Being sick is its own loneliness. In the nighttime, when parts of your world has gone asleep, it’s just you, trapped in your thoughts, muddled with fever and whatever else sickness brings. It’s a state of confusion brought on by a high temperature and waves of nausea attacking in unsuspecting battles with your body. You take care of yourself, tossing and turning, no relief and hoping for daylight to relieve something, anything. When you are living alone, with no one around, your solitude comes at you in quick, harsh reminders. The grief you carry with you since Death opened up a worm hole to another life you thought never possible, is heavier and more burdensome.
Climbing out of bed to do laundry, change sheets, clean up, from the mess the flu made with a fever climbing, and telling yourself “I can’t do this”, yet answering back “you have to”, is an experience you never envisioned happening thirty weeks earlier when your life was a series of comfortable mundane days strung together in the certainty of togetherness. And after your body is spent, the flu having done all it could to you for the moment, and exhaustion traps you into an almost vegetated state, you lay with yourself, in your own ache and pain. At three o’clock in the morning, you can’t call out to the person you once called out to if only to be heard.
Even when dawn breaks through and the bug is still not done with its attack, the idea of reaching out via phone is too fatiguing and you wish, as you wish every day but this time even more, your person was back so he could walk in, sit down and put a cool hand on your forehead like he once did. You wish for comfort and compassion and sympathy without asking for it. You wish Death didn’t align with the stomach bug and made you feel an emptiness you have never felt in your life, especially in an apartment where people are still acquaintances.
Tears don’t come. Maybe dehydration make it impossible, or maybe it’s knowing the futility of them. What does come is a deep sadness, the one you still have in you since he died but is pushed down so you can function in life. Now it comes up strong, like the bile you just spewed and you lay with it, knowing it is your reality. And when you call out to him, asking him just to come back, just this one time where you need him, not knowing if the fever is taking over your thoughts or your desperate loneliness, an answer comes in with a clarity you hadn’t had since the bug invaded. You know coming back is not an option, never an option, and it is all on you. Everything now, every decision, every choice, every emotion, every illness, cannot be shared with him anymore. He can no long offer relief. He is dead. This is your new reality. This stomach bug showed you this answer, an answer perhaps survival didn’t want to share, but reality is slapping you with as you toss yet again, and turn once more.
When the bug’s time is up and leaves you with aftershocks of depletion and fragility you began to cry. You cry for your victory. You cry for relief of the bug’s retreat. You cry for the all the loneliness, and the despair, and the longing. You cry from the texts of concerns and the “what can I do to help” questions. You cry because the uncertainty if anyone out there cared was eased. And you cry because this flu, this flu that weakened you, has also taken you toward a different path on this reluctant journey, a path of reality, determination, and an awareness you can survive Life’s best shots. This flu gave you a new kind of sadness you have to tackle and know, truly know, that you can.
And then, you pick up the phone to call and text the people still living in your life and who care for you. And you have a gratitude for them, unlike one you ever known before. And in the midst of your ‘wow, that was horrible’ and ‘that was the loneliest flu I ever had’, you kind of smile, a sad smile, maybe even strangled a bit, but you do smile. You pick up your weary body and ask Life, “what next?”