(WARNING: This is a gross story. You might want to finish your coffee or breakfast or, actually all your meals today before reading it.)
In the three years we lived on Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, we lived in a borrowed Army house that was shaped like a U. 435 Baldwin Road. I sketched a little picture so you could have a visual. (Map is totally not to scale, by the way.) Look at the right part of the U. As you can see, my room and my sister's room were at opposite ends of a long hallway. A long, linoleum hallway. Brown linoleum. Army housing was at the cutting edge of trends, of course.
Anyway, a large and appropriate number of linoleum tiles sat between me and my big sister; distance is a good thing in many relationships (teenage sisters and in-laws are at the top of this list). But please note the bathroom was right next to my sister's bedroom. That's important in this story.
Another important thing to note: I hate throwing up. I mean, who really likes to throw up? But I hate it then and I hate it now. I cry every time like a big baby, just can't help it.
One night, when I was 13 years old and my sister was 15, I lay down in my bedroom to go to sleep one night, covered in the thin teddy-bear quilt that my grandmother lovingly made for me in my front bedroom. I wore a long nightgown-type T-shirt that hung to my knees. It was a Coca-Cola T-shirt, which makes me shake my head at the memory because my family was too all-natural and healthy to drink Coke. But wearing their logo was okay? Hmm. I'll leave that conundrum for another slice. With teddy bears doing acrobats all over my little body, I felt like their sweetness could surely beat this icky feeling in my stomach. I tried to deny that my stomach was churning. I thought I could sleep through it. I was confident I could will myself to morning, when whatever I ate that made me feel this way could pass normally through my body.
I waited and waited and waited. I hoped and hoped and hoped.
Until the waiting and the hoping exploded in one moment when I knew. I knew that I was going to throw up. RIGHT NOW. I got up, quick as a flash. I started to run. My too-big-for-me Coca-Cola T-shirt nightgown-y thingie billowed after me a bit. Run, Kate, run!
Now, on that unattractive brown linoleum we had some bit of rug, some thin little covering that protected my family's toes from the cold floor. That rug ended right at the door of my parents' bedroom (check that map!). At the very moment--I wish I could play for you the slow-motion video going on in my head right now--that my right foot pushed off from the last shred of rug, my right hand reached up and covered my mouth. I had waited too long in my cozy, teddy-bear filled bed. I had to throw up, and my stomach couldn't wait ten more feet to get to the bathroom.
Whatever I had eaten or whatever bug I had (my bet is on the former) wrecked my stomach so much that there was a gross amount of gross stuff coming up, pushing its way past the hand unsuccessfully clamped down on my mouth. I really did want to keep it inside until I got to the bathroom. But suddenly, puke was just everywhere. I guess because I was going so fast, leaning forward into my run down the hallway, my face was a foot before my feet. So when I threw up, my nasty puke reached the brown linoleum before my feet did.
And so my left foot hit the linoleum floor a split second after that gross stuff did. And I assure you--feel free to scratch this off of your things to test in life--that linoleum floors are quite slippery when wet. When my foot hit that patch of puke and I slipped. Hard. I didn't fall forward, free of puke. Nope. I feel flat on the rest of what I had thrown up.
Disgusting? You betcha. But I couldn't just hang out there in my stinky, messy misery. I knew there was more coming, so I got up and hobbled all wet and sticky to the bathroom, to the toilet, to where I should have been waiting and hoping in the first place.
Of course, my sweet mom came around the corner and into the bathroom. She surveyed the scene and knew in an instant what had happened. Her sympathy and empathy made me cry even harder, because now I was crying because I felt sorry for my mess of a self, not just because I had been sick like I hate being sick. My sweet mom, of course, was the one to start cleaning me up and start cleaning it up...as my father still snored in the bedroom. Had he even heard me?
(Pause: A moment of silence for the unfairness of life.)
Somehow in her super-mom way she began to clean up the mess while simultaneously offering "there, there" rubs on my back and getting me a fresh nightgown that I could change into after I showered the nastiness off of my sick, still-shaking body. I just sat in misery, crying.
In the quiet night, over my miserable whimpering, I heard, "Mom? Mooooommmm?" It was my sister. My mom gave me a sweet pat on my back--she wisely didn't dare touch anything on my front--and said she'd be right back. She scuffled quietly and quickly into my sister's room to see what my sister needed. She was gone for 20 seconds, half a minute, tops.
And then, from my big sister's room, I heard a cackle of laughter, loud and unstoppable, free of empathy but full of amusement.