I forgot my pills

For the girl to get to the land
where the magic isn’t hidden,
she sometimes slips into a bored daydream. 

What I saw: though Alice chased a rabbit and fell down a hole, and Dorothy rode in on a twister, and Wendy flew with Peter, thinking happy thoughts, and Lucy found it at the back of the wardrobe behind the fur coats. One day, I went to my make-believe world, the magical land of a horse show, and all I had to do was take the wheel of my car. It was not an interesting drive. I crossed over the Hudson River, and I didn’t even try to see the river itself, so big and so far and so flat, down below the deck of the bridge.  

What I wore: same as last time, with a different pin.

What I did beforehand: just as I pulled into the mysterious town of Saugerties, I glanced into the back seat of my car and noticed my purse wasn’t there. Somehow, though, I had my wallet and both pairs of glasses, and all my show clothes for the next day. So I  thought it might turn out ok. The only thing, though, was a thing I knew was important: without my purse, I was missing was my migraine medication, which was going to be wearing off at 8 p.m. This is a panic-inducing situation for a migraine-sufferer. I am not immune to panic-inducements. Even in the land of the impossible.

Horse Show Breakfast

Who went with me: someone I know, but not very well, is a licensed medical professional (i.e., sorceress), with the rights and abilities to call in my prescription to the local pharmacy. Her incantation required three or four phone calls, and the recitation of several spells, consisting of long strings of numerical digits. She was a kind and patient sorceress, and seemed unbothered by my request, coming out of the blue as it did. I tried to express my gratitude, but my fear of failure may have rendered me inarticulate.

When I arrived at the pharmacy to pick it up, a testy cashier redirected me to the drop-off window. At the drop-off window I was told that they didn’t have any of the medication I take. They were willing to call another nearby pharmacy (which was surprising, because the last time this happened to me, I was in New York City, and they would not call other pharmacies to see if they had medication in stock, but I was in the mysterious land of Saugerties, you see, where everything is a little bit different). I was informed (in a tone that emphasized that the situation was entirely my fault) that since I’d recently filled this prescription: I’d be paying $398 for four pills. I thanked the pharmacist, and went to a front register, where I bought some sun-blocking lip-balm and a small bottle of Aleve® . 

I did not make any further attempt to fill the prescription. Alice was threatened by the red Queen. Dorothy wouldn’t get the Wizard’s help without the witch’s broom. Lucy faced the White Witch. Wendy was captured by pirates.  I would not get my pills. I would do without.

How I got there: I-684 N, I-84 W, I-87 N. 

Why I forgot my pills: I was leaving, and The Bacon Provider offered to help me carry my many, small, lightweight bags to the car; I found this irritating. After my peevish rebuttal, I did not go back and check and that I left my purse sitting on a chair in the kitchen. But I should have.

Where I sat: on my horse, and in a chair with my last name on it.

Things that were sad: I went in the ring and did the easier test with Hado sneezing and feeling stiffer than I would have liked. At least I got him straight on the centerline at the beginning and end, though. That was the comment I’d seen on my judge’s sheet from the day before: that we were crooked. So it was my goal to be really straight on the centerline. As I did my test, everyone else went to watch a very nice man named B, who rides at a much higher level than I do, and is widely admired for it, and for being so nice, so when I finished there was no one to say how they thought it went. Everyone else said how well B’s test had gone.

Things that were funny: later, someone congratulated me for winning a class, which I did not believe, but when I went to the show office to check, it turns out I had. Also, I was ok without the pills.

Things that were not funny: I was sitting with B when someone else went by with her shiny, shiny gray stallion. We all noticed how very shiny he was, and another person commented that it was the “stallion gleam.” 
I replied, “I guess the testosterone does more than just infuse the individual with an hyper-inflated sense of self-worth.”
And B said, “Ouch.”
Then, we went to lunch. I ate a grilled cheese, like the overgrown child that I am.

Not me, but my trainer on his horse

What it is: According to Merriam-Webster’s full definition,  a fairy tale is 
“a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins),” or “a story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending,” or “a made-up story usually designed to mislead.”

Who should see it: Once upon a time, many years ago, my friend K inherited her mother’s cat, Tuffy and it had terrible allergies and I thought it was hilarious. A cat, that’s allergic, to everything! Ha ha ha ha ha!  Poor Tuffy got a daily dose of children’s Benadryl, and wheezed and sneezed and blew snot bubbles out his nose. I think of snuffly Tuffy and my rotten lack of sympathy for him every time we have to change my horse’s medication, or get a note from the veterinarian to go to the show. Because my horse suffers terribly from seasonal allergies, and we almost didn’t go to this show at all. What was I talking about? Oh, yes. Horse shows. Don’t go to horse shows. Stick with cats. 

What I saw on the way home: on the bridge over the Hudson River, I caught up to and passed the homeward-bound trailer with my horse on it.

The Moth

What is a migraine? A migraine is vitalized brain demons. It is a roofing nail behind your eye. A migraine is I hate everyone and everything. Every migraine is a moth circling the light and you don’t know how it got in.
The moth, standing

I swim up from the bottom of the ocean of dreams. I had been at a cocktail party, looking for a sewing bobbin in a highball glass, trying to corner the hostess to ask her, was she really Beth A., classics student, who ate only iceberg lettuce and drank mostly Tab and Kahlua, from my hall freshman year at that women’s college? Her freckles had given her away, but she looked so well — far happier than at 18. But then I wake up.
The dreams I remember are never last night’s; they are always this morning’s, boiling in the wee hours, just as the sky pinkens after lighting, when the cat realizes he’s hungry and knows where I am. I am the food-giver, and sleeping poorly anyway. He embarks on his morning mission: to wake me. It isn’t tough. He leaps onto the bed already purring, walks along my body with feet that can exert the full weight of his 16 pounds in each silent step, crushing organs as he goes. Without him in my life I would not know the map of the painful pressure points of my torso, nor the joy and annoyance of him draped across my chest, cat whiskers tickling my neck and a drop of cat drool rolling down.
Migraines are the last thing about me I haven’t written about. Internal, immeasurable, intimate, mine.
Some days I wake up dizzy. Any day I am dizzy is shit and I like to wonder is it some sort of blood valve in my brain sprung a leak or an artery bulging and ready to burst and or maybe a tumor unfurling a tentacle around my parietal lobe or like a blood pressure thing or even just a migraine-ish moment? I’m allowed to worry about brain tumors because of my mom, and strokes because of her cousin; these are the permissions I’ve assigned myself. (No, I am not looking for your diagnosis.) The real reason is migraines.
If I leave the wrong headache unmedicated it grows; it has size and shape, texture and color. A purple pickle, a dark red railroad tie. A gray hotdog bun, an acid green sea cucumber. It’s usually on the right but it’s sometimes on the left. Some migraines feel like my brain is sizzling, steeped in acid. The big blue pill removes the pain but not the other feeling of unreality. Some people have light aversion and sound sensitivity. I have those and also sometimes an intense revulsion to smells.  If the headache is left unmedicated I can do certain things in an automatic way, packing lunches or driving to school, like holding my breath, moving without thinking. It is only briefly sustained, and then, tasks completed, I go to the dark and collapse again.
When I woke up this other morning the cat was purring and had put both his paws on the end of my nose. I didn’t know what cat he was or where I was.
I had woken several times in the night, and at least once because I felt a migraine coming on, but instead of doing what I am supposed to do, what I know is important to do, which is take a prescribed blue pill, I did nothing.
So that when the cat woke me up with his paws on my nose, I got up and teetered to the bathroom and choked down the water with the big blue pill and just barely didn’t barf. Those big blue pills are a miracle. But you have to take them right away: “A pill only works if you take it, you know.”
The snow that day was fucking terrible. It had a thick crust on top, thanks to first the snow and then the sleet and then the freezing rain yesterday, and the few hours above freezing yesterday afternoon. Overnight, everything froze anew.
The driveway was worse than ever, and just as scary to come up as it is to come down. The snow banked high on both sides, and I didn’t know why the plow guy wasn’t returning our calls. “Traction is overrated,” I said aloud to myself on the way up, fake brave and fake cheerful.
The younger dog amused himself running ahead, practicing his funny dino-walk on snow. With his shoulders hunched and a wide, bent-legs stance, his feet spread into his own little snowshoes, he only broke through the crust every ten steps or so. He did better than me out there. I struggled with every third step. And then when the crust broke free, the loose pieces skittered away down the hill, making a sound like a weird electronic squelch, or a squirrel’s scold, or something else, menacing and warning: you shouldn’t be out here, it said.
Meanwhile. The drugs worked.
I don’t like to think about or talk about migraines. I don’t like to listen to other people giving me advice about my migraines. If I’m scowling, I would rather let someone think I’m a huge bitch rather than know I have a migraine. When finally I went to a doctor to talk about them, he was grouchy about being Danish and me thinking he was Dutch, but he sent me home with six samples of medications, a list of foods that may or may not contribute to some people’s migraines, and a chart for keeping a headache diary. I tried all the drugs, and I never started a headache diary. I now have a prescription for a big blue pill, and if I take it in time, I don’t have migraines.
So there’s nothing to talk about.
I remember details about my first migraine aura, because my mother made such a big deal about it. And later, told the story. I was walking home from camp. It was (probably) the summer between 5th and 6th grade. I was wearing Dr. Scholl’s sandals. I liked to drag my feet along the sidewalk and make them clonk. I’d wear the rubber pad off the heel in a single summer. But I’d outgrow them anyway so who cared? Somewhere along Davis Drive just past Central, I noticed a shell-shaped blur in the upper right quadrant of my vision. It was cool and wavy and shimmering. It was still there if I closed one eye. I walked home slowly because it was interesting and I was unalarmed. I floated it there, in front of me, like a see-through balloon tethered to me by an invisible string. I came in the house and rested my face on the cool tile of the kitchen floor. We had gotten AC in the kitchen then, my mother had someone cut a hole in the wall for it; in other seasons it was closed behind a cabinet door. The cool tile floor was irresistible to my cheek.
By and by I had to explain what I was doing, the shell had morphed into a piece of bacon. My mother rushed me to the eye doctor. The alarm in her voice on the phone was incongruous to the experience I was having with my face on the floor. I think she thought my retina had detached. Dr. Joffe found nothing wrong with my vision and explained to my mother that it was probably a migraine aura.
My mother had headaches frequently. Sometimes, it seemed to me she’d have to have a lie-down on one of the matching loveseats in the living room every afternoon, her forearm flung across her eyes. You don’t think about whether a thing your mother does is normal or not when you’re a kid. It’s your mother. Everything your mother does is what all mothers in the world might do. The whole blue floral slipcover era she had headaches in the afternoons. They were hers, the headaches, and we left her to them.
I didn’t really start having migraines until I got to college. Some of them my freshman year were whoppers. As the darkness of a migraine closed in, I never sought medical help, I just slept them off. It was like period cramps or something. A thing that happened that you couldn’t do anything about, you missed everything you were supposed to have done, work, school, whatever and then a couple of days later you’d be fine.
Migraine sleep is the worst sleep.
I am dreaming. I have arrived at the red brick house I grew up in. Drifts of snow block the path to the front door, but there is a thinner spot, to the right, along the bushes. I go in the house through the side porch where the stinky pet alligator once lived and have a conversation with my living mother in the kitchen. It is the 70s kitchen, with the barn-siding halfway up the walls and brown bargello wallpaper. Then, I go to the bathroom upstairs. All the white tile is the same, as is the poster of the animals: “Extinct is Forever.” I am wearing gray.
I hear my husband’s voice say, “Hey, Maggie,” and I wake up, startled. I look around the room. I am alone. He is away on a business trip.
The cat was happy I was finally awake. He had tried to rouse me at the first sign of daylight this morning. He always knows when I bubble up to the surface of lighter sleep, between cycles of dreams.
I dreamed all sorts of things last night, but getting up to pee and texting my husband to say I heard him say, “Hey,” chased them out of my head. That, and rising dizzy to stagger to the bathroom. My balance is wrecked. My left ear is stuffed-up-feeling. Allergies don’t help; it’s a visit to the fun house. I must look drunk. I noticed we had a dusting of snow last night.
Things that can give you migraines: bright winter sun, hormones, red wine, storms, injustice.
I lived in Seattle 18 years, with migraines at least 3 or 4 days out of every month. That’s about 2 years of just headaches. Sometimes they were connected in that they seemed to be the same kind. It’s that moth circling the lightbulb; you see one once, and another one on another day, and you don’t think about how many there are until you have to clean out the glass bulb around the fixture and there are a hundred bodies, some the same, some different. When do you realize that it’s too many headaches?
The part about the moth:
It was flat on the windowsill, still and spread in the way moths do when they think they’re hiding, and well-lit. I wanted a picture. It was the color of sawdust, and the size and texture of pencil shavings and may have been liberated from a Number 2 Ticonderoga, and then bewitched by someone or something. Which fairy brings the pencil shavings to life? Which fairy sends the headaches?
I crouched to photograph the moth that looked like pencil shavings because the light was good: bright, but not too bright, and overcast, making it indirect. And just as I struggled to position my camera that is really just my phone, a spit of wind slipped through the window screen and hit the moth at the perfect angle to stand it on its end upon the windowsill.
It was not until after I took the picture that I realized that the moth had not made the movement itself, and stood in a pose for me or against me. Defiant, risen, mantled, shavings-looking moth. But dead. Still.
My head sort of hurts today but I think that’s from being so hard asleep, so deep into the dream that I had to swim up from the bottom of the ocean of dreams. It’s like the bends.
How do you cure migraines? With metaphors.