Monday, January 24, 2011
You wake up and feel like shit. Which is actually not headline news, because you were out drinking last night, which you do a lot, and when you aren’t out drinking you’re in drinking, but this shit you’re feeling is worse than that usual dryness-on-the-inside-of-your-body ache. You throat is scraped raw, like sometime during the night you stuck a rusty spoon down it, and your headache is an unusually hot and heavy one. Your whole forehead feels like an oddly throbbing bruise. If only scientists could harness the power of your headache, the country’s carbon usage would fall by whole percentage points.
Now, are you actually sick? You haven’t puked, although your stomach is making a fist. You get out of bed. Jesus, you’re shivering uncontrollably, it’s fucking freezing and you start this horrible coughing that is really alarming—time to call in to work sick.
When you were a kid, you savored that moment when your parental figure finally gave in and was like, “Alright, I guess you’ll have to stay home,” making your heart surge. Stay home! All right! Except now you are your own parental unit and you actually want to go to work. Or not “want,” exactly, but if you’re working a shit per-hour job you need that money you won’t earn in your bed or contorted over your uncleaned-in-weeks toilet gagging; and if you have a job with some responsibility that pays you a salary, well, you better get well enough to stumble to your laptop and answer some emails or there will be a mess waiting for you when you get back.
Also, remember those childhood sickdays when your parental unit—unsexed here because we don’t want to offend anyone whose father was the primary caregiver and nurturer, but we’re talking about an essentially maternal figure—would take the day off work, if he or she worked, and just hover around you giving you cough syrup and water and tea and toast lightly drizzled with honey and chicken noodle soup and whatever else you felt you could consume without heaving green bile into a pot that the primary caregiver was thoughtful enough to place at your bedside? Remember when you were asked, “What do you need, honey? Do you need anything?” That was the best part of being sick, and the best part of having parents, actually, is that sense of having someone who cares about your desires, who will ask you what you need and be sincere and even be willing to go out of her way to physically provide the thing whose absence has left a hole in your preadolescent heart, unless this thing is something impossible like a helicopter or something that you really don’t need, like a ferret or a box of chemically flavored fudge or another fucking video game system. What is life, once you’ve become taller than your parents and wandered afield, other than a search for someone who will once again ask you, “What do you need?” and mean it?
Well, anyway, you could sure use someone asking you those questions, but your roommates are gone doing whatever it is they do during the day and your fridge and cabinets are not exactly stocked with cans of nurturing soup and cold medication and herbal remedies. This reminds you that you live the kind of life where you basically have half a six pack, some mustard, bacon, and a few half-eaten vegetables in your fridge and not much else, and maybe you really should try to be healthier, or at least better prepared. But that’s for later. Now, you should get some supplies for being sick, which gets at the crux of what it’s like to be sick and on your own.
Are you going to go to the store? You can’t really drive, what with these shivers and this fever, and you aren’t going to get on a fucking bus in this condition, so you better hope the hypothetical second person tense this is about lives in a metro area in walking distance of a corner store or pharmacy. And then you have to carry the stuff home yourself, trembling in the suddenly-freezing weather, coughing with your entire body on the street like one of those homeless guys on his really depressing last legs, and you have to heat the soup up yourself, when what you really need to do is lie down in the bed that no one is making for you. You give up on soup. You drink tap water, lots of tap water, and then try juice but it makes you nearly vomit. Juice later then. You scarf aspirin down, feel your forehead, the stupidity of taking your own temperature. The afternoon light outside your window goes gray and then fades. You’re pretty sure you won’t puke now.
When you’re sick you can’t entertain yourself by surfing the internet—too much effort—and you can only read if you’re really dedicated to the book and your head doesn’t start throbbing. You can maybe manage a movie, half watching it and half sort of trying to sleep, but it has to be something stupid, the kind of movie you usually hate, and you hate it now, watching it—being sick doesn’t make you dumber. Do you try to masturbate? Masturbating when you’re sick, when you have the chills and are coated in a thin layer of dried sweat and your head is pounding, is terrible, it’s like trying to have sex while your sick, as if anyone would let you do that, and you can only bring yourself to orgasm if you try way too hard for way to long, and it isn’t even any good and you feel fucking disgusting afterwards. Don’t masturbate when you’re feeling sick. Just lie there, doing that kind of moaning thing you did when you were sick and home along, where you make a sustained noise with your mouth that combines the vibration of a vibrating phone with the sustained low-pitch whine of a circular saw. It sounds like a robot dying but you feel better when you do it, somehow, like a sonic security blanket, although you couldn’t do it when your parental unit was home because, you learned the hard way, they would get pretty alarmed that their child would make a noise like that for an extended period of time.
If you are sick for more than one day, you wonder if you will die of your illness. This is ignorant and self-centered, but it happens. Isn’t there a chance that you have something really serious masquerading as a flu? It could be like an episode of House where the patient of the week thinks she’s just sick, but she’s been sick for a month and her concerned loving husband (secretly a gambling addict, we learn in a side plot!) takes her in and House’s team solves her problem easily and is ready to discharge her but then she starts anally bleeding and has this horrible rash on her arm, oh god, and her eyes are slowly filling with blood while the white-coated doctors banter about how it can’t be that one obscure disease because otherwise she would have no sense of smell, and there’s a tearful scene with her gambling-addict husband and she is like, “Am I going to die? They won’t tell me,” and he goes “Yes, and I’m not going to tell you about my gambling addiction because I love you so much, more than baccarat, and I want to spare you pain in your final moments,” and things are looking really bad until House himself, as the result of a side plot where he has taken up recreational hatchet-throwing as a way to bond with Cuddy, solves the mystery of the patient’s anal bleeding and nearly kills someone with a hatchet in his haste to administer the exact right medication to the patient, who, you have to wonder at the end, is still not in the best place because she still doesn’t know that the husband lost the mortgage in one white-knuckled night of high-stakes blackjack.
Well, this will not happen to you, thankfully. You will just gradually get better until you just have a cold and you won’t drink for a while and then you will be drinking again and you will learn nothing from this, your kitchen will still just have a bunch of shitty junk food in it that a sick person could not eat.
But while you wait to get better, you still have to stand in front of your stove cooking scrambled eggs—the thought of more complex foods makes your stomach clench in protest—in your bathrobe, which is inside out because who gives a fuck? and your t-shirt that is your least favorite t-shirt because it has about 20 tiny holes in it, and you are blowing your nose into your t-shirt because there aren’t any Kleenex in reach and you are like, man, I must have done something wrong for this to happen to me. At least when you’re hungover, there’s a reason for it.