Five characters (and their guests) in search of something.

Friday, January 14, 2005


Two years ago I started getting the flu shot provided by Cornell University to its staff. I know, I know, it probably had some sort of mellowing agent or anti-depressant or something--it came too close to the secret envelope that carried news of your miniscule raise from your shrugging boss. But I decided to start lining up for the shot when I realized that I was getting the flu every year. And around the same day. Last year it worked very well. I didn't have the flu at all and was totally surrounded by it at home. Tracy had a long bout with a cough that eventually made its way to become pneumonia. I got nothing. I felt invincible.

So when Tracy started coughing again, here in Oaxaca, I thought that perhaps I still had some juice left over. I thought, "No way is that thing getting me, I'm immune I think." I mean how different can it really be? Tracy was sick with a high chest cough as early as the week of Christmas. She is just now coming down from it, after two rounds of antibiotics, a late night house call, a fistful of expectorants, antihistimines, Halls with eucalyptus, Halls without eucalyptus but with Vitamin C, a couple of killer shiatsu massages, and plenty of bed rest. Unfortunately, the antibiotics may have even hindered the process of healing, making it take longer.

One day, as I came back from working at my cafe (Cafe Nuevo Mundo) I heard Tracy's cough. It was coming from someone else on the street, hunched shoulders passing in the shadows. But it was unmistakably the same cough, as if the virus had a voice. The next two days I spent working in a daze. Hot and cold flashes. Too hot to work, and too many people in the cafe anyway. [It may be a crime that I have not been able to find a way to work at home. In this lovely home.] And the work was total crap. I got more work done in the ensuing feverish dreams than I did sitting there staring. Cooking.

When Tracy made her first move to sit up and get out of bed, I let the full force of the virus hit me head on. I slept for a whole day. It was as if I had been holding it off, waiting for Tracy to be able to walk. It rode me in all its regalia. Shivering fever, incredible heat, cloudy head, and dreams from Van Gogh's tortured earless head. Oh, and the cough. My mouth had become the PA system for the little mechanical beasts. Sinuses fill. Two dreams about earthquakes. One woke me up, I had been sealed about 40 feet deep in airtight inescapable rubble, and as I lay beside Leland in our bed (he too had succumbed) I was gripped with a fear that I could never sleep again. Vivid, the imaginations of those little mechanical beasts.

I felt like I, too, was on the mend. I made a paella. It went a bit long. I rested the next day. Then I sat while Muriel (poor Muriel!) jumped around at a little indoor playground down the street. I walked back with her. Later I walked down the street again, in search of popcorn (I said it was the doldrums!) of our instance of pitiful Pitico a lame chain of grocery stores (they had none, of course). And then I was back in the dreaming pit. Chills. Sleeping. Out. Wearing my hat in bed.

It hit Muriel. It hit Leland. Muriel has been spotty. Leland was layed out. Keep wishing for our old king sized bed in Ithaca. There were times when I slept in Leland's bed so that he could be with Tracy. Actually that's where I had that suffocating earthquake dream. Other than that, it was comfortable once I pushed my feet through the end of his covers. Like I was back home from college. Oversized bedsprings from old auction bed. Dreaming of my future, with Muriel sleeping calmly in the twin bed next to mine. Some little girl who loves me as if she were my daughter. She loves art and loves to draw, and loves me. A strange mixture of feelings. But they felt good as my feet stuck out the end, Abe Lincoln-ish, and the virus lay as quiet as a machine can. Hiding from my white corpuscles.

Today we took the bus to Plaza Del Valle to see Los Increibles. It was pretty darned good.


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