I finished the first draft of a long project last week and then my body immediately gave me a huge middle finger and now I’ve been sick for about a week. When I was little, I had bronchitis a couple times and then asthma, so whenever I get this deep phlegmy, rattling chest cough it always reminds me of being a kid. It’s like it was a characteristic that I’d forgotten about—like, my hair was curly and light before I started dyeing and straightening it, my favourite flavour was sour like sucking-on-a-fresh-lemon sour, and my chest was an empty and booming metal space. Think of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when they pound on the Tin Man’s chest. Boom boom. I forgot about that space but it’s been rattling this week.
When I got sick when I was younger I had to take this sickly sweet banana medicine that the doctor prescribed. That shit was so hot in the 90’s. I had trouble getting and then keeping it down though. For much of my childhood I had an intensely strong gag reflex that I always related back to my polio vaccine. In my memory, they gave me that vaccine in my mouth, under my tongue. That can’t be right, can it? It must have been medicine I swallowed or else a normal vaccine. But last week I was having a conversation with a coworker about my phobia of needles and of the doctor (like the proverbial all-seeing doctor, not a specific one), the same conversation that I’ve had a million times where I start to sweat and feel nauseated while I describe my inability to be in the same room as those yellow, opaque needle disposal boxes on the walls of doctors’ offices, when the co-worker casually said so where did that start? This coworker is a sensible person who studies science and I looked at him and was like what the fuck do you mean, this shit has no start, this shit is imprinted on my DNA or spirit or driver’s license or dream database, it was just there when I woke up in the morning and it ain’t going nowhere. In actuality I was like dunno. But I’ve been thinking about it since then.
The project I finished was the first draft of my thesis. For someone whose first and truest love is fiction and who generally takes a long time to warm-up and open-up to people, the fact the this thesis is both non-fiction and deeply personal is kind of fucked up. I don’t really know where that started. I once had someone—an acquaintance who happened to be a lawyer—warn me to never become a lawyer. I replied that I wasn’t planning on it to which he responded neither was I, it just happened. And that’s kind of how this project coming to fruition has felt, I put a little work in everyday and then suddenly I had this deeply personal, non-fiction thesis, one that I will need to create censored versions of for my family, in particular my grandmother, if I want to maintain my calm and collected image. But maybe I don’t have that image to begin with. I have a rattily chest. I have old memories of banana medicine. And all this after taking a few days off after finishing this first draft. Strong proof as to why I should never ever stop working.