My immune system has a lazier work ethic than a stoned CVS clerk1
, and the slightest hint of a germ will have me spewing every disgusting body sauce you can imagine from each and every little pucker in my body. On the other end of the spectrum lives the Object of my Affection's immune system, a germ trap with a cadre of white blood cells so angry you'd think they'd just found out stem cell research was banned. As a result, the Object floats through cold season atop an oblivious cloud of the snot of his wretched peers. So on the few and far between occasions that a virus does manage to penetrate the steely cell walls and claim victory for its kind, the Object has no idea what's going on. Hilarity ensues.
Consider the time a few years back when mono struck me down in the prime of my summer. Since the the Object is the only person in quite some time whose face I've sucked on, I didn't quite understand how I got kissyface disease and he walked off scott-free. The logic didn't work for him either, and a few weeks after I'd been diagnosed, he called me from his office on a steamy July da. Just to clarify, steamy because it was hot, not because of making out, which sadly became taboo in those troubled times. He'd convinced himself that if I had the smoochyface plague, he must have had it too, as evidenced by the chills, dizziness, vague corporeal aches, and general feeling of unspecific but definitely real malaise, and so he was on his way to the emergency room.
Let me reiterate the part about it being July. It was hot, sticky, and disgusting, not unlike what I imagine it would be to sit inside the puckered anus of a plump person wearing polyester pants. It also bears noting that the Object is not a whiner; that's my area of expertise2
. In fact, he usually gets sicker than he needs to because he spends the first few days of an illness denying its presence instead of resting up, thus goading the viruses into some sort of existential crisis in which they must validate their lives by taking over his. But this particular infirm just sort of came on one morning. "I'm gonna throw up," he mumbled. The Object does not puke, again that being my area to shine3
Something was definitely up. I had an idea of what it was, and it was definitely not
my fault. Mono, my ass!
After grabbing a cup of ice and soaking some paper towels in cold water, I sprinted the three blocks from my office to his. He was on the sidewalk, muttering and hugging himself, having somehow fashioned his body into a standing fetal position.
There was something awfully familiar about the scenario, something that hearkened back to my days as a YMCA camp counselor for rowdy 11 year-old boys, a barf-mongering bunch if I've ever seen one. What happens when you take a bunch of fifth graders with full access to a vending machine full of sugary, caffeinated beverages, and then force them to play outside in the August heat4
? Well, for one, you get proficient with a cool, damp cloth and a vomit bucket.
"I have mono," he moaned. "I have to go to the ER. I think I need to be admitted."
Ignoring him, I hailed the nearest cab. As we climbed in, I directed the driver not towards the hospital, but towards home and told the Object to take off his long sleeve shirt and boots5
. He protested, "I don't want to make out with you; I have mono!" I put a damp paper towel on his forehead I asked, "Remind me what you did yesterday?"
In a paper thin voice he rasped, "I was a still a little hungover after I left your place yesterday afternoon, so I went home and took a five mile run. Then I played a pickup game of soccer with some guys in Meridian Hill. I went home and made some pizza. I felt really tired, so I had a few beers and watched a movie, fell asleep on the couch and didn't wake up until this morning."
"And what have you had to eat today?" I probed.
"Well, I had a meeting first thing this morning, so I ran practically ran to work and didn't have time to eat. I've had a few cups of coffee though."
"So you walked in the heat; you didn't take the air-conditioned bus?"
"Yeah. Look, I don't know why we're going home; I need to go to the ER. I think I might start hallucinating." His head lolled back and I took the opportunity to pop an ice cube in his mouth. "Let's make a deal," I countered. "How about we go back to your apartment and if you're not feeling better in an hour, I'll take you to the ER."
"Only if you stay with me the whole time and take every day off that I'm in the hospital and play video games with me," he whimpered. "I have mono and it's all your fault. Never touch me again!"
"Deal." I popped another ice cube in his mouth, hoping that if I couldn't make him feel better, at least I might choke him, thereby staunching the steady flow of whinging. Fortunately, the ride was short, and we were back at his place in no time. I hefted the Object onto my shoulder and we somehow made it up to his apartment. While he recommenced his fetal position, I begged every air conditioner in the place to start cranking out snowflakes, then drew a tepid bath and asked the Object to hop in.That's when things turned ugly.
Summoning up the last tiny bit of willpower not already wilted, he summoned an ache from deep in his belly and hurled it at me,"NO! I don't wanna; please don't make me! I hate
baths; I haven't had one since I was a little boy."
"If you don't get in the tub by the time I count to three, I won't play any video games with you when you're in the hospital."
Mollified, the Object started to strip down, but refused to take off his boxers. "I'm not taking them off. You're mean; so you can't see my penis. He'd meant it to cut, and it did, but only about as deep as a pair of left handed safety scissors they give to the short bus kids. In an non-huff, I walked out of the room, returning a moment later with a bottle of Gatorade. "Drink this. I'm going to run over to CVS to get some more. Just sit tight until I'm back."
When I came back ten minutes later, the Gatorade bottle was empty and the Object was looking considerably less like he'd been robbed of several vital organs and more like himself. As he dried off, he admitted that he was feeling a lot better. "I didn't know mono was so treatable," he remarked.
Now it was my turn to summon up the willpower not to smack him upside the head6.
"You don't have mono; you have heat exhaustion. It's what happens when you consume nothing but booze, crap, and coffee for three days straight, then go out in the 95 degree heat for a five mile jaunt and top it off with a ninety minute game of soccer. I told you, only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun."
He'd recovered enough to affect a sniffy tone and replied, "Hey, that's not fair. I didn't eat crap.
The pizza was homemade, and I used that whole wheat dough, which is crap, but not the same kind of crap you're talking about." I hushed him and said, "Watch your cartoons. I think Sesame Street comes on next."
So that was the last time the Object got sick.
Until now. I'd thought he was immune to this season's Evil Death Flu with the coughing and the hoarking green gobs and the queasy feeling that comes from having digested roughly seventeen pounds of solid mucus. You may know it as the illness that came back just when you thought you were feeling better. And then when you were feeling better from that,
it came back even more
pissed off that you'd tried to kill it. It is the Terminator of colds, and there's a decent chance you might end up in the hospital with pneumonia, as did a few of my coworkers. Earlier this week, the Object turned to me and said he felt it coming on, "but I think I can fight it," he said to me earnestly. "I can beat this."
While I'm proud that my darling Object is the Sarah Connors of the Evil Death Flu, I don't have the heart to tell him that no one beats the evil death flu. Even if he could beat it, he'd just die of leukemia in the end. At least it will make a hell of a movie; sometimes I just wish I didn't have to be in it.
Sigh, No Fate but What We Make...
1. Oops, that's redundant, isn't it?
2. And let me tell you, I am a bona fide VIKING!
3. Glasses of red wine, conference calls with committee chairs, monthly visitors, typhoid shots, and alternating Wednesdays - for every any and every occasion, I can provide a new and different kind of nausea. For some odd reason, this only started happening after college.
4. Ostensibly for their own good. I never did a good job of explaining that convincingly.
5. I swear I am not making that up; he was wearing actual boots.
6. Thinking back on the whole thing, I'm not actually sure I was managed to refrain.