Is “the tummies” something you grew up saying? As in, “I can’t go out, I have the tummies” when your stomach feels like it’s going to burst into flames? Or did I invent that? Anyway, I used to say that a lot. I can’t go out, I have the tummies. I can’t write, I have the tummies. I can’t sit up straight, I have the tummies.
For the first time in my life, though, this past month I found myself thinking the unthinkable: I can’t read- I have the tummies.
Last week, I tested positive for Celiac Disease- a gluten intolerance meaning I can’t eat wheat, barley or rye and probably not oat. By the time I was diagnosed, however, I’d already been trying the gluten free diet, as all my symptoms added up. What I didn’t know was that once a Celiac gives up gluten, you really can’t go back. My early mishaps (who knew oatmeal wasn’t safe? and why did that crazy restaurant put FLOUR in HUMMUS?) left me with terrible stomach aches, sores on my tongue, and a general feeling of fatigue. This was difficult enough, but then when I was actually diagnosed with Celiac and found out this wasn’t going away- that I’d be gluten free for life- I went into a funk. After all, most of my favorite foods are pastries and sandwiches.
As of Saturday, I still hadn’t finished the book I started a month ago. Morale was at an all-time low… and so was cake consumption.
But as I got ready for an event in Providence this weekend, 5 hours from here by train, I knew what to do: I packed two big books and nothing else. No distractions. No other options. I was going to get back in the swing of things.
Initially, it was more difficult than I’d thought it would be. My stomach was, predictably, hurting on the way there, and I looked out the window for two solid hours before I even touched my first book. I plowed through but felt distracted.
On the way back, I was smarter and stupid all at once. Smarter, in a sense, because it’d been seven hours since I ate anything by the time I boarded the train, and my stomach wasn’t acting up. Stupid because I eventually went ten hours without food during a very active day. It wasn’t intentional. I don’t advise it. It’s a terrible idea.
But for those five hours, I read like I haven’t read in ages. I finished the first book and read all of the second. Inhaled them. Devoured them like the muffins and biscuits I’d be missing. Greedily. Quite literally, hungrily. Few things have ever felt so exquisite.
Oh, what an afternoon I had. It was bliss in its absolute most pure form. And for those of you who’ve read the book, I find it no coincidence that my father was riding beside me on this trip, and we were taking the same route I describe in the very first chapter.
I hope to, in some not-too-distant time, be able to read on a full stomach. Till then, I’ll read just before I eat, to be on the safe side. But in the meantime, I tip my hat to the hobby I find to be my lifeblood in some new way almost every day. Thank you, books, for quenching my appetite when nothing else could. I’ve loved falling in love all over again.
When’s the last time you fell in love with books all over again?