There are bad things befalling us these days, a black shadow of epidemic that threatens our security, our peace, our very way of life.
I am referring of course to cold and flu season.
I don't want to be the harbinger of fear and pain (that's Tom Lucente's job), but I don't think it's overstating things to say that the latest version of the so-called “common” cold going around makes that sissy black death look like heat rash. Calling this bug a common cold is tantamount to referencing Anne Boleyn's death as a common beheading.
My knowledge of this scourge is, unfortunately, first hand. At this writing I am in day two of the infestation. The bug has moved from my head to my chest and on to sections of my anatomy best not mentioned in a family paper. My brow is scorched with fever, my brain a mush of infection and remedy, my nose is red a chaffed from constant wiping and my shirt sleeve is none the better for the effort, either.
In short, I am suffering as no man has suffered before. At least not since my last cold.
It is uncertain what great sin I have committed to deserve this Job-like lot. I only know that colds hit me harder than other folks. This is a point I have tried to make my wife understand for years. Amazingly, in the face of my unbearable suffering and despite my pitiable (but brave) moaning and whining, she remains unconvinced. In fact, she has the nerve to compare the raging pain currently settled in my sinus cavity to the inconvenience of childbirth. I suppose it's hard for women to understand real suffering, having experienced so little of it.
Nevertheless, I carry on bravely. I show up for work, gallantly coughing and sniffling my way through the daily routine as others gaze on with looks of concern and disgust. I spend my evenings propped up in my recliner, bravely managing the remote control and making tireless requests for soda and crackers. Most importantly, I have heroically resisted all temptation to see an actual medical professional, choosing instead to suffer untreated, thus sheltering my family from the horror of my diagnosis and a $30 co-pay.
I can't really identify ground zero for this plague. Years ago, I would have attributed it immediately to the petri dish we call public school. MC One or Two would have brought the bug home, a gift from one of the hacking, runny-nosed urchins they refer to as classmates. It's harder for me to place the blame now, as neither one of them has actually been sick recently. I can only assume years of constant contact with the bacterial pool of education has left them immune carriers, Typhoid Mary's with backpacks.
If my wife is indifferent to my suffering, my daughters can be a touch over-engaged. Mills Child Two has been tapping the medical expertise gathered from watching eight seasons of “Grey's Anatomy” to offer helpful disgnoses.
“You look a little like McDreamy did in season six when he contracted Ebola from a nurse he was dating when he was supposed to be with Meredith. If your eyes start bleeding, we'll know for sure,” she said before heading off to search for an eBay deal on spinal taps.
Meanwhile, Mills Child One has taken to monitoring my meds with the hope that she can eventually use my Nyquil addiction to spring her from a grounding received for coming in well past her relatively liberal curfew.
“It's hard to say what they put in these drugs now. You know, they use this to make meth, right?” she offers. “It's possible you are suffering for delusions right now, or even, say, 1 a.m. last Saturday morning. It's best to believe nothing you think you've seen for the last few weeks.”
Despite the fever and the nausea and the constant Nyquil hangover, I rise and work each day. Would I rather be home in my bed? Absolutely. But men don't make excuses, even when they are suffering from what may well be Ebola.
Besides, if I go home I will run into the kids and they are more exhausting than any virus.