Last night, from off in the hallway, Peter says, â€œHmm, that duck isnâ€™t making me feel so good.â€
A couple of hours earlier weâ€™d had a dinner of leftover pad thai, which weâ€™d made the night before, and some leftover duck salad from a restaurant, from Friday night. Both things we’d eaten before, to no ill effect.
When Peter says heâ€™s feeling sick, no offense, it usually means heâ€™s eaten too much. Which also means that Iâ€™ll probably be okay, but it all depends on the party weâ€™ve been to. Itâ€™s far less likely that heâ€™s about to throw up because heâ€™s eaten something toxic.
As Iâ€™ve related earlier, I have a bit of a tetchy gut, and just about anything semi-dodgy makes me yak; when I travel, I plan on being down with vomiting for a day or two. (Miraculously, this has never been the case in Mexico.) By contrast, Peter has a GI tract of steel, and can eat steak tartare sandwiches given to him by lepers. Itâ€™s a little infuriating to travel with, in fact (â€˜cause, yâ€™know, Lonely Planet says those leper-made sammies are the tastiest thing to eat in Cuba!).
So, when Peter says heâ€™s feeling sick, and Iâ€™ve just shared a dinner with him, I have two very conflicting responses: 1) Gosh, Peter, I hope youâ€™re fine. 2) Gosh, Peter, I hope you are sick, just so you know what it feels like for a change.
And then, the corollary to the latter: If heâ€™s sick, then I am truly screwed. How sick am I willing to be just for a little petty satisfaction?
As Iâ€™m sitting in my chair, writing and mulling over this dilemma, Peter does indeed start throwing up. It doesnâ€™t sound pretty. Iâ€™ve very quickly lost my nerveâ€”I take it all back. I never wished heâ€™d be sick. Evil, evil, evil. And is that a dull ache Iâ€™m feeling in my own gut?
From here, itâ€™s waitingâ€”to see if I really get nauseous, and to see if he has to throw up again. If itâ€™s just a one-shot deal, then it was pure gluttony or just too much chili in the duck (that shit was deadly hot), and Iâ€™m off the hook. Iâ€™m mentally calculating the ratio of my dinner to hisâ€”Iâ€™d really had only a few bites, because Iâ€™d had a bunch of bread and cheese beforehand. So, 1:4, maybe? Does that mean Iâ€™ll puke 75 percent less?
Just about the time Iâ€™m really beginning to question my own digestion, Peter rouses himself from bed to throw up again. I am still wide awake, sitting up writing, and now I know I am fucked. I close up my computer and ready myself for misery.
But Iâ€™m an old hand at this. So Iâ€™m regaining a teensy bit of that schadenfreude, because I can puke up my dinner like a pro, and I know Iâ€™ve been through a lot worse than that meager bite of duck (or was it the shrimp in the pad thai?) can do to me. It has been a few years, so Iâ€™m a little rusty, but itâ€™s just like riding a bicycle. There, one quick visit to the toilet, and Iâ€™m feeling much better. (But I can tell that wonâ€™t be the end of it. Not sure how I know, but itâ€™s one of those things you get good at judging.)
Meanwhile, Peterâ€™s coming around for his third visit, and moaning a bitâ€”â€œNo mÃ s,â€ he says weakly, futilely. I canâ€™t say Iâ€™m actually enjoying watching him, because it is awful to see someone you love suffering for something they didnâ€™t set themselves up for (if itâ€™s their own damn fault, well, thatâ€™s different). But there is this nasty little core in me that is taking a sick pride in my years of experience with food poisoning, dysentery and so on. From the age of eight, I think it was, and that roast beef au jus at Villa di Capo in Albuquerque, in which the beef had a fascinating iridescent gleam to it, yet I still ate it because the au jus part was so fancy-soundingâ€¦ Certainly, controlled vomiting was never a life skill I aspired to perfect, but I’ll take what I can get.
â€œHon,â€ I want to say to Peter as he huddles on the bathroom floor, â€œthis is nothinâ€™.â€ But heâ€™s already heard my worst barfing story, so I try to look at the bright side: â€œAt least weâ€™re not so in synch that we need the toilet at the same time. At least we donâ€™t have diarrhea too. At least weâ€™re not in a palm-thatch backpackersâ€™ hut somewhere up the Mekong with only a pit latrine.â€ And to myself I say, â€œAt least I had only a couple bites of dinner.â€ Evil, evil, evil.
We made it through the night, having heaved up everything by about 4am. The next morning, Peter said, â€œI think thatâ€™s the most Iâ€™ve thrown up, wellâ€¦ever.â€
Damn it. This robs me of all satisfaction, as it only reminds me of all the times Iâ€™ve gotten sick and he hasnâ€™t, of what a strangely lucky duck he is (ew, duck, just the mention makes my head spin a little). Is there a German word for the sort of schadenfreude that comes back to bite you in the ass?