I know a lot of stories start with the old, “it was just your average day,” but believe me when I say this really was just an average day. I did exactly what I would do every other weekday: got up, went to work, counted the minutes until lunch, planned all the productive things I would do once I got home, and then got home and sat on the couch.
For dinner, I decided to try a recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo I found online and while I ate I sat at the table exchanging stories with my sister about our respective Tuesdays. She told me about an upcoming exam, I told her about a customer at work, and we made predictions about that night’s upcoming episode of Jojo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette.
At one point in the conversation, she paused.
“Mom says we need to throw out our flour,” she said, looking at her phone.
“I guess some people are having issues with E-coli.”
I walked into the kitchen and snatched the half empty bag of flour from the top shelf of the pantry and dropped it into the trash. Better safe than sorry.
Now, if you’ve ever watched an episode of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise, you’ll know that alcohol is almost necessary to make it through the two-hour broadcast. So when my sister stood up a few minutes after we started and said, “I need some whiskey,” I wasn’t surprised. Though when she said, “do you want some?” and I said, “Yes!” I think we both should have sensed* that it was the beginning of the end.
*Let it be noted that my sister is an avid whiskey drinker. The kind that really appreciates the spirit for all it’s worth…and doesn’t chug it down the way I do with a glass of wine while watching this ridiculous television show.
So there we were, an hour into the episode, shoulder deep in awkward silences and painfully stilted small talk. I was on my second (or third?) glass of whiskey, cringing my skin off and talking a little louder than usual, when all of a sudden a sip hit my stomach and the warning sirens went off.
YOU DONE DID IT NOW, GIRL.
“I need to pee,” I said, panicked.
I got up, my body feeling like it was 4000 pounds, the bathroom feeling like it was four miles away, and the ground feeling as stable as a tightrope during an earthquake. When I finally sat down on the toilet, I wondered if I’d ever get back up, which made me emotional and I cried a little. Then I remembered I had to pee, which reminded me I’d have to get up afterward and the cycle went on and on. All in all, I thought I was in there for about 45 minutes, but when I got back to the living room I realized it had been only been around four.
I waddled into the kitchen and grabbed my water bottle, praying I could chug my way to safety, then waddled back to my seat in the living room.
“Ready?” my sister asked.
After that, I can remember very little of what happened during the episode and even less of what my sister and I may have talked about. In somewhat miraculous fashion however, I was able to maintain a sober-enough composure to not only convince my sister I was fine before she went to bed, but also make it up 10 stairs to my bedroom. Unfortunately, this would be my last accomplishment worth celebrating for the night.
Upon arriving to my bed, I knew something was wrong. While it was a hot summer night, I felt like I was sweating far more than usual. I cranked the fan up to high and stripped down to my underwear, then turned off the light in the hopes that I could crash fast and sleep it off.
No such luck.
The moment I closed my eyes, I felt like the room was spinning one way and I was spinning the other. I opened my eyes, wondering if I was on the ceiling or the floor, then turned the light on to see if focusing on something would help. When this didn’t work, I tried taking deep breaths and when this didn’t work, I slumped into the bathroom, accepting my doom.
Over the next two hours, I threw up 11 times.
Around the fifth time, as I lay my face against the toilet seat, working my way through every prayer and promise I could think of to try and make it all stop, I thought of the text my mom sent earlier…and then of the flour I’d added to the blender to make my Alfredo sauce.
I closed my eyes and spun and then I opened them and the drunk tears came pouring out.
“I’m dying,” I said out loud to myself, “I have E-coli and I’m dying.”
I thought about calling for my sister and telling her to call 911—and to start taking down the notes for my last will and testament—but I couldn’t move. When I tried to, I threw up.
To make matters worse, the next time I opened my eyes and looked down in the toilet, everything was bright red.
It wasn’t blood.
It was Fruit Punch Crystal Light, which I’d mixed in with my water that afternoon—the same water I started chugging after my (first) emotional trip to the bathroom when I realized I’d passed the point of no return. I would figure this out around the tenth time I threw up but until then I would give an Academy Award worthy performance of pathetic.
I collapsed, face first, onto the toilet seat and I cried. I thought of my family and how I’d let them down by not keeping myself up to date with current food safety alerts. I thought of Gold Medal Flour and how my parents would surely Erin Brockovich their way to a settlement for my untimely demise. I thought of the future children I’d never have and of all the mourning faces present at my funeral. I hoped they served cake at the reception, and then I threw up thinking about it.
Eventually I fell asleep. And with my knees on the tile, my head on the toilet seat, and the bowl full of whiskey and Crystal light, I definitely must have looked dead. And sad. And PSA worthy.
Yes, that Tuesday night I was the don’t end up like this girl, girl.
The next morning, when my work alarm went off at 6:30 a.m., I opened my eyes to the memories of what had occurred merely hours previous. I had a lot of thoughts rushing around, most of which were curse words, and I wobbled back into the bathroom to brush my teeth, wash my face and kick off another “average” day.
When I got to work, I googled the E. Coli outbreak and discovered that it didn’t apply to our flour, so I lay my head on my desk, hungover and ashamed.
I hadn’t eaten contaminated flour.
I hadn’t thrown up blood.
I’d just gotten drunk on whiskey and secondhand cringe and I’d paid the price.
Needless to say, I now drink wine when I watch The Bachelorette—or, currently, The Bachelor—and during those particularly hard episodes, I color.
We live and we learn.