Sickest I’ve ever been. I don’t think anyone got annual flu shots back then. At least I never heard of it. You just got the flu if you were going to get it. The fickle finger of Fate. Suck it up. Made you tougher for the next time. Like picking up those immune system fortifying germs from shopping carts and public toilets. Bring um all on. The more the merrier. Make me bullet proof to all the kinds of shit sick people pass around all the time.
One time I came home for Christmas. HoooWeee. I had the fluiest of flus ever, a humdinger of a case plus one mother of a kind of self-medicating hangover for good measure. So crazily, I hair of the dogged myself. From Chicago to Honolulu I rode First Class, a happy accident, bumped up to what I turned into Keep Um Coming Class. Heineken plus Jack Daniels plus fever equals floating through the air. Squared. In the plane and in my mind.
This illest ever, and nearly the drunkest, me came from snow and ice to humidity and heat. Got sicker still the moment that blast of hot, damp air hit me coming off the flight in Honolulu. Thought I might not make it home maybe. Dragged my ass into my bedroom, saw that I’d left a record on my stereo last summer. It was Bette Midler, “Old Cape Cod,” had played the hell out of that song the last time I was home.
Turned it on. Nothing says Christmas in Hawai‘i like drunken fever, chills, body ache, sand dunes, and salty air.
It was the time of swine flu. Some said it would be like 1918 and we could die in droves. Never got the shot. Swine flu didn’t materialize. A really big scare, watching those lines for vaccinations in Madison.
I sure got something nasty, but nah, what I had, it was just some annual super bug that hit me extra hard. Too much studying, bad diet, not enough sleep. The dreams I had that first night back. Those surreal fever ones. Wow. Hey, Bob Dylan, fancy meeting you up here. Guess it’s just you and me knocking on these great big doors.
So hallelujah, I could tell it was going to be a special Christmas when I woke up alive. Not only did I wake up, but I could not believe it, I was healed. I attributed my miracle cure to the course of alcohol and Bette Midler.
Never was that sick before, never been that sick since, and I certainly don’t want to start trying to leap that bar now. I gotta get that second shot.