The older I get, the more difficult I’m finding the life of a hypochrondriac. The world (in my head, anyway) is no longer this brand-new place, shimmering with the possibility of any number of maladies. It’s more familiar. I have winced this way before.
I have an unexplained pain in my upper left abdomen (don’t worry—I’m under medical supervision), and instead of ruminating about what rare disease I might be harboring, I’m thinking fondly of an old ailment.
The summer of ’92, I was waiting tables at a suburban restaurant—the kind that serves the same food as the chains, but without the chipper décor and level of quality. I was on break from college, and this is what I did: slept in, drank coffee and smoked endless cigarettes at work, came home, changed clothes, and went out with Brandon to drink filched alcohol. My diet was made up disproportionately of fries taken off the restaurant’s patrons’ plates while they waited under the heat lamp. I dipped them in the open containers of salad dressing and popped them in my mouth before delivering the plates.
Turns out, all of this—the hoisting of trays, the greasy fries, the coffee and alcohol, the smokes—contributed to a hiatal hernia. I had a G.I. scan, was given some medicine, and took a few days off of work.
The best thing about it—in fact, the only thing I really remember—is how relieved I was to get out of Fajita Night. Even now, I can’t smell fajitas without thinking, pain in the ass. The hot skillets, the many plates, the little tub of tortillas, that last squirt of lemon juice to make it sizzle as we lugged the trays across the dining room. The extras sidework of cleaning the fajita grease off the trays. The way the smell would stay in your hair and in your clothes. (The only thing worse than fajita night, in my opinion, was employment at an all-you-can-eat seafood place, meaning the lingering smell of crab legs and the hushpuppy fryer.)
My diet is better now, and I don’t drink coffee. I’m on the same sort of stomach pills. I still don’t quite know what that pain in my side is, but I think my hypochondria is dormant. These days, I'm thinking it ain’t nothing but an upper G.I. thing, and (knock wood) I never have to participate in Fajita Night again.