I woke up this morning sounding like Harvey Fierstein after an all-night bender, and not in a sexy way. My throat felt like I had been sucking on a hot coal all night, my head was in a vise and my body felt the ache of the cumulative effect of the thousands of Burpees I have been subjecting my body to. I woke Shawni up with a series of hacking, wheezing, coughs followed by a dirgeful whine of “I don’t feel well”, my only solace being that I had successfully passed on yet another trait to my daughter: the inability to deal with having a cold.
I don’t handle being sick well. The problem is, I assume this is how I’m going to feel for the rest of my life and picture having to carry out the rest of my days in an achy, snotty haze. I also get very dramatic. My favorite being sick story– at least in terms of my scatologically-inclined son– happened when I was in Africa. There is a very mystical element to the story which I will forgo to get straight to the poop, as it were. On my last day in Tanzania, after having subjected myself to a diet of crocodile, boar, zebra and mopani worms– this was shortly after I had broken up with my Crazy Ex and I was trying to have an extreme adventure in order to ‘find myself’– I found myself with intense gastronomical pains. Okay, as I write this, knowing where it’s going, I should include the mystical elements. Shawni and I had been dating for six weeks before I decided to take a month to travel Africa. I left Shawni with no commitment, only that I’d be back in exactly one month (why the hell a guy like me would feel confident enough to leave a girl like Shawni hanging like that is only known by our Creator). Meanwhile, back at home, Shawni had been asking the same question. After consulting with some friends who told her that if I had wanted to call, I would have– this was before they had cellphone service in the Serengeti– Shawni decided that she would give me the month that I asked for, but if I didn’t come home on that day, she would start to date other people (isn’t it great how women can just decide to date other people? I decided many times in my life to date other people but no one decided to date me back). Anyway, I was having an amazing adventure in Africa that I didn’t want to end– and since in my sobriety I had decided to not climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in my Gap outfit, I instead opted to extend my trip with a three week Safari in South Africa. This was before internet, and Skype so I decided instead to fax my travel agent my request to extend my trip by three weeks. Exactly one minute after the fax went through the machine, all the food I had eaten since childhood went through me.
I raced back to my room in the half-star hotel I was staying at in Arusha, Tanzania, and broke into a raging fever. My body started shaking violently with the chills, so in order to combat that I put on every piece of clothing I had. I sweat through seven layers of Gap safari-wear in about four minutes. I was also parched, having sweat out– or worse– every drop of liquid in my body. I was so dehydrated it hurt to blink. For some reason this room, which did not have heat or an air conditioner, had a mini-fridge which was stocked with orange soda. I mustered my energy to open the bottle of Crush then guzzled down the sweet, cold contents in about a second and a half. My stomach instantly gurgled to life, and within another second and a half I was doing my best impression of an orange soda fountain. I tried this with the same result with two more bottles. The truth is, I probably could have used the same bottle, but that would have taken the story to a whole new disturbing level. Now, given that I assume every head cold will be the end of me, this was an extremely scary moment. I remember going to a travel doctor beforehand who warned me about dehydration. He gave me a pill to be used in Case of Emergency only– this pill was the equivalent of a life-raft, which once it hit my stomach, would inflate and keep me from going to the bathroom for two weeks. There were all sorts of warnings attached to this single pill, but I had no other choice. I fumbled for the container, popped open the last orange soda, and downed the pill. I collapsed on the bed, thankful for modern medicine. Fifteen seconds later the pill shot out of me, completely in tact.
So, where is the mystical element in this horrific diarrhea story? Well, immediately after becoming a pill-vending machine, I used all my remaining strength and waddled through seven layers of clothing back to the hotel manager’s office and sent another fax, this time telling my travel agent to disregard the last fax and instead book me on the next flight out of Tanzania. As soon as that fax went through, my stomach calmed and the next morning I was en-route back home, where I was picked up at the airport by my Sorceress future wife.
So today, 12 and a half years later, this same woman was left to deal with our kids by herself, because it was clear that I would be of no use. The beauty of unplugging for an entire day is that it gives you time to reconnect with family and friends. The downside is when you’re stuck in a house with two bored kids and a husband who is coughing and wheezing like a chain smoker. In any event, I knew my prescription for recovery would be to sleep, but it was impossible. I woke up every hour, expecting to wake to find myself in an airplane somewhere over Herzegovina. I was awoken during one of my naps by the sound of my son screaming, “You tried to kill me! You left me alone because you tried to kill me!” I am happy to know that I passed on my sense of drama to my son. A moment later, my wife came upstairs and I asked her if she had, in fact, tried to kill our son. She said she hadn’t. I told her I’m not being judgmental, I was just curious. I gave my wife a totally shallow offer to help out if she needed me, but she said she was fine, and she was. I then turned to look at the clock, expecting it to be around 6 p.m. It was 2:33.
After another coughing fit which sent my wife downstairs to deal with my screaming son– I didn’t blame her– I decided that I needed to take some medicine. The choice was, do I go with Nyquil or Dayquil. If I go with Dayquil, I won’t sleep, but I could probably help out with the kids. If I go with Nyquil, it will most likely put me out for a few hours but it’s not really fair to my wife. “YOU HATE ME!!!” is the last thing I heard my son scream before I gulped down the Nyquil. The next thing I know, Shawni was crawling into bed with me. I asked her if she needed my help with anything. She said she was going to sleep. I told her I’d take care of the kids. She said they were going to sleep, too. “I don’t think we should put our kids to bed at 4:00, I want them to get over their jetlag.” “It’s 8:15” she said as she turned away to go to sleep. A moment later, Caleb came in a plopped next to me, followed in quick succession by our Chihuaha, our Boxer and our daughter. As I eased out of bed to look at my sleeping family who had to go it alone without me, I couldn’t help but wonder if Shawni sometimes thinks, “What if I had gone on a date when Jeff was in Africa?” I for one, couldn’t be happier
that she cast that spell on me. A spell that’s just as strong today as it was when I was a soda fountain.