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sickness i have known

December 25, 2008

I have the flu.  This always happens when I go home.  My body saves all the stress until it’s safe to break down and then the fever rushes in and I’m delirious for three days.  I’m proud of my body for behaving this way though.  I think it shows good survival instincts.

I don’t get colds.  I don’t really know what the difference between colds and the flu is, but I think it is the difference between a drippy nose and a raging fever.  When people say they’re sick and then say they don’t have a fever I don’t even know what they are talking about, and I tend to, as Chloe has so recently pointed out, have no empathy for things with which I cannot identify.

The thing is I kind of like being sick.  This is probably the same reason that I tend to like drugs.  It’s a different state of being.  When I’m sick I can stare at a wall for an hour and be effortlessly entertained by the way my body hurts.  I can think insane thoughts.  When I was younger I had recurring sensory hallucinations.  I feel my mortality very closely.  I asked my mom once in the throes of a body temperature climbing the triple digits if this is what it felt like to be old.  She said no, being old was not the body burning up, but cooling down.  I was endlessly thankful for this.

I am normally not very observant of the state of my body.  I’m not one of those people who feels bad after eating certain foods or getting too much sleep.  I don’t know when I’m about to start my period.  I don’t feel any different under a full moon, but in the illness I become a student of my body.  The ebb and flow of my fever is regular and rolling.  I wake up in the night drenched in sweat, and I know it has broken.  I shiver under a pile of blankets and take a bath at four in the morning.  One time when I had the stomach flu I was in one such bath and was so weak that I threw up in the water and didn’t have the strength to get out for almost five minutes.  I know that’s gross, and certainly Chloe will not want to be my friend anymore should she read this.  If she even still wants to be my friend after the incident last week when she learned that I am insane.  How that could have escaped her for ten years of friendship I don’t know, but of course it actually didn’t because something that I learned about Chloe last week is that nothing escapes her she just doesn’t feel the need to talk about it ad infinitum or write about it on the internet.  

But the throwing up in the bath.  It just seemed so strange and yet so intensely human.  It made me cry for the pain of this stupid soft body.

Inevitably, I emerge thinner, paler, with that strange survivor’s confidence.  My skin always seems to glow, and for several hours I appreciate my health anew, until I quickly forget what it felt like, all this sickness I have known.

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