Thursday, December 27, 2007


TYBS#16 (MARCH 2007)
Being sick is like a handicapped challenge for me. Like a test between your body and you on how fast you can get better, how much chemical aid you get while you’re at it or whether you do get better or worse. And it can always get worse.

It always feels that sickness isn’t just something to get over but (probably because of the gamut of Eastern literature on medicine I’ve read through the years) a confluence of neglect, environmental factors and the universe telling you in no uncertain terms: “you’re asking to get sick” or “you’ll kick yourself in the nuts when you realize how you let it get this far.”

With this kind of attitude it’s easy to see why getting sick for me is always an emotional experience. The self-reprisal and the feeling of culpability never really leave. This in turn forces a wave of self-analysis which leads to some pretty bad neurotic episodes.

I wonder if anybody else feels this way? What do sick people think about when they’re bundled up in bed, the phlegm clogging up most of their senses, reduced to helplessness, feeling both chill and hot?

For four days straight this previous week I was in bed with a debilitating flu that had me hacking phlegm that ran the colors of the spectrum, coughing in fits day and night. The lack of sleep didn’t do any wonders either. I blame this on the insufferably arctic temperature of my office (I work at a mall), the sudden on-set of summer and the often faulty air-conditioning on the MRT boxcars.

Two weeks previous, there was a day that had been recorded locally as “the hottest day yet” with temperatures in the shade holding level at 34 degrees. Combine that with a pile of work and carelessness with wearing jackets or other thermal wear and you’ve got a recipe for a magnificent breakdown.

I’m still coughing intermittently as I type this but nothing compared to the sorry sack of bones I was last week. Thank God for antibiotics and Strepsils and anti-histamines. I love narcotic antihistamines. Pop one in and, thirty minutes later, the world turns into a fuzzy ball. Ten minutes after that you’re dead as a dodo, snoring like a Muppet, cough or no.

Good thing they have an armory of chemicals for the flu. Diseases that you need to ride through to the end, however, are something else. The weird thing about my diseases is I pick up particularly virulent ones not out on field (on assignment or shooting something) but in the city. I always pick them up here, like those circular, spiky spores you get on your shirt after a trip through high grass.

Diseases are a different animal altogether and, as nasty as they are, are loopholes in my whole guilt-trip process. You can’t really guard yourself against these things. You can be healthy as an ox and still get them, so don’t even try to blame yourself.

In 1999 a chicken pox epidemic had broken out at the office of a national daily where I worked. I caught the tail end. Water-filled pustules breaking out on adult skin is not pretty. In kids, when the disease is over, the skin easily rejuvenates and leaves you almost the same. You can’t say the same for adults. The skin loses its resilience as you age. When the pox had run its course, my girl back then instantly cried when she saw me again for the first time -- the amount of scar tissue left had spoiled and blemished my face.

I shrugged. I wasn’t overly concerned because I was still euphoric over actually getting to touch other people. Two months of isolation in your room is a trial in itself. A few years after though I spotted an old ID of mine pre-pox and was shocked at how much the disease had f*&^ed up my skin. Trust me, you never think you’re pretty until after you get the pox.

Dengue in 2003 was even worse (or was it 2002?). One day I just couldn’t get up. No fever, no noticeable symptoms. I just felt like my bones were heavier than a sack of rice. I blamed it on the drinking binge a few nights ago and tried to sleep it off. No luck. To top it all off I couldn’t hold anything in for long. I kept shitting it out. Foul-smelling stuff, too.

After being misdiagnosed for five days my aunt decided to get my platelets checked. Bingo. The next few weeks was spent in bed with an IV stuck through my right wrist. My aunt was a doctor so I was lucky I didn’t have to be confined but living with that IV and performing a complicated stunt whenever I had to piss (as well as trying to discern whether I had the strength to do it right away or take several deep breaths to muster enough of it) was as close as I ever felt to dying.

You try to get up but the disease laughingly says, “No, you will stay down.” And you just know that if it kept you down long enough you’d kick the bucket. The will to fight ebbs subtly. The effort to keep it alive seems pointless.

I hate needles but I got expert at fiddling with the IV whenever I put my hand down too far and the blood would rush into the drip. When I came out the other side I was 15 pounds lighter and I had the strength of a kitten. Being mortal is a messy, bloody affair.

The only good thing about being sick or getting a disease is coming out of it and feeling reanimated. The sheer radiant texture of the world post-illness is a set of stimuli that is phenomenal. Food tastes better, there’s more detail in sounds, girls you previously thought average now look stunning. It’s something to enjoy even after such bitter harvest.

P.S. If you're wondering what happened to TYBS#15, the short answer is: I published an excerpt of a sorta, kinda new short story there. That story is now coming out in an anthology of genre fiction. So now I can't reprint it on-line. Sorry, guys.

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