While my fellow radio host at WMNH, Peter White of the “Morning Show,” was sweating it out in the ER over the weekend, fighting off a dangerous case of indigestion, I myself was home in bed with the flu, writhing in a cold sweat, begging for these lashing dreams to stop.
Why in my dreams was I swimming through the mill waters in Lowell, Mass., with a group of seniors I see drinking coffee at my local Dunkin Donuts? I have no idea. Same with the woods behind my home being on fire. And my face suddenly having no lips. Just more teeth.
Good times. But hey, it’s February; what more could I expect out of this lousy month?
The transition from wake to sleep last Thursday night was highly successful. I had done a radio show in Concord, hosted and interviewed six local musicians and two lovely representatives from the Red River Theater about an upcoming event on Oscar night, went home, chowed, scrubbed down, took it down, then watched some Amazon Prime.
After a half-hour reading session with Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” a novel I’d failed to conquer after many attempts in my 30s and early-40s, I closed my eyes and was out. Love when that happens.
Then, just after 2 in the morning, I woke in a halt. Freezing. Ice cold. I couldn’t wrap myself up tight enough. Slowly, I pulled myself up by my now iceberg sized nipples and shuffled in pain over to the thermostat on the wall near the kitchen. Temperature read toasty. What gives? My bones were frigid. And my legs hurt like hell, all cramped up. Shoulders too. My neck had a king-sized knot in it. I haven’t done legs at the gym since the late-80s, so I knew something was up.
I tried to go back to sleep but kept on shivering, aching, feeling dried out, like someone was flushing my intestines with antifreeze. Gurgled, gurgle. I started stressing in the dark knowing I had commitments to honor within hours. A meeting in Dover at 10, a show to host in Manchester that night, friends to see, games to attend, beers to drink, hugs to give. I knew none of that was happening as 3 turned to 5, then 5 to 6. My fingers shook while texting my boss at 7 that I needed a sick day.
Friday came and went, I barely remember it. Or, I’m trying to block it all out.
Knees to my gut for hours on end, buried beneath the blankets in bed, I gagged and heaved and shook and sweat, soiling with perspiration anything that came in contact with my skin, which hurt to the touch. Bed sheets were continuously replaced, comforters too. Pillow cases were burned in a pit in the yard. My T-shirts turned to tissue. Both windows in the bedroom were wide open, doing their best to free me from my own foul scent. I should be imprisoned for the atrocities I committed in the bathroom, which are documentary-worthy, if Ted Bundy is. I vomited from my own stench. I kid you not.
I’m a terrible baby when I’m sick. An infant. This is true of most men.
The TV in my bedroom is bare-boned, basic channels only, whereas all the premium channels are on the flat screen in the downstairs living room. What I was forced to watch was mind-numbing. Hours of college basketball games played by teams I never heard of. The Godfather series, twice, for the eleven-hundredth time. Oceans 11, 12 and 13. Every Will Ferrell movie known to man, I think. I tried to read, failed. I tried to eat, nothing happening. I just shook.
Saturday hazily appeared and things were none the better. Same sweat, same aches, same stink. My mind started to fracture from a marginal fever by mid-morning, making assumptions and predictions. “You’re coming to get me, aren’t you?” I was repeating into the face of a pillow before erupting. “Cancer! Show yourself I say! I’ll eat YOU alive!”
By nightfall that evening, I hadn’t left the house in two and a half days, or the second floor of my own home. I was told I had no business mingling with the healthy people living their lives below me, getting on, laughing, eating, swallowing foods that tasted like sugar not bile.
Again in the bathroom on Sunday morning, figuring out if it was just better to hurl myself out the window instead of into the toilet once again, I stood naked before the mirror, wincing in horror at the man I saw before me. As if every muscle in my body had snapped, I was skinny and fat all at once, ravaged with weakness.
Enough! That’s it, I then told myself. I’m done with you senior flu. I ran a hot bath, something I hadn’t done in nearly a decade. Jamming my body in the steaming waters, I soaked motionless in silence until my toes folded over. Oh, baby. Every knot loosed, every pain subsided. I could lift my arms without crying for help. Enough of the pills and syrups. This is what I needed.
The next morning, I woke up slowly, having slept erratically, but better. Monday’s mean business. Ain’t no getting around it. Screw this day up and the rest is a mess. So, I showered like any other day, shaved my face, combed by hair, hit my chest with a couple blasts of cheap cologne and greeted my family, practically strangers to me by now.
“Hey, Dadda,” my son said sleepy-eyed slurping at a bowl of cereal. “Haven’t seen you forever.”
“I’ll be in the car,” is all I said. “Hurry up.”
And then, there it was, the voice of Pete White and his band of Merry Men on the Morning Show on 95.3 FM. Fresh off his three-hour stint in the emergency room, Pete was going to do what he was born to do, host a radio show, indigestion and all. White commanded the day battle-scarred but strong, making light of his digestive struggles.
And that there was all I needed to hear to kiss my vile weekend goodbye.
Like my buddy T-Bone always says, “Show up or shut up.”
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org