First, stop eating. It’s easy because the flavors hurt: the shock of cinnamon atop pumpkin spice latte, the harsh curl of cilantro in an otherwise bland bowl of Vietnamese noodles. It’s easy because it feels like control, and your body will thank you with the amelioration of cramps, of crinkling pain in your stomach, to the left and right of your stomach like the less desirable regions surrounding a bull’s eye. Your body will wake you up in the morning with cold sweat, with clamped muscles. You vomit stomach acid. You eventually relent, and at the hospital, they are cavalier about your symptoms. It is 7PM and you have eaten three animal crackers today. You will spend twenty-four hours in the E.R. “It’s lucky we were able to admit you,” Dr. Eric says. He is handsome and scruffy, green-scrubbed—a soap opera version of a doctor. “You should feel lucky that you’re not really that sick.” Eric is his real name, because honestly, truly, fuck Dr. Eric.
This is not how it starts. It starts when you are eighteen, in college, and you can’thold down a shot of vodka. Similarly, you can’t chase the non-shot with cranberry juice. Your mother suggests heartburn, which sounds like something only fifty-year-old men have and seems to be a dig about how oversensitive you are. I’ve never met a person with so many feelings. Your roommates are concerned. Your friends are jealous. You are not gaining the freshman fifteen. You are light as a feather, stiff as a board.
At the health center, the nurses trill. A young woman! Nauseated! Check, check. They are disappointed with the state of your fresh and unproblematic uterus. You keep a food diary and narrow it down to turkey, a ciabatta, herbed mayonnaise, a sleepy sheet of romaine lettuce. It’s called a Vassar Club and comes housed with contraband carrots and potato chips, both on the vomit list. You struggle through one each day. The health center nurse stumbles across a magic word in her questions. “Are you anxious?”
From before I can remember to the beginning of my high school years, it was my family’s tradition to go to Disney World for the week of Thanksgiving. It was the only vacation we took for the better part of my childhood, and we prided ourselves on our special insider knowledge as regular, annual visitors to Disney World. The crown jewel in our treasury of underloved “secret” attractions was Maelstrom: A High Seas Adventure.
Today’s a happy day, readers. Today I’m marrying the assistant girl, which marks the beginning of spring. Every fall I shed my old assistant-wife, and every spring I marry the new one. It’s an old Vermont custom – as old as sinking your mother into a vat of fresh-churned butter and storing her in the jam-cellar for freshness – and it makes for a good harvest.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s previous World of Wonder columns can be found here.
Just on the heels of National Penguin Awareness Day (January 20), I wanted to turn the spotlight on the smallest of the penguin family: the fairy penguin.
Fairy penguins (also known as little blue penguins) live in rookeries along the coast of Australia and New Zealand. These little guys grow to only about a foot tall and keep their signature indigo feathers waterproof with a special oil from their tail glands. Their pink feet tuck in to help them when they speed through the ocean in search of some anchovy or arrow squid nibbles.