I gulped down a gazillion gallons of hot tea and shocked my body with a pile of Paracetamol pills but I still don’t feel strong enough to leave the house. What house, I’m chained to my bed. My whole body aches, my head is heavy, and every miserable attempt to swallow my saliva feels like somebody was stroking my inner throat with a rake. Sounds familiar?
When the three-minute walk to the corner bodega I took to replenish my home remedies made me so exhausted that I felt like lying down on the sidewalk, I decided to crawl back to my bed and embrace the malaise. As in wearing pajamas the whole day and not showering. And drinking so much black tea with honey and lemon that I needed to gag just by thinking about it. It’s supposed to alleviate cold symptoms.
Just to make sure I do everything I can for my quick recovery, I bought a box of Belgian chocolate chip cookies because shockingly, I have no appetite for any regular food but still crave sugar. Who understands this? The combination of eating crap food and lying in bed all day surely is a great way to keep fit.
Staying in drives me crazy. Not so much the “being home” part but rather the “not having a choice” part. I’m held hostage in my own house because even though my mom is not here to forbid me from going out like she did when I was a kid, it feels too hard to get dressed or walk to the door, so I stay in, by choice.
I tried to look at the bright side and the idea of catching up with emails, binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, and finishing at least one of the sixteen books I’d been piling up on my bedside table for months cheered me up for a second, but my enthusiasm rapidly vanished when I realized that I didn’t feel like doing any of these. As if being ill would have turned me into a completely different person. I just wanted out. Of the house and the feeling of miserableness.
It used to be so much fun to be sick! When I was in school, not having to attend classes for an entire week felt like hitting the jackpot. My grandma would stay home and take care of me. When my tea got cold in the mug, she would always refill it with freshly made, steaming hot brew with lemon and honey. She would tuck me in tightly and open the windows for a couple of minutes to “air the bacilli out.”
She would always ask me what I felt like eating for lunch and even if I’d said Boeuf Bourguignon, she would have made it for me. (Don’t worry, I usually stuck with boiled potatoes or pancakes.) From time to time, she would put her hand on my forehead to check my temperature and ask, “How are you feeling, sweetheart?” and the empathy, selflessness, and love in her eyes made me feel better already.
I enjoyed being my granny’s patient so much that I made a habit of it. From sixth grade on, I “scheduled” sick leaves for myself, at least one per term. When I got tired of school and felt like having a break, I decided to become sick. As in pretending to be sick. And I must admit, I’m a little proud of how I mastered the ability of simulation over those years.
I didn’t only have to fool my mom but also the doctors, so I had to make sure that my illness seemed real. As much fun as that would have been, I couldn’t fake mumps or chicken pox, so I stuck to the good old flu. I knew most of the symptoms from my previous experiences, but just to be on the safe side, I also did some research in the school library.
Timing mattered too. School always started on Monday, so around 2 pm on Sunday, I started to complain to my mom that I wasn’t feeling well. When she asked me what was wrong, I said I felt weak and my arms hurt and put on a miserable face like every move would exhaust me. It worked every time, and with worry in her eyes, she would always say, “Oh, I hope you don’t have the flu, darling,” and put her hand on my forehead. “I don’t think you have a temperature,” she said, but she would bring the thermometer anyway.
And that was always a risk until I learned how to fake fever. My first attempt for hacking the thermometer failed miserably. I held it under running hot water and it exploded in my hand. Being the most hopeless empirical learner in the world, this encouraged me to experiment with other methods. On the next occasion, I was rubbing the thermometer against my pajama pants. It required more effort and time than the hot water trick, but it worked perfectly and was completely safe.
I wanted to seem credible, so I always kept my fake temperature around 100 °F on the first night of my fake illness. This wasn’t as high that my mom would freak out and call the doctor but high enough to make her believe that I had the flu. I went to bed earlier than usual that night, proving that I really wasn’t feeling well and my mom would always say, “Sweet dreams, darling, I hope you’ll sleep it off and feel much better tomorrow.” And that’s when I had to raise the stakes. It was time for some serious coughing fits and frequent toilet visits.
I fake-coughed the whole night and made sure that I did it loud enough to wake my mom. If that wouldn’t have been sufficient, I also went to the bathroom at least three times, made a lot of noise, coughed a bit more, and let the water run – just to be absolutely certain that my mom was aware of my night-time agony. And she always was. She would always come to my room in the middle of the night, hand me a glass of water and a coughing pill, stroke my head, and give me a sympathetic look.
Just as planned, I looked terrible the next morning when my mom came to wake me up… to tell me that “there was no way she would let me go to school.” I could barely hide the victorious smile that appeared in the corner of my mouth. She kissed me goodbye and from the door she shouted back, “Grammy is on the way; she’ll be here in an hour, try to go back to sleep until then.” And as she closed the door behind her, I jumped out of bed and did the dance of joy.
I know it sounds like I was manipulative and took advantage of my mom’s good faith, but oh boy, I miss those times!
Adultness sucks. None of the parts of being sick can be the subject of enjoyment anymore as we have all these annoying adult responsibilities to deal with. Like trying to make a living and feeding ourselves. When you are on sick leave, nobody does the work for you. The longer you stay away, the more swamped you’ll be upon your return. Where’s the fun in that?
Nobody takes care of me now when I’m sick. My grandma resides in a nursing home and needs to be taken care of herself, my mom lives a thousand miles away from me, and I don’t have a significant other who’d be sitting on my bed and feeding me with chicken soup. Or maybe I just keep to myself when I’m sick because I don’t want anyone to see the dark circles under my eyes, my grayish-colored, lifeless cheeks, and my unwashed hair hanging in my tormented face. Or smell my pajama top I haven’t taken off for longer than twenty minutes in the last three days.
Whatever the reason is, being sick is just one of those things that was more fun as a kid.
It’s always the little things we love, isn’t it?