Back in 1989 my family went on a car trip to Oklahoma to visit my grandparents. It was Christmas break and I was 5. We were in the same station wagon that would later claim my thumb’s life.
The road trip took several days and it was fucking miserable. I was car sick for the entire time. And my sister had her birthday in the car. Which I’m sure was great for her.
When we got to my grandparents farm there was snow on the ground. I had never seen snow before. And I’ve only seen it once since.
We had a snowball fight at one point. It was pretty pathetic, scraping up handfuls of snow to hurl ineffectually towards each other.
I have a picture of us bundled up. Oklahoma looks cold and depressing in the photo. I was never warm. Not even inside, in front of the fire.
My grandparents had this heavy red blanket. It must have weight 30 or 40 pounds. I couldn’t move it by myself. But lying under it felt amazing. Like a full body hug. They make weighted blankets for autistic people. I keep thinking about making myself one.
I didn’t like my grandparents. Or their farm. Or Oklahoma. They were mean and strict. And they ate weird food. They had a few cats. But they were old and sickly and boring. You couldn’t pet them and they didn’t play.
One day I was inside with my grandmother. Everyone else had gone outside. The cold seemed to affect me more than everyone else. It still does.
My grandmother gave her cat some medicine and left the room. I sat there, watching the cat eat around the medicine. The cat finished her treat and left the medicine on the floor. I sat there staring at it.
It was beautiful. It was a clear red gel cap. It was lying in a pool of sunlight. It looked like a jewel. Like a little garnet sparkling on that tile floor.
I picked it up and played with it. I watched the sun shine through it and leave a glowing red shadow on my palm. It was mesmerizing.
I started to wonder what it tasted like. It was so pretty. It had to taste amazing. Like magic, or rainbows, or at the very least like a gusher. By the way, don’t Google ‘red gusher’ with safe search off.
I could hear my grandmother somewhere in the house. I took a deep breath and bit into it. It tasted acrid and bitter. Like earwax.
But it was medicine, and medicine was good for you. Besides, it was so pretty. How could something so pretty be bad for you?
So I ate the whole thing. I never told anyone that I had eaten it. It was one of the many random, pointless secrets I kept as a child.
In retrospect, I’m lucky it didn’t make me sick. I am exactly the type of child that people make warning labels for. It’s lucky I don’t find blue to be an appetizing color or I would have poisoned myself with Windex or windshield wiper fluid long ago.