This house is full of sick people. Not me, dammit. True, my throat is raw, I’ve snorted and snotted through two boxes of tissues and my nose is red and bleeding, my cough-y phlegm has that color and taste that screams INFECTION and my head keeps dropping into doze during which my semi-dreams are feverish hallucinations, but, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME – I AM NOT SICK DAMMMMMMMIT!
During my long-ago youth, my mother was famously impatient with five of her six children when we complained of emotional distress/pain:
I’ll give you something to really cry about.
Then I guess you need to not watch so much T.V./not read so much/not go outside and play so much and go to bed earlier.
There’s nothing wrong with you. Get up.
None of these applied to the youngest of us, J. J’s reasons for crying were always accorded legitimacy by Mommy and — regularly — another of us was blamed and punished for J’s weeping. J also needed at least eight hours of sleep; she was chronically tired, dark-circled under her weeping-because-one-of-us-did-something eyes, and, frequently, sick. The crazy-brother/uncle-voice-in-my-head biography-memory insists that not a week went by during which J did not at least once throw-up at the dinner table. It now seems unlikely, but, if not weekly, it was a regular occurrence and something against which we had always to be on guard, to accommodate, the answer to, “But Mommy, I hate tomato soup,” being, “Well, J doesn’t feel good and she likes it.”
From here, with the perspective and permanent disability brought on by decades of having bent and contorted myself in acquiescence to the pathologically narcissistic people with whom I seem to cast in my life-story, I can well understand why my mother had little time or tolerance for whining of any sort.
Here was a woman raising six children on her own, who spent her days on her feet in a fetid-smelling, non-climate-controlled building, sequestered in a dark booth watching eggs roll by on a lit-from-below conveyor belt, plucking out the ones with bloody yolks and breaking them into buckets she’d later have to carry into the adjoining cinder-block “coop” where tens of thousands of chickens were caged, there to dump the bad eggs into the feed bin. She told me she didn’t mind. The walk, she said, broke the monotony, and the coop — unlike the factory — was heated in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer to keep the hens happy. The owner joked about his “hens” in reference to the factory crew, all female, all like my mother, unskilled and in need of the low paying jobs, and which kind was more trouble: The ones who talked or the ones who squawked, and how some days he could hardly tell the difference.
No, my mother, just as trapped as those brooders whose eggs she candled, into the tiny confinement of available options for a widow with six children in the little world where we lived, didn’t have time to coddle us. Our yolks were fine, keep rolling. She never squawked and she didn’t have time or patience for anyone else who did, either.
I’ve inherited the trait.
I can’t stand it when people are sick. Or, rather, okay, you can be sick, but you can’t sit in it. I’m impatient with the lie on the couch, cold cloth on the head, can’t pick up after yourself, wrapped in blanket, disability model. GET THE FUCK UP. Which is why I went to the gym yesterday when I should probably have stayed home. Which is why I am furious now that my throat today hurts more than yesterday, my nose won’t stop running, and I feel like I am truly fucked, wholly plucked chicken – or, worse, one of those badly-yolked eggs about to be trashed and fed back to the imprisoned lay-ers, forced to eat their own bad eggs as part of their diet.
Now, that’s sick. Which I am not. And to prove I am not, I wrote this, fever and all. So, yeah, see Mommy? I’m fine.