I was never what you might call a sickly child. I mean, I was accident prone. And suffered from horrible migraines. But I was never one to get ill. Probably due to my studious avoidance of germs.
However, the winter I was 16, I got seriously ill. I didn’t realize it then, but in retrospect, I had the flu. All I knew then was that I was exhausted, miserable, achy, weak. I thought I just had a bad cold. It was during Christmas break, which is really the cruelest time to be sick as a kid.
I was already a very thin child. I think when I was 16 was right around the time my pediatrician told my mother and I that I was unhealthily thin and would need to gain at least 30lbs to be considered a healthy weight. And being so sick meant I had lost even more weight.
I couldn’t keep anything down. I was disgusted by even the smell of food. I was 6’1” and now weighed about 110lbs with the 10lbs I had lost during my bout with the flu.
After a few days of the sickness, I started having trouble walking. My brother would have to help to the bathroom. And bring me drinks and soup. When I am sick I can usually only keep down three things: ginger ale, frozen lemon-lime gatorade, and chicken soup.
My brother and I were very close and he began joking that nobody was going to come to visit because I was so sick. I had ruined Christmas. At no point did my parents take me to see a doctor, though they almost definitely should have.
One night, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was hot and miserable and dying of thirst. I’m sure I was also getting extremely delirious. It was late and I didn’t want to wake my brother up. Also, I hated having to be waited on by him. So I decided, once again like an idiot, to go and get myself a drink. Downstairs.
I slipped out of bed like I was drunk and stumbled down the hall and to the top of the stairs. At no point did I think it was a bad idea, but then, things rarely seem to be a bad idea at the time. I grabbed a firm hold of the railing and began carefully making my way down the stairs.
And then I was picking myself up from the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t even realize I had fallen down them until the next day. I walked through the living room and into the kitchen. The whole thing felt like a fever dream.
I got a nice cold bottle of frozen Gatorade out of the freezer. And then I was picking myself up off the kitchen floor. I didn’t realize I had passed out for a second time. It didn’t even seem weird that I kept being on the ground.
In my head I was just like “Oh, I seem to be lying down. Well, no time for that!” And then I would get back up again.
I went to walk through the swinging gate separating the living room and the kitchen. And then I was lying on the ground with my mother’s 70lb sewing machine on top of me. I was tangled up in cords. It was like being wrapped in the tight grip of an attacking boa constrictor.
My father was standing over me and I was fighting him off with what little strength I had left. Which wasn’t much. I was pathetic.
He helped me up and I noticed that one of the swinging doors was off it’s hinges and the other side was cracked in half and dangling at a crazy angle. I looked at my father and pointed at the doors. “Why did you break that?”
I was confused and disappointed. I had really liked those doors. I liked pretending I was a gunslinger from an old Western walking into a saloon, looking for a fight. I would take the remote from the living room, or a thin paperback book and tuck it into the waistband of my pants to represent my gun. (I still do this in my apartment, but it is with my cell phone more often than my remote).
My father gave me a long, strange look and sent me back upstairs to bed.
When I woke the next morning. I was in agony. I felt like I had been in a fight. Which I had. With the stairs, and the kitchen floor, and the swinging doors and my mother’s sewing machine, and the power cords, and my father. And I had lost every single one of them.
I had a long black bruise from the middle of my shoulder all the way down to my elbow from where the sewing machine had fallen on me. The machine was not damaged at all.
People did come for Christmas two days later. I started feeling better. In every picture from that day I look impossibly thin, pale and exhausted, and with a kick ass bruise. Christmas wasn’t ruined after all. But those swinging doors definitely were.