(Apologies for the six week silence! The cops kept catching up with me.)
It was 2 a.m. and I awoke with a start. Not the “wow, I shouldn’t have had that gallon of Diet Coke and a Midol before bed” kind of start. More like “Hey, two exits, no waiting, free Funyons on your way out!”
It was the night before we were to leave on an 18-day international vacation, and I was coming down with something. And I’d been looking forward to this trip for a year. Having never been to Asia, I was anticipating lots of profound cultural experiences: shortie kimonos, lots of Panda Express restaurants and poignant photos of me with poor people.
What I was getting, instead, was a violent case of the stomach flu.
“Pull it together!” my supportive and concerned partner Sandy yelled at me when I told him I didn’t feel well.
This was not a surprising response. He’s not actually quite as horrible and soulless as that sounds; he just has this ridiculous and totally unwarranted idea that I can be a bit of a hypochondriac.
Sure, I might take a Xanax before getting my teeth cleaned. Sure, one patch of dry skin and I’m at the Mayo Clinic website searching for rare skin cancers. But I was sick. And there was irrefutable evidence – the kind that makes you go, “Wow, I don’t remember eating corn.”
A couple of weeks earlier, Sandy had laughed at me when I said that I was gonna get a prophylactic course of Tamiflu from my doctor.
“Listen,” I told him, “it’s the height of the flu season and we’re gonna be in Asia for 18 days. If one of us gets sick, where will we find a good physician? Do you want some witch doctor waving a flaming wad of sage over you and chanting in a voice straight out of The Omen?”
He never catches anything, so naturally this seemed like insane reasoning to him.
“We’ll be on a cruise ship and staying in American hotels. We’re not gonna be floating on a raft down the Mekong Delta.”
“Better safe than sorry,” I had replied. And now, in this moment of illness, I smugly waved the box of Tamiflu in his face. “Who’s laughing now?”
I had no idea if Tamiflu worked on whatever I had, but I immediately began popping tablets like they were Sweet-tarts because I had to go to work. We weren’t leaving until midnight, and nothing says “fake sick day” like calling in sick on your last work day before a vacation.
Promptly around noon, after spending roughly ten hours on or near the toilet, I finally managed to drag my ass in to the office.
“Oh, my God, what happened to you?”
This from my friend Raquel, who typically suffers from some sort of ocular disorder that makes her think I’m handsome.
“Do I look bad?” I said, sweat running down my unshaven face, my clothes unkempt.
“You look like shit.” Raquel is Chilean, so she used a Spanish word, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she was going for.
“I have the flu,” I replied breathlessly, “or SARS.”
I managed to make it a couple of hours, until my boss asked me, for the sake of everyone else present, to get the hell out of the building.
When I arrived home, my in-laws were there, along with our friend Julie who was going to house-sit for us. Everyone was in a festive mood, which only made matters worse.
“Come have a glass of Merlot,” Mary, my mother-in-law said. She and I share a common interest in red wine for its health benefits, although rumor has it those benefits dull somewhat around glass number four.
“I’m just gonna take a little nap,” I said, stumbling down the hall to the bedroom.
“He thinks he’s sick,” Sandy explained.
“Dying is more like it!” I hollered, wondering if I should call for a priest. And convert to Catholicism.
I lay in bed, worrying about getting on a plane. I was clearly disease-ridden. Was it fair to expose my germs to the unknowing masses? But Sandy and his parents were so excited. I couldn’t let them down. I would have to man up.
Somehow, I managed to shower and endure the car ride to the airport, suffering in silence save for an occasional cry of discomfort to make sure everyone noticed my bravery. But as we shuffled through the security line, another, more terrifying thought occurred to me: we’re changing planes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has those guys with temperature scanners. If you have a fever, they’ll quarantine you. I could be spending the next 3 days on a cot in the Hong Kong airport, being beaten by a Chinese guard.
Well, if that happens, I thought, I’ll film the whole thing on my cellphone and put it on YouTube. I’ll become a cause celebre. The state department will demand my release and when officials refuse, we’ll go to war with China.
That would at least make this whole barfy thing worthwhile.
TO BE CONTINUED…