Out in the Cold

Thing about a cold, everything shrinks. Horizons narrow, walls close in. Energies focus…there is that. There is probably something else, but I forget what it is. For that is the other thing, the unapologetic absence of caring about certain things. Part of the shrinking horizons. The thing that doesn’t shrink, of course, is one’s mucous membranes. That thing, or things, takes over like a 1950s horror film scourge. It creeps, it slithers, it expands. The enlargement of things that itch and drain into coughs. The general achiness that crowds out the general interest…in almost anything. More sneezes, violent ones at that. Coughing to no avail. And drugs. The latter open the prescribed routes to air better than the Warsaw Convention. They also give one the sense of floating, for which there is much to be said until one loses that precious pharmaceutical buoyancy…and plummets back into hacking, sneezing and that sense of having several granite boulders pressing on one’s chest.

Since I spend so much of my life convinced that nothing is getting done, my stack of obligations rising, completed items disappearing…a cold can provide a welcome change. After all, with so much viral distraction, one tends to forget about all sorts of things. And, it turns out, many of these things are eminently forgettable. Take the brick terrace of the adjoining apartment. I rolled outside one nose-stuffed morning to find…well, what did I expect to find? Just because it’s morning doesn’t mean that reality has radically shifted. Although, to be frank, I half expect this. Night and morning seem such transformational events that I do steer my wheelchair into the dawn’s early light with a genuine sense of wonder and adventure. It’s still here, whatever ‘it’ is. Anyway, there I am, steering my way toward the spinach sprouts, and what do I notice? Mischief. Not to mention danger.

The new brick terrace, originally envisioned as a single unbroken expanse, now includes a one-inch drop. Enough to make one irate. Or worried. After all, this is a clear obstacle, isn’t it? I mean, imagine one’s tenants on the terrace of an evening, soft voices and glasses of wine…a middle-aged bearer of the latter heading indoors for a pee…and catching a foot on that one-inch step. Although ‘step’ would certainly overstate the case. In fact, once Jane has eyeballed the flawed terrace, the whole thing fades. Life is full of obstacles, she points out. My disabled life has so many, and of such odd ingredients, that I long ago lost perspective. With Jane’s assurance, I let go of this, my latest worry. A worry that is compounded of whatever sense of responsibility goes with being a landlord, coupled with paranoia concerning liability…this imagined tenant hauling me into court…or the widow of this imagined tenant, having seen her spouse bleed to death with a wine glass shard in his neck.

Thus the benefits of having a cold. No time to mess with it, this particular concern. Jane seems on top of it. Period. So let go and move on. Of course, there are the other fears. Like the getting-out-of-bed-in-the-morning anxiety. Nothing new about this one. For some time I have begun to doubt the combined force of my own abdominals, hip flexors and so on, in the guise of sitting up, and then getting out of, my own bed. After a few nights at a hotel in Monterey, the mattress, bed height, and all other factors being different, I have begun to accept this new reality without so much fuss. Yes, things neuromuscular are headed downhill. The energy-depleting effects of a cold being what they are, I am even worse off with my nose plugged. Acceptance. The essential viral lesson. Give up and conquer.

And then there are the publications. Pre-cold, it all seemed such a burden. The Guardian Weekly, for example. When would I find time to read it? Turns out, there are parts of The Guardian that I don’t want to read, even in the UK. Some of these stories have been covered elsewhere. Some, and this is the shocking truth, I just don’t care about. What is wrong with me? Obviously, a lot. But with a cold, sneezing and hacking trump political responsibility. Today, being on the mend, I rolled out to Café Borrone in search of cappuccino, opened this week’s Guardian summary in the California late winter sun and fairly danced about the pages. Turns out, I really didn’t wish to learn more about Michael Gove, the Conservatives’ Minister of Education…the endless butt of jokes in British political commentary these days. So – guess what – I skipped Michael. And if I’d had the neuromuscular wherewithal, I would have skipped home. Yes, my cold is better.

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