I’ve left the house where I abide.
I can no longer live inside.
The dust has got the best of me—
my lungs, and all the rest of me.
Two weeks of tile and concrete dust
have all built up until I must
admit my lungs gave up at last
with breath a function of the past.
I made it to the pharmacy
before my breath gave out on me.
Once there, gasping, voiceless, paler,
I pantomimed for an inhaler,
then asked how to make use of it
and for a stool on which to sit—
all with gestures wild and manic.
Attempts to breathe brought only panic.
A half hour more I struggled for air.
Clearly I needed help and care.
“Tranquilo, señora,” the store clerk urged,
every time my panic surged
because I could not breathe again.
I tried and tried, but all in vain.
Another spray, then I willed calm
to wrap me in its healing balm.
At last, I finally breathed free.
They called a friend to come for me.
She drove me home, and now I sit
above the dust and all of it:
debris, concrete, tile and grout.
I’ve left it all. I have moved out
to live in my upstairs casita
a saner, safer señorita
far above the mess and din,
lest this construction does me in.
If you’ve never had an asthma attack, I can only say it is one of the most panic-provoking experiences I’ve ever had, equaled only by my first asthma attack three years ago and an earlier time when I was pinned underwater and nearly drowned. I’ve said before that my greatest fear in life is not being able to breathe, and today I faced that fear again. After a month of severe coughing bouts and three trips to the doctor, I finally checked my meds on the advice of my friend Marti and found my blood pressure meds were known to provoke chronic bouts of coughing. I got my doctor to change my meds and slept well last night. It wasn’t until the man remodeling my bathroom arrived and started sanding and cutting concrete that I suddenly got a severe coughing attack again, in spite of the fact that there were two closed doors between us.
Although I had plenty of nighttime cold meds, I was out of Tabcin Activa, my daytime cold formula, so I decided to drive to the pharmacy to get some more. Thankfully, within the last few months, they’ve opened a Guadalajara Farmacia in my village. Otherwise, I would have had to have driven 5 miles to Ajijic. This synchronicity, I am sure, saved my life, as by the time I got to the pharmacy, I was coughing and wheezing so severely that instead of asking for Tabcin, I asked for cough medicine. The pharmacist brought out a lovely gift-wrapped conglomeration of kids’ cough medicine, stuffed toy, vitamin tablets and herbal tea. No, I insisted between coughs, just very strong cough syrup. By the time she brought it and I had ripped open the box and asked her to open the bottle, I was wheezing. I chugged the cough medicine, then went into a full asthmatic attack. I motioned wildly for an inhaler, and then for them to open it and show me how to use it. I used the inhaler once. Twice. Three times. I was presenting the most wild and frantic display of behavior but I knew, in fact, that I would die if I couldn’t breathe soon.
Eventually, I could take small gasps of air, interspersed with more closings of my air passages. I pointed toward a stool, which they brought to me, along with a glass of warm water. I took a sip and my passages closed again. Another inhaler blast. Tears were streaming down my face and I was shaking uncontrollably. Earlier, they had asked if they should call for an ambulance, but I knew if this were done, that my house had been left open with only strangers in it. Both of my computers were out in plain sight. The gate to the street open. The front door open. The workers would not know where I was. Anyone could wander into the house. What’s more, I’d left my cellphone at home along with my phone list. I didn’t have any numbers to call friends to come help. Of course this caused more anxiety and brought on another attack.
In the end, still unable to talk, I wrote a note asking for a phonebook. I finally found the number of a friend, had them call her and ask her to come get me. Unfortunately, she was not a native speaker of Spanish and didn’t understand what they were saying, but I was able to speak enough to say who I was, that I needed help and to come to the pharmacy.
She drove me home, got items from my house I needed, stopped by another friend’s house to see if he’d come mind mine for the day, and since I was breathing well by then, took me back to the pharmacy to pick up my car. On the way back home, I suddenly remembered I had an upstairs room that should be dust-free and so I relieved my friend, brought possessions upstairs, and here I am ensconced until construction is finished.
I must end here because I’m getting sleepy and think I’ll soon nod off. Ironically enough, what I had originally gone to get at the pharmacy was Daytime Tabcin, a multi-symptom cold capsule for what I thought was my cough and cold. Although I had the night formula, I was out of the daytime one. I had written my request to the pharmacist who had shown me a box. Yes, that was it I said. Now, safe in my upstairs room, breathing freely, I again felt a cough coming on and quickly opened the box and popped two of the capsules. Only afterwards did I think to look at the box. She had given me the nighttime formula! So in spite of the fact that it is just a bit past noon, I think I’ll be off to dreamland soon.
The prompt word today was “abide.”