It’s official: I’ve been “slapped by the wind” – and I can’t even Google it. Since I was a young tyke on Elmcroft St. in Peoria, Illinois, I was told to zip up my windbreaker, avoid switching between extreme temperatures, or to dry my hair before leaving the house lest I wanted to be “slapped by the wind.” This warning is not merely a reference to a strong wind overtaking you, wobbling you off kilter. It is a warning of another kind, and it multiplied in strength and frequency when I started living in Lebanon. My grandmother told me, “The wind here is different than Amerka.” And my mind would conjure up this notion that the flower-and-garbage infused sea breezes were dead-evil in their very composition. But truthfully, I didn’t believe in it.
Being “slapped by the wind” was in the same showcase of warnings as “don’t swim in the sea, you’ll catch a fungus”; “don’t walk barefoot, your stomach will hurt”; “don’t eat yogurt with fish, you’ll be poisoned”; “don’t let them curse you with their evil eye”; “don’t drink cold water if your body is warm.” To me, these were all overly cautious warnings passed down through the ages – only made true if you believed in them and meanwhile nurturing the wimp in ya. Furthermore, these warnings were for born-and-raised in Lebanon Lebanese, not the American kind.
But now my face is dripping with condensation as it’s been hovering over a steaming pot of eucalyptus leaves that were clipped from just outside and boiled on the stove. The villagers would use this home remedy when the wind did its thing against them. See, part of being slapped by the wind is actually this ironic thing where the wind is slapped out of you. As I type, I take deep breaths in, laboriously, as each inhalation sends a stab into my back, like someone is pushing and pulling a sewing needle from underneath my shoulder bone, between my ribs, to my chest. I assume that the eucalyptus was meant to open up my chest, which spasms when I eat or drink, so that breathing is smoother. In my case, I found that it … ouch, it hurts to laugh … as I was saying, it offers a relaxing, peaceful flow through the body, a minty tickle to the nose, and it opens up your pores. But, very little in the way of relief. Let me make something abundantly clear: Being slapped by the wind is painful, dreadfully painful. And it’s real.
For those of you who live in Lebanon, have you ever left the country and been asked by a fellow Leb to bring her back a bottle of Advil? This is one of those distinctly Lebanese customs that somehow don’t expire. I wish I knew the first Lebanese national who discovered Advil and spread the news, years ago, that there’s this great painkiller that so-and-so can bring with her from Amerka because since as long as I can remember, rattling bottles of Advil have been on the wish lists of Lebanese matrons and patrons, who have kept it safely stowed away in their medicine cabinets and with each pill felt the increased power of no pain, or less pain, and silently cursed their country for its god-forsaken government, killer traffic, and counterfeit bottles of Advil. But, I’d like to spread the word here: Lebanese Advil is just as good as American Advil. Game’s over, guys. No more freeloading off U.S. travelers. I’ve been taking 8 Advils a day for a week, and I would feel completely clean in my advocacy of this pill that I bought at Spears pharmacy just up the street from my Lebanese apartment. It softens my pain and pulls my spasms under control, all without stomach problems. I don’t feel the difference between it and its American counterpart. And it’s cheaper. Anyone back home need a bottle?
So how did the wind slap me, you wonder? I bought a bike. I rode it right after a yoga session as the cool spring air literally slapped my body from all sides. As someone has so aptly described it to me: It’s like taking a warm loaf of pita bread from the oven and placing it on a picnic table in the cool air. It crinkles immediately. And perhaps the most important part of the equation is having not believed the tales of the wind that a Leb tells.
Post Script: I am now on day 4 and not much better. I woke up this morning and my inhalations incited a feeling far more intense than a sewing needle working its way through me; it was more like a plunger sucking the very humor out of my insides.
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