Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tomato Tomawful

The sun had set over my second night in Cartagena, Colombia. I was on a terrace 14 floors above the 400-year-old coastal city in what felt like the only skyrise. Sailboats twinkled as they bobbed in the turquoise Caribbean below. A sea breeze gasped through the 90-degree heat. My best friend Nicki and I had rushed off the dance floor for some air. Glass of vino tinto in one hand, skewered hors d'oeuvre in the other, I was almost giddy at the rehearsal dinner before my friend's destination wedding. I teethed a cube of jamon y queso and some tomatoey looking thing off the skewer. Two seconds later...

"Nicki, my skin feels really hot," I sat up to examine my arms in the moonlight. "Do you feel that?" My back started to burn, bad.

"I know, it's a million degrees here." Nicki hardly looked up from her malbec. I leaned back in my chair again, still uncomfortable. I searched for a sunburn on my arms as they boiled in the dark.

"But, it's like pins and needles," I complained. My mouth went dry. My tongue began to sting.

"Somethings wrong." I yelped. "My thung, it's pinths and needelths."

I gasped and covered my mouth after my tongue stammered. Now we both panicked.

"Oh my God! I cant thalk!"

Nicki yanked me indoors out of the dark. I was covered in hives- plump white bumps against tomato red arms, neck and back. My cheeks came next, flushed puffy pink above a mouth that had swelled to 3 times its size. My tongue, growing by the second, jut out past my bottom lip like a Shar-Pei panting after a jog. My heart pounded through a cold sweat. Two hives squinted my eyes. Every inch itched.

Nicki called for one of the doctors in the room (It's a Colombian wedding- there were 5). I was pushed into a chair where a dozen party guests surrounded me reacting in English and Spanish to the Shar-Pei face I hadn't seen but could feel. A 70ish-year-old Colombian relative of the groom grabbed my hands and commanded that I focus. In a raspy stern Spanish he shushed the crowd to ask if I could breathe.

I burst out crying. All I could mutter, "No puedo senthir mi lengua." (a heavily lisped, I can't feel my tongue.)

I was rushed into an air conditioned room, fed an Allegra and reassured that it wasn't "totally awful." Another doctor was coming with more medicine. I sat trembling still dotted with hives. The doctor, of course, was the only young attractive Colombian cousin in attendance- a plastic surgeon, naturally. His even tan, slick back hair and white linen pants bent down to ask me to stick out my swollen tongue. I lisped out what had happened to me- the "danthing", the heat, "the glath of wine" and the "thomato" before the botched facelift face. He pumped me full of an antihistamine. About three hours later it was all gone.

The next night, I walked down my friend's aisle as a bump-free bridesmaid.

Nobody's sure exactly what caused the severe allergic reaction. Maybe it was that Colombian fruit I had never tried. Maybe it was a couple glasses of wine mixed with an antibiotic I had started before my trip. We may never know.

Temporary deformation aside, I adored Cartagena and I suppose I owe it a thank you.

Spontaneous lisp-enduing and potentially life-threatening situations are what good blog posts are made of.

1 comment:

  1. That dog is the best picture EVER to go with this post. Love it. Glad you lived to tell the story. lol