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  • Ken Ilgunas

Throwing up in the van

I must preface this entry by acknowledging that throwing up in a van isn’t much different than throwing up anywhere else. I’ve decided, however, to add my tale to the already voluminous canon of throw-up stories because most any throw-up story, I feel, is a story worth telling.

My friend Josh—in the comment section of one of my “Eating” entries—motioned to create a pool to determine “how long [it’ll] take Ken to catch a stomach virus from his fork.” Because I doubt any such pool was created, I’m afraid to proclaim Josh, in lieu of an official winner, as victor.

My tale of throwing up began earlier this week. While it may have begun with some of my less-than-sanitary eating arrangements, I believe it was triggered by several factors.

Due to an over-abundance of school work, I pulled several all-nighters, drank copious amounts of coffee, and put a halt to my regular work-out routine, only visiting the gym to take showers. By giving my schoolwork precedence over my physical well-being, I’m fairly certain that those bodily defenses assigned with guard duty—overworked and sleep-deprived—abandoned their posts for a night on the town, permitting the enemy to slip past my immune system.

It’s my general belief that sickness is for the weak. If one keeps a sturdy body, scoffs at minor ailments, and cultivates a hearty constitution, I think it’s okay to be a little less cautious with trifling matters like a dirty fork, an unwashed pan, or a two-month old bottle of squirtable butter.

I still generally agree with the above statement but I’ve since taken a few precautions. I threw out the two-month old bottle of butter which has been subject to the wavering North Carolinian temperature changes. When I used it in a meal last week I noticed that it had taken on a new form—no longer was it thick and cream-colored, but thin and piss-yellow. I also bought some grapes this past week which I neglected to wash because of inconvenience and laziness. I instantly noticed some sores on the roof of my mouth after eating . For that reason, the grapes, which I’ve also discarded, are my top suspect.

On Thursday my condition rapidly deteriorated. My sinuses became plugged and my stomach grumbled. Hoping to compensate for my lack of physical activity, I went to the gym and played in four competitive games of pick-up basketball. Vigorous activity, I’ve found, curbs, if not totally eradicates illness. Yet afterwards in the library my head began to throb and menopausal hot and cold flashes made the hairs on my arm rise and fall like fast-forwarded footage of flowers responding to the sun. I became dizzy and delusional. Before things got worse, I decided to zigzag my way back to the van in hopes of sleeping the sickness off.

As resilient as I like to believe I am, I remember thinking if I had to permanently live in such pain, I’d decide—pretty quickly—to blow my brains out. Between aches in my head and stomach I eagerly awaited my moment of solace. You know the moment—the moment right after throwing up when the world suddenly becomes a much more habitable and friendly place.

And then it happened. I positioned my wastebasket next to my bed and christened it with a few introductory heaves—a mere preamble to the story that follows. Then, my throat—like a fire-hydrant uncorked by a group of inner-city and over-heated juveniles—discharged the entirety of stomach’s contents in one impressive blow. Unsure if I was feeling better or worse, I plopped my sweat-soaked head on my bed and passed out.


Fictitious ascetic, Robinson Crusoe—a ship-wrecked sailor who lived on an island all to himself—had a severe bout with sickness as well. When he was revived, he had a fresh outlook on life. No longer depressed with his unusual circumstances, he embraced his newfound solitary existence. I can’t say throwing up has ushered in a new dawn of Ken, but I am reminded of the need to take better care of my body.

The body, I feel, should not be pampered and coddled; it must be pounded into submission. Rigorous exercise and a disavowal for hedonistic pleasures are staples of the spartan way of life.

A healthy mind and spirit are secondary to a healthy body. Never should I compromise the health of my body for the health of my mind. It makes no sense to do so. The two are inextricably linked. Any damage to my physical health is, by nature, damage to my mental health.

With that said, I’m still stubbornly adhering to my no-wash policy for forks and dishes. I’d like to believe that this illness was a mere fluke and not a serious drawback of vandwelling. But I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. If you suspect that I’ll once again fall victim of my own hubris, please feel free to start up another pool.


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