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Perfect Couples | 2010 | Are You Mark?

02.20.10 5:34 p.m.

A man's illness is his private territory and, no matter how much he loves you and how close you are, you stay an outsider. You are healthy.  

-Lauren Bacall


Sick Bed

There have only been a few times where I have felt close to death, most notably when I caught mono from drinking out of a friend's glass in high school. Most teens just shrug mono off, sleeping for a few days and then restoring to vitality. My throat nearly closed up and was filled with white sores, rendering me incapable of eating and nearly from drinking. I don't recall how long I was sick, as I was busy talking to my hallucinations and groaning like a dying dog for most of it. Less than a month, certainly, but I am not sure by how much.

I am suffering from a similar condition now, a combination of strep and tonsillitis. At least mono let me sleep. I went to a sawbone at a local Urgent Care, the McDonald's equivalent of an emergency room, because there was no other way to get the antibiotics that would clear up my condition. (I consider it more than annoying that antibiotics are fed to cattle en masse but I have to beg to get six pills. Am I not as worthy as a future hamburger?) While I am fairly sure the white bumps are obliterated, the healing occurred at the expense of kicking my whole immune system in high gear, inflating all the glands of my face. Including, unpleasantly, my salivary glands, which feel like a second tongue and produce an excess of spit. I am 66% puffier than I was before and my throat is half as wide. I have to choke down water and the occasional tea or Gatorade, and I can only do this when I mentally prod myself that dehydration will mean I end up with an IV at great financial and emotional expense.

I won't die, but my mother, in bringing me groceries last night, said that I had better not waste her food by kicking the bucket. It sounds cruel, but this mockery is the easiest way for us to show concern, especially when coupled with a withered bouquet wrapped in an old newspaper to help me feel better.

Melanie - her head a tizzy of PMS, parental expectations, and the burden of being overworked - did not come to see me Friday night, as is our custom, because she was aware she was being bitchy to me as I was available. She knew she needed to get some work done if she were to be at all helpful to me today. Unfortunately, I woke up nearly every hour, gagging on my body's immune response and hyperaware. I had to talk myself down, knowing that my body wasn't trying to kill me and I needed to start relaxing. I would have caused Melanie only torment last night, but I couldn't help feeling that I wanted someone nearby in case I stopped breathing. This is the first illness I was dealing with mostly on my own and felt as though I were floundering.

According to the doctor, I was still infectious and, though I believe I caught this from Melanie (who had a version so mild as to be little more than slightly swollen glands), I on no accounts wished to infect her. Quarantining myself, even at the expense of my bank account, was the only option.

Melanie came over Saturday morning. I was frightened how she would react to how I looked, so much so that I croaked before opening the door, "Just remember that you said you love me!" I opened it, she took one look and her eyes welled up with love. She hugged me and was delighted to see me, no matter how hideous I really looked with my puffed up features and inability to speak English (this is not an exaggeration, my glands inflated so large that there was no longer a demarcation between my bottom lip and Adam's apple, just one bullfrog sac of endocrine system).

The whole time she was here, she was angelically sweet and sought to care for whatever needs she thought I might have, even when I assured her that I was mostly able-bodied. We watched literally hours of shows on the internet, even though she had been stressed out about work and could have gotten some done while spending time with me. At one point - and I hope this isn't too much information - she touched the back of my knee, which was slightly sweaty given that I was having a small fever. She said, though she couldn't explain it, that this little sensation sent an explosion of love shuddering through her. She had no problem sleeping on the air mattress, though she insisted we push it to the edge of my bed and talk for a good hour before actually trying sleep, while she held my hand and kept telling me how sweet and good I am. I have never felt so supported and loved and, not surprisingly, felt I made the greatest strides toward health because she was with me.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, persecution via fallen limbs.

last watched: Life On Mars
reading: Smoke and Mirrors
listening: Mark & James

Perfect Couples | 2010 | Are You Mark?

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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