“Your boobs look great!” My mom smiled widely, motioned at my newly-developed cleavage and gave me a big thumbs up. I heaved a huge, inward sigh, gave a small, plastic smile back, and then went over to toss my backpack into the back of the boat. After nervously trying on several different shirts and posing awkwardly in front of the mirror for the better part of the hour (does my belly pooch out in this one? Does that one’s color make me look as lifelessly nauseous as I feel?), my mom had noticed the difference in my body immediately.
It wasn’t a good omen. I was about to be trapped for five hours on a 32 foot sailboat with my mother. Somehow, I had to make it through without throwing up, or without her noticing that I was showing signs of having a wombmate. The Bean and I were still trying to figure out how we were going to break the news to her. We weren’t sure about the details, but we were certain we didn’t want to do it quite yet. This was tougher than it sounds, as there have been times in my life when my mom displayed an almost psychic ability when it came to figuring out things I was trying to hide.
I had downed ginger pills, ginger cookies, ginger gum, and wore long sleeves to cover my sea bands . In my backpack I had hidden two thermoses of ice (to chew on as well as to plunge my hands into–cold hands sometimes staved off the puking), some Ritz crackers, a couple of 7-ups, and an extra box of sea bands just in case.
I thought I was ready. Now I wasn’t quite sure.
“Come on in! We’re just getting ready to shove off and head out!” My mom was bubbly and excited, bouncing around the tiny cockpit with a plateful of hors d’œuvres as she showed the sailboat off to her friends . My mom is Mexican, and she shows love by feeding people. We weren’t even out of the harbor yet and she was already trying to get the food party started with a decorative plate of nibblies.
Thinly sliced boiled rotten eggs. Slimy ham. Stinky-foot cheese. Half-rotted pickles. I didn’t have to even look at the plate to know what was on it. My nose let me know long before it even got to me.
My stomach stirred uneasily, sliding around inside me like a cold lizard. “Gum!” I said in my fakest, most cheerful voice when the poisonous plate was passed by me. I pointed at my mouth, and did my best to give a wide smile as I held my breath and passed the plate along in record speed.
My mom frowned at me slightly. “Becky, you have to try the eggs! They’re delicious!”
“I’ve got gum!” I repeated in a slightly louder voice.
“But this is Helen’s recipe! From church! You’re going to DIE when you try these eggs!”
I glanced apprehensively at the plate, at the unappetizing display of cold, white, jiggly chicken semi-fetuses. I swallowed hard.
“But it’s REALLY good gum! I just put it in!” I sounded slightly panicky. You would have thought that chewing this gum was the cure for cancer.
My mom frowned in disappointment for a moment, then brightened. “I’ll save you some! You can try it later!” I smiled weakly back at her, then turned my face into the cool, salty breeze, breathing away the fumes.
I’m going to spare you the exact details of the next five hours. Do you know why? It’s not because I’m running out of adjectives, and it’s not even because I’m sympathetic to those of you out there with weak stomachs.
It’s because as I sit here typing about that nightmare day, even though I’m warm and safe in my own living room, and I’m getting nauseous just remembering it. Apparently that day was so awful that I’m having flashbacks.
It’s been almost two years, but just typing about it makes my mouth fill with that familiar thin, metallic-tasting spit. On a side note, on more than one occasion I would threw up so hard I bruised the area around my eyes. Check it out:
There were also several times that I broke the blood vessels in my eyes from puking, and walked around with the whites of my eyes stained completely red. I never could bring myself to take a photo of that ugliness, so I don’t have any proof.
At any rate, back to the story.
Suffice it to say that I didn’t throw up. This is really a miracle, because the entire time we were on the boat, in an attempt to show me love, my mom paraded every single raunchy item of food that she could come up with. I’m sure that the food wasn’t actually raunchy – it’s just how I remember it.
I finally escaped to the bow of the boat, leaning dangerously over the side, knuckles white as I clung to the rigging. It became a sort of a game, trying to beat back the nausea. I breathed deep, measured breaths, trying to chase the sickness away. Each breath became a mantra. I. Will. Not. Vomit. I. Will. Not. Vomit. I. Will. Ooops! Swallow it, Becky. Swallow it! NOW! SWALLOW IT!… Ahhhh. Success. Swallowed it down… Continue breathing… Iiiiin. Ouuuut. Iiiiin. Oouuut. Iiiii. Wiiill. Nooooot. Voooomit.
I tried to make it a battle of will against my body. Technically, I knew that there was no reason to throw up. My nausea was caused by an influx of hormones caused by the budding pregnancy. It was an adaptational response to centuries of natural selection, causing me to avoid unhealthy foods that might accidentally trigger a miscarriage. It was just a matter of making my primitive body understand what my advanced brain was able to comprehend, right?
Iiiiin. Ooouuut. Doooon’t. Voooomit.
I tried every mind game I could come up with. Throwing up is a sign of weakness….. Mind over matter, Becky….. Pain is just temporary… Hmm. That’s not working. Okay, uh….My mom is an evil terrorist, and if she sees me vomiting, she’ll blow up a building. Not throwing up saves lives! Don’t let the terrorists win!”
Somehow, I made it back to the docks without tossing my cookies. I’ve never been so grateful to step onto dry land in my life. Tottering back to my car, I followed my mom to the Mexican restaurant we were supposed to have dinner at. I had specifically chosen Mexican food, as I was currently able to eat 5 things without throwing them up later: refried beans, cheese, corn tortillas, cottage cheese, and Funyuns. Since there weren’t a lot of places that offered Funyun-flavored cottage cheese, Mexican food it was.
Or rather… Mexican food it wasn’t. Following my mom, we drove right past the La Capilla and their nourishing beans and tortillas. Grabbing my cell phone, I dialed my mom. “Didn’t we just pass the place?”
“I have a surprise for you!” She said excitedly. “You were such a help taking out the boat that I want to do something special for you!”
“Oh.” That sounded…. ominous. “Well. Uh, thank you?”
“Here it is! Turn here!”
I hung up the phone, and pulled into the driveway of…. an abandoned dock?
No, wait. What was that smell? An old fish market?
My stepdad grinned widely, holding open the door for my mom and I. My mom followed right behind me, almost bouncing up and down in her excitement.
I stopped dead, and stared around me.
Fish. Hundreds and hundreds of dead fish, all looking up at me from their icy graves.
Slimy. Dead. Eyeballs-are-staring-at-me-gonna-puke Fish. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not normally squeamish, and I actually love the taste of fish, which is why my mom had chosen this treat……but after 5 hours of fighting the nausea, this was a far cry from the innocent plate of refried beans I’d been daydreaming about.
“Isn’t it GREAT?” My mom was so excited. She dashed around like a kid in a candy store, pointing at one dead fish after another. “You pick out the fish you want, and then you hand it to the guy behind the counter and he deep fries it for you! They leave the heads on and everything!”
“Hey, Becky. Look!” I turned around to find myself nose-to-nose with a dead fish that my step dad was holding up to me. Using his thumb, he made its jaw flap as it “talked” to me.
“Hello, Becky! Don’t I look yummy? Yum, yum, yum! Pick me to eat! I’m yummy!”
The fish and I stared at each other in round-eyed horror.
Desperate to get out of there, I nodded and did my best to play along. “Yes! I pick you! Jump on my plate and let’s go fry you up!” I held out my tray, cringing, then passed Mr soon-to-be-eaten-dead-fish to the man behind the counter.
True to my mom’s word, about 2 or 3 minutes later they handed me back my fish, eyeballs and all, along with a plate of greasy vegetables and (thankfully!) a couple of limp tortillas. The three of us found an empty picnic table and my parents started chowing down.
I stared at my fish.
He stared back at me.
I stared at my fish.
He stared back at me, accusingly. Eat me. Don’t make me die in vain.
I swallowed hard, and poked at him with a fork. I noticed my mom was staring at me, so I tore off some of the meat and placed it in my mouth. I’m sure it had a flavor but I don’t really remember what it was. I was too busy willing it to go down my throat, instead of up.
“Don’t you just love it? Isn’t it the best? Isn’t the meat so incredibly juicy?”
I gave a wan smile at my mother. “It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.” I poked at it again, doing my best to ignore the way it stared at me. “I’m going to remember this meal forever.”