I wake in the middle of the night to the sound of rain on the roof and a dripping nose. The cold must be nursed. I feed it with distractions, reading about an anthropologist in New Guinea and a Russian mathematician. I croak a lullaby of my own invention about a mechanical bird made from pressed sawdust. One morning it came to life when a colony of termites took up residence in its gut. I have a thick stack of recent New Yorker magazines, which I got late last week at the very same time I contracted the virus, I think — their previous owner was dizzy with it. For some reason they are just what I want to read right now, as the virus glides like a slug on a carpet of mucous from room to room in my head. I remember my favorite Spanish word, otorrinolaringólogo — an ear, nose and throat doctor. A tragicomic word, especially with the scratchy bass o‘s one can only make with a cold in one’s throat. Of course, I hardly need a doctor. What I need is some kind of hard candy, such as Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, which I saw advertised as Pure and Good on an old can that a friend of mine uses for something else entirely. Or maybe a nice cup of slippery elm tea, because who can quibble with the logic of drinking bark for a sore throat? But no decongestants or antihistamines. Histamine is there for a reason, I’d say, though don’t ask me what that reason might be. Besides, if I beat back the symptoms, what keeps me from going out and spreading the cold to others? If everyone took drugs every time they got sick, wouldn’t that just make the viruses stronger and more resistant to treatment, thereby endangering the frailest among us? I prefer this age-old notion of nursing a cold. Growing up, I also heard feed a cold, starve a fever, which may or may not be good advice where fevers are concerned, but it is pure poetry. The virus is my guest, like some incorrigible orphan in foster care, and it’s my duty to make it feel at home. It certainly has a healthy appetite.
Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).