Boa-Turkey-Vulture Me

Long ago, my health became detrimental to normal life. First intermittent, now it's more often having escalated at a city shelter. I could no longer continue to work or finish my university studies pending health changes. Shelter food made me choke, vomit or sent me to the loo. It affects me daily. Every meal is sheer torture: I never know if I'll keep it down. A fluoroscopy confirmed that frequent up-chucking has narrowed and scarred my esophagus irreversibly. These dark times must pass. Like a boa constrictor who regurgitates barely-digested animals complete with that sticky gelatinous saliva, my choking is a lengthy painful process. Unfortunately, my constant throwing up isn't seen as an ingenious way of avoiding danger. The turkey vulture purposefully pukes up an entire stomach's wing-heavy contents, so that a rare predator will turn away from the maggot-infested stinky shit and rotting carcasses. My purging is just plain embarrassing and uncontrollable. Like boas who feed on rodents, songbirds, lizards and other small mammals, my normal diet is varied. My favorite meal is fish/seafood, rice/risotto and grilled vegetables. I like chicken, beef, lamb, and pork but can't consume these proteins without painful hard swallows. I can relate to captive boas prone to Inclusion Body Disease characterized by chronic regurgitation and abnormal painful postural positions: their challenges are like mine with Eosinophilic Esophagitis and other serious ills. Like a non-venomous boa, I wrap my coils around my faith. With God around me, I trust that things will improve henceforth. Also coiling myself around my friends, church family and sister, they act as the editors of my life and writings. Like the monogamous vulture, I'm fiercely loyal to those I love. Now others need to stick by me through thick and thin. Dark days must soon pass. Like boas whose habitat is threatened, so is mine, as Toronto's housing crisis means rising costs and limited affordable accessibility. As boas have adapted their perambulation to a straight line, I adjust to the times. Extinction threatens vultures too: they are poisoned by eating dead livestock given medication toxic to them. Shelters have fed me food months-to-a-year-beyond-expiration dates, poisonous to my now-delicate system. By picking dead carcasses clean, unsuspecting environmentalist turkey vultures are on clean-up and recycling duty to prevent the spread of disease. Their acute sense of smell has helped gas companies detect gas leaks as vultures circled attracted to the smell of gas also found in dead animals. Concerned with the environment, I enter contests funding tree plantings, clean-ups, and literacy programs. When migrating or searching for food, vultures congregate in ‘kettles' flocks of several hundred. I feed off the Salvation Army Bible study groups, kettle-crazed too. Like a baby boa, I was immediately independent, somehow discerning appropriate food without instruction. According to my father, I was ‘contrary' from birth refusing to drink my ‘milkies' and spewing up formula. My parents fed me pediatrician-recommended melted ice-cream. Somehow, I survived my first year, lactose intolerance then unknown. Again, I puke up constantly: it's hard to get nutrients into me. I'm not like others. I never thought as others do. Research is in my blood. An independent thinker, I can figure out most things with little or no instruction. Nowadays, Google becomes my first line of defense when faced with an unknown. Similar to boas and turkey vultures I hiss if threatened or encountering social injustice or iniquities upon the vulnerable. My sometimes-biting words are intended to propel others to act. Now I observe people's movements and utterances. Like an eagle-eyed vulture, I wait for the next juicy story. I write stories for contests. I may win one or not. But either way I'm the better for honing my observational, research and writing skills. Contests keep me alive. Everyday I write to achieve self-imposed entry deadlines. Too busy to worry about all the exigent conditions around me, including my own life's horrors, I focus elsewhere. Dark periods will lift someday. Till then, I keep my mind active even when my body fails me. Sometimes I write in floods like the expulsion of a boa's or vulture's stomach contents. Virginia Woolf's stream-of-consciousness. Other times I hover, searching for words. Like a vulture circling its prey from high to low altitudes, I scavenge for details to fuel my stories by people-watching. My prey is not physically dead. Yet like the city's forgotten vulnerable many are dead in prospects, motivations, hopes and dreams. Like the turkey vulture circling overhead, I hope for that tasty tidbit. Rather than with menacing size, I want my writings to stand out shining a light on social injustice. I want to change minds - ‘What ifs” to ‘right now.' I'm different. Boa-Turkey-Vulture Me.

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