Sea Sickness

Try to focus on the numbers.

Beware, the title of this post is not a metaphor for longing for the sea or anything poetic like that. This post is really about seasickness, the puking kind. You have been warned.

Imagine you are in the middle of a packed dining room with a large oval tray full of plates of quesadillas, burritos, and fajitas balanced on your right hand high above your head and you have an anxiety attack, except, without the panic part. You are ready to deliver this food, but you don’t know where to go. But it is not like you don’t know where the food goes, it’s that the room is swimming, and you don’t know which way to turn, table 9, 10, 8 are all the same. You know the numbers have meaning, but you suddenly realize you are having a hard time pulling them into focus. You pull yourself out of it for a moment, concentrate on the compass, turn the wheel and head for your table. You dare not look up at the horizon for fear you will hurl on the hungry people. You are ok as long as you focus, but you can’t keep it for long and the faces and table numbers start swimming again and you don’t know where to go. It becomes obvious you can’t continue. You turn the wheel, look at the compass, remember your heading, and focus. You start to determine how to get out of the situation because as soon as you hand over your tray and give up on the numbers – you are out, down, you don’t ever want to move or see anything ever again. Communication needs to be direct. Extra words or ideas are hard to understand. Very slowly, clearly, and loudly you start to speak. You only want to say it once; repeating yourself takes too much energy. “I have to lay down.” You verbalize the instructions you’ve already worked out. Put the cushion down. Move the tether from the starboard to port side. Ok – take the tray. You ease out from in between the tables and you are down, horizontal, eyes closed. It’s a relief. For a bit.

Your mind is still swimming, but without the numbers it’s all over the place. Thoughts swirl in and out. You can’t control them as they switch from one to another. Some thoughts make you feel nauseous and you fear a stray one may make you throw up. You try to breath deep, but that makes you feel like throwing up. You just try to lie still. You keep your eyes closed — Anything you see might make you throw up. It’s all about not puking, but you don’t want to think about that, it might make you throw up.

Finally you throw up.

Saliva forms under your tongue and you have a 3 second warning to roll over and hang your head over the cockpit floor, your body heats up and it feels briefly comforting, but then dinner makes its way from your stomach, up through your esophagus, and on to a strategically placed towel, because although your partner don’t doesn’t really mind the puke, he doesn’t want to stand in it. You continue to retch until you feel better and you roll back over to your sea of thoughts.

Then comes the pain. You have to pee. Did I mention you don’t want to move? But your bladder feels like it is going to burst. You have few choices. Go below to the head – this means navigating through the interior of the boat, which is heeled over at least 45 degree and is pitching up and down, the idea makes you want to throw up. Pee on your towel – this means getting up, it’s gross, and the idea makes you want to throw up. Hold it as long you can.

And of course one round of throwing up is never enough. You continue to vomit until you begin to dry heave. If only you’d eaten a bigger dinner you’d still be puking instead of feeling like you were being strangled from the inside.

Eventually, you begin to feel better. You are in calmer seas. You open your eyes. The dining room has emptied out. You see the busser wiping down tables and the closing server mindlessly rolling up silverware. The dish washer fills the last rack of dirty plates, slides it into the industrial dishwashing machine, slowly pulls down the doors, presses a button, and you hear the soothing sound of water as placid waves gently lap the hull of the boat on its tack towards a depthless shore.

You feel somewhat cognizant again. The puking seems to be over. You sit up, take the helm, and help dock the boat or point it into the wind while your partner drops the anchor. You made it. Relief. At last — you can go pee.

It is over, but not quite. There is a day or two of recovery. A fog hangs over your head. The idea of anything besides bland food makes you feel nauseous. Being upright too long makes you feel nauseous. All you want to do is be horizontal until you feel better again and then you do feel better again and you can go on deck and gaze at most amazing crystal clear blue water expanding towards a placidly endless horizon.

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