Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Bad Case of Pellagra

(Something new. I do a lot of creative writing, and thought I'd share some of it here.)

I really hate it when people don’t take me seriously. To not be taken seriously by a born Floridian just added insult to injury. That was last night, and this particular Floridian was a police officer in Lake Worth, the city in which I’ve been living for the last 9 months. I have not been to the lake (Lake Worth, presumably) during this time period. The whole “lake” thing sounds like a tourist trap, and 3 years spent living in Orlando has made me wary of those.

My ex-wife was the one who called the cops. It was right after she hung up on me. She told them that something needed to be done before I harmed myself. Thanks to the Baker Act, she can’t just have me thrown in jail. She can, however, start the process by which a law enforcement officer can haul me off to a medical facility for psychiatric evaluation.

As usual, Amy’s gotten everything ass-backwards. She told them I was suicidal. I let slip that I was in the process of killing myself, but she really didn’t let me complete the thought. That’s the story of our relationship, when you get right down to it. She knew I was winning the argument, and calling “911” was her way of making sure she had the last word. I am planning on killing myself, but I’ve still got another 4-5 years before this course of action will be the cause of my death.

I’d decided, earlier this week, to contract pellagra. At first, I wanted to go with scurvy. I thought posterity would appreciate the irony of an otherwise-healthy adult male dying of a vitamin-C deficiency in the wealthiest county in the nation’s largest orange-producing state. Anyway, I was eating a bag of potato chips, when something I’ll call divine providence prompted me to read the nutrition facts on the back of the package. Those chips were loaded with vitamin C! I realized that it would be far too easy to eat the wrong thing and have to start all over. So, I settled on pellagra, a disease caused by a dietary lack of niacin. Pellagra isn’t as “sexy” as scurvy, I suppose, but I think it represents the more realistic choice. I’m nothing, if not a pragmatist.

I walked out of Publix yesterday afternoon with a shopping cart full of food . . . food lacking in vitamin B3, though I also need to steer clear of foods containing tryptophan. As I tried to explain to Amy, this is not a slap in the face to those who unwillingly or unwittingly suffer from vitamin-deficient illnesses. I’d obviously trade places with them if I could. I’m not starving myself to death. I’m not protesting anything. I’m not supporting any cause (at least, not that I know of). It’s not a case of a vegan diet gone wrong. It is what it is.

Pellagra’s primary symptoms are pretty easy to remember: diarrhea; dementia; dermatitis; and death. I figure that bad skin and irregular bowel movements are inevitable by-products of a fatally unhealthy diet. “The price of doing business” is how I described it to Amy. Death, of course, goes without saying. Dementia is the only one I’m worried about. I’m concerned that the onset of dementia (and I’m thinking years down the road, here) might cause me to reconsider. Just like that, I could flush all my hard work down the drain.
I admit, I really didn’t consider the reaction others might have to my decision. This has changed since my conversations with Amy. She started crying when I told her. When I asked her what was wrong, she shouted obscenities at me. (I mean really hurtful stuff.) And that was a good 10 minutes before she hung up the phone! What this tells me is that I should make a list of who does and does not need to know.

I told all of this to the police officers last night. One of them asked me if I’d been drinking. I told him yes, but that this was okay. In fact, alcoholics frequently suffer from pellagra. I even pointed to the case of vodka on top of the refrigerator (the highest off the floor you’ll ever be likely to see that particular brand, by the way). When he asked if I was taking any medication, I told him I’d certainly been prescribed plenty, but that “taking it” was no longer high on my list of priorities. His partner asked me, again, if I wanted to kill myself. I again answered yes.

They took my belt and my shoelaces, but the facility can’t hold me longer than 72 hours without giving me a psych exam. They tried making me take vitamins, but I hid them under my tongue. One of the nurses is now claiming that I’ve refused nourishment. I’ve told anyone who’ll listen (which is very few people, I might add) that this is not the case. I simply want a guarantee that nothing on the menu will offset my nascent niacin deficiency. It gets worse. Although I haven’t worked for the guy in months, Amy took it upon herself to call my old boss. Now, how could he see “something like this coming” when I only learned about pellagra a few days ago? I spoke to Amy this morning, and she still won’t stop crying. She said she couldn’t sit back and watch me “destroy myself” (her words). I said that I wasn’t asking her to put her life on hold. Apparently, this was the wrong thing to say, because she hung up on me again.

If that wasn’t enough, I looked at the menu, and tonight they’re serving us roast turkey and processed corn.

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