So I thought the flu was bad this winter with the fever, snotty nose, shivers, cough…no relief. But I now realize that I judged the winter virus too harshly. At the very least, when you have the flu in the wintertime you have the comfort of knowing that many other people also have the flu. Last winter the flu was a topic of discussion of the local and national news due to the shortage of the flu vaccine. Because of the shortage, there was comfort in knowing anybody who was not elderly or a child could not receive the vaccine and that the middle aged had become the virus carrying yahoos who were suffering together. You didn’t feel so alone. You had the knowledge of other flu sufferers, family, friends, folks from work and others that you met only in a brief moment in the aisle of Walgreen’s searching for the same cough medicine who suffered along with you. Picture it, you’re sweaty, swollen fingers brush together as you each deny the aching muscles in your body and reach towards the top shelf for the same package of fever reducing cough suppressant. I, for one, believe that there have been many missed romances—indeed, ships that passed in the night—due to the fogged, stuffy head, fever induced blurred eyes of the flu, clouding the vision of the soul-mates who have shared the flu germs at the same moment in time while in the same aisle of the same drug store but did not have the energy or the cleared vision to see their destiny. Yep, the flu sucks!
But the flu is neither here nor there as it is August and hotter than a Southern girl in a halter-top. What I have learned over the last week is that the flu is a piddly-ass ailment compared to the beast known as the summer cold. Last week I was flat on my back, wrapped in a blankie, sucking down decongestants and cough suppressants, and I was all alone in the 90-degree heat and the humidity that makes the South the South. Nobody else that I knew was sharing my germs and sickness. I was the only employee who called in sick that week making me look suspicious to my bosses. And the aisle at Walgreen’s was so barren that I think I saw a tumbleweed blow pass the Dayquil display. Of course I can’t be sure as my fever was so high that I hallucinated on and off while shopping, and I could swear that I saw Papa Smurf buying condoms, and for a brief, fever spiked moment I had a fleeting thought of sadness and concern for Smurfette until I convulsed with cough, bringing me back to focus on my own situation which was currently being forced to wipe my snot on my shirttail to keep from having it grossly stream from my nostrils to the tiled floor of the ice cream aisle for all to see.
After making my purchases and returning home, I reclaimed my sick position on the sofa in front of the television. Usually my dog lies with me but my continuous cough was bothering him and affecting his afternoon nap so I was, again, all alone. I turned on the television looking for Ellen, Oprah or Dr. Phil to keep me company in my misery. I flipped through the satellite channels looking for a familiar, understanding face but instead the airwaves were filled with commercials that celebrated summer. There were lemonade commercials of lovers sitting in a porch swing, kids jumping into rivers from a rope swing and swigging Mountain Dew, and that fat-ass jar of Kool-aid was rollerblading while being chased by happy, giggling children wanting the refreshment and coolness of summer. I hated them all! Not one flu-medicine commercial Not one Nyquil commercial. Not even a headache commercial with somebody swearing by the latest migraine concoction or B.C. Powders. I was completely alone.
The last time I remember feeling that alone was when I was still in the closet. I stayed empty and miserable most of the time, denying myself what I so anxiously desired…the freedom to love with real feelings; the feelings that matched my heart and not the Southern Baptist doctrine that had been pounded into my soul to keep me from the fires of hell. I was already in a personal hell that nobody I knew could imagine. At that time in my life I assumed that everybody was really straight and that I was meant to live the rest of my life completely alone. I was resigned to this fact. Of course I was seventeen, overly dramatic and had sniffed a large volume of liquid paper so that wasn’t really real either. However, it makes me laugh at myself, laying on the couch trying to keep my snot off of the leather and waiting for my beautiful wife to come home and take care of me. She in her poodlish way would wet a cloth for my forehead, take my temperature with a thermometer, bring me juice and best of all…flip the channels for me as I drift in and out of consciousness dreaming of her and knowing how lucky I was to have a summer cold. It was just one more reason to sit and experience my wife holding me and knowing that I would never be lonely again.