Sexless in the City

Sometimes reading romance novels doesn’t quite prepare you for a love life...

For this 30-year-old urbanite, love is always a misadventure: The Harvard Lickwit, Hippie the Groper, the 5% Man, and the Ad Weasel. These and many other men wander in and out of her life — but never her bed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Anna and the Sergeant: Dreams are made of eucalyptus

A head cold is an admittedly odd reason to feel some gratitude for a long-ago, tongue-pierced suitor, but when said date was the one to inform you of eucalyptus oil’s powerfully curative properties, even the boob job he’d bought his “ex” (in an ill-fated effort to boost her self-esteem, or so he claimed) becomes the sort of endearing quirk that makes you sigh, “Ah, Sargie,” laugh and shake your head. (Yes, that sentence weighed in at 71 words, thank you.)

Sargie wasn’t really his name, of course — in fact, he had a such unusual one, I still sometimes wish I weren’t committed to pseudonyms — but somehow or other, a similarly shortened version of St. Ex-cessories’ real name had previously wound up on my shoulder, in a short-term tattoo scratched with eye pencil for my Halloween guise of stripper one year. (Ironically, that costume predated the early-20s bender of secular dating I went on, in a sort of rebound from being so shattered by Married Man’s being, well, married. Yes, you can get more back-story in the book.)

And when I met Sarge at the bar one night in grad school, he talked well enough that I chose to overlook his tongue ring, highly tricked out Jeep (all of which accessories he swore were vital to its optimal operation) … and the various other details that moved from being eccentricities to deal breakers in a matter of three dates.

Maybe the fact that I’d once gone around a party with a nickname version of his name writ as evidence of some prior, ill-fated “fling” had something to do with it. Or maybe I sensed that behind the avid first-impression conversation (which he later claimed was like running his brain in the “red zone,” a place he’d rather our physical contact went), was the sort of valuable homeopathic insight that would one day take on the sinus scourge of my second trip to India.

I don’t remember how it came up, except that I think I got sick the month of our dates. So one night Sgt. Ex-cessories helpfully mentioned that his dad used to have him put eucalyptus oil up his nose during head colds, which he claimed promptly caused all germs, junk and who knows what other fluids to promptly eject themselves from said stuffed-up orifice. Charming, no?

But charming or not, in an hour of desperation in Mumbai — either shortly before or after my equally desperate visit to an ayurvedic doctor who performed acupressure, some treatment with a heat lamp and played an unsettling meditation chant from an elephant plug-in — I remembered Sargie and the oil.

My head had been putting me through such misery that the needle-like pains in my temples sometimes drew spontaneous tears, an experience that was into its second or third day since my departure for Mumbai. Our first treatment had been tracking down the Indian black-market version of Sudafed — made with the real stuff, not the nearly impotent phenyl-whatever — and had taken us three or four chemists to find (the local version of a corner drugstore).

This worked quite nicely at first, but less than 24 hours into the treatment, the more capricious, black-market side of the pill introduced itself — as if it perched there beside me in bed, fearlessly gulping unboiled local water, and laughed when I pointed to my temple ordering, “Sinuses, NOW!”

“What, you think my work is clinically proven or something? I’m just a pill in foil packets that some unknown pilot or flight attendant dropped by the chemist for God knows what reward.” Wink, wink. That’s probably when I remembered the claim that oil of eucalyptus might cause, well, a disgusting flow of discharge, but one that just might open my sinuses, stop the pain, and allow me to sort of enjoy my vacation. In short, it might be a miracle cure.

Did I find it? Did it work? Did I manage to live in sinus happiness ever after? Check back next week for the thrilling conclusion to Anna and the Sergeant: Dreams are made of eucalyptus.

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