In the Boiling Gray

In the Boiling Gray June 23, 2024

ominous clouds in different shades of gray
image via Pixabay


Twelve days of sick is too much.

I’ve been sick with one thing or another my whole life, and almost completely disabled from fatigue with a misdiagnosed cause for ten years. You’d think that would make getting sick something I was used to, but it doesn’t. It makes it terrifying. I always feel as if I’m going to slide back down the rabbit hole into helplessness, and I’d rather die.

Thirteen days after the mysterious illness started, it hadn’t quite cleared up. I could tell that I’d moved on from being sick from whatever I caught in the garden, to being sick from five days of Augmentin. But sick from Augmentin is still sick. Still, I had a steady head. I managed to go to that movie with the mother of the Baker Street Irregulars. Now, I thought, I was ready to go somewhere else.

Adrienne was stir crazy. It was the start of a terrible heat wave, in the nineties with the heat index in the three digits, and she desperately needed to go swimming. I used to get severely ill from hot weather, but now that my chronic conditions are better under control, I don’t nearly as much. I packed our bag, and we drove out to the lake.

At the lake, it was so hot, so still, so impossibly muggy, that it felt like getting into a bath just stepping out of the air conditioned car. The sky overhead was a world of swirling gray cumulous cloud. The glimpses of sky above the cloud were the wrong color, white instead of blue. The air between me and the clouds was heavy with water and devoid of wind. Breathing felt like drowning.

In the shallows ,the water itself was eerily warm like another bath. It felt apocalyptic, and it is. Ohio and western Pennsylvania were trapped under a heat dome from climate change. I didn’t like to think about that, so I waded out to the deepest place and swam laps where it was still cool. I was so exhausted from my battle with the digestive bug that I could only swim two laps before I wore out.  I stood in the lake up to my neck, feeling the waves of hot and cold swirling, digging into the sand with my toes. I stood there for more than an hour.

On the way home, the car started to shake.

I was so exhausted that I didn’t think to get Jimmy the mechanic until after the car had shaken through errands the next morning. He said it’s a good thing I didn’t take it any further or I could have “blown a rod,” a phrase I didn’t know. I imagined a metal dowel flying out of the hood like a bullet. The real meaning of that phrase was nearly as bad. For a sickening afternoon, we feared that the motor or the whole engine would have to be replaced, a financial impossibility. But after fiddling with the sparkplug and watching the engine run, he concluded it was the fuel injection. He was fairly confident he could just take it apart, clean out any clogs, and put it back together, and make the car work with no new parts. We won’t know for certain that that’s the problem until he does the job and sees if she runs again, and he can’t do the job until after the weekend because of this heat dome. No one can work outside just now. But we’re hopeful that’s all there is.

I went back to bed.

I’ve been in bed, or on the sofa, for two days.

The colitis is gone now, but my stomach is still a bit queasy. I’m no longer severely sensitive to heat, but my body is still a chronically ill body. It takes a lot more to bring back the fatigue, but the fatigue still comes from time to time. The murderous heat index combined with the excitement of two long trips so soon after thirteen days of sick was too much.

I went outside to look at the garden– I couldn’t get very much done, but I looked. I pulled up the dead pea plants which have lived their time and dried out. I heaped them on the compost that I didn’t have strength to turn over with my shovel.

There are buds on the watermelons and the pumpkins. Most of the sunflowers are budding, and some have bloomed. There are flowers on all the tomato vines, and hard green fruit on several. Two of the summer squash have tiny baby zucchini. I believed in God again.

The air was a soup made of boiling mercury. The sky above was a turbulent sea of gray, streaked with red as the sun went down on this agonizing heat dome.

Tonight it’s cooler.

The heat has stopped, for now.

In the morning it will be ten degrees cooler– a normal Northern Appalachian summer, for the next few weeks.

It’ll rain tomorrow afternoon, too hard to make going to church a possibility without a car, even if I was well enough to walk that far. I’ll try to catch the Liturgy of the Word on video. Then I’ll go outside and watch the angry gray clouds dissolve into merciful cool water, nourishing the garden, and feel that all is well again.

After the rain, after Jimmy has the time, with any luck I’ll get my car back and return to the lake, or take a hike in the woods.

All hard times come to an end.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.


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