I won’t wear the mask. I won’t put on a surgical mask just because someone somewhere in New York City has the flu. Even the Swine Flu. Some wear just such a mask, you know? Not me. I will just hold my breath on the 1 train all the way from Rector Street to Times Square, which is about 15 stops. I’m not saying it will be easy.
When you come to New York to visit having recently been overseas in an area heavily populated with swine flu victims, I am not going to wear a mask to keep from getting what you probably have already got. No. I will give you a short tour of downtown. Tell you everything you need to know about the transit system. Give you all the ins and outs of New York City life: the lowdown on the Big Apple so to speak.
You know what? Don’t tell me if you recently traveled to an area that had a swine flu epidemic. That’ll just worry me. If you leave your passport on the table between us revealing recent travel to Ho Chi Minh City, that would be unfortunate. You’re going to be wearing a mask post haste. Before you can blink. But otherwise, you could just let that be a secret. I worry too much.
My mom taught English Lit at a local community college before retirement, but she worked for the Centers for Disease Control in another life. If she could have obtained a full Haz Mat suit during outbreaks of illness in our household, she would have. She was always quick to run for cover during sickness and would find a new place to sleep each time my dad started running a fever. She never got sick when I had an illness. There was a gentle knock on the door. She’d made lunch. How nice is that? And left it just outside the door with some orange juice on a tray.
When Avery and Andrew started getting sick, I promptly brought the sick child to Robyn. “This child needs Doctor Mom,” I’d say hoping to flatter her. Then I retreated to another part of the house while Doctor Mom was exposed to their germs. I am quick to answer the parenting bell almost any other time. Sickness is the exception to that rule. I leave the child with my wife and make plans to sleep on the couch that night while she is catching whatever they have got.
When my wife is sick, I also head straight to the couch. Text me if you need anything, I tell her before signing off for the night. I’m happy to bring whatever is needed. Medicine. Water. A bible. Anything. I deliver it at arms length and beat a hasty retreat.
On the other hand, when I am sick I am the biggest baby in the world. I cough pathetically. Take my temperature every ten minutes. Ask for things I don’t need. Could you read me a short story by Raymond Carver? Would it be possible for you to rub my feet? Could you bring me a cumquat? They are not in season? Oh well. I had a special craving. But that’s how life is I suppose. Sick with a fever and no cumquats.
When I worked at a group home in Wilmington, North Carolina, I developed a super immunity to all things naturally viral. I guess this was through constant contact with a large number of vulnerable people. So, I haven’t been sick in about four years. I don’t miss being sick. I enjoy being well, though I’m sure I’ve been taking it for granted.
Any day now I’ll probably get swine flu. Why didn’t you tell me you’d just been to Ho Chi Minh City before coming and asking me for a tour of Lower Manhattan? What kind of friend are you anyway?
At any rate, it’s lucky I have a mask for each of us.