22 September 2014

Apple Juice

I shall now regale you with the story of the one and only time in my life I have ever craved anything.

It was when I had strep throat this past March. I had developed the sore throat on Sunday afternoon and by Sunday night, I couldn't swallow anything. No food, no water... nothing. I fought through Monday half in a state of denial: "It can't be strep throat... I just had it less than a year ago... and anyway, I can't get medication because I don't have a vehicle... so it can't be strep throat..."

By Tuesday I realised that there was no escaping the reality -- it was strep throat. I began in earnest the process of trying to beg a ride or a vehicle from somebody, anybody, on campus. I even resorted to asking my friend who lives in the area if her parents could give me a ride to a doctor. But nobody was going to town. Literally. Nobody.

Tuesday night marked 48 hours without food. I went to dance class as usual, even though I knew I was likely to collapse of exhaustion. I was not missing dance class. By this time, I was so miserable I was actually considering walking to Moose Jaw (twenty minutes' drive from the college) -- figuring if I started out right after dance class, I should be able to hit town by the next morning. But when I returned from dance class, I found that one of the hall leaders had 'strongly suggested' to someone with a vehicle that they should take me to the doctor the next day. I had a ride to the doctor for Wednesday morning.

Wednesday I went to the doctor, got the diagnosis and a prescription, and the rest of the day is lost to me. I probably came back to the dorm and slept. I know I missed lunch because I felt so terrible. But I also know I didn't miss a single class over this entire strep throat story, so I must have gone to history class that afternoon.

Thursday the antibiotics hadn't really started to kick in yet. I had now lived over 72 hours without being able to eat enough to satisfy my hunger. I was getting faint and sleeping every spare second I had. The antibiotics made water taste like sulphur, which gagged me, and as a result I was dying of thirst as well as hunger.

Thursday afternoon, after lunch, I was laying on my bed, too spent to move. I had managed to choke down a grilled cheese sandwich at lunch -- the first substantial meal I'd eaten since Sunday lunch -- but the awful taste of water had prevented me from washing the sandwich down with anything. I was so thirsty, but the thought of drinking the water turned my stomach.

So it's 1.30pm and I'm laying on my bed dying of thirst. I can't have water because it makes me gag, I don't want anything sugary because I know it'll just feed the infection, plus I don't really like soda pop anyway. But I needed to drink something or else I would go crazy.

And suddenly it hit me. Apple juice.

The intensity of the craving startled me. I've never before craved anything in my life, and suddenly I wanted apple juice so badly I would have killed someone for it.

But the cafeteria was closed. I would have to wait until suppertime. Unless... I could go to the store. It was only a ten-minute walk to the store, but in my wiped-out, sick, and half-starved state it was too exhausting to even fathom the walk there, never mind walking back. (By this time I was so out of it that I could barely get off of the bed.)

So I lay there, staring at the ceiling, half-asleep with the phantom taste of apple juice on my tongue. I hadn't had apple juice in years, but I could taste it. And then I remembered the small bag of Granny Smith apples on the shelf directly above my head.

I have never eaten an apple so fast in my life. It wasn't apple juice, but it was an apple and it contained juice and that was all that mattered. It carried me over until supper, and then after dance that night, despite being completely wiped out (dancing when you haven't eaten in four days kind of takes it out of you), I walked to the store, bought apple juice and a Powerade, and returned to my dorm room, where I proceeded to guzzle the entire bottle of apple juice in half an hour.

And that's the last I remember about strep throat. For scarcely had I had time to recover before facing a new enemy... two major papers and a memorisation worth 50% of the course grade that had been due that week. And it was then that I learnt about the value of mercy, for it was merciful profs who kept me above academic probation.

02 September 2014

The End Of The Rattletrap

Last Sunday I drove the rattletrap for the last time.

It was only a matter of time. Regular readers of this blog will recall the myriad of posts about its voracious appetite for engine coolant (to be regaled with one such tale, click here). It had no air conditioning to speak of, and the heat only kicked in if the vehicle ran for more than forty consecutive minutes. The door covering the gas cap clung to the side with a lone rusted hinge, flapping like a flag at highway speeds but try as we might, we couldn't pry it off of that last tenacious hinge. The thing was so run-down that I could probably leave it unlocked with the keys on the front seat in downtown Edmonton and nobody would bother to steal it. Somewhere in the back it had a chronic rattle -- hence the name. My mother hated driving it mostly for that reason, but I found that if you turned White Heart and Daniel Amos up loud enough, that usually fixed the problem.

It started out as a family minivan in September 2001, after my mother totaled our green Spirit. After carting around three, then four, then five, then six children, it entered retirement in early 2010 when the family grew too big to fit in its grey bucket seats and a larger van joined the vehicular ranks.

Retirement was temporary though... six months later I totaled my car, and my parents decided to dust off the minivan, rename it 'The Little Van,' and give me one of the keys. I had learnt to drive on this van... my dad would take to me to town and then tell me 'turn at those lights,' 'turn here,' and so on until we somehow magically wound up at Tim Horton's.

And so I become the proud driver of the Little Van, although I privately and affectionately christened it 'The Rattletrap.' It was in the rattletrap that I took the left turn that almost killed me for the first time since that accident, and it was the rattletrap that acted as taxi for my younger friends at church until they got their licenses. I was at the wheel when the odometer hit 200,000 kilometres, and I was also at the wheel this spring when it rolled over 300,000 (as I write, it sits at 307,329).

The rattletrap became a bit of a haven for me. The house is absolutely not soundproof at all, so the only time I felt comfortable enough to sing (something I enjoy but in which I am absolutely not confident in my 'abilities') was alone, in the rattletrap, listening to Petra, White Heart, Prodigal, and in the past year and a half, Daniel Amos. I memorised a ridiculous amount of song lyrics on my one-hour-each-direction commute to dance class and/or dance team every week. The rattletrap had a phenomenal sound system, and believe me, I took full advantage of it. It sounded better than every CD player in our house (trust me... we've got a few), and I grew to love driving. Because driving meant music, and I could pay (almost) undivided attention to the glorious music if the only other thing I had to focus on was driving.

I drove to ballet class, Bible study, and worship team practice most frequently. In fact, the rattletrap and I conquered the drive to the dance school so often that I could put in almost any album I owned and know exactly which part of which song I would be listening to at certain points of the journey. If I got delayed, the music and the scenery would be incongruent. To this day I cannot listen to White Heart's album Don't Wait For The Movie without seeing the city lights, the overpasses and the skyline (and the construction) during Dr Jekyll And Mr Christian. I would often pull up to the dance school exactly as the last notes of How Many Times was fading out. Driving home from Bible study and worship team practice would often have me driving during dusk or early darkness, and I relished every second of it.

But the rattletrap was aging. The aforementioned budget for coolant was growing. Even the faithful and much-used CD player started to get a little bitter and grumpy. At first it simply refused to play the CDs I've burnt on the computer. It was a blow to not be able to listen to my Prodigal albums (I haven't been able to get the new deluxe re-release package yet because of financial constraints -- however, you, dear reader, are in need of this collection), but hey, I still had a few factory-pressed DA albums. So I contented myself with listening to ¡Alarma! all summer long. But then, one day when I returned to the rattletrap to drive home from my grandmother's house, it simply refused to pick up the CD where it had left off. I argued with it for half the drive home and even put in DA's Darn Floor - Big Bite, which it had played without complaint only a few days earlier. It shot me an error message before the disc was even fully loaded in the player, and then refused to return the disc to me. I eventually got the CD back, but I knew the rattletrap was now in its final days.

Two weeks later it started to 'overheat' even with the coolant tank full. We could only drive it for about ten minutes (if that) before the warning light would come on. We could no longer tell whether to heed the warning or ignore it.

It was over.

I cried as I nursed it home for the final time, in silence. It still handles beautifully -- it was almost like a ballroom dance partner. People tell me all the time I'm such a smooth driver, but I think most of it was the rattletrap.

I knew when I first became its primary driver four years ago that its days were numbered, but you're never quite ready for the day when it comes. And now that I'm back at college, I will never see it again; never again share with it a dark magical highway with streetlight-stars and skylines lighting my way to dance, friends, or home.

I miss you already, Little Van. Thank you for the good times, and always for the music.