In honor of my mother's birthday, here is a picture of Robert Moses (this is where my mom is saying, "May he burn in hell" and then spitting on the floor. Sicilians!). I may have altered the image slightly to include stink lines, a mustache, devil horns, and an arrow through his head. I may also have placed a stick figure rendering of my mother shooting laser beams out her eyes at him from the bridge (not drawn to scale.) But the manipulation is so sophisticated, you'd be forgiven for not noticing it.
If you don't know why I did this, you've never met my mother (or more clearly, you've never met my mother 2 beers in at a barbecue or 3 glasses of wine in at Thanksgiving.) That, or you didn't grow up in the Bronx in the 1950's.
Anyway - hope your birthday is awesome, Mom, and free of being rudely interrupted by the Cross Bronx Expressway.
I got the flu shot back in October, so imagine my surprise when I was on my way home from work on Monday to find the little cold I had been nursing morphing into some kind of full-body immune-system assault. I was in total denial, of course. No, not happening, I'm fine, I'm just tired, I just need NyQuil. Ridiculously sore muscles? Lack of sleep. Unbearable back pain? Desk job with uncomfortable chair. Headache? Lack of coffee. Sneezing, sore throat? Well, I had a cold, that's...cold stuff. The fact that I felt like I got hit by a bus? Well, maybe the Crosstown 86 actually did hit me that morning and I just hadn't been paying attention. So I was on the train coming home, a train that was stuck underground and stopping for 5 minutes at every station north of 125th street, huddled on the bench against the corner of the car, being a gross sniffly, sneezy mess, arms crossed on my lap, faced buried therein. And getting sideways looks, because everyone knows about the flu epidemic and nobody wants anywhere near me (and really, who could blame them?)
Also, at work, my colleagues had been (kindly) encouraging me to go home if I felt sick. "Awww it's just a cold, I'm fine," I said, ignoring the tunnel vision and weird way the wall had switched places with the floor. I must have known on some level it was bad news though, because I washed my hands Lady MacBeth-style before touching anything I was going to hand off to someone, and I wiped everything I touched with a clorox wipe every time like I was trying to get rid of my fingerprints from a crime scene.
At long last I got home to the Bronx, and then I proceeded to stagger through CVS for provisions (why is there ALWAYS a line in that place?) The checkout guy looks at me and says, "Whoa." (more Ted "Theodore" Logan-style, less Joey Russo-style, for those of you playing at home.) And not because he found me stunning, but because his favorite song in high school was "Living Dead Girl," and he never thought he'd meet the subject of the song herself in person. And boy, she must really like Gatorade, huh?
It took almost 2 hours to get home from work that night, and I almost crawled into my apartment. I found out that my digital thermometer starts reading question marks and hieroglyphics when the body's temperature climbs over a certain point. It's like that counter in the hatch from Season 2 of LOST. And clearly, I had forgotten to push the button.
First it read 102.6, then 102.7, then I thought I'd cover a few more radio stations and then it was like, "103.HowAboutYouGetInAnIcebath?"
So of course I end up Googling the effectiveness of this year's flu-shot, and learned what a lot of people already knew. Stupid vaccine! I did my part for myself and society! And now I managed to be freezing while my skin was on fire. How was this possible?
And then I knocked back some NyQuil and had dreams like this.
Every day, I'd email my boss and say, "I'll totally be better by tomorrow, I'll definitely be in!" And she, a realistic person who knows what the flu is and doesn't want me anywhere near her in that state, would reply, "Uh, no you won't. Seriously." And I'd think to myself, "Psssshhh, what does she know, I'm getting better. I'm gonna get up and go over here and get some clean socks and oh my god why is my dresser so far away I need a nap zzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
Fun fevered delirium aside, I was not loving the cough that I was developing. I called my doctor, who was not letting flu patients into the office AT ALL, and he did a kind of phone diagnosis and prescribed a codeine cough syrup. I... don't love codeine. It makes me nauseated. But I took it anyway, because, well, there's the old saying:
I'm better today, but for a few days there, I was the most disgusting, cranky lump of sweaty misanthrope alive, subsisting on tea, gatorade, broth, and crackers. As a result, I was starting to resemble Skeletor.
I grow tired of your SOUP!!!
(Facially, anyway. He's way more jacked than I remember.)
I just wanted to sleep. (All the better to plot my takeover of Eternia that way, really.) I haven't been this sick since I was 15 and got the stupid Chicken Pox. During that particular illness, I remember waking up in the middle of the night in a fever, and was convinced that my pillows were homework assignments. And I freaked out because HOW was I supposed to finish it all?!
It's been kind of like that all week. I've been stuck in a confusing and endless loop of Netflix and naps. I chose The Walking Dead over The Stand, because I like my T.V. shows like I like my illnesses - lengthy and debilitating.
It took about 5 days for me to start feeling like myself again, but a walk to the corner today was still enough to send me back to bed for a couple of hours.
I had taken it *very* personally that I had gotten the flu. Stupid? Absolutely. But understandable, I think. Because the very weekend I started with the seemingly innocent cold symptoms, I was catching up with former coworkers and telling them that even though I missed teaching, I was "happy to say that I haven't gotten sick yet this year!" That, my friends, is hubris.
Oedipus and the riddle of the flu-shot
And it doesn't help that people talk about the immune system like it's a measure of someone's worth. Everyone knows that friend who brags that getting sick is something only other people do. They boast about it, sometimes with a smug sense of moral and physical superiority. And when they find out you're the kind of unlucky human who gets sick from time to time, they either tell you you're coddling your immune system too much (I don't) or not washing your hands enough (I do.) No, clearly, I get sick because of some kind of character defect.
I actually am glad I got the flu shot, because the more I read, the more I learn that even if it didn't keep me from getting the flu full-stop, it probably did keep me from getting the debilitating version that's got a lot of people laid up for 2 weeks or more. So while I'm annoyed that this past week of my life has flown off the calendar, I'm glad I didn't end up in the hospital, wearing my pants around my neck like Leslie Knope, or worse, like Chris Traeger.