It starts on a Wednesday, with a faint feeling of not-rightness about the head, as if the senses were secretly, suddenly drunk. And you can’t teach like this, so you check yourself out early from work, a pre-emptive strike that gives false hope Thursday morning but ultimately fails: by Thursday night the throat begins to swell and catch, shrugging itself into place like a cachet of blankets, and the body remembers: this is how it begins, and it’s not going to be fun.
Friday morning marks the first of 5 days of high fever that swells your back until it pulses pain. Freezing in your clothes in front of the pellet stove fire, you give up, and see a nurse in the clinic, who treats you roughly, shoving a stick up your nose to swab for the flu and sending you home with medicines that seem, somehow, wholly inappropriate for your described symptoms.
It’s not better. You move to the couch, because your coughing in the night keeps a household from sleeping. You cough so much it leaves starburst headaches above one eye, and explodes a red vessel all over the white of the other. By Monday last you find yourself in the hospital having chest X-rays. Pneumonia, the doctor says; go home, because it’s going to be a while.
If you’re me – and I suppose we write as everyman so often, it seems odder not to assume so – then the slight hump of guilt and regret which accompany removing oneself from the human race never go away. The pain and woolen-headedness engender not so much laziness as a comprehensive malaise. Once or twice, I must admit, I encountered a coverbloggable something, recognized faintly in my haze as that which generally fits the rubric; each time, I merely put it aside for when the mind was working, and the body clear.
The ears don’t work when the body is so broken: they plug up, and the tinnitus ricochets loud like a shut-in. And illness stifles the linguist in me, too. The fever dreams of a week gone by turn what is ordinarily a rapid-paced flash of clear phrasing into a muddy fishpond, its pearls of bespoke wisdom faintly seen, if at all, and never that clearly. Even if I could hear and listen, I could not properly muse, at least in those regions where objectivity is a necessary companion.
And so, with no voice for a half-score of days, we plant the signpost: yes, we are still here, a mind under reconstruction, exhausted and sore, still planning to go back to work tomorrow despite strong reservations about whether it is even possible to maintain order in the inner city classroom with the flag at half mast. The grim spectre of several days to come loom, but there are a few hours yet to document the damage before we leave behind these hydrocodone dreams. And so we struggle to fix our tenses, and collapse the prismed multiples into the stable self, and rise again like Lazarus; to coalesce and be unbroken once again.
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