The swine flu, apparently


I’m writing this from the torpor of the swine flu.

That’s right.  The swine flu.  Be glad the internets are between us.

If you are like most people—and here, I will give you the benefit of the doubt—you will now ask how I know it’s the swine flu.  See these symptoms?  I have those.

To be fair, as far as I can tell, my fever only lasted one day.  And even then, it was only arguably a fever, scoring in at a 99.4 (which my med school friends tell me really isn’t particularly feverish, even though my body temperature the rest of the week has hovered around 96.9-97.7).  Still, for that one night—Saturday night—when the idea of being touched and the idea of not being touched both made me cry, it was bad enough.  My eyes hurt, my neck hurt, my chest hurt.  I had chills, my head was hot, and I sneezed and coughed and wracked and wished that I were disembodied, that I were vacant, that I wasn’t.

Thank goodness for Nyquil.

And for women.  Because while I was descending into the abyss of trendy disease, I was also reuniting with four of my favorite, favorite women on the whole planet.  Three of my California friends and I flew to Rochester to visit Reija and feel the beauty of an upstate New York autumn.  How I love these women.  We crashed on Reija’s bed, watched her try on her wedding earrings, talked about our various love interests (yes, including mine), made biscuits and salad and butternut squash soup, and talked about being women, about being professionals, about motherhood and on and off ramps and gender differences.  And that was only Friday night.

Three of us and a fourth, unrelated visitor slept in Reija’s front room.  I was one of those four, which meant I spent all night praying (even in my dreams, I hoped) that my germs would somehow magically stay near me, not spread around me, not infect the people I love.

Because it turns out, I was a danger to them.

I do not often think of myself as a danger to anyone but me.  I recognize that I have the power to harm.  And do, with more regularity than I like to confront.  I try to be good but sometimes I criticize, I discourage, I withhold.  These are dangerous behaviors.  They do not lift and build.

But I do not think of myself as being danger.  As being unable to remove from myself the capacity to harm those around me, unable to divorce myself from the risks I impose on everyone else.  I wonder if this is what it felt like to be an Untouchable.  Or a Bible-era leper.

There I was, sitting on a plane full of unsuspecting souls, sucking on cough drops, clutching tissues, and praying that I wouldn’t cough or sneeze or have to wipe my nose so the people around me wouldn’t give me nasty looks, wouldn’t request that I move away from them, wouldn’t stand up and yell, “Get off the plane, SICKIE!  You’re going to infect us ALL!!”

I was really hoping that wouldn’t happen.

And it didn’t.  My rowmate forgave me my sniffles.  Never once glanced at me when I coughed.  And the women I spent all weekend with—they still hugged me when we parted.  Karren even kissed my cheek before she headed to the airport.  “You just showered,” she said.  “I think I’ll be safe.”

And hopefully, today, when Manfriend comes home from his weekend away (he’s been in Boston, participating in a rousing, weekend church-fest focused on missionary work and loving God; he was stoked; he is that kind of man), he’ll forgive me for being dangerous to him too.

Manfriend, come home.  I’m sick.  I’m hot.  I’m danger.  But I’ll do what I can to be safe to you.