—–Out of nowhere, with some ferocity, a common cold comes on, to lay a person low and strip them of their defenses, to invade their body deep inside, and show the witless spectator who inhabits it that something invisible, suddenly inhaled, can take them down, land them in bed for days. Can cause a rethinking of priorities–for they have nothing else to do, but stare out from a delirium, eyes glazed, limbs aching, and crawl downstairs to the couch. I hardly ever get sick; but when I do, it is like carrying around a sad sack brother. We have quiet discussions, trying not to make each other worse, or threaten each other.
—–Always it is the same common wisdom, that occurs to the recipient of the common cold. That it is time, and it is in order, to retool. They are cautioned, in order to be remeasured; and resuited. It is a scourge, but in the sense of a cleansing. Yes, this realization must accompany the event of the body’s showing such vulnerability, its lapsing into unexplained weakness. And, if one can manage to assign to themselves some other undone task, which has been put on hold, waiting for good reason (one says) to be addressed, some lagging doubt, or chronic worry (ah, the vocabulary here is rich, the sagging fruit is on the trees and ready for plucking) then one finds themselves saying, here is actually opportunity! Show me my sickbed, and I will cure a bevy of parallel ills! I will show I am more than immortal on many a score. Yes! If you can rope in two or three other back burner issues, relating to neuroses that have been festering, hung around till they almost seemed like . . . realities!–well, one can simultaneously work on them, during the same time granted, or allotted, or generally recognized, for getting better from the primary head-cold that sent you reeling. One can piggyback problems here, and reemerge doubly strong. Not just repaired in body but also resolved on some other score, or several other scores–if one is cunning enough–which have been smartly associated like debts of a kind, or–I must mean–equal sins. Bundling everything into the recuperation.
—–One becomes opportunistic! I want to get the structure straight here, before I apply facts or reveal any personal plot lines. Alot depends on what other people are allowing, in terms of the titular sickness, you see. I mean you have meet societal arrangements, and qualify in other people’s eyes. I mean I didn’t officially have this cold, I feel, until I called my mother on the phone, and she didn’t recognize my voice–it was so low, growling, and stuffed up. At that point exactly I submitted to her words; “My, you sound like you have a cold!” And within ten seconds I began to envision the consequences. It was like an out of body experience, I saw myself hovering over myself while lying in bed. But in this first preview I immediately foresaw a few advantages. What I might be able to get away with, so to speak. Or how much I might accomplish in secondary areas, freed from work and, while shut off from others, close scrutiny. Banned from all but minimal exertion, served only by my wife–who is forgiving . . .
—–But, since, as I just said, I already am someone who never gets sick, I quickly realized I could only play it for the length of what is commonly experienced, as a common cold. Any further and your sympathizers become more trouble than they are worth. The story changes. In fact, fear of any alternate trajectory, seeing the encircling hands of dire fate encircle others I know, or have known even to their death!, is largely why I ride out the first symptoms of these common colds–without even mentioning them.
—–This time though I was ready to try being the victim, no doubt because I was backlogged with other complaints, confusions, minor ailments, ailments of a shadowy kind that reside in no location, neither physical nor mental, dubious but maybe profound signals of a spiritual transfiguration; ah, this I was wont to imagine, poetic troubles which needed addressing in the depths of prolonged sleep, half-sleep, propped up, book-reading idleness, forgetting body and mind. Certainly one can forget one has a mind. And become so very relaxed. And somewhere in here I have to consider this menu of symptoms, taking each alone, and dreaming them intermingling, and ask if they are not signs of increasing age. Always a factor to plague the man, who has taken marching orders, for illness and age are partners in delirium. Like Plato and Socrates, I want to say, within the same philosophizing man, two voices in a roundelay, forget which is the author and which the character speaking . . . in dialogues. Sickness is dialectical. Susceptible to dire analogy. Sounds like one needs an analgesic. Go on–
—–I am going to lighten this up in just a minute. Health and youth are facilely linked, and sickness and age made to pass a baton (marked with crossbones), for the sport of it. I just wanted to say that. You don’t want to come out of the cold and find your the skin on the back of your hand and has visibly wrinkled. Or note a sagging pocket in your left eyelid, which is too roguish. I think it was when I was walking back last Wednesday night from Montys Krown, when I suddenly inhaled and gulped down a bucket of cold air, and instantly got a sore throat. It slowed my step, and made me cautious, half a block from home. I was thinking bitter thoughts about the people back there. They drag me down, I was judging–so I am going to have to ditch them. I just walked out of the scene, not even glancing back at their slobbish faces–which of course I visualized the whole next week, as I paid with redounding self-incrimination, laying in a stupor, for this general accusation. This you learn. No sense railing against other people. But this is just one debt I had to pay; by the end of my self-assigned sickness I was aware of how much misery I actually deserved, as I saw myself, as it were, paraded before every judge and jury. “Who are you, from other people’s point of view?” I got to ask. The watchers crowded into my living room, like at a wake, as I lay trying to deaden myself further with the television. You want to be alone with your thoughts? This is is no way to do it.
—–Being sick was making me lose all perspective, it wasn’t clearing up a thing. So, coincident with the miraculous effect this orange juice my wife kept bringing me, and these cough drops, marked Eucalyptus, were having, and the temperature outside rising . . . I reassembled myself. I even felt like writing again, for the sport of it!
—–One of my procedures is to go up to Monty’s Krown, around eleven p.m., and talk to all these friends I have up there. A variety of topics, from basketball to deep personal matters, from politics to poetry, which sometimes I referee and sometimes I create, give me material for this writing sport. So there I am again. This fellow has me pegged, he is telling me he always wanted to read Moby Dick, but he just hadn’t done it, he felt guilty how he put this on the back burner, like his whole life. So I said the way to do this, to read Moby Dick, was to get a cold and then surreptitiously assign himself the task of reading it, Moby Dick, while recovering from the cold. Because, I told him like confidentially, of course he is grandly free, in fact he is capable of profligate self-indulgence (pardon the big words), during that recuperation. And he said he knew this process, had milked colds before, even lengthened their duration when he saw what he was getting away with, with no one coming after him–he could just lie around all day.
—–Yeah, I said, add that to the fact that the you are getting stronger physically, for that is what the cold is for, actually, to lay you low and make you recycle basic strengths; so you are going to emerge physically stronger, your immune system newly filled up with your body’s own antibiotics, some of your bad habits somewhat cleaned up, as you learn you can be more austere, and if you read some book during this period, some great book that you had in mind, my God! It is kind of a feint and follow up, a battle with your self in the gloomy mirror of some infirmary–weird, of your own making–I don’t how many things this resembles. It is kind of being able to take a punch, and you know what they say about everyone who is a winner, these days, it’s being resolute, or resilient. That is the word: resilient. People are hip, way more resilient than they publicly let on; they have all sorts of tactics for ducking any unsavory responsibilities of the moment, and making up for it with a sideways application, behind the back. Pure cleverness at the last minute. I guess not giving themselves credit is one of the ways they maintain the very power. People are magicians, really. Humility, it works wonders.