Better This Kind of Cure*
But sometimes the stories come after dinner.
As a personal belief I tell myself that the kitchen soap isn’t proper soap, will not clean my hands of the smell of the sink rag or of Joy, so every night after washing the dishes I go into my parents’ room to wash my hands in their sink, with the bath soap.
I dry my hands up above my head, where cool air from the fan, still not cool enough to rid us of the breathtaking heat, can touch the moisture. A few inches to my left the TV screen is orange and green: colors of the tennis game my parents are watching with the lights off. My mother begins to talk of a stomach ache.
We list down what she ate, what we ate, because Sundays are always a glorious feast for the family: crablets in coconut milk, kilawin, inihaw na tilapia, seaweeds with Indian mangoes, onion, and tomatoes. I tell her to use Efficacent Oil; my father tells me another potion.
Noong araw, it starts, and talks of Paregoric. Amoy pa lang, ayaw mo nang sumakit ang tiyan mo, he assures me. Like fire down your throat they both said, and warmth in your belly and a taste like bitterness, like alcohol, like nothing you can ever understand
(I tried to ask them again and again; my parents are not strong in their metaphor).
But those days ended, she said, because the times are gone when only one thing can be recommended for a stomach ache. So Paregoric sounds like myth; like things concocted by Maesters in epic novels or potions drunk by faeries in fantasy comic books.
Later, I am surprised: the facts agree: opium, anise oil, benzoic acid, camphor, alcohol, diluted alcohol, purified, water, glycerin–they all dictate, the taste needs must suffer. And its history reads like Potter’s potions, words like tincture and “Le Mort’s Elixir” are thrown into the mix.
But what a slow death; oh!, how they say it only survived then because people kept watch. And now they know better, we know better, we are int he pink of health!
But I have turned to my computer. Perhaps my mother’s pain has abated; perhaps it was a false alarm–which is more often than not what it is, even with her sensitive stomach.
Perhaps we are still doomed, after all.
*But I prefer this.