Chapter 24 – Sicker Than a Whale That Ingested Bad Plankton

The title does not lie.

You will find that true in most of my chapters, but especially this one. And the next two that will follow.

It was true. I was sicker than a whale that had ingested bad plankton.

Don’t ask me why I chose whales and plankton as my metaphor; it was just the first thing that came to my terribly diseased mind. It is a quintessential example of what adolescent-itis does to one’s brain: give them awful metaphors.

However, I digress. Getting off topic is another thing adolescent-itis does to your brain. And getting off topic about getting off topic is… Okay, now I am getting off topic about getting off topic about getting off topic…

This can continue forever, but I don’t want it to. Neither do you. Yet I don’t want my pimples, but I still have them. Never mind.

So why was I sicker than a whale that ingested bad plankton?

The sickness did not come until things had finally died down at Lamone. Almost three months into the school year, things had finally settled. The rumors. The gossip. The smatter of talk about useful stuff. And the “incidents.” Especially the “incidents.”

I had not lost my popularity or anything, but social status became of less importance. Things had organized themselves into a dull routine heading into the winter term. Wake up. Dorm jobs. Breakfast. Classes. Lunch. Classes. Water polo. Dinner. Sleep. Repeat.

I could even go to great lengths and say that the routine was more boring than Mr. Bradley’s English class. I figured the two should have a contest with three judges from outside the school. They kept going, Mr. Bradley lecturing, and the routine replaying. Whichever made all three fall asleep first won:

And that was when the sickness hit. It was as sudden as when I got my first pimple, back in the good old days of smooth skin…

Just kidding. I was still only 13, and the amount of stuff I had seen that existed in this world could fit inside a speck of dust. Or maybe a speck on that speck of dust: If that makes any sense… Adolescent-itis, zip it!

To prevent my adolescent-itis from striking again during this post, I have decided to come right out and say it. I was homesick.

I missed everyone back home. I missed the weather. I missed the food. I missed the comfort of home bathrooms and showers. I missed things I did not even notice before coming to Lamone.

First, the school sent me to a local psychologist who discussed with me my issues about homesickness. Well, that was what he was supposed to do. However, he did not help very much. Talking to him was like talking to a wall. Every time I asked him a question, he would just respond, “Yes.” He agreed with everything I said. Lamone was basically paying the guy to sleep while I rambled on and on about stuff I missed at home. It made me consider psychology as a career path, but did not cure my homesickness.

My second stop was at the school Health Center. But the visit did not work out as planned. As soon as I entered, I felt sicker than a whale that ingested bad plankton. I felt as sick as a whale that ingested MULTIPLE poisonous plankton.

The Health Center reeked, and my nose freaked out.

If noses could shout, my nose would have broken the sound barrier. And, I guess, the record for visibility from a far distance. A giant pimple akin to Mt. Everest would aid that.

Speaking of aid, the Health Center needed to use one of its own First Aid kits. Every First Aid kit should carry Febreze or AirWik to allow someone to actually walk up to a sick person without fainting.

Because fainting was what I wanted to do as I entered through the Health Center door, a notoriously hard to open door due to an incident years ago involving soccer balls and a net. Lamone had been too lazy to fix it. However, I was sure the Health Center staff would be happy to wake Lamone up with a nice punch in the face. Talk about rude awakenings.

The Lamone School Health Center smelled of the alcohol needed for shots and diarrhea. It was not a good combination, and not recommended for you to try at home. Besides, WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU TRY THAT ANYWAY?

That is as crazy as challenging a bear in a fight, or jumping off a cliff without a parachute, or as crazy as my adolescent-itis.

Anyway, breathing through my mouth, I approached the front desk at the Health Center. And suddenly the smell was gone. The awful odors disappeared and were replaced by the warm sensation of coffee mixed with caramel.

Yes, you can laugh when I tell you this: I swiveled my head to look back to where I had stood and realized I had been standing near a trash can. Haha, haha, okay I get it.

So I basically dedicated the entire first few paragraphs of this post to talking about the nasty smell of the Health Center, which was really the nasty smell of a trash can. Sooo, moving on…

I informed the nice lady at the front that I was homesick. I asked if there was a cure, some sort of injection, or medicine.

She just laughed in a creepy sort of cackle, like the witch in Hansen and Gretel, and replied, “There is no cure for homesickness.”

She reached over and handed me a silver phone. “Take this and call your parents. Tell them how you are feeling. It is natural for every first-year student here at Lamone.

I took the phone and immediately bolted away from the front lady. The laugh had scared me out of my wits. Now, the question was to find the right spot in the half-smelly, half-evil lady laugh Health Center.

I took three steps toward the middle. Then one back. I raised my nose in the air to sniff. A light hint of garbage smell, probably around 30%. I took a few more steps back, but soon realized I was dangerously close to the witch laugh lady.

I did not want to smell a foul garbage can, but I also did not want to get baked in a boiling oven.

It took four more steps to get it right: two forward, two back.

I dialed my home phone and held my breath (with a paper bag, don’t ask why).

My mom’s voice came on the phone. It sounded so foreign, yet so harmonious. And I finally ascertained why I was homesick, more homesick than a fish out of water that had ingested poison ivy. (For the record, that would not be fun)

I had forgotten where I had come from for the past three months.
We had a nice conversation. My mom was ecstatic, and my dad was just as excited, if not more, to hear my voice after more than two months (that was when the Autumn Anomaly took place). They said things had not changed much since I was last at home, on September 7, right before departing for Lamone.

I wanted to sob like a baby when they hung up after a fruitful forty minutes of conversation:

However, the homesickness lingered in my body like a mosquito bite that you wanted to just punch in the face. However, the more you punched it, the more it itched. So you had to refrain from punching it. That was what I felt with homesickness. The more I tried to combat it, the more it bothered.

Although I wanted to punch homesickness in the face, and then throw it off a cliff, and then run over it with a car before tossing with a giant mechanical arm into the depths of the Pacific Ocean… (deep breath, deep breath) 

I had to let the homesickness take its own course and naturally fade away.

I did not realize this startlingly obvious fact until I returned home for Thanksgiving, a 10-day vacation from school to celebrate the holiday that started way back when the Pilgrims were around.

As soon as I landed after a torturous plane ride (like always) which I sat, squashed in the middle, like a hamster between two elephants with enormous elbows that hogged all the elbow room.  However, I was able to bypass the pain of the plane ride by imagining that I would soon be back home, warm, sunny home.

When I arrived home, I began to notice inconspicuous things I had never thought twice about before coming to Lamone. The restaurants I was used to attending, the people I saw, the houses I visited, the tourist attractions near me. I noticed details I cared less about than the different types of numbers of vines on leaves.

And I cherished every moment. The 10-day vacation did not feel like 10 days. It felt more like 100. I remembered every moment clearly and enjoyed it, even when some things were not so good.

It was when I returned to Lamone that I ascertained the word I was searching for to describe my experiences at home: appreciation. 

And that brings me to another lesson I learned.

Life Lesson #24: Appreciate every thing in life. Cherish every moment as if it is your last. Do not take anything for granted; you never know when it will be snatched away from you.

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