Sick: A Novella

Articles | Jan 1st, 2008

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I’m sick. I got a cold that’s totally kicking my ass. Maybe it’s not a cold. Could be strep, could be influenza. I don’t want to go to the doctor to find out. My doctor is this fat fuck who makes his assistants do everything, and he gets pissy if you want to talk to him personally.

“What is is now, Adam?”

“I think I have hypoglycemia.”

“I’ll have the nurse give you a shot of vitamins in the ass.” And then he hurries away, and I don’t see him again.

His answer to everything is vitamins and holistic non-vitamins, like Siberian ginseng root. I swear I think he’s getting paid commission by Nature’s Bounty. Everytime I go there, whether for a check-up or a virus or even to get referred to a surgeon, this is the procedure: An assistant takes my blood pressure, another assistant checks my ears and throat, yet another assistant grabs my balls, and finally the nurse gives me a shot of vitamins in the ass. If I don’t forget why I’m there, I usually ask to speak to the doctor.

“What is it now, Adam?”

“I think I broke my ankle.”

“Come back on Tuesday.”

“But you’re not here on Tuesdays.”

“I know, but my assistants will be here. In the meantime, I’ll have the nurse give you a shot of vitamins in the ass.”

My old doctor was nicer, but he was a pervert. No matter my illness or symptoms, he’d command me to take off my clothes. All of them. I figured all doctors made you do that, but after I told my mom, I never went back.

I’m still sick. Sicker, in fact. I tried going to work today and I threw up on the train. Throwing up is the worst illness symptom. Give me a runny nose, congestion, and diarrhea anyday. So I took the train to the next stop, got off, and took a cab back to my car. Called in sick and slept the whole day. I didn’t take my temperature, although I felt a fever. My sister always confuses the rectal and oral thermometers, and so I just don’t trust em.

Went to work both yesterday and today. Still sick. Had to work or else I won’t be able to pay for next month’s train ticket. If my job paid me sick days, I wouldn’t have to drag my weak bones in there, but then again all I do is play video games and make long distant phone calls, so we’re even. My girlfriend called me at work and said she wanted to see me. I told her I was sick. She told me she wants “it.” I told her forget it, I’m sick. She hung up. Some people like being babied when they’re sick, but I prefer to be left alone. It’s the only way I’ll get better. Just give me a few books, some time off from school and work, and no interruptions, and I’m as good as new.

Stayed home from school today, tho I thought I was going to go. Set my alarm for 6 am but my body refused. My throat is killing me. This might just be strep! Or mono. It would be my fourth time having mono. I heard you can only get it once, but actually the Epstein-Barr virus stays in your system dormantly, and waits for you to relapse. Which I’ve done twice. My fat doctor says I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, caused by the mono, and I should buy $80 worth of vitamins from him every month.

“The only way you’re going to get better is if you use the right combination of vitamins. Which we can sell to you every month for $80.”

“Does my insurance cover it?”

The doc gives a quick chuckle and says, “No.”

I tell him to forget it. I don’t have that kind of money, especially for something as dumb as being tired. I’ll save my money and buy a cup of coffee every day for 60 cents.

So I stayed home which I regretted all day because when you miss one day of Business Statistics class, you’re too far behind to ever catch up. That’s a tough class. My professor told us the first day: “Students ask if I curve grades. Folks, I have to curve grades. In fact, I have to TILT grades. All of you are going to fail.”

When he said that, I put my head in my hands and sobbed. College can be a kick in the nuts sometimes.

I went back to sleep and slept until 3pm. When I woke, I tried standing up and the room spun. I got dressed and staggered to the mall where I purchased some Nyquil Flu medicine on credit card. That stuff is great. 10% alcohol. Wow. Even if I can’t beat my cold, at least I can get buzzed.

Came home, opened my bottle and took a swig. Then I went downstairs and played my drums for two hours, which might not have helped my cold, but it sure was fun. I love playing my drums. I’m not in any bands, but I’m not bad. I can play for hours without repeating a rhythm. Maybe that’s why I’m not in a band — I can’t keep a beat. Ah, who needs a band? I sit on my drum throne and I pretend I’m on stage, holding a stadium of thousands in rapt attention with my drum solos. Fun stuff. I stopped playing for a second and heard my phone ringing. I jumped up and ran up the stairs, and grabbed the phone right before the machine picked up.

“H-H-H-Hello?”

“Adam, you’re out of breath!” It was my girlfriend.

“Yeah, well… I’m sick!”

“Aw, poor pookie! Maybe I should come over and take care of you. Fluff your pillows.. make you soup… snuggle…”

“No. No way. I’m sick.” When I’m sick I like to be left alone. And I especially have no libido.

“Please, honey! I have needs!”

“Nope.”

“Needs!”

“Look, hun, I’m really loopy.. I just drank half a bottle of Nyquil. Lemme call you back later…”

I stayed awake until 7:00PM, but when Jeopardy didn’t come on because of the Academy Awards, I went to bed and slept til Nick woke me up around 11 that night.

“Hello?”

“What’s up, loser?”

“Not much, faggot. Where you been?”

“Work. Pennsylvania. Wanna get coffee?”

“I can’t Nick, I’m sick. I got the flu or strep or something.”

“I’ll pick you up in 10 minutes.”

It was just as well. I haven’t seen the kid, my best friend Nick, in almost three months. Ever since he started going out with this girl Nicole, a penpal of mine from Pennsylvania, he’s devoted all his time between driving out to PA and working, which financed these almost daily excursions. I was happy for Nick, because the kid deserves a nice girl. All his exes treated him like shit. Girls tend to walk all over us nice guys, but then again these same girls are codependent on guys who beat them, so I guess it’s even. Anyway, this girl Nicole is sweet and I know she’s as crazy for him as he is for her, so it’s all worth it. I miss chumming with my friend, but like I said, the kid deserves to be happy for once.

I waited outside for him so he wouldn’t wake up my family by honking or ringing the bell. I stood out there for about 25 minutes, cursing him for making me wait in the cold. He finally came, spinning recklessly into my driveway, narrowly missing my stepdad’s T-Bird, and blasting Rancid.

“What’s up punk?”

“I’m sick. Can you roll up your window?”

“Faggot.”

We went to the Concorde Diner, the place where no matter what you get, it also comes with a single long strand of hair. I told the waiter no menus, just two decafs please. We sat down across from each other and I hid myself in my hooded sweatshirt, miserable.

“So how ya doin’?” Nick asked.

“I’m sick, you bastard.”

“That’s cool. How’s the little woman?”

“She’s fine. I haven’t seen her for a few days because I’ve been sick. How’s Nicole?”

The look came over Nick. You know, the look of utter content and joy. It’s the look that makes you want to kickbox whoever’s looking at you like that. “She’s awesome,” he started. “We can just talk about everything. Me and her, we’re on the same wave-length. I have so much fun with her.” Nick lit up a Camel. He offered me his pack.

“No thanks, man. I quit.”

“Bullshit. Since when?”

“It was my New Year’s resolution,” I said.

“It’s March. You’re a little bit late.”

“Better late than never.”

“I give you a week.”

“It’s already been two weeks,” I lied. Getting sick couldn’t have come at a better time. Having a virus always helps to quit smoking. You never crave inhaling carbon monoxide when you’ve got mucus encrusted down your throat.

Nick changed the topic back to Nicole. I agreed with what he said. “Yeah, it’s the same way with me and Melissa.”

Nick looked at me. “Have you ever gotten lost in Melissa’s eyes?”

“Umm..”

“Do you even know what color her eyes are?”

“Umm..”

Just then an old buddy of ours from high school came in — Joe. We hadn’t seen him in about two years. Nick said, “Ho-ly shit.” I looked up and said, “Joseph.”

He came over and sat down. “What’s up guys! Haven’t seen you guys for awhile!” He was exhausted from work and drunk on top of that.

Nick asked, “So what you been up to Joe?”

“Shit, I’m working 70 hours a week doing cargo for the airport. I’m not in school. I can’t even get laid.”

“Why can’t you get laid?” I asked.

“I don’t got a car and the women don’t want to hear it. And I’m still dating these little girls who don’t want to do that shit.”

“Little girls?” Nick frowned.

“Yeah man, I got out of high school and the girls stayed there.” He laughed.

“I guess if there’s grass on the field, play ball,” I said.

“Yeah.” He laughed. “You guys in school?”

“Hell no!” said Nick. “I’m in the same rat race with you.”

“I’m in school,” I said, sipping my decaf.

“Oh yeah, where?”

“Baruch. CUNY school in the Gramercy area.”

“At least you’re doing something.”

“Well, Nick here is saving lives and shit.”

“Yeah?” said Joe.

“I work for the fire department and rescue service. I’m a certified EMT,” said Nick. “And Adam here is working for a record company, putting out albums and shit.”

“Yeah?” said Joe.

“Yeah,” Nick continued, “He’s in the city everyday, working for the biggest producer of ska music and reggae in the world. He sits in an office all day, talking to famous people and shit.”

“Shit!”

We spoke some more and I finished my decaf. Joe wanted to reminisce about high school, but me and Nick couldn’t really think of anything worth reminiscing about. Joe said he always thinks about those days and wonders what everyone is doing. Me and Nick agreed, but honestly we’ve never given high school a second thought. We moved on. Joe said goodbye and left. Nick tilted his head and was about to say something to me but I cut him short by throwing two dollars at him. “Get the check. If I don’t take a squirt I’m going to die.”

I came back to the table after a couple minutes, and Nick tilted his head again. “You know,” he said, “Seeing Joe really put things in perspective.”

“Yeah,” I said, “Believe it or not, I think me and you actually grew up since high school.”

“It’s been a wake-up call. I mean, I totally wasn’t prepared for the real world, but I made it. I’m doing shit now. I’m making something of my life. And it’s sad to see people that didn’t make it. Shit, he’s working and getting drunk, and still hanging around the high school trying to fuck eighth graders.”

“Hey Nick?” I asked.

“Yeah?” he said.

“Thanks for saying that stuff about me putting out records and shit.” I was really touched when he was telling Joe about me working for Moon, even making stuff up to make me seem important. It was more than just one-upping a fellow high school graduate to create jealousy. He didn’t need to do that because Joe himself admitted to having no life. It was pride, and it meant a lot to me that Nick, my best friend for seven years, made it known that he was proud of me.

It was cool hanging out with Nick even if I was sick as a dog. And getting worse. I woke up the next day in a cold sweat with my throat burning. I hated to do it, but I made an appointment with my doctor.

I got there an hour later, and went through the whole procedure. An assistant took my blood pressure, another assistant checked my ears and throat, and another assistant grabbed my balls. Before the nurse could prick my ass, I demanded to see the doctor.

The doctor came into the examination room, smoking a cigarette and reading my chart.

“What is it now, Adam?”

“My throat hurts. I’m sick”

“So what do you want me to do about it?” I didn’t know if he was serious or not.

“Heal me, you fat fuck!” I cried. He gave an impatient sigh, grabbed a tongue depressor and gagged me with it. He looked down my throat, and I almost puked from his stale cigarette odor.

“Hey, it’s red in there.” He sounded surprised.

“So what should I do?”

“I’ll prescribe you some antibiotics, but it might not get better unless you take the right combination of vitamins, which you can buy from us later if you want. In the meantime, I’ll have the nurse give you a shot of vitamins in the ass. Cigarette?” He offered me his pack of Newports.

“Those things are disgusting. They use fiberglass. Besides, I quit.”

“Yeah? Good for you. I give you a week.”

I left feeling woozy from the shot and went straight home. My girlfriend left a message on the machine. I called her back.
“Honey, I want to see you,” she said right away.

“I can’t sweetheart. I’m sick.”

“But I have needs!”

“Forget it. Hey, guess who I saw last night…” It was a mistake telling her I hung out with Nick.

“You won’t hang out with me but you’ll hang out with your friends? And at night when you should be resting? I’m really pissed at you,” she said.

Within three minutes, I agreed to come over. Women can guilt a man into doing anything. It’s their freaky craft. She greeted me at the door wearing only her bathrobe. “OK,” I said, “but if you get sick, it’s your fault.”

“Just do me.”

I love my girlfriend. She drives me insane sometimes, but I probably do the same to her. Her worst quality is that she’s too affectionate, almost suffocating, but that’s not really a detrimental characteristic. It’s all a matter of preference. Some thrive on affection. I feel that if you’re always “I love you, I love you,” it loses its meaning. I know I don’t fulfill my girlfriend’s affectionate needs, but she knows that when I do put my arms around her, hug her, or give her a random kiss on her nose, it’s for real.
There are worse things than being too snuggly… She could be a pathological liar, or not appreciate me, or use me, or whatever. She’s a great girl. A great person. She cares about me a lot, she takes care of me, and she loves me infinitely. It’s a scary feeling, being loved. It makes me feel good and boosts my confidence in both her and myself, and on the other hand it makes me conscious of the role of “boyfriend.” I want to meet my own expectations of what a good boyfriend should be and how he should act, because I want to be the best I can for her. This isn’t a highly difficult thing for me… since I love her also it comes naturally… Yet, I’m scared I’m not the best I can be, or more accurately, I’m not as good to her as she is to me. I know I’m a moody person, and a loner on top of that, so it’s not easy to date me. Sometimes I’d rather be by myself and read… Only when I’m by myself do I feel completely relaxed, and seeing my girlfriend every day without a break can be like working every day without a day off. The end result is the same: I become moody, stressed-out, drained. This is not my girlfriend’s fault. It is purely me. I only ask that she understands, which she usually does.

She is also a highly sensual person. I’m a highly CNN person. She likes to “snuggle.” I like to sit with her quietly and do a crossword puzzle with the news on. We might have some personality conflicts and different tastes and interests, but she’s good to me. There are so many terrible people out there that live to see you unhappy, that I’m extremely lucky to be surrounded by people that are good to me. Melissa. Nick. My family. I don’t say it much but I appreciate them to no end. They are good people, and they shine like lighthouses in this world that can be at times pitch black and stormy. And they’re always there to help me find my way. That’s what it’s all about. Finding my way. I guess it takes being sick and miserable to make you appreciate things and in effect, be happy.

“Even when you’re sick, you’re still a good lay,” she laughed affectionately. I kissed her forehead.

“I love you.”

“That’s random! I love you too. How do you feel?”

“Better.”