It turns out that I’m not so good at pretending I’m not sick. For most of last week, coworkers and students kept saying things like, “God, you look awful.” I made it through a poetry reading Wednesday night by taking drugs and eating really spicy foods to open up my sinuses. Even so, I fooled no one. Afterwards people said things like, “Nice poems. Go home and get some sleep.” By Thursday, the cold had moved from my head into my chest, resulting in the deep cough that makes even strangers say to me, “Are you okay?”
So on Friday, I gave in and declared myself to be sick. I’ve been drifting about the house in sweatpants and a t-shirt, clutching a cup of hot tea, a cross between Miss Havisham and the Ghost of Christmas Past. I can’t sleep because the cough starts up every time I lie down. So instead I’ve been watching videos on my laptop – reruns of the Big Bang Theory or Northern Exposure. I’ve pulled out my comfort books to reread them, including the whole Betsy-Tacy series that I’ve loved since I was a kid and all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. “At least I’m not stuck in a prairie blizzard in a claim shanty,” I tell myself. And that makes me feel better.
I missed today’s holiday piano recital. Since I get to hear Shaggy Hair Boy and With-a-Why play the piano every single day – at my house, someone’s always playing — it didn’t make sense for me to go spread my cold to all the other families at the piano studio. I’ve had to send the neighbor kids home when they’ve knocked on the door: they hate me being sick.
But being officially sick does have its advantages. My husband has been waiting on me hand and foot, bringing me food, cough drops, and ginger ale. He’s good at giving me attention when I’m feeling miserable. It’s been nice to do nothing but read for long stretches of time, a treat to just close the door to my office and ignore all the stuff that I should be doing. It hasn’t all been bad. But still. My ribs hurt from coughing. I can’t really breathe. I’m very ready to be done with this cold and get back to life again.