Monday, August 30, 2010
Welcome to my delirium
Through my delirium, the sound of her voice above me is soft and gentle; though her hands betray the truth. Her fingers have dug deeply into the clenched muscles at the base of my spine, my whole body's rigid and I am beyond caring about how much pain I'm in.
Outside, the peacocks are calling to each other. It's two o'clock in the afternoon.
As if the vicious bout of Delhi Belly that's wringing my intestines through a mangler weren't enough, I have a tricky lower back and I have somehow managed to throw it out. For 24 hours I've had severe nausea and excruciating nerve pain through my back and thighs - and nerve pain doesn't respond to standard painkillers. I am past twisted, past crippled, past immobilised .... I am in so much agony that I have frozen completely still. A thaw seems impossible through this permafrost.
I've had to endure a four hour jeep journey on what passes laughably for roads here, gritting my teeth and grimacing at every bone-rattling bump that sent razor-sharp bayonets through me, and when I finally staggered into the haveli I was at the point where I actually couldn't speak. They bundled me into a room and brought me Santosh, the jewel of Nimaj, who is here to try to massage the muscle spasms away so that I may walk again.
I vaguely remember the Valium I took earlier. Was it a Valium 5, or Valium 10? I can't drag the answer up through the wall the pain has built around me. I have also taken Disprin, Ibuprofen, Panadol and Imodium …. and none of them are working. When I downed the pills an hour ago with a glass of electrolyte replacement I was a little concerned I was setting myself up for a Heath Ledger moment, but that worry soon became insignificant as my agony intensified. Frankly, I'd be glad for anything that relieves this, even for a moment.
I disappear against the sheets. They're white, and I'm whiter. I fade, feel my edges begin to crack, and I can't find any sense of myself. I splinter. It's hot in the room and my fever is climbing.
Wearing a tangerine sari with gold edging, Santosh shimmers above me. She's using fresh coconut oil and through my haze I smell Anzac biscuits and coconut ice, summers on the beach, macaroons, Bounty bars, pina coladas. Her pressure is intense and a tiny moan escapes me. Tomorrow morning I'm going to have bruises on my ribs from this, but right now I don't care.
She's murmuring to me gently in Hindi the way every mother would soothe a child, except she's grinding the heels of her hands against my vertebrae. I drift in and out of consciousness, hearing only the steady click...clack....click....clack of her camel bone wedding bracelets knocking together rhythmically as she works on me. The valium is taking effect now because she's pushing the blood through my muscles, she's forcing the drug through my body and at last as she does so, I feel myself becoming limp, boneless; beyond even tears.
Some time later, it feels like days, I am dimly aware that's she's covered me with a sheet and left the room. I'm freezing cold. I fumble for the switch of the air conditioner and turn it off, turn off the fan too, and pull the thin blanket over me. My temperature is spiking, my stomach is hard, roiling with convulsions and my teeth are chattering with cold, my whole body's shaking and I can't get warm. The bedclothes are sodden with sweat and my hair is soaked, droplets run from my forehead and plink onto the cold floor. I want to press my face against the concrete. A sickly smell rises off me, sour and dank. The smell of things rotting, of milk left out too long.
I curl up in the foetal position. The bed seems like an island in the enormous dark room and I am alone and I am too small, there is too much space around me. Exhausted past the point of resistance, I freefall into a fevered and disturbed sleep; where there are sharp edges, the ghosts of heartbreak, scissors, ribbons of anguishs, broken teeth, a suffocating blackness. I'm heavy and weightless all at once, my jagged outline hurts me, and I can't get enough air to stop myself from drowning.
My dark dreams crackle and spit against the sound of peacocks singing.