Saturday, December 3, 2016

Rain and Gourmet Painkillers

New York in the rain feels impossible, but only if you're wearing the wrong pair of shoes, as I often am. For whatever reason, whenever it's wet out I tend to eschew my rain boots with a firm hand, thinking to myself, "Nah, it'll be fine, I'm sure."

It's never fine. Not once has it been fine, and I'm usually often left sitting wherever I am with my wet-socked feet resting outside of my drenched shoes, trying to warm them up. As I have doubtlessly written before, I am regularly unprepared for the weather at hand, whether I'm short a layer, missing gloves, forgetting an umbrella, or what have you. In New York, being unprepared in these ways can feel a little hopeless once you're out for the day, and you resign yourself to a day of wet feet, hands cracking from the cold, buying an umbrella that you later leave in a cab or, if you're me, all three. But at the end of the day, you come home, flop onto your couch, take off your wet shoes, rub lotion on your hands, and you know you survived. You always survive. Which is why maybe I find myself in the constant position of thinking "Nah, it'll be fine."

Survive I did this past week, as two days of rain pillaged the city. After all, I think to myself, it's weather. What are you going to do, let a little rain get to you? And with my incorrect footwear I headed out into the deluge, feet soaked by the time I walked the 15 minutes to the subway. Oh Lyss, I said, you've done it again! Yet I soldiered on to one of my favorite cafes in the city and ordered a Peppermint tea to soothe my insides, which tickled me awake in the morning rife with acid, and settled onto one of the cafe's indoor picnic tables to work. The track lights shone bright overhead, since the skylight which usually plunged sunlight into the space was at a loss on such a grey day. It felt dark for hours, as dark as when I went in in the afternoon to when I left around 6:30 in the evening.

And maybe that wouldn't have been so bad, except after my peppermint tea, the acid didn't go away and I found myself drinking the now-stale tea in hopes it would end. Hyperacidity, or acid reflux, runs in my family--I experienced it for the first time at around 14 years old. Normally I only get it if I go too long without eating. The way I usually describe it is that it's normal for everyone to get hunger pains; in those cases, for people who don't have acid reflux, it feels like drops from a leaky faucet. For someone who does have acid reflux, however, it feels like a fountain. Today was not just a fountain because I was hungry, as I had just eaten. Today was a fountain all day, a fountain not even the Zantac I had taken earlier in the day could fix. Flares like these happen for me maybe once or twice a year, far apart enough that when one occurs I don't remember the last time it happened. It lasts several days, usually fading out by day four or five. I eat low-acid foods during the time--bread, leafy greens, apples, rice cakes, and lots and lots of coconut water--and eventually it just goes away. But now I was in this coffee shop, I had a ton of work to do, I wasn't hungry, I had just taken medication so I couldn't take more, so all I could do was sit there and suck it up.

It's strange to be in pain in New York when you're outside of your home. Home is never close by, not a place you can just jump in your car and get to, when you just want to curl up in a ball and make your guts stop eating you from the inside out. I was sure there would be nothing left of my stomach lining by the time the day was over. But I kept working. What else could I do?

And then, around 3pm, more of my innards decided to mutiny. Cramps invaded my lower stomach with a vengeance, a cavalry of spiked soldiers swinging maces and shooting arrows and exploding cannons through my insides. I crouched over my computer, resting my forehead against its silver keyboard as I felt cannon fire and acid flame at once. But I couldn't let them win. So I kept working. To my credit, I was pretty productive until the cramps got so bad I asked one of the girls behind the counter if they had any Advil. I wanted to tell her about the rebellion inside of me, but I decided not to. Maybe she saw me clutching my gut or hunching over my computer or curling my back as I walked in agony and she knew already. Or maybe she was just a nice person. I took the pills she gave me with a swig of my now-cold tea and prayed for them to act soon.

But after an hour, they didn't. My brain was tripping over itself and, unable to focus, I decided to leave, which was a bummer since there was a reading in the area I wanted to attend that night. As I was walking down Spring Street, however, I found myself in front of gourmet chocolatier Vosges. I remembered from an earlier, desperate search of things to eat to cure my cramps that dark chocolate--at least 70% dark chocolate, the article said--could help. Normally I find the idea of paying $8 for a chocolate bar utterly absurd and bourgeois, but at this point my back was practically in a c-shape from hunching over in pain and I was hoping the stuff would work in a quick fix.

I walked into the store and found myself speaking in a deep, throaty voice to the clerks inside--the acid in my stomach, still raging, had risen up to my throat and I was finding it difficult to talk and not sound like an 80-year-old woman who smoked 5 packs a day. "Hello," I said, surprised I didn't start coughing smoke in their faces. "What dark chocolate do you have that's over 70%?" The very friendly staff, wearing all black and impossibly hip glasses, pointed me toward a rather large selection of bars. "You can sample any of them you like, as well," a female clerk said, smiling. I raised an eyebrow and smiled back. Gourmet painkillers, who knew! I sampled two, though I remember wondering why I would choose to delay a potential pain reprieve in favor of trying a fucking chocolate sample for fuck's sake. Ultimately I settled on the Smoked Salt bar, and when making my way to the register I noticed there was something on their menu called Super Dark Elixirs. You mean there was a concoction I could possibly drink to relieve the monstrosities barreling their way through my innards, too? How interesting. Tell me more.

The Super Dark Elixirs were made with just the dark, dark cocoa and water, and came in two flavors: Coconut Ash and Banana and Guajillo & Chipotle Chili. Wanting to spare myself any more possible pain for the evening, I went for the Coconut Ash and Banana. I thanked the kind people at the store for helping me make selections, and left with my beverage and chocolate bar in tow.

After I left, I went back to the cafe and one of two things happened: either the Advil, after another hour, had finally started working or the hot drink soothed not just soothed my stomach acid but somehow made its way through my system to cease the cramp battle entirely. Or both. I want to believe in the magic of gourmet chocolate, but common sense leaves me skeptical to say the least. The point is, the pain was gone, at least for a little while.

Yes, my shoes were still soaked from all the trekking in the rain, of course, but two out of three ain't bad, you know?