When I was a little kid, I was probably what one could consider an opiate addict.
Wait. One sentence in, and I already need to back this up to explain. When I was a little kid, I was really sick with what is clinically known as ‘bronco-pneumatic lung funk”.. Basically, BPLF* is a condition in which your lungs freak the hell out over every single breath of air you take. You cough all day, you cough all night, you choke on your food and any words you try to say. It was pretty much the uncoolest thing to ever happen to me– well, at least one of the top five, maybe ten. Plenty of uncool crap has happened since then, but it was definitely the uncoolest thing that happened to me when I was six though, and that has to count for something.
My parents were good parents then, and they are good parents now. I’m pretty sure they are categorically against enabling 6 year olds to become addicts for absolutely no reason at all, so don’t hate on them in the comments, mmkay? There was need for this.
We lived in a tiny little town up north with no hospital– or even resident doctor– and I know my parents had been told by the visiting doctor that I was sick enough that I may have to get flown to the children’s hospital a thousand miles away so that I could recover properly. Until that point, he prescribed an anti-tussive cough syrup that would ensure that I would at least rest at night instead of hacking and wheezing and, uh, ‘tussing’.
Dudes, it totally worked. I did sleep. And I slept and I slept and I slept. And then I slept some more. While Drew Barrymore was smoking her first joint at the tender age of eight-or-whatever, I was six, and high as something that is higher than a kite (a weather balloon? A meteor? Charlie Sheen?) on some kind of narcotic cough syrup. I’d like to think I was precocious in a True Hollywood Story kind of way, but the truth is, I was a really sick kiddo.
I don’t remember a whole lot of it, and most of what I remember is pretty fuzzy and hazy. I remember a lot of coughing until I threw up. I remember people being concerned that I had become really skinny. I remember sleeping all the time. I remember taking the cough syrup and my eyes feeling like they were rolling back in my head. I remember epic constipation. I remember it being dreadfully boring. While everyone else was outside playing, I remember lying in my bed and half-wishing I could join them– then going back to sleep because thinking was exhausting.
The one thing that I remember as strongly as if I just experienced it ten seconds ago was that the cough syrup was grape flavored. Pardon me: “grape” flavored. Even typing about it makes my lips curl up a little as I’m trying to avoid the memory of a taste from nearly three decades ago.
It’s funny how artificial fruit flavor tastes like the complete opposite of the flavors of real fruit. Have you ever noticed that? The opposite of yes is no. The opposite of left is right. The opposite of grape is “grape”. The quotation marks make all the difference.
It’s nearly thirty years later, and I cannot shake my hatred of this medication and it’s pathetic flavor-efforts to try to trick me into thinking it wasn’t so bad. “Grape”, my ass. I was not fooled then and I am not fooled now.
Every Halloween, I think about this as I rip open bags of Skittles to round up and throw away the offensive “grape” ones. I sequester the “grape” lollipops and put them to the side so I don’t put one anywhere near my delicate little tastebuds. “Grape” soda? Don’t even open it around me because I will get unrepentantly stabby. Don’t taint my world with the opposite-of-grape, people. It’s an abomination.
I get laughed at by the fam for all of this. I don’t really care, because you know what? “Grape” doesn’t taste like grape. It will never taste like grape. To me, it just tastes like boredom, chest pain and not being able to poop for days. They can laugh if they want, but I bet they wouldn’t be in a hurry to eat something that tastes like constipation and sadness either.
* Actually, BPLF was a nasty combination of bronchitis, tracheitis, pretty severe respiratory allergies, and strep throat that lasted for months, but I think “broncho-pneumatic lung funk” sums it up with a little more panache and zazz, which is super important if you eventually want someone to hold a charity telethon for you.