“It’s day five; I don’t know if I’m going to make it out alive. If you are reading this, save yourselves…and send chocolate.”
Much like the Montagues and Capulets, there is a plague upon this house. It started on Sunday.
Day 1—Sunday – Signs of Plague Appear
Drag child to public events, watch in horror his inevitable descent into phlegmy madness. I race through the stages of grief like its an Olympic event and I’m going for the gold.
Child: “Sniffle. Cough.”
Me: “No! You are not making that sound!”
Child: “Hack, snort, cough, cough, (insert revolting phlegmy sound here.)”
Me: “No no no no no. You can’t be sick! We just got here–trampoline adventure awaits and hockey practice starts at 3:00!”
Me: “Maybe it’s allergies. Or dust. Or you are just leaking. If you just go in and have fun, I’m sure you’ll feel better.”
Child: (Sucking inhalation of gargling nose noise.)
Me: “Well I guess you aren’t going to school tomorrow.”
Child: “Achkrkskhclag!” (Makes noise like a fork going through the food disposal.)
Day 2—Monday – Home From School
Child is not the least bit tired. He races from room to room, stopping periodically to cough directly into my face or into the nearest plate of food.*
Speaking of food, have I mentioned that the microwave has been broken for days now? I eat cold left-over stuffed peppers rather than try to reheat them, because battling to get the microwave to function sends child into a fit of hysteria. I am near tears myself.
In an effort to reign him in, force child to clean room. Discover bed frame has actually warped into a vague ‘U’ shape. Child manages to keep room clean for about a minute.
While I am cleaning bathroom, child turns stove on, past the ignition point, filling house with gas. Discover window I had ‘fixed’ is actually still broken as now it won’t stay open.
Survive day despite child’s efforts. Find bottle of wine saved in basement for a ‘special occasion’. This day has been extra fucking special.
Day 3—War on the Home Front
I have battened the hatches and am maintaining a hostile truce with the enemy. My child is trying to drive me mad…or kill me. He keeps spreading mucous on everything he touches. Every surface is a burgeoning petri dish of bacterial possibilities.
He spends fifteen to twenty minutes running up and down the stairs like a maniac, giggling and shrieking for all he is worth. I am afraid to go downstairs to find out why he is so happy.
I suspect he is just thrilled to be out of school. His new phrase is ‘stay home’. Any communication is pretty big for a non-verbal child. So, I’m ecstatic to hear him talking, even if he sounds like a congested, thirty-year smoker.
Any time I leave him on his own, trouble ensues. At some point, he eats the small, rubber toggle mouse that came with my laptop computer and the grandfather clock is now missing its pendulum. He is like one of the scary, Weeping Angels from Dr. Who—I don’t dare take my eyes off him.
After he floods the bathroom and then sends water pouring down the stairs by overflowing the kitchen sink, I may have threatened to lock him in his room for the rest of his life.
I call for reinforcements. Cousins come—bearing Lysol disinfectant and hand sanitizer, they’re not stupid—to help me eat pizza and drown my sorrows in a game of Settlers of Cataan. I feel human for a very short while. But then, they are gone and I am alone with him once more.
Day—Infinity?—Who the F*ck knows?
It feels like eternity since I have had a break. Now the only break I can envision is a total nervous breakdown. I am randomly shrieking at child and alternately trying to make amends for my horrible behavior. He is fairly oblivious to both my good and my not-so-good efforts.**
Despite being sick, he isn’t sleeping much, as a result, I’m exhausted. Everything is getting on my very last, razor-wire thin nerve. Every time he does something—turn off the fridge, steal my keys, pour the bottle of green dish soap into a garbage can in his bedroom for the second time—my patience is becoming dangerously frayed. Even my son starts to pick up on it because when I shove him in his room with a strangled threat to hang him by his toes and beat him like a pinata, he recognizes that maybe, just maybe, mommy isn’t kidding.
That night, I drive us to the nearby store and pick up some well-earned desserts.*** My son picks out the biggest, sprinkle emblazoned cookie and coughs hard enough to etch the glass with his breath. The clerk doesn’t say a word about the diet coke I buy along with my sugary confections—I suspect the desperation in my eyes is beginning to show—either that, or she wants my child out of her space as quickly as possible.
Friday dawns beautiful—regardless of weather predictions—because I can finally send him to school. He is still coughing, but no longer shooting phlegm so I am calling it ‘good enough’ and shoving him on the bus. I ignore his requests to “Stay home Friday” and walk back to eat my well-deserved cupcake.
As I go to sink my teeth into its sinful, rich, cake-y goodness…I feel a tickling at the back of my throat…like I might have to cough. I suppress the urge and gobble up my treat.
Denial tastes delicious.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
* T-minus three days from transmission and counting.
**Putting him in his room repeatedly was for his own safety, I promise you, not just for my sanity.
***Ignore the fact that half the Halloween candy is already gone; I do.