THE TROUBLE WITH VERTIGO
The trouble with vertigo is that I don't have vertigo. My mom does. She has medicine for it that I also think is a migraine medicine. One time I had a really nasty headache and my mom gave me one of her prescription pills and it was like magic. But right now I am just really, really dizzy and I don't think anything I have in pill form could stop the room from spinning. And, no, I am not a junkie. I just woke up all fucked-up. No headache, no nothing -- just the dizziness that is not vertigo. I've seen the movie. It's one of my all-time favorites. And I don't have what James Stewart had. And I don't want it. I mean, I want Kim Novak but not all of the fucked-up shit that came with her and Jimmy -- specifically, the vertigo thing. Maybe if I think of Kim Novak circa 1958 the dizziness will go away. But I am not so sure fantasy is a good cure for dizziness. Even if she was born in Chicago, where I am currently not having an attack of vertigo. That and I also can't deal with split personalities right now.
I need something normal. Like, say, sitting up perfectly straight and staring at a wall and thinking about how many toxic layers of paint are in that 101-year-old wall and how Napoleon possibly died from the same toxic paint (or in his case, wallpaper) that would probably be found somewhere between layers three and seven and how I signed some form on my lease saying that there probably is toxic paint (or, who knows, wallpaper) somewhere in this house but I know about it and therefore cannot sue anyone if I die from it. And then I will fall asleep with the false assurance that the non-toxic layers of paint 8 through infinity are keeping me safe and are not the cause of me not having vertigo. Is that normal? Well, it's the best I can come up with right now. And it put me right to sleep where I dreamed of conquering Napoleon and having sex with either Madeleine Elster or Judy Barton. I'm not sure which. I just kept calling out "Kim!" and she didn't really seem to care. Then I woke up -- still dizzy.
And that's the trouble with not having vertigo. You don't know what to do. You sure as hell aren't about to walk around your neighborhood and you can't afford to go to the hospital so you just ride it out. You want to read but you can only muster short chapters before you are asleep again and then back awake. You try eating a lot of bread but remember that is what you do when you are drunk dizzy. And I am not drunk dizzy. So I stare at the wall some more and think.
I remember when I used to get dizzy like this when I was a kid. It always led to me getting a massive migraine. That was when the term "migraine" became en vogue. All of a sudden people didn't have bad headaches -- they had migraines. And people would compare migraines to see whose was worse as if it was some sort of competition. Most people just had bad headaches, but like a new fall fashion line hot off the runways of Paris, people decided to dress themselves up with migraines. I knew mine were migraines and not some fashionable headache because of several factors: 1) Tylenol didn't do a damn thing. 2) I got really dizzy and everything made my head hurt, from the dullest light to the most sympathetic whisper. 3) The only way they would go away is if I was left in a dark room away from noise and allowed at least two hours of sleep. 4) They only ever happened when I was at my grandma's house.
The latter was puzzling as a child. I mean, being at grandma's house is supposed to be like the free zone in tag. It's safe. But for some reason, and not all of the time, when I was there I would get my migraines and I would have to leave the family fun for darkness, quiet and sleep. When I would wake up I was as good as new. And that was probably the most fucking scary part of it all. Imagine having your head beat in by some thug and then he leaves and you're lying there feeling like you are going to die but after sleeping for two hours you wake up as if nothing happened. Sure, you remember it all, but you have no physical reminders of the memory. Your head was beat in -- and yet it wasn't. I have vertigo but I don't.
There was only one other time I got a migraine in my life that was outside of my grandma's house and it was well after she had succumbed to the cancer. I was now in high school, and a bunch of friends got together to play soccer. Before I found punk rock I used to play soccer in high school. For two years I was a midfielder. I accumulated two goals and eight red cards in that span. I scored one goal each year. Both were utter flukes, but if you played it off like you meant it (and I most certainly did) then they seemed amazing to you and everyone else who witnessed them. Two of the red cards were for fighting and the rest were for illegal tackles and arguing with the refs or some shit. Whatever. We won the conference championship that year and I sat on the bench most of the time when I wasn't put in during blowouts and for blowing off steam. I never started. Anyway, I was better at soccer than all of my chain-smoking punk rock friends. So I had a day. I think I scored 11 goals or something and put on a dribbling clinic that left a few people on their backs more than once. Then it was time to go home.
When I got home I started to get the chills. Bad. Then my head started to hurt. Bad. Migraine bad. My mom found me in the bathroom sobbing and unable to open my eyes. The entire left side of my body was numb. I seriously could not feel it. My mom rushed me to the emergency room. When I got there things got worse. The place was packed. The TV was on full blast. The lights were bright. I told my mom, "I think I am dying," and she said that I wasn't and stroked my hair and it hurt like hell and I told her, as politely as a dying teenager could, to not touch me again. Well, that didn't last long, as I told her she needed to guide me to the bathroom. I was in a wheelchair, and she got me out of it and pushed me through the men's room door. I opened my eyes the best I could, went for the sink, and started vomiting everything I had ever consumed in my entire life. The sink stopped draining at some point and began to overflow with my vomit that I remember as being very, very yellow. I don't know why I remember that. Then I crawled like a fucking infant into one of the stalls and hugged the toilet bowl and resumed throwing up until I couldn't do it anymore.
My mom opened the men's room door and yelled something women yell when they are trying to enter some place that is not for women. Then she yelled my name. I think I mumbled something. She found me easily, since I hadn't even thought about closing the stall door. So there I was, exposed and almost passed out with my head using the toilet as a pillow and my arms still firmly around its base. I guess I had been in there for about twenty minutes and, naturally, she was concerned. That and they had finally called my name. I left the bathroom so oblivious and still feeling that I was dying and wanting to die that I had no time to reflect on just how horribly disgusting passing out on a public toilet seat in an emergency room is. But when you are dying you don't remember that 20/20 episode you saw on TV where they showed that the plates at Pizza Hut were less clean than the toilet seats at Pizza Hut and how you never wanted to ever eat Pizza Hut again. Plus, you know, nobody likes public restrooms except pedophiles and sex freaks and that usually has nothing to do with going to the bathroom-at least in the conventional sense.
So now I am in a bed. I have been admitted. The light is so fucking bright. Even with my eyes closed I feel it burning through my eyelids and into my brain. I tell this all to the doctor the best I can. I feel a few needle pricks and then I feel nothing. No pain. It's gone. Just like that. "What the fuck?" I said. My mom, ever my mom, told me to watch my mouth. The doctor gave me an IV, she said. I kept quiet because I was dealing with the fact that one moment I thought I was dying, hell, even wanted to die, and seconds later I was perfectly fine. I didn't even have a headache. I could feel my entire body. I could open my eyes and let them wander into the light and I didn't mind the loudness of the emergency ward one bit. It was comforting even if it was completely confusing. The doctor asked how I felt and I said, "Fine," which as a teenager meant "normal" or even "good." They let me go but told me to go take some tests the next day at the hospital. I did. They found nothing.