Today was a little weird, like the morning my jaw was unwired.
I was sucker punched by the captain of the football team on the last day of my junior year. I was sixteen-years-old. My jaw was dislocated in both joints and fractured in two places. I spent six weeks with thick wire locking my teeth together, sipping every meal through a straw. The morning it was finally unwired, my mom took me to Dennys for breakfast. But my muscles had atrophied. I could barely slip a spoon between my teeth, and I couldn’t chew, not even scrambled eggs.
The last time I rode the subway to Times Square, walked to 1515, rode the escalator to the mezzanine and the elevator to the 29th floor and into my office was eight days ago. Eight days. One hundred and ninety-two hours. 11,520 minutes. Roughly enough time to watch 96 movies, or listen to 3840 pop songs. Or, in my case, sleep a lot.
I didn’t last long at the office. My boss, God bless him, asked me what I was doing there. “What did the doctor say?” he asked. Truth is, I felt ok when I woke up, so I blew off the doctor — despite the fact that my sore throat hadn’t abated in over a week. For get my parents, or Abbi; even the fine print in the Tylenol Cold bottle says you should seek medical attention after seven days.
After an hour in the waiting room (reading Phillip Lapote’s “Waterfront,” a slightly meandering but satisfying history of New York City’s, well, waterfront), Dr. Lai saw me. “It’s probably just a tough virus,” I said. “But I’ve never been sick this long, and my boss really thought I ought to come to see you.”
My chest sounded fine. My blood pressure was fine. My glands weren’t swollen. And I wasn’t running a fever. But Dr. Lai didn’t like the fact that (brace yourself) my expectorate was, um, discolored (aka puke green). Moments later I was stumbling down Madison Avenue towards Duane Reade where I stocked up on Halls, Excedrin, Tylenol Cold, and five 800mg doses of some oddly named antibiotic.
Anti. Biotic. Seems like I should be taking something probiotic, right? Something more Steve Austen, not less.
Anyway, that’s just the facts. The feelings were this: weird, out of body, slow, slightly stupid. One colleague, who innocently asked me a question early on in the day, was surprised by my response. “Dude, I’m sorry. I have no idea. I’m not even sure if I can complete a sentence yet.”
After a week of sitting in my apartment all but alone (Abbi doesn’t quite count; she’s used to my incoherent, nonsensical ramblings) for a week, I’d lost some basic skills. True, I’d thought about work, and my friends, and family and stuff. But generally, I hadn’t thought of much more than, ‘Wow, it sure would be nice to breath without coughing.’
So crowds, and conversations, and meetings were something else entirely.
The weird thing is — and maybe this is why God (or whomever or whatever) throws adversity our way — that work didn’t seem so important. I mean, it did in so much that I like what I do, and with whom I do it, and I realize the import of getting paid and all. But whether or not the kids get the latest news on, say, Axl Rose, or whether Kurt interviews David Lynch or not, well, in a way, wasn’t exactly burning me up inside. I just wanted to be able to get a spoon of scrambled eggs into my mouth, yunno? I just wanted to feel normal again. Whatever that feels like.