I would wake up in the middle of a cold far-north November night with chattering teeth, naked from head to toe but for thin underclothes. Then I would discover that I had shivered quilt, blankets, and sheets off in a mass, every one, onto the floor. By morning I was perhaps able to ease down the stairs to the breakfast room: a very important journey, because breakfast was guaranteed in my rent and was the day’s only full meal. During the few daylight hours preceding another night of horrors, I typically dragged myself huddled up to the local library to do a bit of research and writing. Darkness was falling by about four in the afternoon. If I could find a few pence knocking around in my pocket, I might open up a can of macaroni and eat it cold; and if I was lucky, I didn’t throw it all up before bedtime.
That was 1981, as I recall, and I was trying to survive a few months in Wexford, Ireland, during a postal strike that separated me from the monthly checks I had arranged to receive from home. In my compromised physical condition, I contracted a strain of flu that left several local people in the cemetery. I was in my twenties and, apparently, capable of mounting a better resistance. That didn’t keep me from losing somewhere between a quarter and a third of my original body weight (none too hefty at around 160 lbs.). When my sister finally appeared at Christmas with money and a ticket to get me back to the States, she insists she only recognized me because I waved at her in an empty Limerick bus station.
The silver lining of that ordeal was that I’ve never really suffered from the flu since. For all I know, I’ve never had another case of it. More likely, I have been infected occasionally but fought off serious complications because of a degree of acquired immunity. What I’ve read about influenza suggests that such partial immunity is not an infrequent result of exposure.
My enduring resistance is the more remarkable to me in that I proceeded to log about thirty-five years (depending on how you count seasons of semi-employment) as a teacher. I was constantly moving about in narrow halls that grew thickly congested every time the clock’s minute-hand touched 10 (releasing one class in time for the next one to convene on the hour). Young people who gave no mind to sleeping at night and who immersed themselves in a dense soup of contagion flowing from classroom to commons to gym to bistro to bar were forever depositing the disiecta membra of their respiratory systems in mid-air. On top of that, Mother Nature didn’t endow me with a stentorian tongue of brass… so at the beginning of every semester, and almost every work week (for my weekends seldom required a raised voice), my vocal cords would usually become a bit over-stressed and leave me for a day or two with a mild soar throat. I also have more than my fair share of allergies: mold gets me every time.
So… I ought to have been a walking Petrie dish for every respiratory problem known to humankind. Instead, over the years that followed my reluctant “immunization”, I probably logged no more sick days than I might count on one hand. Though I fulfilled my classroom duties at scarcely more than a whisper sometimes, I just about always got by. In fact, the one case of stay-at-home illness I recall involved food poisoning.
And, by the way, I‘ve never had a flu shot. You could say that I have a “trust issue” with the med/pharma complex, especially when its members nanny-nag us univocally with vague threats that government compulsion awaits in the near future if we don’t take our nice mercury-laced injection.
Would someone like me know if he’d just suffered a little bout of Coronavirus—someone, I mean, who works out hard for an hour every day and who has demonstrated a resistance to flu-like diseases (after being almost killed by one)? I’ve tried researching relevant facts on the Internet: what are the initial symptoms, how long do they persist, what type of headache occurs, do mild or asymptomatic cases leave any distinct footprint at all? The Internet just plays rope-a-dope with me, when it’s working (and the home-bound tens of millions seem be patronizing many of the same websites, which are crashing by the dozen). Coronavirus turns out to be almost anything you want it to be—except always, always deadly serious. No, don’t take it lightly! But you may not know that you have it… or you may mistake it for a cold. Like Macavity the Mystery Cat, it shifts shapes, melts into walls, and grins from a tree just when you think your fingers are closing on its neck.
I am, in fact, being fully serious. I am seriously annoyed that something possessing the potential of being so serious proves virtually unidentifiable yet brings every facet of our lives to a halt. I had a very odd headache last Monday. I woke up with it, and it lingered most of the day, worsening through the afternoon but vanishing—mercifully—after supper. It encased my outer skull in a hot, throbbing ring: it didn’t settle heavily over my brow like a sinus headache, pulse in my temples like a tension headache, or explode like a firecracker from my pituitary like the reaction I registered to a single dose of Flomax earlier this month. Frankly, it made me remember in the dimmest terms what I could recall of… let us call it (in vile racist terms) Wexford Flu. In a couple of brief instances, I wanted to vomit; yet that’s a natural response to any headache strong enough to leave you feeling a bit dizzy.
Sore throat, coughing, and sneezing? Well, the pollen has just arrived in full force throughout North Georgia. There’s certainly enough of it to start one’s nose running, and to create overnight drainage down the throat into the lungs that stirs up an early-morning hack or two. Every puddle along our half-mile driveway has been dyed bright yellow as the forest promiscuously breeds (and there are many such puddles: the rain has fallen at record pace since last September, when the Weather Channel kept insisting that Climate Change had plunged us into a deadly drought). Could my passing discomfort be a response to this cocktail of vernal pollinators? Or is it… aren’t these the symptoms of Coronavirus? Strange, that I haven’t really been very stopped up since last Monday.
Speaking of puddles… what about West Nile Virus? (Again, pardon the racism—I just can’t seem to help myself.) The mosquitoes poured out of incubation almost as soon as our windshields turned lime-green. Some people die of West Nile, actually. Shouldn’t we keep the children indoors until the next Climate Change drought strangles the insect population?
Okay, so I’m being facetious and sarcastic now. Who wouldn’t be? It’s a way of handling frustration—of mitigating anger. Damn it, I’m 66 years old, retired to 25 rural acres that I might leave twice a week (church on Sunday, Walmart on Monday). I already “self-quarantine”: if I’d been in Ireland a millennium ago, I would have made an ideal monk on Skellig Michael. What am I supposed to do, then, with that strange headache and a brief sore throat? Rush to the doctor and demand Coronavirus testing? Why? So that I may go back into self-quarantine if the results are positive? I live in self-quarantine! Why would I risk genuine infection, in case I actually had nothing but an allergic reaction, by entering a waiting room full of people equally convinced that they are blossoming CV-19 victims? Or if they’re clean but I’m infected, how many of them die because I walked through the room to check in?
Am I not taking this seriously enough? Or am I taking it too seriously? Taking what seriously? What if I carry an as yet unknown and unnamed virus? What if I’m dooming dozens to an early grave every time I buy milk?
What if that bloody Flomax pill which almost killed me, and which millions of other men are taking, was concocted of contaminated (or deliberately poisoned) Chinese ingredients? My headache appeared exactly two weeks after my first brief venture into prescription drugs since a Z-pack ten years ago. Two weeks: that’s the publicized incubation period of Coronavirus… isn’t it? Has the PRC oligarchs been releasing trial balloons of chemical warfare into our populace ever since we broke their hearts by not electing Hillary? Or have such black-ops war games been ongoing ever since we delivered the pharmaceutical industry’s assembly line to their shores? Is the present panic a dress rehearsal for checkmate in three moves?
Am I sounding more paranoid than sarcastic now? But how am I supposed to sound? When the “pandemic” is such an existential threat that martial law has essentially been declared in many states and municipalities (including my hometown of Fort Worth, where a judge has rescinded private ownership of property)—but when our economy’s saturation in H1-B visa-holders and its invasion by hordes on our southern border are still not considered a “serious” crisis—why should I believe anything I hear from anyone in authority? When—but for Louie Gohmert—the House majority leader would have sent to the Senate a bill she had completely rewritten after ramrodding its initial passage through on “getaway day”, why would I assume that my “leaders” are not playing games with me?
It’s a virus, all right. Washington Virus. And I’ve been infected so many times that my immune system has shifted into hyper-drive. Believe no one. Don’t trust, and don’t try to verify. Verification is impossible: truth and falsehood have fused like the bright yellow pollen and the mud in my driveway’s potholes. Always assume, as did the veterans of Solzhenitsyn’s goulags, that everyone wants to fleece you—that “they” want you out of the way. And if exercises in futility amuse you, try to figure out who “they” really are.
What a life. What a world.