I’m having dinner with friends. A long lingering dinner party for four. Cocktails, wine, gourmet comfort food prepared by my gourmet quintessential hostess friend. Not a typical evening, and one I sure do want to relish. My date and I have planned it all out. We’re spending the night so we can stay later and not have to drive home. I’m even contemplating an after dinner drink option.
Somewhere in the middle of a conversation about how two Zinfandels from the same winery can taste completely different because of where the grapes were grown, I take a sip of said delicious wine. Suddenly it tastes different. Wrong.
And the tannin receptors on the back of my tongue freak out a little bit. I think, “Hm.”
Suddenly, I don’t want that anticipated cognac. I want bed. My bed 45 minutes away. But it’s late. I go ahead with the plan. After doing the dishes with my hosts, I find a stash of tissues in the guest room and crawl into bed. I lie there, sniffling a little with the early stage drips that could very well just mean “cold.”
By morning, the clotted cheese that is now clogging my throat is moaning “flu” in its dire, moist voice. Every breath pushes past the clotted cheese and makes an awesome rendition of “death rattle.”
My eyelids peel open past the grit of “not all is well” and I ignore the need for 6 more hours of sleep. Off to work. Because I spent the night, I have only a 15 minute commute instead of a 40 minute commute and I can’t even enjoy it. My hostess made me a double shot decaf redeye with her two kick-ass coffee machines and I can barely appreciate it. Coffee, like wine, taste wrong to me when I’m sick. Ironic. My two favorite drinks go to shit in my mouth. (When I’m pregnant too, but I knew that wasn’t what was going on.)
My man friend drops me at work and I refuse even an air kiss. I know for sure I’m toxic as hell.
The hot hot pressure that starts somewhere around my temples and spreads out in slow but inexorably expanding circles consumes my sinuses, my cheek cavities, my eye sockets, my non-existent tonsils, my lymph nodes, my ear canals, and all the little spaces between my big aching brain and my seemingly shrinking cranium. I sit at my computer noticing how its glow is vibrating sharply, like visual piranha teeth.
By the time my skull is as tight as bony spandex against my gray matter, so that I’m thinking about asking the maintenance guys if I can borrow their drill, it’s almost time for lunch. Will it be akin to germ warfare if I enter a dining hall full of young children? But I keep thinking, if she made chicken soup today, I’m sure to get all better after a giant mug of the perfect stuff.
I skulk into the dining room partway through lower school lunch after everyone is seated, and skirt the room in the direction of the two pots of homemade soup. No chicken soup. I feel a little bit doomed. The clearly emotional mindset of a rapidly sickening woman.
I grab a mug of the wrong kind of soup and take it back to my office, thinking… well who knows what I was thinking. Eyeballs smoking in my head, I kept at it, trying to write an article, vaguely returning emails, screwing up a mailing to the class of 2013 and being benevolently rescued by a colleague who could see Flu Brain setting in from a mile away. Somehow I got to the end of the day.
By six that evening I was shivering so hard I spilled my tea all over my bed and knocked the lamp off when I tried to turn it on.
My daughter called. “Mama?” she asked, when she heard my quavering voice. It dawned on me just as I said it out loud, “I don’t think this is a cold.”
“No shit,” she affirmed, lovingly.
She talked into my ear as I cowered, vibrating with chills, under two comforters and two cats, one specifically applying her feline heat to my chest. Her own frantic purring and my chill-induced vibrations made her whiskers tremble. As my daughter prattled on, distracting me from it all, I used what was left of my brain to cross things off my mental list of everything I was going to get done that weekend.
One thing and one thing only remained on my list: be sick so I could get well.
Lots of loving and nurturing from my fellow, elderberry syrup from one friend and Chinese anti-viral herbs from another, Echinacea, zinc, and approximately a gallon of water and two pots of tea a day, sick amounts of sleep and plenty of cat comfort and voila! Three days later I was pretty sure I’d one day maybe be almost myself again. And sure enough my optimism paid off.