. I’ve had my fair share of injuries. Broken nose. L5-S1 herniation of the spine. Broken toes. Multiple surgeries and the recoveries associated with. And then there are my sinus infections. A lingering phantom illness that plagues me frequently throughout the year. Like a specter that remains hidden in a haunted house appearing at inopportune times, a pressure builds in my head, and a discharge of mucus promptly begins to evacuate my nostrils, letting me know the poltergeist has returned.
Latvia. A spring trip. May. The world is alive and the flowers bloom with vibrant colors, reminding us that winter and the melancholy is temporary. Thirteen hour plane travel in a dry air incubator of germs. Couple that with dehydration and lots of coffee and alcohol, and the sinus infection awakens from its slumber and begins to rattle its cage. Eventually it picks the lock, and rubs its green slimy hands together, eager to begin its work.
The Baltic nations are beautiful. Magical. Very much worth visiting. Hopefully Trump’s fucking shirtless, shitheel of a best friend Putin, who wishes he could rival the human rights track record of Joseph Mengele, doesn’t take over these nations again. I would like to visit these beautiful countries again while the citizens still have freedom and are allowed to smile.
But I digress. Let’s get back on topic!
Piece of advice to make your trip more enjoyable. Don’t get a sinus infection while In Latvia. Ok? Pharmacies are hard to navigate if you don’t speak their language and they don’t understand English. Pointing at your face and making exploding hand gestures confuses people…and possibly frightens them. In hindsight, this form of sign language might not have been the best way to communicate. Rules to live by, don’t make exploding signs to strangers in foreign countries.
Weeks later I make the trek back to the United States. The Aeroflot plane ascends to heights far above the clouds, and my teeth are being ripped out of my head. It feels as if my skull is pulsating. The bones! Not the skin or flesh, but the actual bone.
Blood trickles out from my nose from time to time. Eventually it gushes out filling my lap with a dark red stain. A sinus infection with bleeding is never a good sign.
The plane descends to lower altitudes in preparation for landing, and my head says, “oh fuck no!” A white hot poker jabs my skull in over a dozen locations, as the pulsation increases in intensity. My eyes feel like they will bulge out of my head, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in Total Recall when he finds himself on the surface of Mars. At this point I am sure my teeth are no longer in my head, and that they have been forced out from my gums. I shift my feet in discomfort, I grip the armrest white knuckled. This goes on for what feels like forever.
We eventually land.
The drive home from JFK to Maine was miserable. I don’t remember much of it, a blinding white hot pain consuming my head. No medication would touch it. Tom drove us back along I-95 in a Chinook. It was a long trek home.
I saw my doctor the next day, and he prescribed me antibiotics; first time in years I willingly took them. But at home, I had a strong opiate prescribed from a previous injury, and after discussion with a friend once in the medical field, I was ready for relief. I took the meds with enthusiasm to rid myself of this pain.
TV couldn’t hold my attention in that drug induced haze. I’d drift off, a thick stalactite of drool clinging to the corner of my mouth. Awakening from this catatonic stupor, I clawed at the air, as if I were swimming for the ocean’s surface as I was drowning. Decreased respirations are never a good sign. I did this a few times. It was a fight to stay awake.
Before I went to bed for the night—my head still pounding, the pain still raging—I took the second round of oxy as instructed. It felt good. It muffled the world and put a coating between me and reality. It didn’t eliminate the pain, just dulled the senses. I fell asleep instantly, with the pale light of the moon cascading through my window, caressing my face.
I’m not sure when in the morning it happened. Like a firecracker had been thrown into bed I awoke in an instant, my heart pounding, racing at a frantic speed. I threw the covers aside, and bolted through the house. My dog lay there with a confused look, and barked instinctively knowing my actions meant danger. Alert. Yet he did not sense anything ominous, just my reaction meant such.
Out the back door and onto the deck, I took the steps in one bound, my feet sinking into the wet earth. A pair of boxers covered me and my skin was electric in the lunar illumination. The night was a pale cornflower blue luminescence that covered the earth. The world was filled with silhouettes and shadows, and I seemed the only three dimensional object.
Barefoot, I ran across that back yard and into woods. Almost completely naked I flailed my arms, screaming, trying to scare away the fox from our chickens in that midnight darkness. I stood there, taking in deep breaths, mud up to my knees, bellowing while surrounded by the quietude of my neighborhood. I trudged back toward the house in that chemical induced fog.
The chickens were silent. No squawk or cluck came from the coop. I didn’t hear any rustling in the woods. In fact, I began to wonder, did I hear anything at all. I crawled back into bed and instantly fell asleep, the oxy still clinging to the receptors in my body.
The next morning I felt groggy. Hungover. I rubbed my feet and legs together and they were gritty. Throwing the covers aside my legs were muddy. Grass stuck out between my toes. It HAD happened.
The events came back in flashes. Kodak slides on a carrousel. Images in a View-Master; faded, blurry, never quite clear, your imagination filling in most of the detail.
Blurred flashes brought the events back to me, or at least a general reminiscence of it. An acknowledgement of it, as if a friend recalled stories of last nights revelries, and I only remembered it because I was told I was there, I was told what happened.
The fox. That fox. One thing that kept escaping my memory; hearing a fox. No vixen call. No bark. No nocturnal communication. No sound at all. All I know was I awoke startled, and ran out the house. The moment I broke the plane of that back door I went screaming into the night half naked, chasing after my imaginary oxy fox.
My poor neighbors. No one ever uttered a word to me and I not a syllable them. Blissful ignorance. Shameful silence.
Screw pain meds. Next time I’ll end up in the river behind my house. I’ll stick to liquor.