Now, I don’t like to boast but I’ve got a pretty strong body if I do say so myself.
I don’t mean in a weight lifting, ripping-phonebooks-in-half kinda way (although you’d be surprised by the amount of punch this scrawny dude packs), I mean in the way that my body rarely gets sick. For all the stupid things I’ve done over the years, and the poor way I treat my body with all-nighters and bad-decision making, it’s a wonder I’m not sick once a month. I should be, I really should. But in reality, I’m sick maybe once a year. This is a point of pride for me (clearly I don’t have a lot going on right now).
So you can understand why I thought that after spending last Tuesday and Wednesday sick in bed with a fever and a sore throat that I assumed the worst was over. I never had a fever last more than two or three days before, and I swore I could feel this one slowly cooling down. So I figured it was safe to pop a few Dayquil and go back to work. Bad decision making strikes again…
It was around four in the afternoon that I realized that something wasn’t right. The speed that they put into Dayquil was allowing me to press on, but I could sense that just behind that artificial sense of alertness, there was a big storm hanging back, ready to strike.
After work I went over to my cousin’s house because she had cable, internet and cold water (the new place I just moved into was lacking a few things…). As I sat on her couch, watching the latest episode of Pawn Stars and drinking a nice ice-cold glass of water, I could see my cousin looking at me with concern.
“Randy, are you sure you’re feeling better? I can see your forehead sweating, and it’s not even warm in here.”
“Oh, I’m fine,” I told her. “I just over-exerted myself at work playing with the kids while I was at the tail end of my sickness, and now my body’s just angry with me. I just need to lay down for a bit and I’ll be fine.”
“OK,” She said, unconvinced. “ But let’s take your temperature just in case.”
Just to placate her, I took the thermometer out of her hands and put into my mouth. Those next thirty seconds have been etched into my mind forever. I remember I had to stare straight down, past my nose, to see the little numbers on the digital display window. I remember my heart racing as the numbers continued to increase.
It finally stopped at 102.7 and my throat made an involuntary noise that would be impossible to replicate here. The throat noise was alarming enough to make my cousin race over to me and check the thermometer herself. She made a few noises of her own after seeing the final results and told me I had to get to Urgent Care immediately.
Now, this is where having a history of being relatively sick-free becomes a bad thing. Because at that point I was sure I was going to die. I never had a fever higher than 100.3 before, and now I had 102.7?? Clearly, I had a brain tumor, a giant brain tumor that was slowly eating the rest of my non-tumored brains.
While I waited in Urgent Care, I tried not to think about all the scary stuff going on in my head right now. What if this was serious? What if this was the end of me? Why doesn’t it feel like I have a ridiculously high temperature? Is that a sign that I’m dead already?
Finally, the doctor saw me, did a few tests on me, and told me I had a throat infection. Immediately, my mind flashed back to that random girl on Frenchman Street I made out with a few days ago. Dammit, why did I let her near my throat, I knew she seemed unclean.
The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics, and told me that eating wouldn’t really be an option for me for the next few days.
“What about soup?” I asked.
“You’ll stay the hell away from soup if you know what’s good for you!” He said as his eyes got really big. I couldn’t believe he was being serious, my throat didn’t seem to hurt that bad. Surely I could handle soup.
Little did I know less than an hour later, my throat would seize up and make everything, even drinking water, an extremely painful affair. Suffice to say, yes I did end up staying the hell away from soup.
It’s hard to describe exactly what my infected throat felt like. The best way I’ve found is to compare it to barnacles. You know barnacles? Those gross slimy things that attach themselves to the bottom of ships. That’s what the inside of my throat felt like. Like a bunch barnacles had grown on the inside of my throat, and whenever anything went past it, food, water, air, whatever, the barnacles, and thus I, withered in pain for a good minute.
But anyway, this is all just foreplay to the real nightmare that unfolded that night. I think we can all agree that the best part of getting sick is that you can sleep as much as you like with no repercussions. The rest of it may suck, but you really can’t hate on endless sleep, right?
Well during my night of hell, I was robbed of that of pleasure. To this day I’m not sure why, but at some point during the night I started to hyper-salivate (you know, like a mangy dog) and I couldn’t stop. I was a little drooling sick monkey for the next ten hours. Now I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the pleasure of salivating at a scary pace, but it makes life extremely difficult. You have to bring a cup with you where over you go, so you have somewhere to spit out the excess saliva. Generally, you’ll use this cup every five seconds. It won’t be long before you’re holding a cup heavy with your own warm secretion, and then you’ll know what it is to have a bad time.
So anyway, that’s what I did instead of sleep. I sat up in bed with a crazy high fever, an infected throat, and spit into a cup. And while this seems like it should be adequate enough misery for one sitting, my fever-ravaged brain had to make it worse by deciding I was making a poor choice for a career.
“Wait a minute, I just realized something. [spit] You want to be a writer?” My fevered brain asked me incredulously.
“Well, that’s a real cute hobby and all, but what the fuck are you going to do for a career? [spit]”
“I’m going to write [spit].”
“Well that’s hilarious. [spit] Do you know how hard it is to make a decent living as a writer? [spit] Do you have any idea how many broke writers there are in this world? Is that what you want to be when your 40? A broke writer with a couple of shitty side jobs?”
“You don’t know that that will happen [spit], maybe I’ll write something really good and-“
“And you’ll be considered a good writer by your peers [spit], but you’ll still be a broke dick.”
It went on like this for awhile, until I was sufficiently convinced that I had made a huge mistake in my life and that I was literally running out of saliva and would be the first person to die from a lack of spit and a broken spirit. As you can see, my life had gotten very complicated, very quickly.
And so people, what do we do when we find ourselves in such a panic? That’s right, we call a family member in the middle of the night, waking them up so we can unload our insecurities on to them.
“Oskie, hey it’s Randy. Look, I hope I didn’t wake you, I just needed to ask you something?”
“Aren’t you incredibly sick, with a really high fever? Why aren’t you asleep right now?”
“Because I can’t stop spitting, but that’s not the point right now. Look, I have to ask you something? Am I wasting my life? I’m a fooling myself with trying to be a writer? Are you and the rest of the family laughing at me behind my back?”
I could hear Oskie sigh as he realized he was going to have to sleepily talk me down from my ledge.
“No Randy, you’re not wasting your life, because you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing. There’s no way that’s a waste.” I let these words enter my ear and circle my fever brain.
“However,” He continued, “There is no way of knowing the amount of success you’ll achieve. You could have great success, or hardly any. I have some friends twenty years older than you who are still struggling to make their dreams come true. And I have others who are doing exactly what they’ve always wanted to do. It’s a combination of hard work and luck. You’ll just have to see where this life takes you.”
I took a long sigh of relief. He hadn't given me a sun shiny 'everything will be ok' speech, but he had spoken all truth with the right amount of hope. That was enough for me at the time.
“Alright, that sounds about right. Thanks Oskie, I don’t know what’s going on with me today, I usually don’t panic so easily.”
“That’s because you have a fever eating your brain. Soon you’ll be half as smart as you used to be, and your dream of being a writer will officially be dead. So there’s no need to worry!”
I spent the rest of that night watching my roommate’s romantic comedy collection and thinking about what my cousin had said. I had always thought that it was a foregone conclusion that I would find success as a writer because I was willing to work hard and never give up (you have to be a very optimistic, and delusional, person to go after your dream). But the truth was, there is a lot of luck involved, among other things, which were out of my hands. All I could do was press on, keep spitting and hope my hard work would one day pay off.
And also, stop kissing unclean women. That just needs to end.