Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sick on the Pacific and Keatsian Fantasies

The sun was shining; my beach house was so close to the Pacific I could hear the waves perpetual churn; the morning mist was beginning to burn away from the cloud forest and I was in the bathroom with my head down the toilet wanting to die.
The Pacific ocean at night, Ecuador, Ayampe
A Poorly Poet in Paradise 
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so Newton would have us believe. In my case, I ate guacamole made by a hippie (who was more concerned about the colour and energy of her food than washing her hands) and got dysentery.

It's said the only things you can be certain of in this world are death and taxes, but in South America you can throw food poisoning into the adage. In my first two months in Ecuador I had no fewer than three separate doses, ranging from good, old-fashioned e-coli to the more exotic parasitic sicknesses of amoebic dysentery.

Of course, my latest illness was just another dose of dysentery but my fevered-imagination cooked-up a direr diagnosis. I was in Ayampe, on the sweltering equatorial coast, where dengue fever and malaria can thrive. In fact, the Kiwi surf-dude who lived next door was just recovering from a nasty dose of dengue, AKA break-bone fever, so-called because your muscles spasm so tightly it feels as if your bones might shatter under the strain.

Strange, dark thoughts went through my mind in the crisis of illness. I've always had a romantic inclination, and after three days without food and only tepid water to sip I was beginning to construct a little Keatsian fantasy, propped-up in my Roman deathbed, vainly fighting the final throes of tuberculosis. In fact, I even composed a little poem in my head which I jotted down when I felt better.

With nothing but my imagination for company, I became convinced of its merit. Naturally, when I had recovered and read the poem back with a saner mind it was toe-curlingly pretentious. I was going to destroy it, but that would have been vainglorious – besides, it's hilarious.

Life Through a Mosquito Net

Beyond this stately pleasure dome,
A thousand hungry creatures creep,
Barbarians at the gates of Rome,
Come haunt my fitful sleep.

Swat bloated, bloody bodies red,
To end their blind vampiric thirst,
I'm told from sweat-soaked fever bed,
“You're almost through the worst.”

The net throws smoky shimmers,
To weave the world anew.
In the sun it almost glimmers,
In the night so white it's blue.

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