Are the shapes of these plants suggestive or am I seeing things?
When hubby and me moved from the city to the country, I went to work from the old home one morning and returned to the new home in the evening. After I got off the train in the village that day, it became clear that I was lost in the middle of nowhere. I have been to the place by train before, but never on my own, and now I had no idea in which direction to go home. There were several roads winding through the fields and no signs of human habitation. Rather than risking that I’d wander off to some dark, deep woods and never be found again, I called hubby for directions. He gave me these after several minutes of roaring with laughter in the phone. Apparently, it’s amusing to have one’s unattended wife lost.
As advised, I crossed the railway tracks and continued straight ahead along a road lined with houses. I was wondering if a nuclear disaster occurred after I had finished speaking with hubby because there were no people anywhere to be seen. Now in retrospect I know they were spying on my pilgrim’s progress from behind their curtains, because that’s what good country people do. The journey from the railway station to the house seemed endless. The village consists of a single long straight street whose any stretch looks exactly the same as another – add to it the lack of people, and you’ll see why I legitimately feared that I had got trapped in a nightmare. After an excruciating half-an-hour walk, I recognised our house by its monstrous whitish cement fence. Rumour has it that besides the Chinese Wall, our fence is the only structure of human making visible from the space.
After I’d told hubby that the news of me getting lost forever were wildly exaggerated, I went to explore our garden, where I’ve never been properly before. It turned out that it’s more of a hurdle track than a garden. Tree branches appearing out of nowhere kept on hitting me in my face, stones in the paved paths went loose under my feet and there were swarms of flies buzzing like something had died there. The enthusiastic presence of flies was explained when I reached the farthest end of the garden and saw that we had an open compost box built there. I also found out that there was a field behind the garden – of course there is a field, there are fields everywhere here and we practically live in a clearing in the middle of fields. Deeply concerned about such proximity of wilderness and agriculture, I went back to the house only to stumble on a cat. I didn’t even know we had a cat.
The first days in the village were like a boot camp – or a prisoner of war camp under martial law. This impression was strongly reinforced by the surprisingly busy road in front of the house, which is frequented by lorry drivers who want to avoid a toll road that they are supposed to use. Particularly heavy trucks make the house and everything in it vibrate, including me lying in my bed. There is also a plenty of farming machinery around. Have you ever walked on the side of a road while a fully-loaded agricultural trailer sped by? It could sweep you from your feet – and you are sure to end up with straw in your hair and on your clothes, if you’re lucky enough that it’s straw rather than something nastier that the trailer is carrying. I can’t see where all the talk about the quietness and tranquillity of country life comes from. Certainly not from here, where I’m desperately craving the white noise and the civilised ways of city life.
Nature fits all her children with something to do, / He who would write and can’t write, can surely review
–James Russell Lowell
My journey through the valley of the shadow of death started when I was woken up at an ungodly early hour one morning by a sore throat. I thought little of it and swayed sleepily to treat myself to Halls cough drops. I slept some more and woke up at a more tolerable hour late in the morning to find out that my throat was so swollen that I couldn’t swallow. This alarmed me to a sufficient degree to make me want to drink tea. For your info, I sustain on coffee and never drink tea unless I think I’m dying. Disdainfully, I made myself some disgusting tea with lemon, enhanced with a shot of slivovitz. That’s how we treat health issues here in Moravian rural areas: a shot of slivovitz when you rise will make you healthy, wealthy and wise.
The tea however didn’t help and neither did a whole package of extra strong Halls that I consumed throughout the day. It was the only nourishment I could afford because my trouble swallowing got so bad that I couldn’t even drink, not to mention eating. In the evening I discovered that I physically couldn’t speak when I was trying to talk to hubby as he returned from work. I suspect hubby was secretly very much enjoying our quiet home. Exasperated, I literally poured down my throat another shot of slivovitz for medical purposes and went to bed. Because a shot of slivovitz never hurts anyone, and a folk saying has it that you must drink them in twos, one for each leg.
I woke up in the middle of the night with a bunch of new symptoms. Unlike House, M.D., I don’t think that new is good and I wasn’t impressed. I stumbled out of the bed to ransack our medical supplies, searching all-in-one cure for a sore throat, a bad cold, a pulsating headache and apparent fever. I found Paracetamol tablets and administered one. I also retrieved some distasteful sore throat syrup and took a dose. Next I discovered a pregnancy test that I didn’t know I had but judged that my symptoms weren’t typical for pregnancy and didn’t take the test. Back in the bedroom, I opened the window wide and lay on top of my blanket, clutching a handful of Kleenex, cracking and rattling as I was trying to breathe and swallow and in general stay alive.
My death throes woke hubby up. He stuck a light in my face and observed that I was pale as a vampire that hadn’t eaten for a while. This reminded me that I hadn’t eaten for a while. Now, hubby is awfully bad at handling serious moments, such as deathbeds and funerals. He copes with compulsive fits of inappropriate hysterical laughter. Rightly evaluating my condition as a near-death experience, he of course got one of his laughing seizures. I attempted in vain to kick him someplace where it’d hurt but I was too miserable to achieve such a feat. I hissed at him, because I couldn’t speak, that he’d better get the hell out of there and get me some tea, aka medicine of the strongest calibre. I may or may have not also discreetly reminded him of his wedding vows along the lines “in health and sickness”.
Laughing hard, presumably at the prospect of becoming a merry widower, hubby left. I went on lying motionless like a dead on the slab, sweating profusely in a room temperature at which I’d normally be freezing, and drooling helplessly as attempting to swallow proved too much pain to go through. Hubby reappeared with home-made herbal tea out of mint and sweet balm, sweetened with honey. I drank two mugs in row, cursing silently my poor luck and poorer health. Hubby attempted to cover me with my blanket – either that or to put me out of my suffering by gently smothering me – but I hissed him away, hand signing that I was hot like never before. Not hot like hot but hot like feverish.
I woke up still feeling hot and being very unhot. Drunkenly, I crawled in the kitchen to help myself to more tea that hubby made in a large pot. He made me a chicken soup too. I ate as much as I could without swallowing. Hubby also left me a note saying that he’d be coming from work early to attend to me. Provided that I’m live enough to require anything. Otherwise probably to get rid of my body before it starts smelling badly in this hot weather. Moving as a walking dead, I went to sprawl myself in my chair and spent half the day watching films, popping pills and drinking immoderate amounts of tea in hope it’ll save me. It didn’t. After a film finishing in double suicide, I grew sicker than before, crawled on all the four to the bedroom, with much effort climbed in the bed and awaited my inevitable end. I composed a horribly lame poem while at it:
I’ll never be well
The next few days are in a haze. It appears that I was sleeping through several consecutive days and nights, waking up only occasionally to drink tea, eat soup and take meds. I could only guess what time of day it was by checking if hubby was wearing his work clothes, his leisure clothes or his pyjamas. I wonder what he was putting in the tea that made me sleep so much. Was it yet season for poppy seeds? I was listening if my cats weren’t meowing hungrily outside because I don’t trust anyone to care for them as well as me, the grumpy crazy cat lady. I wished so much that hubby brought me my cuddly fur ball to bed, but he can’t stand pets at home and he’d surely want to burn the bed afterwards by the way of disinfecting it, with me, the cat and all.
While I was largely knocked out of my senses, sometimes I woke for a while feeling well enough to indulge in obsessive mail checking on my phone. Each check showed dozens new mails. Some were students asking for consultations. Some were spam mails by my family, who for god’s sake wouldn’t listen that I wanted no forwarded funny videos. Not even when there’re cats in them. It’s not hostility, it’s work productivity, y’all. Interspersed throughout all these were comments from my blog. Busy as I was dying, I quite forgot I had a blog. There was an email by a colleague asking for a bibliography check and another email by a senior colleague asking for proofs. I responded the latter, typing the best I could do on the phone:
Dear Professor Tusk,
with ever so deep and genuine regret, I must inform you that I’m currently out of working order owing to a particularly nasty kind of angina. Please send no more pestilence my way. I will let you know the first thing when I’m healthy enough to sit straight at a computer and proofread better than a poorly trained chimpanzee.
P.S.: I beg you, Roman, don’t find yourself a younger and fitter undergraduate for the job. Swear that you won’t. Please?
I had nightmares of Prof Tusk issuing orders to seal me off in an underground street and leave me to die there, like they did with pestilent people in medieval Edinburgh. Even worse, I had nightmares that there was a deadline for me submitting a major paper to be considered for publication abroad one of these days. The latter nightmare turned out to be fact. As if it wasn’t bad enough what I saw when I got better five days from the onset of the killer disease and ventured to leave the bedroom. Of course, there were five days’ worth dirty dishes covering all horizontal surfaces in the kitchen. Bits of dry herbs were on floors all over the place, as evidence that hubby was actually bringing them for the tea fresh from the garden. My office corner disappeared under a heap of hubby’s things. He clearly assumed that I wouldn’t live to use it again.
I informed hubby that though he might pull off being a nurse, he’s a pathetic failure as house-husband. I assured him that I hated him and that as soon as I regain strength, I plan to jump on him as I do and beat into his chest with my tiny clenched fists. Hubby calmly replied that he knew. He surely would, it’s our routine. Day five I spent dragging myself around the house and cleaning up the accumulated mess. The angina was nearly gone, though I tended to get coughing fits after too much physical strain. I was wondering if I was incurring a follow-up tuberculosis or what. On day six, too late to hand in my paper within the deadline anyway, I thought I’d blog about my otherworldly experience. And that’s it. The poor academic and good blogger that I am. Anyway, I’m glad to be alive.