from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Random #31: A Long, Shitty Weekend

with 4 comments

On Thursday night, I drove out to Gangnam to get some dinner with John, a drinking buddy who used to teach at some science high school in Oryu-dong. While I prefer not to leave my neighborhood ever, John has catered to my hermit tendencies on many occasions and, now that I don’t have to take public transportation, I will make an occasional foray into society for the sake of the few friends I have left in Korea.

We went to a small Japanese ramen place hidden behind the CGV—“This place is really good. Better than the place I usually go to in Itaewon.”—and I ordered the chyashyu ramen. The waitstaff was a couple of middle-aged ladies in Japanese waitstaff attire, but they were speaking in Chinese to each other. Joseon-jok, I assumed. Korean-Chinese. A lot of the restaurants in Seoul are staffed with middle-aged Joseon-jok ladies.

The ramen was decent, a lot better than the last Japanese ramen I had in Seoul, and by the time I could see the bottom of the bowl, I was full. I told John to finish off the gyoza, and we paid the bill and headed out.

On my way home, I stopped by the jazz bar for a beer. I needed to recharge in my element after the trip to Gangnam. I sat down at the bar, ordered a Cass, and then it hit. A sharp pain in my lower stomach.

“What’s wrong?” Tae, the bar manager, asked.
“Nothing. My stomach hurts.”
“Go to the bathroom. Just make sure you lock the door.” Only the women’s bathroom has a toilet, which isn’t a problem because there usually aren’t many female customers there. There usually aren’t any customers at all, which is why I like the place.

Sitting on the can, the pain started getting intense. The gods in my stomach were angry and vocal; deep, acidic growls rumbled throughout my belly. At times, it felt like someone stuck a knife in my gut and was slowly twisting it first left then right. At times, it felt like someone had a hold of my innards and was twisting them and wringing them like they were wet laundry. I started hyperventilating in order to lessen the pain. I felt the need to projectile vomit across the tiles of the bathroom floor but somehow managed to keep it down. My forehead was slimy with sweat and my legs were trembling.

“Hey, you okay in there?”
“No. I feel like shit.”

I emerged from the bathroom some twenty minutes later, lightheaded and wobbly, tried to pay for the beer, and stumbled out the bar and into my car. I drove back to my apartment and dragged myself through the door, spending the long, painful night alternating between the bed and the bathroom.

In the morning, I tried to get ready for work but the hot shower only made me feel worse, and splayed across my bed, I called in sick. Four years at my job and I’ve never called in sick. I’ve worked through head-splitting hangovers and full-blown flus, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to even make it to the classroom this time. It’s not that I’m the most dedicated teacher. I just hate teaching make-up classes.

I spent all of Friday lying in bed or shitting blood, in troubled sleep or a bleary half-consciousness.

On Saturday, I woke up in pain, but it was bearable enough to get into my car to drive to the hospital in Boramae. It was unusually quiet in the hospital; the only department that was busy was pediatrics, little sick kids in beanies running around a largely deserted hospital.

“The hospital is closed on Saturdays,” the lady at the counter informed me. Fuck my life. The lady went back to talking with her co-worker, ignoring the light-headed, unshaven, beanie-clad foreigner cursing his luck.

I went back home and stayed in bed (and bathroom) and let the illness run its course. After a while, I ignored the pains in my stomach and tried to think happy thoughts because I was scared of how much blood I was losing through my rectum. Eventually the pains went away on their own, but only after they had had their way with me.

I’ve had problems with my stomach since elementary school. The first time I had problems was in the fourth grade. I stumbled out of the bathroom, pantless, begging my shocked father to make everything better. In the seventh grade, an ambulance had been called to the school after I collapsed in pain before first period. In high school, I went to the Eastgate Public Health Center to try to figure it out. They told me to keep a diary of what I ate. I gave up after a week. In college, I drove myself to the emergency room at Evergreen Hospital where they gave me oxygen and then charged me an arm and a leg for treatment. These were the worst cases I can remember, but it comes several times a year. No doctor has ever been able to diagnose it.

It seems like the boutique illness these days is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s basically any stomach illness that can’t be diagnosed, characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, etc. without detectable cause. It’s a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning it’s not a diagnosis at all.

My bowel has a personality. It’s irritable and a general pain in the ass (and lower abdomen). Shitting blood was a new addition. I think the ramen (and possible food poisoning) pissed it off.

A recurrence of the stye last weekend and food poisoning/IBS this one. My body is slowly deteriorating. I need to hurry up, finish the book and get it published before it completely gives up on me. Until then, the lesson I’m going to take is not to leave my neighborhood.

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4 Responses

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  1. I was going to declare “Food poisoning!” until I got to the blood-shooting-out-the-ass part. At a guess, we’re looking at food poisoning plus something else. If you’ve got hemorrhoids (hopefully you don’t), that would be a reassuring explanation for the anal fountain, since hemorrhoids are a known quantity and eminently treatable. You might want to look at things like the color of the blood and whether it seems to contain any (c)lumps in it; that might help a medical professional figure out what’s going on.

    I definitely agree that bowels have their own personalities. A lot of modern biology suggests that the thicket of nerves entwined in the bowels almost amounts to a dim sort of consciousness — one reason for our “gut feelings.”

    Good luck, dude. You have my sympathies.

    Kevin Kim

    March 21, 2011 at 6:58 am

    • Thanks, Kevin. I hope they aren’t hemorrhoids but I guess that’s better than an ulcer. I don’t want to give up coffee and cigarettes. Spicy food I can give up.

      It’s interesting that bowels may have consciousness. I’m always thinking out of my ass. Pardon the pun, I’ve been sick.

      holdenbeck

      March 21, 2011 at 11:16 am

  2. Hey ! It’s Nabi, not sure if you remember.
    All sudden, I thought about your blog when I was thinking Korea. Haven’t been to your blog…since last year? I’ve been neglecting all my life except school.
    As soon as I was reading through this one, I guessed your dx as IBS. I guess it’s time for me to graduate nursing school lol.
    It is really sad that there is no cure for IBS. Take care of yourself ! Hope you feel better.

    Nabi

    April 18, 2011 at 12:03 am

    • Hey, Nabi. It’s been a long time. Thanks for the guess at my diagnosis. I guess I can trust that it’s IBS. I wish I didn’t have it, though.

      holdenbeck

      April 18, 2011 at 11:13 am


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