Hanging out in the bamboo grass of Ashitaka Mountain near Mt. Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, 1992
Well, so much for my triumphant Rocky antics. The day following my euphoria and canine empathy session, I woke up to a blithering cold sweat and a stomach playing, “Pass the cheese, please.” I spent a lovely, sunny day staring into the toilet bowl and wishing gravity were on my side. I wore a down quilt about the apartment like a northern king and spent too much time genuflecting to the refrigerator, seeking something, anything that would not offend my oh-so-vapid nose. Nothing doing. The mere whiff of anything hinting of nutrients sent my inner space into earthquake musings, so I finally bowed to my body’s greater wisdom and lay for two days, fasting.
Just when I thought the storm had passed, the vile little space invaders decided to try WMD’s. My fever abandoned me to the exquisite world of pain, and after four weeks of working on my abs for that “leaner, straighter look”, found myself hobbling about the rooms bent over like a wizened old man. “Good evening, my dear,” I was forced to croak to my wife, “Would you be so kind as to help an old pretzel like me to lift a glass of water?” Needless-to-say, that night recounted, for my wife, the sheer joy of the nocturnal callings of wild creatures in the jungle… as she endured the grunting, oofing, moaning, snorting, panting exhortations of this fitful boar, awash in a high fever, beside her.
Yesterday she accompanied me to the hospital. The taxi driver kept flicking nervous glances in the rearview mirror as this foreigner in the back seat of his immaculate car made strange noises that didn’t quite sound like language. I must have looked like a none-too-distant relation of Mr. Hyde, with my dark, unshaven face, cactus hair, and smudged mascara-look under my eyes. The hospital had just opened and the young receptionists, clear-eyed and smiling (I was quite surprised when the entire front desk staff lined up and bowed a cheerful good morning to all and sundry… I breathed to my wife… some unconscious attempt to emulate Marlon Brando upriver, no doubt… oh, the horror, the horror… that I wondered if they were going to sing and dance a scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), greeted everyone with an enthusiasm that surely made the venetian blinds wink and the potted plants dance a jig.
Until one of the receptionists met me. She told us that, since this was our first time at this hospital and that we didn’t have a referral from my usual hospital, we would have to cough up Â¥2,000 (about $22.00). I was incensed (as much as I could be that wasn’t already pretty much up in smoke already) and must have slobbered on the counter or something, because she stopped talking and stared at me. Luckily my wife intervened and a rational progression of vocabulary ticked out of her mouth. Both of them didn’t say a word, just silently endured my presence and agreed on the inherent boorishness of men.
The doctor. too, couldn’t restore my lost Rocky Horror Picture show. He greeted me with a pale blue face mask obscuring his features (he did have nice eyes, I have to admit) and a habit of rearing back from me when I leaned in to make a comment. With the avian flu scare and mad cow disease and SARS and worldwide flu epidemic I guess he had every reason to suspect some foreigner who complained of “very painful intestines, possibly due to a semi-satisfying meal (though the company was wonderful) at a Mexican restaurant on Friday night”. He laughed, albeit somewhat with a hiccough, saying, “Ah, you can speak Japanese! That makes me feel much better!”
In the end, it was simply a stomach flu, nothing to notify Doctors Without Frontiers about, or the CIA, or Jean Luc Piccard. I am safely back in my cell, ready to stand up and sing, “The Boar’s Head”.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll give Rocky another go for his money.