Notes on Getting Sick in an Equatorial-Region Hostel Dorm

Ecuador Narrative
by Brandon Scott Gorrell Apr 24, 2010
Brandon recalls the experience of getting terribly sick in an equatorial-region hostel dorm room and having no way out.

YOUR THROAT SORE at first, and within an hour your eyelids hot, your eyes burning, and feelings of dizziness, followed by worry about getting sick.

The people behind you, their footsteps, and the reoccurring curiosity, awe, or horror about whether or not you’re actually going to be sick, on this street, with someone that keeps talking to you, that won’t shut up, and then at the market, where they’ve laid out on wooden tables whole raw chickens with flies and skinned cow heads, bladders, livers.

Walking briskly to your hostel with a worried facial expression and going straight to the bathroom, realizing that something is wrong, and the remembrance that pain is a real thing—that ‘suffering’ is really, actually suffering—and not having enough cash to get a single room.

Putting a trash can by your bunk in a room filled with 5 sleeping men, the air conditioner in the top corner of the dorm room, but not on, and unable to be turned on, because the person sleeping under it just complained it was too loud, and refused to turn it on, so you tell him, now, because you can’t imagine not having the air conditioner on, that you’ll sleep under the air conditioner—that you’ll switch bunks with him, that it won’t be loud for him that way.

You tell him that the sound won’t bother you, and he agrees to switch bunks with you, a facial expression like you’re being irrational, and you switch bunks with him, and turn the air conditioner on, and it feels incredible, and the sound isn’t anything compared to the relief you’re feeling, and you think that maybe you won’t get sick, and the person you just switched bunks with looks at you with an exasperated facial expression and throws up his hands and says “Ah, hace frio.”

He turns the air conditioning off, and you could swim in the foul air, and you’re worried that you’re going to be sick, then simply asking yourself “Am I going to be sick?” in a completely out of control manner . . .

But he’s in the furthest bunk away from the air conditioner, and you’re in a fucking tropical country—it’s sticky humid and mosquitoes and little crawling insects are everywhere, the bathroom attached to the dorm smells like shit, and you haven’t been this sick in a long time, and you say, “Oh, jesus, ok. Entonces queires cambio? Quires cambio? Dame veinte minutos. Veinte minutos,” and you’re too proud, or not wanting to seem like a pussy, to say “Please, but I’m sick, I need it,” and he actually does want to change bunks again, he actually takes you up on your political offer, but he’ll do the favor of giving you 20 minutes of air conditioning—he’s nice enough for that, the guy is nice enough to give you 20 minutes of air conditioning in a country about two hundred miles north of the equator, and you’re angry, because you’ve been traveling with this fuckface and three other assholes for a week, and you guys were supposed to take care of each other, in some way—you were supposed to carry someone’s bag a kilometer from the beach to the town, or miss a bus if someone didn’t make it on time, or sit, uncomplaining, in a crowded, hot minibus with their guitar on your lap and no leg room for 6 hours, and that kept things in balance, that was how you became close to them, because you all knew how it was, and how exactly that kind of comfort felt, and how that system could be relied upon—and you go back to your original bunk and feel fine because the cold air is great, the air conditioner is on, and you can focus on something other than your body again, and you start hoping that he’ll just fall asleep before the twenty minutes is over, so you can have all night with the wonderful air conditioner, muting the all the snoring and disgusting sounds emanating from the bodies of the humans around you, but, shortly, he says “Amigo,” and “Horrible fucking sound,” and you say “Okay,” and you both know that you are fucking pissed at each other.

He turns the air conditioning off, and you could swim in the foul air, and you’re worried that you’re going to be sick, then simply asking yourself “Am I going to be sick?” in a completely out of control manner, and you lose it into the trash can next to your bunk, and the sheer mass of vomit that comes from your face surprises you and quickly strikes you as funny, and you keep on retching, and you suddenly realize there’s a sound coming through the wall, and you release all the embarrassment you felt about getting sick in front of five other people, you give up trying to be quiet about it, and keep heaving—making demon-like noises now—concurrently realizing that you’re listening to a girl next door getting the shit fucked out of her, and this is where you become really detached, grinning—internally—about the harmony of the situation.

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