In recent years, I have been able to frame my food allergies in an advantageous light. How else could I have gotten a nonfiction book deal that let me make the jump to full-time writing? (As my grandmother said..."Finally, a silver lining!")
Some of my allergies are quirky and mild enough to become fodder for humor. I can wax poetic on the prevalence of tofu, knowing that I can still sip miso broth safely--as long as I don't chew on it. I can bitch about the regional mysteries of BBQ sauce recipes (some states = mustard; some states = no mustard).
But then there are the other allergies. The one that will probably kill me one day: dairy. The ones that have intensified in the past few years, waking me in the night with a swollen throat: shrimp, cashew, mango. And though I love to be a touring poet, though I love to be the Strong Independent Woman, this is my Achilles heel. This is why I can never be a travel writer.
The agony was not in the slow boil of my stomach last Sunday night, after a single half-bite of the first accidentally cashew-buttered entree, trying to make my way through the replacement entree knowing that the damage was already done. The agony was not in downing those first two Benadryl before I'd even felt a hint of reaction, knowing the danger I was in. The agony was not in trying to drive back to the residency bleary-eyed, only to have to pull over at a random intersection of South Beach to vomit out the car door. (First words to the neighboring hotel manager: "I'm not drunk, I swear.") The agony was not in having to summon my fellow LegalArt residents--though poor folks, they barely know me--from all corners of Miami so that someone could get my car home, and someone could get me to the ER.
No. The agony was in forcing myself to check my phone messages, just now, 48 hours later, and hearing the words of a father and boyfriend whose voices are tired with fear. Asking if I could give them the contact info for someone who was with me--a first, even after all these years of reactions. Asking if I am OK. By the time these messages were left I was already at Mount Sinai, in a reception-free zone closed off to the outside world. On Prednisone. Sleeping for four hours, curled up on a cot. Fine, right? Fine.
Not fine. Not dying does not equal "fine." It's a tough way to live, and it's tough to love someone who has to live this way. I can rally, and rationalize, and write about it. But I'd trade all the book deals in the world to not have to fear each bite I take.