Your head aches, your eyesight is hazy, you try to breathe – it’s like stretching an undersized piece of skin over a drumhead, tight and painful, and the base of your throat is searing from coughing. In your delirium you have the sense to take your temperature. It’s a fever alright – your face is burning, you’re shivering and can’t get warm no matter how many layers of blankets you pile on top of you. Logically, you turn up the heat, COMPLETELY unaware that there’s a problem with the ventilation system and it’s pumping gallons of toxic fumes into the house, which you can’t smell due to the viral war raging in your head and chest…
Dear readers, welcome to my Christmas Eve.
My sister arrives several hours after the scene I have just described above to drop off some provisions, opens the door and instantly covers her nose and mouth in horror. “It’s toxic in here! Why does it smell like diesel fuel?!” I try to leap from the couch, but it feels more like I’m Sasquatch swimming to the surface of a lake in very s-l-o-w m-o-t-i-o-n.
I think she’s crazy at first. “I don’t smell anything!” I say red-cheeked and panting from the exertion of standing up. She starts researching furnace oil on her phone to determine whether or not she should call the fire department. I turn off the heat and try to remain calm, but I’m terrified, and sick and utterly exhausted. “I can’t stay here. Please don’t leave me here!” I say beginning to tear up. Of course she wouldn’t have, but I was in a fever nightmare and everything felt ten times worse than it was. Once we determined I would come with my sister and brother in law to their house, I tried to grab what I thought I would need – pajama pants, tooth brush, my thermometer, computer, a few changes of clothes. Somehow as we all bustled out the door, leaving the plume of fumes behind us, I manage to forget two very important items: #1 my Christmas gifts for the family and #2 MY SHOES!
Too bad, they say, we’ll open your gifts later and at least you’re wearing slippers! It’s true, I do have on my favorite rudolf red wool slippers. “OK” I sigh, “let’s go.” Fast forward through three hellish nights with a high fever, aches, shakes and chest-ripping coughing and Christmas has come and gone – after-all, it hardly arrived for me, since I spent most of it in bed – and my sister is dropping me back off at my dreaded fume-filled house.
But first we stop at the New Seasons near my house (you know the one where I bought a shower cap to stay warm when my heat wasn’t working the first time) to buy some kleenex and cough syrup. When we park in the lot, I start to get out and then suddenly realize I’m not wearing shoes, and I’m still in my pajamas. “But I’m wearing slippers!! I can’t go in there like this!” I begin to protest. My sister is unmoved. “Of course you can! You’re in Portland, remember?” Well, she does have a point, I think to myself. I shake my head again in protest. This is so embarrassing. I look like a freaking wreck! I hope I don’t see anyone I know…followed by…who would I see anyways? I’m new to town; I hardly know anyone!
OK FINE. I trudge across the concrete, unable to ignore the fact that I’m wearing large, glowing red slippers and that my hair probably looks like I just flushed it down a toilet and then tied it into a haphazard pigtail on top of my head. But as I trudge through the entrance, past the usual traveling-artist-street-kids out front, I see a young woman playing the banjo with giant arms-length holes in both the inner thighs of her jeans and I chuckle, thinking, it is Portland after all. People wear whatever the hell they want here and call it cool. At least I know I can feel comfortable going to the grocery store in my slippers!
Today I am still in bed recovering from viral bronchitis and feeling only slightly less depressed about being sick over the holidays. Sadly, this gal’s going to be staying in on New Year’s Eve as well, resting up. At least there’s a reason to slow down. Maybe I need this rest after the whirlwind move up here three weeks ago. Either way, I hope whoever you are, reader, that you are healthy and jovial this holiday! Please be twice as much…for me 🙂 And if you’re wondering about the fumes…we got the heat fixed, only to have it break again a day later. So Monday, we’ll be having the furnace repairman over again. Let me just say, I don’t intend to ever rent a home with an oil furnace in it again!
Oh! And if you have any sick horror stories of your own, or recipes and tips for beating the winter virus season, please leave them in a comment!