503. Ziggy’s Diary: 31

A month since I last wrote. A month.

I can explain. The problem with lies is that they can become the truth. This happens to me often, and always has. I would lie to stay out of school, for example, tricking my mother into thinking I had a fever by sipping her coffee when she wasn’t looking and then putting a thermometer into my mouth. At least once, the next morning, I woke up with a real fever and then was out for a week with the flu. Did I bring it on myself? Or had I somehow known I was getting sick and that was why I wanted to stay home in the first place?

I’m writing this from the hospital. I still don’t know if I wished myself here, or if this is all part of me wishing myself home. Or maybe some other twisted way in which my inner self is still, restlessly, trying to end itself, like a cat in a cage that throws itself against the bars until it tires, but only ceases temporarily.

Or maybe Kali’s Revenge finally got me.

I had decided I needed to leave. I don’t really want to face any of the things that await me, but being chickenshit is NOT enlightenment. But getting home from here is a little more complicated than just hopping on a train. If Carynne or Digger had been available, I would have tried to have them arrange it all. As it was, I had to ask around quite a bit at the hostels to try to find a travel agent.

The first one I went to literally chased me out the door, screaming in Kannada that beggars were not welcome.

Okay, yes, the only clothes I’ve got I’ve been wearing for months, my hair’s a mess, and I’m as brown as a mahogany chest. I look the part. And I had been feeling awful. The headache that came after that Christmas “party” had never really gone away and I had started to wonder if I ate something bad, as well. So I probably looked even worse than I thought.

At the second one, I went in brandishing my American passport and speaking American English. The guy at least listened to me, though he kept looking at me like I was getting mud on the chair I was sitting in. There’s a caste system here, I know, is that what’s going on? Anyway. He was able to look up flights and information and give me prices. But he wouldn’t just take my word for it that I have a credit card number memorized. I know, that’s fraud if it’s not my card. I got a little testy with him and then I ended up disengaging and leaving without further argument because I got a feeling he was going to call the police next.

Which set me to thinking whether there was some other way I could get home. And I thought, what if I got really sick? You read news stories about Americans who get airlifted back to the States to take care of grave injuries, right? What if I caught cholera or one of the things they suggested we get vaccinated for but which we didn’t because of the secretive way we arrived? I wondered if taking a dip in the river would work.

I didn’t actually take a dip in the river, though. I eventually went to the hostel and asked the clerk who was kind of my friend there what people did if they lost their credit cards. He said there’s a number on the back of the card that you can call, collect from outside the U.S., to the card company to report that it was lost, and they would send you another one. Brilliant. But the problem was that since I didn’t have the card, I couldn’t call the number, since I didn’t know what it was.

I left the ashram at that point, and moved back into the hostel. But there were no Americans there with American credit cards.

Two days later an American came in and I asked him if he had VISA or Master Card and what flavor he had. He was quite skeptical at first but I assured him I didn’t want to see his account number, just the customer service phone number on the back because I had lost my card and actually I was kind of stuck in India until I could replace it. He gave me the number. It wasn’t the same card company as mine, but I called it, collect, and managed to wangle the actual phone number of the correct company! Amazing what the helpfulness and kindness of random strangers can do. Some nut calls you from India with a weird request. Then again if you work in a call center maybe my call would have been the highlight of the day.

Anyway. I got the correct number. I called it. They grilled me about who I was. My social security number. My mother’s maiden name. City I was born. Et cetera. I didn’t blame them. I mean, what’s to stop some random con man calling them up and getting new credit cards mailed to a sketchy hostel in Bangalore? Eventually they decided I had to be real, and at first they told me they would mail a new card to my billing address in Boston, which I said was okay, but my manager wasn’t there to get the card, see? I was really trying to get myself out of India and didn’t want to wait for her to get home and then Fedex the card to me, did I? They eventually got it and said a new card would be sent directly to the hostel but it was going to take four days to get there. Okay, four days.

That night I began to have cramps. My stomach was in intense pain. And my fever must have spiked so high that I passed out.

I’m lucky that instead of just stealing my passport and leaving me to die in a ditch, the hostel clerk had me hospitalized.

I remember nothing of the next two weeks my fever was so high. Nothing. I can remember details from a week when my brain was obliterated by painkillers better than I can remember the previous fourteen days. Well, okay, I remember a lot of pain. That’s not a memory so much as a sense. Like remembering that you had a dream but not the details.

I know it’s fourteen days because I just read the notes on the clipboard attached to my bed. Some of them are in a language I don’t know, some are in English, but the chart of dates and vital signs is easy enough to interpret.

My fever was 40 degrees C. I think that’s quite high. When we were in Toronto I remember the poem they taught us to figure out celsius:

Thirty is hot,
twenty is nice,
ten put a coat on,
zero is ice.

If thirty is hot, say eighty five? Forty would have to be what. A hundred? 105? Probably 105 if I was delirious?

Was it cholera after all?

(Ziggy’s diary ends tomorrow!)


  • Stacey says:

    Oh, Ziggy. You do nothing by halves. It’s no wonder you’re my favorite :/

  • Kunama says:

    40! That’s a freakn heatwave over here! Humans should not get that hot! Did they throw him into a tub of ice like they did to one of my friends when he had a massive fever as a child?!

  • Billy says:

    When I hit 104° (40°C) when I was a kid my grandmother had me sit in the shower in my swimsuit after she set it to a luke warm temperature. After that she started to slowly lower the water temperature and told me to let her know the very moment the water felt okay or even slightly too cold. After that, she had me sit there until I felt completely cool while she changed my bed linens including pillows. She took my temperature after I felt better, then sent me back to bed bed a can of chilled V8 and a bottle of Powerade.

    • ctan says:

      The last time I hit 104 F I went to the emergency room. That temperature can seriously cook your brain. I had some kind of stomach flu and had been puking for 2 days, and had gotten so dehydrated that they put two full bags of IV saline into me before I even felt it. (And they put an anti-nausea drug into the IV which was such a relief I fell asleep immediately… whew…)

      Your grandmother did the right thing!

      • Bill Heath says:

        Thank God for grandmothers.

        It’s Celsius times one point eight plus thirty-two. So forty times one point eight is seventy two, plus thirty two is one hundred four Fahrenheit.

        Fever is part of the body’s defense against microorganisms. They cannot survive at high heat. Unfortunately, above thirty-nine Celsius, neither can your brain.

  • Billy says:

    Thankfully I have always a strong stomach and a grandmother with medical background. She talked to my doctor who did that her method would be fine as long as she let my fever stay at a minimum of a low grade one so my body could fight it’s own fight. I got back up to 103 but the fever broke on its own the second time. She gave me minimal meds so that my immune system would have to fight its own battle. I almost never get sick enough to need to rest these days and abs have only been hospitalized once since.

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