Originally written in 2004. Re-edited 2011
December. I am home sick with the flu. My delusions of being impervious to all ailments have been realized. It must have been Mario, my salsa partner from Monday night; he was sweating a lot and looked kind of pale. I’m pretty sure I have a fever since I have chills, a fiery exhale, and dreamt last night that I gave birth to a moth. I am determined to fight it off using holistic practices only. The “self healing” class I took last month convinced me that any cold or flu remedy purchased from a mainstream drugstore will result in infertility or at least a bad rash. I begin to consume buckets of homemade ginger tea and Echinacea and take a hot bath with baking soda, Epson salts and three different essential oils I found while rummaging under the sink. I have no idea what purpose they serve but I read somewhere that they have some sort of magical power to cure so I pour away. An hour later, I am still sweaty, achy and have peed 6 times.
Could I have picked this up in that Wednesday yoga class? Those mats were filthy and the guy in front of me had dirty feet. I got to inspect them each time I did an upward dog. I call my mom to cancel the Yoga class we are supposed to take together this afternoon. She asks if I have a fever. I tell her about the chills and the Moth-child. She is concerned. I didn’t get a flu shot this year and children are dying in the Midwest. I begin to entertain thoughts of death but am sure that the ginger will save me. Ginger heals everything. I hack off large chunks of the root and chew on it raw with mild enthusiasm. My mom agrees to bring me whatever I need this afternoon. Thinking of my Turbaned “self healing” class guru, I request greens, bone broth, and a shot of wheat grass juice which I decide will be my back up in the battle against death should the ginger chunks fall short. I force down a bowl of 7-grain cereal as well as 11 different vitamins before hanging up and crawling back into bed.
When I finally awake, it is 2pm and I have been sleeping for four restless hours. My eyes are now itchy, my nose is stuffed and it hurts my skin even to pull on sweatpants. However, I have the sense to don a pair just in case the cute exterminator drops by unannounced, which he often does. I don’t want to give him the wrong idea, no matter how attractive he is. I wouldn’t have the energy to throw him on the bed anyway. I munch on some now crystallized ginger which I left simmering in a pot by mistake while I was sleeping and swallow a homeopathic remedy called “Cold Calm” which expired a year ago. I lie on the couch and ponder how this could have happened.
Perhaps it was the 23 year old actor I made out with two weeks ago. He hasn’t called me back leading me to believe he has probably died from the flu- the only reason I can fathom as to why he wouldn’t return my calls. I sneeze repeatedly and my lip twitches. I cave and take Theraflu. 15 minutes later I feel a little better. I check the ingredients. Must be the “Phenylalanine”. Wait, am I a Phenylketonuric? What IS a Phenylketonuric? Where is my wheat grass juice? 3:30pm.
My mother finally arrives bearing healthy gifts, which she prepares in the kitchen. I remain on the couch listening to Norah Jones’ “Don’t know Why I didn’t Come” on repeat and weep- both for my own lazy immune system and the various reasons I come up with as to WHY it was that Nora Jones didn‘t come. The sobbing is a good idea as it allows me to blow my nose for the first time all day. I must remember this for future reference. As I sit downing the greens, broth and try to swallow the wheat grass juice without gagging, my mom advises me against attending a family friend’s annual Holiday party that evening. The prospect of not being able to partake of what is usually a fantastic spread of sumptuous holiday treats and mulled wine sends me to the tissue box again as I mourn for what I know I could have consumed.
I bet this is all the fault of that wiry doorman at work. I KNOW I saw him holding a Kleenex and looking feeble on Thursday. I retire to my germy bedroom with a bottle of just in case Advil while mom cleans up. When I awake 3 hours later, she is gone, it is dark outside, the kitchen is spotless and I am sweating and starving. I remember when getting the flu was kind of fun. It provided an endless opportunity for reruns, sleep and, best of all, sympathy and special treatment from people who love you. Now, at 7pm it feels like my humidifier and I are taking on this malady alone and The Golden Girls just isn‘t cutting it. I’m stuffed up again so I decide to watch a tear jerking documentary on Kofi Annan to induce easy nose blowing. Sure enough, with the Independence of East Timor, my nasal passages are clear once again.
At 8:30pm I determine that it is far better to risk infecting everyone at the Holiday party than to continue to sit here alone bemoaning the fact that Kofi will probably never marry me, so I am off in a cab in my festive red pants fortified by another packet of Theraflu and a clementine my mom left in the fridge. Who care’s if I’m now infertile. I feel better.
The party is just as I expect. Happy white people singing Christmas Carols
around a piano and a buffet of food for the Gods. People I have not seen for 12 months welcome me with Holiday greetings and the requisite “How was your year” question. I can see my mother shoot me a look as I stand by the table of food shoving brownies down my throat that I cannot even taste. I make feeble attempts at conversation all the while trying to pass off my sniffling as the result of the spicy lasagna. Finally I am sent home by my mother after she catches me sneezing into the egg nog.
When I return home, filled with baked Brie, Pumpkin pie and the tune of Good King Wenceslas, I settle into bed preparing to take on day two of the Flu. There will be more ginger and Echinacea, more baths and mucus stimulating documentaries. There will be an unexpected visit from the good looking exterminator who will share his secret anti-flu remedy. And there will be me languishing on the couch glad not to be dead and hoping to catch a glimpse of my future at the bottom of a cup of chamomile tea.