I stared at myself in the mirror. The bright lights illuminated the bumpy red stranger that materialized in a silent swagger across my upper body. I was mesmerized by the range of his trek. The bumps began behind my ears and spread their way down my torso, over my stomach to my waist. The itchy inflammation met the inside of my arms and continued to spread upwards. I looked down at four pill bottles that lined the counter wondering which one, if any, was the culprit. I swallowed and felt a slight tightening in my throat – I glanced at the reflection of the old lady in the mirror. “You should go to the hospital.”
The nursing staff ushered me into a small cubicle hidden by curtains. I could hear the shallow breathing and small whisperings of people in the rooms next to me. A moan crept out from somewhere and dissipated into the sterile air. A jolly male nurse entered my cubicle and explained he would be putting a Benadryl drip into my bloodstream to treat the allergic reaction. I turned my head away as he expertly inserted the needle into my arm. He inserted another tube linked to a second bag of liquid meant to keep me hydrated. I felt like a science experiment. He explained I would feel light-headed, but it would pass in a few moments, and then he skipped away.
The cold liquid flowed into my veins and my heart thundered in my ears. It was like being drunk in reverse; my limbs floated from my body, and my breath came fast and shallow, gasping for air as if my lungs were filling with liquid. Nausea rolled through me and I looked around my narrow bed for a bucket or a bag, but there wasn’t anything to bend my head over; I was drowning. I waved my hands to the nurse at the counter; he smiled and gave me a thumbs up and my crazed mind thought, “ my god, he’s trying to kill me.” I flapped my arms like a wingless bird attempting take off. He skipped over and checked my vitals, told me to relax, this was a normal reaction, and it would pass in only a few short minutes. I laid my head back into the pillow and focussed on the ashen tiles of the ceiling; the cold sensation of drowning flowed into soothing warmth, like a fine brandy coursing through my veins. My breathing returned to normal and a slight sensation tapped over my skin as the red itchy bumps flickered out like stars in the morning light.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.