I've got it.
Everybody's got it. You probably have it. The plague. The black death. The germ that cannot be named. This demon illness that has been sweeping the Mahoning Valley like the green mist of death from "The Ten Commandments." Only instead of taking your first-born son, it takes your health, your sanity, your ability to breathe through your face.
Everyone was sick last week. My aunt who works at St. Joseph Health Center said the hospital was crawling with disease and diseased people. I imagine them literally crawling through the hallways, like something from "The Walking Dead." Indeed, there were a few mornings last week I woke up looking like a zombie.
This particular sadistic batch of molecules seems to cause a head / chest cold / cough that lasts roughly two weeks. Your nose is stuffy, your throat is sore, your chest is filled with something that feels like wet sawdust, your face hurts, your arms and legs hurt, and you basically want to crawl into a hole and die. And instead of slowly tapering off and giving you a glimpse of a non-sick world, it relents briefly, then pounces back on you like a hungry germ-tiger. It's that kind of jerk.
I know no less than a half dozen people who fell victim to this super-cold. And I, regrettably, have given it to no less than two poor, innocent friends. (Friends, I'm so sorry. I owe you a drink, and you owe me a slug in the arm when you get your strength back). I've been avoided like the plague (so THAT'S where that phrase comes from) by friends with kids and upcoming vacation plans. It makes a lonely time even lonelier, knowing you've been cast out by healthy society.
I'm not used to this. I know I tempt fate every time I say this, but I never get sick. I have this reputation for never getting sick, and then kind of being annoying by gloating about it. But to cover all bases, I knock wood whenever I make this declaration. I'm tough, but I'm not Superman.
When I feel that tickle in the back of my throat like I might be getting sick, I have a method to cut the illness off at the pass. A regimen of juice, vitamin C drops and a solid 12 hours of sleep usually causes the cold to stop in its tracks and high-tail it out of my body. I've also been steadily building the Fort Knox of immune systems by not being squeamish, observing the five-second rule and letting enough germs slip through for my white blood cells to practice on. I stand by the regimen. It works the bulk of the time. But this time, it let me down.
When I felt that initial icky might-be-getting-sick feeling, I dove into a bottle of Florida's Natural and then into bed. Imagine my surprise when I awoke feeling worse. That was Jan. 7. I lost my voice. "I'm not sick!" I croaked. In denial, things got steadily unhealthier. My co-workers practically begged me to deprive them of my runny, hacky presence. Two days off work on the couch, surrounded by all my sick-supplies, did little to quell the disease demon. Tissues, cough drops, juice, Tussin, nose spray and DayQuil all surrounded my sickbed / couch. It looked like a Rite Aid exploded nearby.
If there is any upside to being sick, it is getting to pull the little kid card and having your mommy come and take care of you. Mine was waiting in the wings with chicken soup, ready to jump in and save the day. Moms love that stuff. She came with reinforcements, soup and comfort. And for a few hours, I was 8 years old, off sick from school, with my Care Bears lunch tray across my lap holding hot soup and a small cup of children's cough syrup. Thanks, Mom.
Here is it Jan. 22, and the cold remains. Throat is sore, nose is stuffy. Coughs are still being had, tissues are still being manhandled. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, for I can manage to choke down food that isn't of the chicken noodle variety. I'm on the mend. But for the last two weeks of coughing hacking death, I would like to apologize to all who bore witness, thank all who braved winter roads to deliver juice (thanks, Witzy!), and issue warning to anyone who thought, like me, that they would NEVER get sick, no way. It can happen to you. I hope you all feel better soon. Now go lie down.