My Own Messes

I've been getting migraines since I was a little kid. They were worse then because I never took anything for them. My mom didn't even know I had headaches. The aches were worms, aliens, and I was sure that eventually one would punch through my forehead and slither across the floor of the apartment, strands of my brain trailing behind it. Nausea followed the migraines and I vomited alone in the tiny bathroom. My mother slept hard. And you know how for the next ten minutes or so after you puke, you feel fine, almost great, like you beat something. But then it's like your stomach refills and your mouth is boiling over again. I cleaned up my own messes.

Once, when I was sixteen, I spent a week with a guy named Connelly. One night after I fucked him, a dormant migraine crept into action and I retreated to a corner of his bedroom to massage the demons out of my skull. I remember the way he looked that night, the slope of his forehead and the way his hair floated over the right side of his scalp. Long nose, hairy chest, fingernails like rusty razor blades. I never let Connelly finger me.

"There's cody in the bathroom. The bottle with the blue C on it." Connelly lettered his drugs. I told him I didn't need any. I don't remember what I was thinking. Maybe I was trying to be strong or maybe I was too weak to get up and walk to the bathroom and connect enough brain cells to find the blue C. My stomach was beginning to rotate on its axis.

"You're really sick, huh?" I wanted to thank Captain Obvious and reward him by squeezing these sinus fluids out my ears and into his, a transfer of pain, a transfer of understanding. Instead, I replied in the form of pushing my elbows against the wall in an attempt to stand and clumsily running to the bathroom. "Under the sink!" Connelly called after me. Idiot. He was telling me where the codeine was.

Throwing up shifts your focus. The pain recedes and you have to worry about your aim now. You blindly grope for a handful of toilet paper and when you finish, you wipe your mouth, as though you'd just consumed a meal rather than lost one. That's why when you finish puking, relief diminishes pain. That's why, for a while, you feel like you've beat something. I still had to clean up my own mess.

"You're not pregnant or anything, are you?" Connelly called from the safety of his bed. He was the kind of man who thought women feared pregnancy more than they feared death itself. I rolled my eyes as I wet a washcloth in the sink.

"I can't get pregnant," I called back and stood in the doorway, the wet rag clinging to my forehead, drops of water following my jawline on either side of my face.

"Why not?"

"I just can't." Such a stupid answer. I can't get pregnant. A simple yes or no question and I had to say, I can't get pregnant. Fuck this headache. Maybe he'd let it rest. Maybe he'd be like everybody else and not give a shit.

"You too skinny?" I nodded my head. Yes, that was a good answer. I was infertile because of my weight. "I just thought you didn't wanna risk the cody cause you were knocked up, you know?" I knew. And the migraine was making a steady recovery.

"Could you do me a favor?" I asked him as I crawled into bed. "Can you just take care of me tonight cause this is really bad and I just need some help, ok?"

"Yeah, yeah, hon. Sure." Connelly opened the covers for me and I hid inside. He wrapped me up and spoke soothing words as I sucked low, sharp whistles of pain through my teeth. I told him he was old enough to be my father and he laughed, called me delirious, hugged me. I fell asleep and felt fine in the morning.

Connelly and I were never in love. Our fucking could never be mistaken for lovemaking. Still there are few men from that period of my life that I remember fondly and he was one of them. Even after I left him that weekend, we still talked when we happened to see each other, a friendly wave across a bar, a mistaken introduction, friend of a friend. I slept with his brother once and Connelly was in no position to be jealous. Every time we talked, he asked me how was my head, how was my weight.
© 2003 Maria Santos

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