This is not how it’s supposed to go. I am supposed to be having a fabulous time. I am supposed to be hiking very close to, if not in, the majestic Alps. But the Alps weren’t interested. They pulled the mist and rain and clouds down around themselves like an invisibility cloak. They vanished.
And my body did everything wrong.
The night before our flight, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. I rolled over a hundred times, I got a glass of water, I had to pee, I pulled the covers up, I petted the cat, I peed, I read a book, I read the newspaper, I pulled the covers down, I tried to think soothing thoughts. I finally fell asleep at 6:00 am, just before Bear got up to go to work. By then, there was no time to sleep.
And so, because of my excitement, I was exhausted on the plane, which probably contributed to the sad turn of events. The sad turn of events that I’m about to relate in riveting detail.
The guy sitting next to us was coughing and sneezing a lot, without covering his mouth (who does that? Maybe he was an orphan? Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. He was probably an orphan). By the time we switched planes in Paris, I was miserable. By the time we made it to Switzerland, I could barely function. I slept for most of the first day and when I woke up I had a fever.
Which has not gone away. The fever came with a generous, gurgling cough, prickling, hypersensitive skin, and an angry throat that wasn’t even slightly interested in the famous local fondue. I could not move. And then I couldn’t sleep at night. So I slept during the day. At night, I lay awake, burning, freezing, thinking about little ways in which I’ve failed, thinking about how characters in Jane Austen novels sometimes go to the sea to convalesce, and really, if you have to be sick somewhere, and feel like a tragic heroine, Interlaken, between two shockingly blue lakes, must be that place. Thinking about how if the cat breaks just one more of our nice glasses, there will only be three left, and three is a bad number for nice glasses. I pushed the covers off, I pulled them tremblingly up. I thought about how pathetic I was. What would I do if Bear wasn’t there? Am I incapable of independence? What if I had a baby and I got like this? What would happen? Would my baby starve to death? Probably. I am unfit for motherhood. For personhood. Bear slept soundly beside me, one freckled, hairy shoulder visible above my swaths of blankets, like an island. In the morning, he was cheerful and enthusiastic, but I could hardly mutter a response.
The Alps were out there, somewhere outside the window of our dingy hotel room with the sloping, oddly squishy linoleum floors, but I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Besides, it was still raining.
Bear went jogging. He read for hours about the history of the country we couldn’t see. I don’t know what else he did—I had no interest
Two days in, he had to change the plan. Instead of me coming with him to Helsinki and London, he booked a flight straight to Amsterdam, where I’d wait for him while he had his meetings.
That’s where I am now. With my ears stuck popped, from the flight. My head feels like it’s been encased in a ball of packing foam. I can’t stop coughing. Classical music plays on the radio, dramatic and formal. Here I lie, the tragic, ill heroine. Or maybe her annoying, self-pitying aunt.
On the plane, in what seemed like an unfair and absurd amount of pain from the pressure in my ears, I sat, clutching my head, childish tears escaping down my cheeks, wondering what the hell my problem is.
Who gets sick because she stayed up for a night? Who can’t get on a plane because the slightest amount of congestion will cause her eardrums to swell to the point of bursting? Who can’t function for days afterwards, because she still can’t hear? Who misses out on Switzerland, and London, and Helsinki, all because she sits next to the wrong person on the plane?
And it makes me feel totally helpless.
I can’t take myself anywhere.
Bear can’t take me anywhere.
He thought it’d be nice, to take me along on this trip, to spend some time somewhere I’d always wanted to go, before heading off to his business meetings. Instead, he’s had to reschedule, and rearrange, and spend a day on the phone with airlines and hotels and the car rental place, trying to form a contingency plan while running back and forth from the pharmacy.
Finally, rushing to the airport, after taking the wrong exit, staring at sign after sign in German, and eventually French, lost in a sea of red and white construction, he snapped. “This is the worst trip ever! Everything is going wrong!”
Once again, my inexplicable sensitivity ruins everything
Where did it come from? Why am I made like this?
I am so frustrated with my untrustworthy, turncoat body. This body that has absolutely nothing serious wrong with it, but that will suddenly crash and crumple at the slightest provocation. This body that can not seem to manage to do the ordinary things that other bodies do, like spend time in a car without getting nauseous, or wake up at an earlier time than usual without being nauseous, or go on a plane ride, or stay up later than usual, or bump into something without getting a painful bruise, or sit in grass without getting a rash, or get a pedicure without getting an infection, or put on eyeliner without getting red, irritated eyes, or turn suddenly without pulling some microscopic, pretentious muscle, or wear a necklace without the weight of it becoming too pressing, or have even a single period without debilitating cramps, or, or– it’s all stupid. Stupid whiny little mundane meaningless complaints that add and add until they become the reason why I can’t be counted on to come through. Why I can’t count on myself to be there. To enjoy it. To be normal.
Tomorrow, Bear flies to Helsinki. And I—I have no idea. Maybe the fever will tire itself out. Maybe the foam surrounding my head will fall away and I will be able to fully hear the somber, funereal music that won’t stop playing on the radio. Maybe I will wake up energized, with Amsterdam sprawling at my feet, ready to explore.
I don’t know. I can’t count on it.
Because of this obnoxiously sensitive, complaining, humiliatingly delicate body of mine.
This body that is not made for modern times. Or any times, at all. God, imagine me as a peasant. Wouldn’t have made it through the winter. Any winter. Pick a winter.
This body that does not like to be taken even a few feet outside of its comfort zone. This body that would like me to sit still and quietly write, in a quiet room, in a quiet little home that I never plan on leaving. With a lot of Tylenol on hand, just in case.
(the sun finally emerged for a moment, as we drove to the airport)
* * *
Anyone else absurdly sensitive? Betrayed by your body? Missed your chance at the Alps? Or maybe, do you have a tip for dealing with congestion on the plane? Chewing gum doesn’t work. Swallowing and yawning don’t work. Is there some powerful drug I should be taking that I don’t know about?
Unroast: Today I love…Sheesh, it’s hard right this second. OK…The color of my wedding band against my skin.
To everyone who wrote to me from London and Helsinki– this is why I haven’t responded. I’m going to try to do that soon, but I hope you see this first! And thank you! And I wish I could’ve met you all. When I can download my consciousness into a sexy robot, this stuff will be much easier, I promise.