Even though I am a certified nurse assistant and have no fear of needles or hospitals, I believe in conquering my illnesses myself.
Last week it felt like a knife had been shoved down my throat. And when I vomited my protein shake at the gym, I knew I was in trouble.
Before Spouser came home from work, I already had Vicks smeared all over my chest and was boiling mentholatum in a pot on the stove, spewing fumes that sprinkled all over the kitchen like a witch’s brew.
“You don’t look so good,” Spouser said, entering the house. “You’re a little bug-eyed.”
“Could it be I have the towel wrapped too tightly around my neck?” I replied, my voice raspy.
The next morning I awoke to find the Angel of Death sitting at the foot of my bed filing his fingernails.
“It must be the pig flu,” I moaned. “Just bury me in my bed.”
“Could you at least move to the guest room?” Spouser asked.
“That’s the cats’ room now.”
I throw a pillow over my head and scream in pain, but nothing but a squeak came out. My voice had officially departed.
Standing two feet outside the sneeze zone and holding a dust mask over his mouth, Spouser stares down at me. My teeth are chattering, my bones, my eyes are puffed out like a blowfish, and you could grill fajitas on my forehead.
“Does this mean you’re not cooking dinner tonight?” he asked.
After the bed levitated a foot off the floor and my head spun 360 degrees, he scampered off to the kitchen.
My friend Jessica emailed me a list of H1N1 Swine Flu symptoms. I had all except loss of appetite. By lunchtime, I was licking my lips and wondering what barbeque cat would taste like. But I was too sick to make it any further than the bathroom.
That evening, Spouser brought home a chicken and beef botana for one. Walking past me, he plopped down in front of the TV, turned on CNN and proceeded to wrap a tasty chicken chunk into a freshly-made tortilla. I was sure I’d died and gone to hell. Visions of the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? came to mind when Jane attempted to starve her sister Blanche, who was tied up in her bed.
During a commercial, Spouser finally noticed my skeletal arm waving from the bed. “Oh,” he said, chomping down the last chip with cheese, “are you well enough to eat something?”
Having fasted for a day — along with coughing up bits of body parts — I felt I should at least try to eat a little something, even if it didn’t stay down.
“Ice cream,” I spelled out in sign language.
“You know I can’t read that stuff,” Spouser said, tossing me a pencil and notepaper.
“ICE CREAM!” I wrote emphatically.
“I don’t think so,” Spouser said, shaking his head. “We don’t want those thighs to expand, or our property taxes will go up.”
Grabbing him by the T-shirt, I pulled him down into my feverish face. I’m pretty sure my eyes turned from green to red. No words were needed after that.
While Spouser drove to Stars for ice cream, I closed my swollen eyes, and, in my mind, I visited my Golden Dragon alter ego spirit guide and asked him to smite me with his flaming sword of healing energy and strength.
By the time Spouser got home, I was hunched over the stove stirring up a pot of Grandma’s oatmeal, with a few added ingredients.
Next, I brewed some of Aunt Foy’s hot toddy, which consists mainly of one freshly-squeezed orange and lemon, two tablespoons of honey, horehound, and a pint of Jack Daniels.
Eyes watering, Spouser blinked down into the pot. “I’m not feeling well, either,” he said, hitting his chest with his fist.
“It’s not YOUR TURN yet!” I scribbled into a piece of paper.
Seeing me sick automatically makes him want to be pampered.
I gobbled down the porridge and took my brew to the bathroom where, according to Aunt Foy’s recipe, I should drink it while soaking in a scalding bath with eucalyptus, geranium and mint leaves.
“You look like the Swamp Thing,” Spouser said, glancing in at me. I banished him before he let the steam out of the bathroom.
After most of the meat had boiled off my bones, and after I rubbed another tub of Vicks on my chest, I crawled back into bed and passed out after eating my ice cream.
Several more days passed. Not knowing whether I had the Swine Flu or not, I did what the newscasters say one should do and stayed home.
Today is a week later, and I’ve eaten all the canned goods in the cupboard and watched the six-movie Rocky series over and over until I’m talking with a Philadelphian accent.
“Yo, Adrian!” I say when Spouser walks through the door. “I did it! I’m well.”
“Just in time to take care of me,” he says, lifting my hand to his forehead.
Good thing I left the movies in the DVD player. I reach for Aunt Foy’s recipe book and get ready for round two.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com.