I am very secretly telling you about something secret that happened in one of Yale’s most secret of societies. Shhhh. But that’s not entirely accurate.
What I’m really telling you about is the swine flu, H1N1, or among its closest friends, its most intimate confidantes, simply The Swine.
I was in this top-secret tomb-like place, clandestinely eating some top-secret chicken, when all of a sudden I felt a sneeze followed by a series of loud coughs, raining down on my poultry. I turned. “Excuse me,” I said. “But this is my dinner, the only nutritious meal I will consume for days. Can you cease and desist your infection-spreading?” “It’s not the swine flu or anything,” the secret sneezer replied. “It’s just a cold.” This may in fact have been the case, I may have received the porcine disease elsewhere, perhaps from “drinking alcohol in excess,” which the wikiHow entry on avoiding the flu warns against. I have come to believe it to be true that “most beverages don’t have the alcohol content to kill the flu virus on the cup.” Or perhaps I became ill from that most disgusting of sources enumerated on the Yale Emergency Management website: “contact with other people’s wounds or
bandages.” But I will continue to blame the saliva-shower of my dinner companion.
In a cage match, I think we can all agree that swine beats chicken. I had myself had been suffering from a mild wintry-New England-is-the-tenth-circle-of-hell cold for weeks, and was beginning to worry. The university, in one of its myriad of useless emails, had offered only this factoid, “Like seasonal flu, the symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.” Fatigue? When’s the last time a college student was not fatigued? So I asked my friend who is a freshman counselor and pre-Med—and thus my Oracle of Health-I—to tell me how I would know if I developed full-blown swine. “You will not be able to get out of bed,” she replied ominously. And then, one morning I woke up. And I could not move. I groaned. I moaned. I looked down from my cruelly lofted bed at the implausibly distant ground.
I attempted to employ The Force to summon my laptop to me, so that I could email my professors and explain that I was not in class because I was, for all intents and purposes, a feverish and achy slice of soggy bacon. The Yale University Health Services weren’t exactly the flock of Florence Nightingales that I had been expecting. I spoke to some lovely, if humorless, nurses when I first reported myself. “Don’t go to communal rooms, if you can help it,” they cautioned. “I’m never getting out of bed ever again,” I replied. “Oh, dear. But you should, if you need to… you know, go to the bathroom,” they explained. And then, although they had promised to check up on me, they stopped calling. Um, excuse me, but that seems a little rude. I could be dead! Or, as I learned from the hours and hours of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I began to consume, I could even be undead (thus goes the logic of someone with a 103 degree fever).
My parents, at least, were concerned, but I can’t say that they were sources of great comfort and solace either. My father called and began explaining to me that I was lucky, really, to have it now, because in forty years the flu would return and then it would kill you in a matter of hours and we would all be reduced to weak and sickly characters in Victorian novels, dropping dead in the drawing room. I know all about surviving weird afflictions. I gave myself salmonella once with French toast.
So you must believe me when I say that the swine flu is BAD. REALLY BAD. And when you finally get over that initial stage of total and constant exhaustion and pain, you’re too weak to do anything but be excruciatingly bored. At a certain point in my quarantine, when my college had stopped delivering “meals” to my room—the one meal I received consisted of spilled soup, a banana, and six bottles of water—starvation and extreme tedium drove me to throw notes out my window to the world below. “PLEASE SEND RICE CAKES,” read one. “I COUGHED ON THIS NOTE,” said another. “PARTY LIKE IT’S NINETEEN NINETY SWINE,” declared a third. But then, things got GOOD. REALLY GOOD.
The joy of moderate health after total infirmity is indescribable. Finally, like a formerly floppy baby, I could hold myself in a sitting position for an extended period of time. “Score!” I yelled as I gave myself a high five. I started reading dry, Marxist literary theory again, and suddenly Georg Lukács was such a hilarious jokester. “Oh, that Georg,” I chuckled, slapping the book against my knee. And now, I am invincible. Or at least I feel invincible. “Can’t get the swine twice, baby,” I think as my frightened friends pass around a jumbo-size bottle of Purrell, scowling at me from behind their facemasks.