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In A Nutshell

In a nutshell, I’m nuts. Because I’ve been sick for the entire holiday season and I’m sick of being sick. I’m sick of coughing up phlegm, sick of the word phlegm, sick of blowing my nose and then blowing it some more and no matter how much I blow and cough there’s still more of this crud coming up stuck in my wheezing lungs and tormented sinuses and ticklish throat.

In a nutshell, I’m sick of feeling like some cartoon character whose head is about twice as big as his body, throbbing and aching, and when I lay it on a pillow, it feels like I’m laying down some ticking time bomb ready to blow at any minute: a sneeze that’ll literally spew my brains all over the ceiling, or a coughing fit that’ll get the TB nurses to come over and quarantine me in some existential European spa with a bunch of other decrepit patients whose main goal in life is to slit their wrists and write brooding poetry in blood.

In a nutshell, I’ve reached the end of my rope. I’ve taken the Advil and the Echinacea and the vitamin C and the garlic pills. I’ve taken the cough syrup and the throat tea with honey and lemon. I’ve got the humidifier going, used the Neti pot, even tried a jar of Vicks VapoRub (my grandpa’s old stand-by remedy for anything that ails you). Every night, Grandpa Joe would smear Vicks VapoRub on his chest and, just for good measure, on mine if I was anywhere in the vicinity, in order to help with breathing through the night. I’m not sure if it warded off colds or germs or vampires, but I’m fairly sure that the moths avoided us, and I know my friends would hold their noses when I came over to play the next morning. But this is the price you pay for eternal vigilance.

In a nutshell, there’s nothing to do but wait it out. This too shall pass, as these things always do, unless you die first. I think it’s just some little tickle, some little bug, the sniffles, but then for a while it gets worse and worse, and finally when I think it can’t get any worse, it starts to turn into something else. The throbbing headache turns into a wracking cough, and that, in its own way, is a relief, at least my head doesn’t hurt anymore. Then when I can’t stand that anymore, it changes into a runny nose — not just runny but dripping like a faucet — so I go through an entire box of Kleenex in one day, and then I’m carrying around rolls of toilet paper with me wherever I go because I don’t have the strength to drive over to the pharmacy for more Kleenex and cough syrup and anyway how can I drive and blow my nose every five seconds?

This is the point where I swallow my pride, which is damn hard to do under ordinary circumstances, but the way my throat feels, it’s hard to even swallow hot tea. But I do it and call my ex and tell her how miserable I am and kind of beg her to take pity on me and buy me some Kleenex and maybe a couple of cans of chicken soup.

This is really a rough thing to have to ask for. The last time I talked to her, I was yelling over the phone about how if I ever saw her again, even in the next lifetime, it would be too soon, and how she could keep the books that I lent her that she never read, because she’s an idiot who barely knows how to sound out the words in People magazine or Instagram or whatever useless crap it is she spends her time occupied with. I tried my best to improve her mind and it was like trying to get an organ grinder’s monkey to learn calculus. Yeah, I may have actually said something like that. But here I am calling to beg her to help me, because who else am I going to call? My friend, Brad, who wakes up every morning with a hangover and is late for work? Or, am I just going to shout out the window to the next-door neighbor when I see him walking the dog. \”Help me!\” No, he’d call 911 and they’d take me away to some locked ward and I’d never see the light of day again. Because, in a nutshell, I’m cracked. I must be nutty if I’m willing to call my ex and beg her for Kleenex.

But damned if an hour later there isn’t a knock at the door and there she is with a whole array of remedies and potions and elixirs and, thank god, Kleenex, and on top of it all she’s made me a pot of homemade chicken soup, or maybe she got it from the Chinese take-out, but what the hell, she still cares about me. Despite what an asshole I’ve been, when the chips were down, she came through.

So I smile and hug her and start to apologize for all my previous bad behavior, but before I can stop myself, I have one tremendous sneeze, right in her face. Yeah, so sorry, well, maybe not. Maybe that was just for old times’ sake. Because, in a nutshell, maybe she deserves a chance to experience just how bad I feel. Or maybe I just want the chance to get even and take care of her, too.

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