Monday, August 27, 2012

Stomachs, Sighs and, Frankly, Other Things as Well.

It seems to be taking Mr Tabubil and I an awfully long time to pass through the seasoning period of our new life in Santiago. It’s been a full year now, and we still catch every single bug that comes wafting through the air. And as for our stomachs –
            Remember the evening of the Red Wine cake and the dorsal trumpets That evening turned out not to be a one-off incident of lactose-intolerance, but the herald of a new and splendid sort of stomach; a stomach that went in for bloating until I looked like I was expecting a baby sometime that afternoon, and as for the rear-end of things- let's just say that I was walking around with my very own orchestra.  An orchestra that lit off whenever I took a step, and whose musicians must have been wearing serious hazmat filtration gear, because no-one else could possibly have wanted to come near me.
            I didn’t want to be near me.   
            Mr Tabubil, who loves me dearly, had started sleeping in the living room.
            Last Friday, about the point where I was refusing to leave the house, and was hanging out exclusively around open windows, Mr Tabubil girded himself (without a cloths-peg, the dear man) and talked me into going to a doctor.   
            And that is how I ended up girding myself to write this blog post.  

By stuffing myself with every single over-the-counter anti-gas medication Mr Tabubil could find in the neighborhood pharmacy, I made it all the way out to the Clinica Alemana, and all the way into the elevator lobby, and all the way to pushing the ‘up’ button for the elevator.  I even started to relax a little. The light over the right-hand elevator bing!-ed and its doors began to open, and I saw that the elevator was completely and entirely full– cheek-by-jowl jam-packed full of people coming up from the basement parking garage with hardly the space for an extra person, but that’s a Chilean hospital elevator for you, so with the doors still half open, I took a step forward – 
            And a trumpet exploded. Right behind me.  
            But it was still okay.  There were at least three other people waiting for elevators along with me – nobody could have told for certain that it was my trumpet, and I decided to risk it.  As long as this was one of the noisy but harmless ones, it would all be okay –
            It wasn't okay.
            I stepped into the elevator, and a wall of Smell came with me. The doors closed and we- every single one of us - were trapped. I stared at the floor, my face burning, fiercely counting floor tiles, and in this elevator that was packed so tightly that there was hardly room to shrug an elbow, I found myself standing in a steadily expanding circle of empty space.  People were making room. People were backing away.  And Every Single Person in that elevator got out on the very next floor.
            It was one of the most purely, viscerally embarrassing experiences of my life.  I had cleared my very first elevator.

It didn’t stop there. Based on how he reacted, I’m not entirely sure that nice young Chilean ladies really discuss these things- even with their doctors. 
            “Like I’m in my third trimester!”
            “And Gas?”
            “My God, Doctor! I can’t take myself anywhere!” 
             I was desperate, explaining things in all the necessary detail – with hand gestures even -  and my doctor was charmed.  He actually giggled, and he looked at me with stars in his eyes, as if I were the most enchanting creature he’d ever met in the whole of his life.
            And then he told me I had a virus and was out of luck. 
            “Ride it out, My Dear,” he said, and patted me tenderly on the shoulder and giggled again.  But he did give me prescriptions for clinical-grade anti-gas medication, and for that I am grateful. 
            Which led me to one more discovery:  working in a hospital pharmacy apparently breeds a very special grade of man– I can’t think of any other circumstance in which three strapping youths would be lining up to flirt with the lady who comes in with a prescription for nuclear-strength medications for gas, bloating and abdominal anti-spasmodics. When it is abundantly clear that she not merely filling the prescription, but that she badly needs every single one of them.  
            But what do you do?  If a trio of comely young men has the chutzpah to flirt with you when you’re out-gassing at both ends and exploding trumpets as you walk – there’s absolutely nothing to do but flirt right back.

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