It’s the same illness I’ve had for the past four years, just with shifting faces.
Today the doctor prescribed Avelox. They are little white moons of dust wrapped in foil like candy. Pop one per day. Repeat.
On the R train to his office I read that traditionally medicinal plants were picked around the solar and lunar cycles. In the Celtic tradition,
The wortcunner should not wash, pray, talk, or greet anyone when proceeding to the desired plant and should then tell it for what purpose and for whom he is digging it. … A magic circle was drawn around the plant. … Usually the gatherer had to be barefoot and wearing unstitched clothing without a belt, or go stark naked. The Gauls lifted the sacred herbs from the ground with their left hands and held them up, dedicating them to the heavens. The houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum), belonging to the thunder god, had to be picked between the flash of lighting and the clack of thunder.
Wolf D. Storl, The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners
Today I cannot believe that modern medicine holds the rational end of this spectrum. I have been prescribed twelve days of synthetic powder moons. Generated where: unknown. If the infection will be effected: unknown. If it is even bacterial: unknown. The only thing that is certain: some portion of the friendly bacteria that intimately evolved over thousands of years with my ancestors will be damaged, perhaps irreparably.
These are the primitive healers, the MDs in their pale skin and white coats. They often say: We do not know why the drug works. We do not know if the drug will work. We only know it worked for some other people, whose bodies may or may not resemble your own.
They say: We do not know why you have this illness. We can only assist in attempting to kill it, while possibly deadening other body regions—and hundreds of cooperative species—in the process. It is worse than snake oil, this nuclear war waged in the tender veins of human animals.
Today’s doctor is a kindly man. He does not charge me for the appointment, because he knows I can’t afford it. But he cannot do anything beyond his education. His tools are suppression and death.
I stack the pill packets on the kitchen table next to the jade plant. Did my ancestors gather at their kitchen tables upon returning from the doctor? What medicine bundles did they carry? How did they taste? Did they scavenge for herbs on moonless nights? I have no forest to beg medicine from, only a yard with soil that tested for lead at 606 ppm.
I fill the bathtub with dried lavender and steaming water, and lay and sweat until the coughing subsides. I imagine the germs rising with the steam to cling like a million particles on the flat terrain of the bathroom mirror.
Image: from Page 13 of “Past and Present of Aberdeenshire; or, reminiscences of seventy years” by Paul William, 1881, via The British Library on flickr