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I’m a big baby (and so are you)
It was incubating. It was waiting. Did my writing seem low-energy two weeks ago? It was. I didn’t know it myself, but It was perched inside me, multiplying, waiting for the battle to begin. You know the It. The monster your mother warned you about. It was Rona.
It’s spooky season, which is apt. All along the neighborhood, there are fake spiderwebs, fake skeletons, green sheets draped over illuminated balloons. There are people in masks. Tiny grim reapers. Baby zombies. Then there is me.
When you’re sick, the whole world seems to exist in varying stages of sickness and health. One cat got sick. The other bragged about his health, running circles around my naps. Every runner outside was a reminder of what I couldn’t do. Every pregnant person? Maybe they felt worse than me, but they looked better. They wore real pants. I saw elderly couples wearing suits in the park with a healthful spring in their step. Cyclists in their tight outfits, singing out loud.
It was the most beautiful time of year, and I was feeling like death. Even the changing leaves were mocking me. Are leaves not a tree’s fatal disease? The swarm of color happens slowly, too slowly to see with the naked eye, until all the leaves drop, creating crunchy corpses. The sycamore yellows looked too much like the translucent yellow of my Vitamin D pills. The orange-red maples may as well have dangled DayQuils, which would have been more use to me. There is still plenty of healthful green, calm Advil Liqui-Gel green, but for the first time in years, Advil couldn’t save me.
“It’s fun to be sick,” Seth said, unsickly. “You get to do nothing.” It’s not fun (he learned after he caught it from me) to do nothing because you can’t do anything.
Still, there were moments. Like when our five-and-a-half-year anniversary rolled around. In the height of my sickness, Seth bought purple flowers, a color I haven’t seen recently: there are no purple medications in my house.
Seth is good at many things but terrible at buying flowers. Once, he bought dried lavender and put it in a vase… with water. Another time, he bought four potted plants, which I’m now charged with watering despite my un-green thumb (two have since died). Once more, he bought rainbow-dyed flowers, not knowing the difference between “pretty” and “cheesy.”
Most recently, the flowers he picked were quite nice. But he didn’t cut the stems, so they towered loosely over the top of the vase. That was fine, I cut them. And I stared at clear water and asked, “What about the flower food?”
“What’s flower food?”
“Flower DayQuil. The powder that makes flowers feel better.”
“Oh no,” he said, and dug it out of the trash can. Then he poured the flower food… on TOP of the flowers.
I laughed for a week (when I wasn’t coughing or sleeping). I’m sorry, Seth. Next to recovering, it was the best thing that happened during Covid.
Then we watched home movies. Apparently, young me was terrible at everything. She had two older brothers who were better than her at, well, everything. So she resigned herself to her thoughts. All she wanted to do was wear cute hats and creepily smile for the camera, even in the middle of a soccer game. She was the tiniest ballerina on the tiny dance stage, surrounded by giants who knew the moves better, and never even tried to learn the moves: the dance teachers took pity on her. She often stared at the camera in silence, puzzling out the world from a quiet place. She couldn’t engage physically with the world, so she engaged with it mentally instead, waiting until she figured things out.
I felt, deep Rona, like the same person. I couldn’t do anything while I wanted to do everything. I stared at my hands, wondering why they couldn’t save me. I watched from a distance as healthy people were healthy, hoping their wellbeing would transmit to me.
I’m saying there is hope and people change and things get better. A tiny ungraceful blob can become a real human like me. But the shitty parts can be enjoyable, too. There can be creepy camera smiles and flower food, and even from a distance, autumn becomes itself.
The real babies of this household: