Here you are, February, in all your glory. Some days that are like springtime, with the warm yellow sun and the daffodils that have just come up, and then the rain comes back, a barrage of cold and wet and dark, and my shack is a ship pitching on the ocean again, in a storm. And I do not know on what shores I will eventually wash up. What will it be like there? I can only imagine. Or maybe I will be at sea forever.
It’s poor at sea. This is hard. I went back to my naturopath because my guts are all messed up, still. I’d seen her in September when I’d been sick since July and we’d done some tests and found Blastocystis Hominis, the small opportunistic protozoa, colonizer of groundwater, in great numbers. I’d taken some bitter herbs that gave me Italian-food burps, making me wonder, again and again, when it was that I’d eaten pizza, and they had done nothing. Now I have been sick for seven months and so I went back, and Adrianna made me an herbal treatment list several yards longer than the first one, and I imagined it as inky cursive on a long cream-colored scroll, but actually she sent it via email. This treatment would go on for five months. She also, while I was in her office, wrote the word Alinia on a little scrap of paper and pushed it across the table at me.
Western medicine. It is harsh but this one works. The other drug that’s commonly prescribed, nitroimidazole, is rarely effective, and is even harsher. But this one works, in many cases. I cannot prescribe it to you, since I am a naturopath, but if you can find someone to prescribe it you could try it.
Two days later I was ready. Western medicine, harsh antibiotics, like an a-bomb to my colon. I would do it. Vaporize the villages of the protozoa. Kill all my foot soldiers in friendly fire. They had all been taken prisoner anyway, had been locked up in dark, moldering huts and left to die. I was tired of sending reinforcements every day, from the small rattling bottle of probiotics on the fridge door, and never hearing back from them.
I needed serious munitions, and the only way to get them was from the united states government, aka Big Pharmaceutical. But who would sell me arms of this nature?
I went to Outside In, the local free clinic. It was crowded with snuffling people much worse off than me, who spoke less English, or who had addictions. My only addiction is facebook scrabble. I flipped through a celebrity gossip magazine en espanol. We only have naturopaths today, they told me. Come back tomorrow.
I went back early the next morning. C let me borrow her car and I drove it in the splattering rain and rush-hour traffic. Morning commuters cut fearlessly in and out of traffic and I gripped the wheel like the true bicyclist that I am, terrified of downtown parking and the possibility of hitting a pedestrian. The clinic was crowded. I filled out a little form and explained to several people, one after the other, why it was that I was there. I need a prescription. I have my lab results with me. My naturopath cannot prescribe this drug. Three hours later my book had grown inexplicably dull and so to entertain myself I called the number to see what my cellphone balance was. One hundred twenty-five dollars, said the robot voice. My heart dropped. I’d used the internet on my phone a few weeks before. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do that because it was expensive, but Sprint had never told me how much exactly it would cost, and all I had done was look up some bus maps and check my email. I was suddenly almost intolerably angry. I went out to put some money in the meter and while I was out, the nurse called my name.
Back in the clinic they took pity on me, and at last I was seated on a paper-covered vinyl table in a little room in back. The nurse practitioner asked me all sorts of unrelated questions and took my blood pressure. Then she looked at me papers.
“Oh,” she said, “we don’t have this drug.” she turned away to the computer, and started clicking on the keys. “But we do have nitroimidazole, which is the drug commonly prescribed for these symptoms.”
Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, I said to myself. Don’t cry in front of this person, who doesn’t even want to be here, and thinks you are an idiot.
The nurse turned back to me, and I burst into tears.
“Oh!” she said. “Oh! Have I done something wrong? Did I make you uncomfortable somehow?”
“No, no,” I said through my snot. “I’ve just been really sick from this for a really long time and this drug is the only one that’s effective and I just waited three hours and you can’t even prescribe it.”
“Oh you only want a prescription?” said the nurse, tilting her head. “We can write you a scrip for that. But I think it’s enormously expensive. And anyway, nitroimidazole is the drug that’s prescribed for this. It’s all in the red book. And that one would be free. Here, you want me to bring you the red book?”
I shook my head. “I know it’s prescribed. But it’s not very effective. And it’s really harsh. I don’t want to take a harsh anti-biotic that’s not even effective. My naturopath told me to get this other one, it’s newer I think, and it actually works. It’s specific to protozoas, and blastocystis is a protozoa.”
The nurse disappeared, and reappeared a few minutes later with a big red book. Flipping through it, she opened it to the page on nitroimidazole. nitroimidazole is commonly prescribed to treat infections of the digestive system. It has been shown to have limited effectiveness.
“See?” said the nurse soothingly. “It’s in the red book.”
“How much is the other drug? The one I want?” I asked, wiping my eyes. My face was red and splotchy, and I didn’t give a fuck. Instead of answering, the nurse walked over to her computer and googled the drug. “This drug is prescribed for giardia,” she said, flipping through my lab results. “and you don’t have giardia.”
“I know that,” I said. “There haven’t been any clinical trials done on the effectiveness of this drug against blastocystis. But giardia is a protozoa, and blastocystis is a protozoa, and this drug is an anti-protozoa drug, and my naturopath told me that she had heard of it working well for people who took it for that. Will you just tell me how much it costs?”
The nurse left, and I swung my legs against the vinyl table, staring blankly at the bright white wall. I thought of C’s car, parked at the meter, about the run out of time again. I felt the rush of freedom that hopelessness brings.
The door opened. “One hundred twenty dollars,” said the nurse, with eyebrows raised for effectiveness. “That’s if you had insurance. It costs much more without it.”
“Why is it so expensive?” I asked. The nurse ignored me.
“Now the other drug, it’s free.”
“Ok.” I said.
Leaving the clinic with my little bottle of faulty, ineffective munitions, I climbed inside the car and checked my phone. While I had been in the clinic C had been playing advocate for me and had come up with a brilliant plan. Her health insurance was about to run out, but if we worked fast, she could get a lab panel for me in her name, and then when the results came back for “her” lab panel, she could try and get them to prescribe the drug I wanted. She’d even called and found that with her insurance, the drug was only ten dollars. I picked her up at work and we sped to the clinic on the other side of the river, the clinic where you pay, and everything is sterile and upholstered, and there aren’t any windows. She picked up the test and handed it off to me. Ten days, she said. The results come back in ten days.
Back in the car, I showed her my bottle of harsh anti-biotics. “I can stash these away now,” I said, “for the apocalypse or whatever.” I felt like there must be someone, somewhere, who needed them, but couldn’t get them. I had an urge to put them in an envelope and mail them away.
Corinne dropped me off at home and I ate some leftover kitchari, heated up in a cast-iron skillet. The gentle mung-bean, ginger, coconut. After eating it sat restlessly in my stomach, like it wasn’t sure if it was really food. And although I had hope now, nothing felt better at all.