Get Down With The Sickness (Non-Fiction)

My mother is sitting in front of me, wearing a polished face and heavy rimmed glasses. Her auburn hair is in a frizz, and she moves it to the side so I can see her eyes. She stretches two plastic gloves over her hands with a look of determination.

“Okay, hunny, you ready?”

I was sick with pneumonia. I was always getting sick, either with bronchitis, or the flu, or mono, or strep throat. Always the rare ones too, that you never hear of anyone having until you’re in a conversation with someone and say, “Hey, yeah, I’ve had that too.” The two of you have nothing more to talk about than the sheer agony of becoming sick, and the gratefulness for it passing. Then you walk away, never to see them or their disease-ridden lives again. I wonder how Crystal, that unusually nice stripper from Diamond’s, is doing.

By this time, my mother and I had visited several doctors. They never could figure out what was wrong with me. They all had something different to diagnose: depression, reaction to allergies, sinus infection. My throat hurt, so one doctor suggested I had been smoking too much. Which wasn’t the case at all. Only when my mom went to sleep would I steal five to seven cigarettes from her purse every night (depending on how many were left) and smoke them within a twenty-minute period in my room. I didn’t like smoking or anything, and I can definitely tell you, I wasn’t addicted.

“Put that cigarette out,” my mother had said, “and how can you be smoking at a time like this?” She reached over me, yanked the butt from my hand, and put it out in the nearest ashtray.

She was right. I was a walking, talking, death machine from head to toe by now. Dark circles grew under my eyes, a green mucus ran out of my nose, and I was paler than pale. I had been so delirious not to notice snot, boogers, my general smell, or any of the ridiculous things I was doing. I stayed up late watching infomercials and E! News which blended into reality, making useless things seem necessary and celebrities seem real.

“These deals will fade!” I screamed a few days prior about Bowflex. She replied in typical Mother Theresa fashion, “Yes, sweetheart.” I grew tired of her ethical and moral ways and stomped back into my room demanding Sprite and a subscription to People magazine. She’d never understand the connection I felt with Lindsay Lohan. That girl could have really used someone like me.

I imagined a life where Lindsay and I could escape the strung-out world of Hollywood. I would be her knight in shining armor, blocking her Britney shots and weaning her from the coke. She would thank me for saving her life, and feel obligated to be with me, and we would be the best couple in Hollywood. I would get movie offers, commercial deals, and a book deal. Eventually, she’d get back on coke and I’d storm out, sleeping with as many supermodels as I could to make her feel jealous. She’d get knocked up from a dancer, and for months we’d cover headlines and magazines talking about our harrowing journey together.

I needed to get off those freaking meds and back into reality.

Finally, the day came when a doctor did figure out what was wrong with me. He approached me, standing with a clipboard and a smug smile. He flipped a few pages before saying, “You’re sick with pneumonia.”

My mother screamed in horror. Her child was the one left out in the cold that you always hear about, and she was the forgetful mother. “Don’t worry,” the doctor comforted, “J.D. here should be back on his feet in a few days.” He wrote a prescription and left.

Which takes us to my mother, sitting in front of me, wearing plastic gloves and a look of determination.

“Yes, Mom, I’m ready.” I bit my lip, gripped the wall, pulled down my pants, and unclenched.

“Almost there,” she said, struggling behind me. “There!” she exclaimed.

Prison couldn’t be this bad.

       *    *   *

            My brother was aghast when I told him. “You let her do what?”

“Jake, it’s not that big of a deal.”

He was frozen in shock. A grin crept over his face and he shook his head. “You’re messing with me, right?”

I sighed. “No, she took the gloves and the pill, and she just shoved it up there,” I moaned. I cried against his shoulder, clutching his back. “Oh God, Jake, it was terrible.”

“Dude,” he said pushing me away, “she gave you a suppository?”

We met eyes. There was a moment shared then, with my being the son whose mother gave him a suppository, and him being the gleeful older brother that could or could not have a hay day with this. I nodded yes.

He gripped my hand, and looked in my eyes.



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