You’ll need the malaria test, she says, louder than I deem necessary.
She slips the requisition from my paused fingers and writes on it with big bold script. I feel marked, branded and something akin to a leper. I slide my health card from the reception desk and back away to a vacant chair, avoiding all possible gazes.
Two weeks ago, my boyfriend proposed to me. The next day, I took a seventeen hour plane ride, with a stack full of wedding magazines, as my only in-flight entertainment.
The heat slams into me as soon as we leave the airport. The driver and another man lead us to a large black SUV, hand us cold, moist towels with silver tongs that smell of eucalyptus, before whisking us away to the hotel. The streets are suffocating with cars, bikes and people. Men, women and children wear surgical masks at eight pm in the streets.
I get out of the car and a transparent sheet of pollution greets me. We climb the elevator floors and watch a couple through the glass doors, lounging in the hot tub below. Someone suggests we get naked. I am shown to my room, by a woman, I deadbolt the door and wonder if I can just fly back home instead.
I shower away the flight and cling to the sentences I should have said.
That’s inappropriate seems like the most direct but it doesn’t pack near the punch that I need it to.
That night we walk the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in search of cold drinks and dinner. The city is alive, I feel vulnerable and so far away. I am in Vietnam.
The same nurse calls my name, once again louder than necessary.
I sometimes faint when they take my blood, I warn her.
Oh I’m good, she brushes it off, leading me to a room full of open seating. We head straight for the back corner.
I sit down on the hard chair and give her my right arm. My head lolls slightly to the left, my stomach dropping. She doesn’t even have the band around my arm yet. I wonder where my mother is. She drove me to the clinic.
It’s been a week since I’ve been home and they don’t know why I’m so dizzy. I know what is wrong with me. My body is yelling - enough.
The band is wrapped around my arm, she gives it a tug, likely to get that vein to cooperate. I remember that elevator ride. What he said to me.
She’s going down. I hear as my bones turn to jelly. I slink towards the floor, mental arms raised in acceptance as I surrender to the carpet.
They get me up, four arms just enough to convince my body to get off of the floor and walk with their assistance to a nearby room. Where she should have brought me to in the first place, I can’t help but think, as they bring me orange juice and tell me to lay down for as long as I need. I rub the bandaid on my arm and peel myself up from the table.
We are married in a park, on a sunny day the following July. Two days later, we leave for Mexico. It’s the first time I’ve been on a plane since that trip to Vietnam. This time I don’t have a stack of magazines, the flight won’t take seventeen hours and he won’t be there. I also don’t have Malaria.
The first two days of our honeymoon are spent reminiscing. We relive every moment of our wedding day. Andrew tells me about the swim they took at the cottage that morning, the breakfast they cooked and who was hungover at the wedding. We talk about the generosity of our friends and family and how much fun we had dancing until three in the morning.
I get a pedicure and wince as the aesthetician rubs acetone over my toenails. They are black and blue and I can’t bring myself to care. A small price for of all the congratulatory hugs.
We rub coconut sunblock into our skin, sip champagne at breakfast, order room service, sleep in and do … other honeymoon things. It is more than a trip. It’s indulgent, intimate and completely guilt free. This honeymoon - I’ve never felt so cared for in my life.
We make a game of how lazy we can become.
There are wood plank pathways leading to beach beds with tiny flags that you can raise to beckon a server. We gather kindles and sunglasses and sequester ourselves on those white vinyl beds. We fall asleep, in the warm breeze to the lapping of the ocean. Somewhere between the cool slide of a mojito past my lips and the click to another page on my kindle, I make one of the best decisions of my life. I memorize that moment.
Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito, the ocean laps, my husband’s arm brushes mine, I curl into him. It’s more than an image, it’s my personal escape and I can grab it whenever I want.
Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito. I close my eyes, repeat this mantra until the pinch is over for the first of the three daily IVF injections...
Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito. I close my eyes, repeat this mantra until the egg retrieval is over….
Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito. I close my eyes, repeat this mantra until the contraction is over….
I carry it with me in my back pocket and throw it at world when I need an escape. I had no idea how that honeymoon would serve me. I only wish I’d had it sooner, to lug with me along with that stack of wedding magazines, to...
I didn’t have this mantra when I got myself out of that situation, but I knew enough to grab onto it when I did. The two were always joined, in my mind - a low with a high.
Five years later, we fly back to Mexico. This time we are parents to two year old twins, it is our five year anniversary and it’s time for a new mantra.
Do you have a mantra that you tell yourself at the grocery checkout while a toddler has a candy craving meltdown? I'd love to hear about it.
P.S. Did you take a honeymoon
(Photo by Nathan Walker)