Today I am sick, and oh, what a mighty sickness it is.
It started last week with a little bit of a sore throat, which progressed to feeling like an atomic bomb had gone off in my esophagus. By midnight on Friday night, I was dripping out of every orifice and my brain was doing somersaults to perform tasks as simple as ‘sit up’ and ‘quit drooling on yourself.’
On Saturday I took a trip to Seattle. I think I may have made a bad decision.
That could be the title of my autobiography. “I Think I Made A Bad Decision.” There would be a picture of me on the cover with a fat lip and a black eye, and when you opened it up, it would play the sad trombone sound.
So, Seattle. We’ve been planning this for awhile. Laura and I had the idea about a month ago to spend Halloween with Tess. We’d go to bars! Do big city things! Do something besides sitting in our apartments watching Planet Raptor for the sixth time. Sounded like a good plan. I was determined not to miss it. So on Saturday morning, early, I climbed into Laura’s car and we set out. We stopped at one point at a Target and I loaded up on pills, which we promptly lost somewhere as we switched to Tess’ car on the outskirts of Seattle.
It was cold and rainy as we set out to go bar-hopping. Whenever I took a breath, the chill air leaped down into my lungs and wrenched them from the bottom up, squeezing the life out of me like toothpaste out of an empty tube. I’d erupt into violent coughing, and my friends would look at me cautiously, torn between the desire to help and the urge to be away from the spewing germ fountain. I lost my voice shortly after the first bar, and my grating rasp did nothing to assure my friends that I was doing a-ok.
“Uh, let’s slow down,” Laura said at one point. “We should try not to give Jessica pneumonia.”
When we got back to Tess’ place, she offered me some Alka Seltzer PM. I thought Alka Seltzer was for heartburn or whatever, but Tess assured me that I’d sleep really well if I took it, so I did.
Apparently, Alka Seltzer PM is straight up horse tranquilizer, and I was out in minutes.
The next morning, I felt deliriously good. My nose was clear! My throat was kind of tingly, but not necessarily painful! It was like the fog around my head had lifted, and I was again full of life. We decided to take a trip to a nearby park, and in my crazed crackling half voice I lead the charge.
It was a gorgeous sunny day. The rain had gone. The bite of fall was in the air. We made our way over to a nearby playground, where Tess climbed up to the top of a firepole.
You guys, this is where the bad decision happens.
Tess wanted to slide down, but the height looked more intimidating from the top. She wobbled next to it for a moment, would sling her leg around it and then back away from it as though it had verbally threatened her.
“Can…someone else try it first?” she asked. Laura, ever the risk taker, handed Kevin her purse and charged up the stairs. She rubbed her gloved hands together, seized the pole, and slid down with courage and grace. She touched down like an action hero, and Tess’ eyes lit up.
“I want to do it again,” Laura said. “Can I do it again?”
“Go ahead,” I said. Tess was inching towards the pole, looking down as Laura bounded up next to her. Tess took Laura’s gloves, and with a squeal, she went down, her legs wrapped tightly around, her eyes squeezed shut. She tossed Laura’s gloves up, and Laura slid down a second time, throwing in a flourish for my camera.
“Jessica,” Tess said. “Are you going to try?”
Here is the bad decision.
Are you ready?
“Sure,” I said. “Why not?”
Replay action. What I should have said was, “No, thanks. The level of health I’m feeling right now is actually a cruel trick my body is playing on me. I’m not even really sure I’m not a little delirious. My motor skills are probably not their best. I’ll sit this one out.”
But no. What I said was:
“Sure. Why not?”
So I climbed awkwardly up the stairs, took Laura’s gloves, and looked down.
“Man, it is high up,” I said. Tess readied my camera to get a good shot of me.
Laura watched from the top. “Careful,” she said. “Make sure you grab it really-”
She didn’t get a chance to finish. With the invigorating smell of autumn and adventure clouding my judgment, I rocketed forward and seized the pole.
And then I dropped like a sack of potatoes.
No graceful glide for me. No slow descent. I plummeted like an asteroid toward the sand. I could hear my friends yelling. My own brain was screaming obscenities, and in that brief second I had a thought.
“Wow,” I said to myself. “I am almost definitely about to break my ankles.”
Then I landed.
I felt my right knee smash hard into something and then I was on my back in the sand, glancing up at Laura twelve feet above me. Kevin and Tess rushed forward. I started to laugh.
A blinding pain stabbed me in the knee.
“OH WHOA HA HA HA HA HA WHOA OWW,” I said. “WOW. Probably not the smartest move, huh? Hooooo boy. Ohhhh golly. Geeeeee whiz ow. Holy smokes ow. Hahahaha. Ow. Owwhahahaha. Ow.”
At that point I could have burst into tears or laughed. Laughing seemed more dignified, so I rolled in the wet sand, clutching my knee and cackling like an idiot while my friends looked on in horror.
I could see a woman with her child walking in our direction, and, on spotting me, grabbing her son’s hand and taking him the long way around.
We left the park shortly after, a wave of sick pressing down on me as we walked to the car. The drive home to Oregon was filled with throbbing pain and pseudo-consciousness as I dozed through two episodes of Car Talk. During a brief stop, I examined my knee and found a yellow-green bruise already blooming around a huge lump on my knee, about the size of an egg. When we finally arrived at Laura and Kevin’s apartment and Taylor picked me up, I told him the story.
“Okay,” he said as he drove me home. “Here’s the plan. You’re never allowed outside again.”
“Fair enough,” I told him, through a vale of snot and coughing.