The Mortal Gauntlet

Mar 3, 2014 | Danger Zones & Dark Sides

MoviPrepI was about to drink my disgusting laxative tonight, in preparation for my first colonoscopy tomorrow, when I received an email telling me that a healthy friend was rushed to the hospital Friday for a crisis that landed her in Intensive Care. It sure put a different spin on my day.

Preparing for a colonoscopy already had me contemplating mortality, but up to that point I’d been mostly laughing about it. I was almost excited about the excuse to go out to a big lunch with my husband tomorrow right after the doctor gives me the anal probe I never asked for. But now all I can think about is whether my friend will be okay after receiving the sort of blow that can befall any of us at any time—no matter how healthy we are.

Life is an endless gauntlet, and it gets narrower as we go. So I’m trying to drink an entire liter of salty, snotty, sickeningly sweet MoviPrep solution with a sense of gratitude. MoviPrep: what a cruel name, sounds like a promise of theatrical entertainment to follow. Still, as I swallow this stuff, I’m thinking it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, until I realize I have to drink another liter in the morning. And of course, I haven’t hit the toilet yet. Ah yes, that must be the entertainment, the really big show, a great performance in several movements.

A couple of friends joked with me the other day that every now and then, a bowel cleansing seems like an appealing idea, especially after they’ve been overdoing it on junk food. Eat burgers and pizzas, then empty and scrub out your bowels. Mmm, pizza.

Per my gastroenterologist’s instructions, I haven’t eaten all day today. This morning another friend told me that she’d heard the best thing to do when you’re fasting is to embrace the feeling of hunger, rather than trying to ignore or deny it. As I contemplate my craving for noodles in my clear chicken broth, I find myself thinking of the hungry people on this planet whose guts feel empty on a regular basis. They run the mortal gauntlet every day.

My mind returns to my friend in the hospital, and I remember her telling me that she sometimes had trouble keeping on weight. I wonder whether or not she has been able to eat the past couple of days. I wonder if she cares, if she’s just happy to be alive, if she’s terrified of what might come next.

People with insurance are lucky to have such a thing as the colonoscopy, which gives us an opportunity for true preventative health care. A colonoscopy can actually catch cancer before it starts. But there is so much more that is beyond our control in this life.

I just chewed my third ice cube to keep my gag reflex from kicking in as I drank my fourth dose of MoviPrep. It’s not the taste that’s the problem, so much as the fact that there’s just not that much room in my gut. May I just say I think it’s unfair that I, at 5-foot-2, have to drink the same dosage as a 6-foot-2 man? Now I sit shivering at my computer because I’m so full of refrigerated liquid and ice, with perhaps a small dose of fear on top of that, and empty of much else. Within an hour I’ll be emptier still, not even as full of shit as I usually am.

However empty I get, I’ll still be filled with the hope that my friend will recover and thrive. By tomorrow at noon I’ll be filled with food, too. Why not? Whatever else is going on, we’ve all gotta eat. Preferably something delicious that celebrates the opportunity to live to run the gauntlet another day.





About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

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