“So,” Mandy said, the corner of her mouth turning upward ever-so-slightly. I pulled the covers of the bed up a bit higher because I knew I was about to fall under a wave of scrutiny. “Are you sick-sick or man-sick?”
Just for kicks, I inquired about the difference between the two, although I already knew the answer. The myriad variances between “sick-sick” and “man-sick” had been explained on several previous occasions. Most notable among them, I am told, is the exaggeration of ailments — a headache becomes a migraine; a sniffle becomes influenza; a small rash on your left foot becomes leprosy. These things define what my wife calls being “man-sick.”
On this particular occasion, I was, most decidedly, not “man-sick.” No, this was “sick-sickness” at it’s finest — a stomach-churning, stomach-emptying, deity-begging, stomach-re-emptying, gun-purchasing, there’s-nothing-left-in-me-but-here-it-comes-again-anyway kind of illness that could have toppled that dude who used to have cannonballs shot into his gut.
No, I’m not exaggerating; I just told you, this wasn’t “man-sick.” This was “sick-sick” at its most potent … “chick-sick,” I suppose.
I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure some Itawamba County kid gave me whatever viral monstrosity decided to ravage my body. Our schools are are full of sick little children wiping their disease-covered hands all over everything and I’m visiting those hotbeds of unhealthiness on a weekly basis. Like a crummy pair of socks with their elastic bands worn out, I was bound to go down eventually.
Mandy had every right to be skeptical. As I’m sure any of my coworkers will tell you — no doubt with little to no provocation — I am a world-class whiner. Everything from the smallest inconvenience to the most negligible of discomforts is met with inordinate amounts of fluster and fuss. I’m the type of person who has this very narrow comfort-zone and if something makes me sway too far one way or the other … well, off I go.
I do not like falling off my comfort zone and I am not ashamed to let everybody around me know about it, usually very loudly and at great length.
This time, however, there actually was a wolf chewing on the sheep. After a night full of intermittently hugging the ole porcelain idol and watching terrible 90s movies on Netflix, I felt as if Death himself had picked me off the shelf, carried me to the front of the store and then changed his mind at the last second and just shoved me in among the candy bars and batteries and whatnot. I know the bubonic plague hasn’t been a popular thing for several hundred years, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I had. In fact, I’m pretty sure the dude with the body-stacked cart came strolling by my room a couple of times as I drifted in and out of consciousness, each time looking more and more disappointed as he discovered I had yet to pass from this world to the next.
Or, that may have been the fever hallucinations. I’m still not sure.
Once sufficiently convinced that I was, in fact, “sick-sick,” Mandy switched over into mothering mode, inundating me with popsicles, Gatorade and … when she was worried I was becoming super-dehydrated … Pedialyte, which kind of tastes a whole lot like dunking my head in the ocean and taking a huge, choking gulp of salt water.
Because she was rightfully afraid of being afflicted with my terrible, terrible sickness, Mandy would deliver all of these items decked in full plague-combating regalia: one of those little facial masks people in Hong Kong wear to walk down the street without dying of air poisoning, latex gloves and armed with a loaded can of Lysol disinfectant spray. If she could have fashioned some sort of rope-driven trolley system or something, I’m sure she would have delivered my food and meds that way.
You know, time becomes kind of meaningless when you’re bed-ridden. I would look at the clock, see it was 3:42 p.m. and then drift into a fitful sleep for half-an-hour, awake for a toilet run and then fall back into bed again only to awake hours later in a daze. The television was on, mostly just to serve as a distraction from how crummy my entire body felt. I would start watching a movie, close my eyes for a moment only to jerk them open a second later to find the credits rolling. It was very strange. Pretty good way to pass the time, though.
Eventually, my body decided to repair itself and I was able to swallow a bit of food and keep it swallowed, which doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment in hindsight, but felt pretty monumental at the time.
So, what’s the moral of this story? Don’t get sick. Barring that, be a man, because being “man-sick” isn’t nearly a rough as the alternative.
(This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2013 edition of The Itawamba County Times.)