Exhibit A.

Exhibit A.

It’s hard to say what it was exactly that landed me in the emergency room Wednesday morning, barely 12 hours after returning home from a five-day trip to Jamaica.

All I know is that I went from lying on a soft, sandy Caribbean beach to sitting on a hospital bed in a curtained off area of my local ER, telling the jolly guy wearing a yarmulke who came in to take my temperature and blood pressure that I thought I had been poisoned.

“Really?” he asked, wrapping the blue Velcro strap around my arm. “Who do you think did it?”

“Either my ex-husband or the cat,” I told him, explaining they were the two who stood the most to gain if I suddenly slipped off this mortal coil for the great beyond.

Later, I told the young doctor who came in to see me that I had felt a big pinch in my throat earlier that morning when I took a sip of the ice water I had just poured into my plastic Starbucks cup. I remembered thinking, “Ow, that hurts,” and took another big sip from the green straw and felt the pain spread across my throat.

It felt as if I’d taken a swig of Clorox.

Okay, maybe I was still groggy from my trip the day before or maybe I’m a little too invested in Game of Thrones, but I could have sworn I was having a reaction to some type of poisonous substance and was about to start foaming at the mouth Joffrey-style at any moment.

I told the doctor how the Starbucks cup had been lying on a drying mat next to the sink after I unloaded the dishwasher the morning we left for Jamaica six days earlier. “Maybe some mold had grown inside the straw,” I suggested, “or maybe I drank dishwasher soap that had gotten stuck inside.”

I pointed to the offending cup sitting on the counter in my emergency room stall, something I had had the foresight to grab before running out of the house along with my wallet and cellphone. I had also quickly changed out of my sleepwear and strapped on a bra because even at death’s door, I’ve got standards. Anyway, I figured if I did drop dead, the cup would serve as some sort of forensic evidence, providing a clue as to what exactly had done me in.

My attending physician, however, was not really interested in performing any toxicology tests to get to the bottom of my supposed poisoning. Instead, she very kindly listened to me describe what led up to me calling my neighbor Susan to ask if she and her five-year-old would drive me to the ER, and patted my leg when I told her that I wasn’t usually such an alarmist.

“I’m really not crazy,” I said.

“Do you think it could have been a panic attack?” the doctor asked, and I told her that I was open to that as a possible cause for the feeling that my throat had been about to close, and the panicky wave of lightheadedness that washed over me and made me call poor Susan for a ride to the hospital.

Maybe 30 minutes before the alleged poisoning, I had been weeping on the phone to my girlfriend Kathy about how alone I felt. She had called that morning to see how my trip to Jamaica had gone and I told her how much fun my 11-year-old son had had going on vacation with his friend and his friend’s extended family and how beautiful the resort was where we stayed.

We talked some more and she told me I sounded cranky and that’s when I just started to cry.

“I’m just so tired of being the third wheel,” I sobbed, explaining that the family we traveled with was lovely and welcoming but I still felt like a bit of an interloper. But my girlfriend who had planned the Jamaican getaway – a woman I had bonded with over glasses of red wine and a shared history of having been married to challenging men — had encouraged me to join her family, which included her new husband and two kids, her dad, two siblings their spouses and a couple of cousins. The timing was perfect – my daughter was going away for spring break with her high school and the other two kids were still off in college. Not only would I only have to pay for one kid to go away, but he and I would each have someone to play with on the trip.

Done deal.

But it’s weird going away with somebody else’s family. It really makes you miss your own people. It makes you long for your own tribe.

And after almost 20 years of marriage, it’s strange to find myself as a kind of long-in-the-tooth Bridget Jones, obsessively tracking my daily alcohol intake and weight in my journal and immersed in a world filled with folks firmly entrenched – whether happily or not – in coupledom.

It’s a lot of fucking work.

To be the only singleton in the land of couples requires an exhausting amount of smiling and small talk. There’s no home base to sidle up to at a cocktail party when you need a break from idle chatter. No one to give a knowing look or a signal when it’s time to make an exit. You’re on your own.

And I’m tired of it. I’ve been the only single person sitting at the table at countless dinner parties and I even sailed around the Greek islands as the third wheel to three other couples (albeit two were just friends). I’m fucking sick of it.

And it’s not that I don’t love being included or that anyone makes me feel bad about my singleness. I’m just hyperaware of always being the odd-man-out.

“I don’t even know if I’m crying because I’m sad I still don’t have someone special in my life or because I’m just so fucking mad my own family fell apart,” I said on the phone to Kathy.

The collapse of my marriage marked the second time in my life that my family had fallen apart. My parents’ divorce the summer I turned 12 also created upheaval in the family structure I knew up until then and something I tried so hard to regain through my own marriage. I wanted to create a place where I knew I belonged.

I think also cried because I had come home to all of the things I had been actively ignoring as I prepared for my Jamaican trip, like my unemployment, the money I didn’t have to fix things like broken fences and a sinking pool deck and my incredibly filthy house.

“And I’ve got to drive 16 hours by myself to Virginia this weekend,” I cried about my upcoming road trip for the college kids’ parents weekend. “Again.”

I ticked off my long list of items that needed to be addressed, like another college visit with my high school junior, signing her up for the SATs and the giant empty bottle of vodka I recently found in a certain under aged person’s bedroom drawer.

That morning I felt the full weight of my responsibilities wrap its hands around my throat and squeeze.

After lying on the hospital bed and watching all of Hoda and Kathie Lee and the first half hour of The View and not feeling any worse, I finally told the nurse that they could feel free to send me home. “I’m just taking up space,” I told her.

The doctor came in and told me that the strep test had come back negative and we agreed that we might never know what it was that brought me to the hospital that morning.

Later that afternoon, Kathy texted to ask how I was feeling and I told her I was pretty much back to normal.

“Did I conjure that whole thing?” I texted back. “I mean, what the f happened?”

My iPhone immediately started to ring and it was Kathy and we talked about how weird the whole episode had been and questioned whether it was a hormonal/thyroidy thing, coming on the tail end of my crying jag, something I don’t usually do.

“Maybe it was a little magical realism,” she suggested, referring to the recent death of the Nobel Prize-Winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez, who wove magical elements into his work like 100 Years of Solitude.

And frankly, I might like that explanation best of all. That, for a brief moment, I had overdosed on poisonous thoughts and they burned as they slid down my throat, making it hard to breathe the cool calm air of reason. Maybe the antidote was simply remembering how good my life really was. I mean, I had just come home from Jamaica, for godssakes.

I noticed later that on the paperwork they sent me home with from the hospital, the cause for the visit had been diagnosed as “Viral Pharyngitis (Sore Throat).”

And maybe it was a mild form of anxiety that sent me to the emergency room that morning or, as the doctor had suggested, maybe I was just coming down with a virus and the sore throat coincided with my sip of water. Or maybe it was a bad case of black magic.

But don’t think I wasn’t jamming Q-tips inside that straw that night searching for some sort of evidence of foul play while keeping a close eye on the cat. You can never be too sure.









7 thoughts on “That Time I Thought I’d Been Poisoned

  1. Sorry to hear about your near death experience lol….. but look at the bright side, at least you got great material to write a very funny blog as the result.

  2. Well done, Amy. I’ve been reading your stuff for a while and damn, you’re a fantastic writer. Really, so fucking talented. Thanks for sharing.
    Needless to say, this text box can’t hold all that I’d like to touch on in my “comment”, so I leave it at that. Keep the great work coming.
    J R

  3. Hi Amy, I found the link to your blog from Huffingtonpost! I love your writing, I have just read three of your posts but loved them all. And this one I can relate to. Loved reading it 🙂

  4. “That, for a brief moment, I had overdosed on poisonous thoughts and they burned as they slid down my throat, making it hard to breathe the cool calm air of reason.”

    Such a beautiful & powerful metaphor. Wow! Very impressive writing…

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