Return Of The Monster Tonsil

Or – How To Set Your Throat Chakra Ablaze In One Easy Step

strawberries and blades

It’s a random Tuesday night, I put away the millet-and-courgette-and-other-stuff cassoulet leftovers in the fridge, make myself a cup of lemongrass infusion and sit on the couch. I’m not even that pissed about myself tonight, the first two days of this new week have been quite productive and I always get a dopamine rush at the feeling I’m keeping my shit tight.

I fire up my favourite SVOD channel and while I relax in my sweatpants and thick old socks, I notice I may have a bit of heartburn, cause a small acid pang somewhere at the bottom of my larynx. I make a mental note to choose peppermint for the next cup. Too much lemon juice in the lettuce? Perhaps.

But at the third episode of Grace And Frankie I know things are much more serious than I had suspected. The peppermint didn’t help at all, and what I thought was a tiny acid reflux is turning out to be a full-blown throat ache, of the kind which mean no good.

So before I wrap down for the night, I check in with Dr. Google, who reminds me that the fifth chakra, also known as Vishuddha, is located in that V-spot at the base of the neck and is the centre of communication, emotional expression, and creativity. Chanting, singing, humming, reading out loud, and expressing our inner truth are all great ways to re-align this energy field when it goes rogue.

This chakra’s colour is light blue, like the terse sky on a sunny day, so alternatively it also helps to meditate while visualising that specific shade, light up a blue candle, stare at a piece of lapis lazuli, or sit outside under the blue sky with your face in the sun.

Unfortunately, it’s almost one at night so there is no tranquil blue sky which to expose my neck to, I do not own a blue candle, and I most certainly should not start singing or chanting anything at this hour.

The next morning I wake up and the first thing I can feel is an ear-to-ear clown smile of pain spreading at the top of my throat. My voice sounds strangled, I’m dizzy and I’ve got chills.

Breakfast makes me panic – coffee tastes and feels like honey-sweetened industrial acid. I debate whether to skip Toddler Music class, but finally decide to go, because it’s exactly across the street from where we live, it lasts only 45 minutes, and who knows maybe singing “So Goes The Mill” will inject some positive vibes back to my Vishuddha. Worth a shot.

We go, I sing but my voice sounds like trying to squeeze a dried-up lemon, and the vibes keep getting worse. I try to doze on the couch while the small one’s busy with his train, but hours go slow, a fever rises, I decide the only thing left to do is to put my son in the bathtub with plenty of bubbles and all his toys, then stand square in front of the mirror, swing my jaw open, and face the music.

Once I do this, the diagnosis becomes unequivocal.

All throughout our childhood, my siblings and I kept getting strep throat infections at regular intervals. My mother, who has always abhorred antibiotics, used to treat our recurring condition by throat-raping us with a finger wrapped in gauze, dipped in pure lemon juice. Once her finger was all the way down to our tonsils (and our eyeballs were ready to pop), she’d wiggle it about in the blind attempt to erase the plaques of pus, causing obviously unspeakable pain.

The doctor advised her to do so, she insisted.

While my child spatters gayly in his bath, I sit on the edge of the shower scouring the net for a hint of hope that I can somehow stop this impending apocalypse. Lifestyle guru Daniel Guacamole Dog’s website says that, “Even a pinch of freshly ground turmeric in a cup of warm unpasteurised mountain goat milk will heal this shit in less than four hours, especially if you add a teaspoon of eucalyptus honey to it, and drink it on a moonless night”.

The moment my man comes home that night is also the moment I sink in the guest room’s bed and vanish from the household. What follows is a stretch of fifteen hours of tormented daze – too affected to be awake, but unable of actual sleep due to the regular, unavoidable torture of having to swallow my own saliva.

The first time I got tonsillitis as a teen it happened immediately after school was out for the summer. Right when all my friends were burning their Latin textbooks and dashing to the park to get high and lie in the grass in their bikini tops, I spent two weeks in a darkened room, fever so high it gave me hallucinatory daydreams. When my mother forced me to open my mouth and looked in, the lemon-infused gauze was not even considered, she darted to call the doctor who, when later showed up and also asked me to open my mouth, actually GASPED at what he saw.

Two monster tonsils so swollen they basically touched each other, covered in a disheartening blob of yellow and green pus, streaked dark by touches of blood. It was like one of Dante’s circles of Hell picked my throat for its 1995 vacation. A nurse was immediately hired to come inject me with antibiotics for ten days straight, and it cost me the whole first month of summer to recover from it all.

“Take 80 grams of black cumin seeds, boil them in filtered water for 1.5 hours on an outdoor fire, let the concoction cool down slightly then add ⅓ of a cup of brandy, and down it. It’s not guaranteed you will survive the aftermath, but if you do, your tonsils will have self-combusted and they’ll not annoy you ever again.”

Twice on Wednesday night I shuffle my way to the kitchen to gargle with salt water and lemon juice, which maybe helps a little, but also makes my saliva salty, thick and slimy, and ultimately much harder to swallow. The only thought that gives me some courage is that, this time, it’s not as bad as I know it can be – the fever is not crazy and, despite my tonsils are swollen as if stung by a rabid wasp, they are not sunken in bacterial byproduct.

They are bright, glistening, raw as the freshest blood.

The second time, it happened exactly one year later. Only that this time, to make things worse, the tonsils and the fever reappeared a day before my driver’s licence exam. I went anyway, suffering debilitating pain and with a high fever.

Needless to say, I flunked it.

After this second round, my mother and my doctor decided I was going to be vaccinated to try and prevent a third such occurrence, especially since the following year I was to graduate from high school and could not risk flunking THAT. So I took the shot, graduated, moved out of my parents’ home, and never saw the monster tonsil again.

Until now.

“Take one organic lemon of Sorrento, mutter a heartfelt Ave Maria over it in your darkened kitchen, slice it into wedges then dip each one in a mixture of sea salt, freshly ground pepper and crushed peperoncino flakes. Suck on the wedges slowly until you lose consciousness. Once (and if) you regain it, your brain’s neurons will be as good as dead so you won’t feel any pain, and all bacteria in your throat will have evaporated just like human beings struck by a nuclear shock wave.”

I apply this remedy at 2 AM of Friday night, when the house is dark, everyone is asleep, and I can achieve the necessary concentration. The effect of the first suck is akin to cauterising an open wound with an incandescent blade, I’m sure. The pain is such it makes the streetlights flicker outside my kitchen window.

But once the scarlet screen blocking my vision washes away and my heart starts beating again, I realise the overall pain seems to have decreased. On Friday afternoon, for the first time in three days, I move from the guest room bed to the couch, where I take out my computer and with the determined verve of a stoned koala bear, I begin writing this.

Yes, this story you’re reading now.

Because by now I’ve understood this thing I’m dealing with here is not exactly an illness. It’s more like… a message? About voice, and subjugated emotions, and the expression of inner truth. I remember how one of my mother’s favourite sayings has always been, “You keep the dirty laundry at home, and not go showing it around to strangers!”, how telling friends and extended family about the stuff that happened in our family was regarded as high treason, and punished accordingly. How we were all always sworn to secrecy, deliberately, and against our will.

No wonder all those childhood strep infections, and no wonder the worse episodes happened when I was about to spend three months without even the solace of the classroom in my life. Three months of full-on family time – I get it. But now?

Why now?

Oh, wait.

Wait wait wait…

Remember how I told you I had such a productive few days before this shit storm hit my uvula? They have been productive also because I had this Skype call with this Producer and this Director with whom I’m developing this story for a feature drama. It’s about divorce. More, it’s about a specific, religious form of divorce. A sacramental divorce. But most importantly, it’s about the moment in which a relationship between two people who used to love each other becomes unhealable. And you know why it went so well? Because I told a story from my personal experience, and everyone liked it so that we’re going to put it in the film.

Because not only I showed my dirty laundry to a couple of strangers, I’m now going to pull it all out, sort it, choose the juiciest bits, cut them out, and smear them all over a silver screen for an army of more strangers to see it.

How could I expect to not be punished for this?

Friday night I meditate to the blue halo of a tealight in a blue tealight cup and because I sure believe in the importance of a well-oiled chakra, I decide to supplement it with some of the Cognitive Behavioural tricks I learned during my months of therapy last year.

Because, sure, I can think about having my tonsils removed in order to avoid such upheavals in the future. I can also pull out of that script project, or pilot the story in a different direction, so not to deal with sickeningly emotional material and infringe family taboos.

But then again.

Why should I?

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Marta Parlatore is currently an Artist in Residence in Motherhood – find out more on the official ARiM website. Subscribe to this blog to never miss a post and follow us on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

 

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