I said I’d write yesterday and I didn’t. Hand to God, I was asleep for most of the day, and when I did wake to glug down a liter of water at a time, all of it sliding down my red-raw throat, I was madness maddened. Hand to God, I was delirious as hell, and not myself. I wasn’t anyone at all for that matter. Whatever I was was bad all around, and no friend to anyone, especially not myself, who for a time was dead to the world.
You see I was waiting on antibiotics, which did come through, and which have swiftly soothed my throat and most of the chills and night fevers I have experienced since Sunday evening. It had been hell on wheels for what felt like a decade until those antibiotics kicked in and saved me from the dark places from which I transmitted my psychic pleas for help! I was being dismantled by this godawful ailment, was sweating and panting and groaning—was having what I referred to my boss in a desperate early-morning email as “fever dreams that would make an ayahuasca shaman blush.” I was cooked! and breathing my last on death’s doorstep. That first night, holy lord . . . I say this as someone who has dipped his toe in the tranquil waters of LSD, and has wandered through the forests of psilocybin mushrooms, and has padded numbly through the sterile hallways of various experimental pharmaceuticals meant to emulate a peyote voyage: I had mind-melting hallucinations like you would not believe. My brain was completely torn asunder as I watched time and space break apart before my very eyes! There in the dark I experienced ego death, for god’s sake . . . watched my memories and my friends and my idea of myself come undone and turn to ash. The visual metaphor my boiling brain presented me with was just that: every loved thing annihilated by fire and brimstone. I said good-bye to my whole life whether I wanted to or not! I disintegated and writhed in the dark and couldn’t scream if I’d wanted to: my throat was swollen shut and enflamed and slicked with what my doctor called “white exudate,” which, trust me, is just as disgusting as it sounds. Had I the ability to speak, and infantilized by the fever, I would have cried out for a nurse or my father or the Almighty Himself. Such was my mental state at the time that I figured any of them could materialize in the dark and rescue me from my own malfunctioning body.
By morning I was exhausted! I had in some sense been in my bed for ten hours or more, but had not slept much, what with all the hallucinating and sweating sick sweat into the nest of towels upon which my future corpse lay rotting. It was a hell of a night, I’ll tell you what. It was harrowing. Fortunately my memories had returned to me, and I figured I was probably still alive and still Ryan, at least on paper, but everything felt askew from then on until maybe an hour or two ago. What a bad trip, man. I thought I’d never snap out of it, I really did. I thought this was gonna be the thing that finally did me in. And though my skeleton still aches and my throat is still sore and I know I’m going to have horrible feverish nightmares again tonight, I don’t think any serious permanent damage has been done . . . though only time will tell!
I have only the vaguest idea of the sort of masochistic freak is still along for the ride, of the poor fools, god bless you all, who continue to read this rat’s nest of lonely diatribes. But I imagine at least a few of you are in Oakland, California, which is where I live, and if you’ll let me do so, I want to thank those of you who offered to go grocery shopping or whatever the hell else for me in the last few days. Man! As I shambled through the dark hallways of my home in a tattered robe, and as I lost my place in time and space, it sure did mean a lot to me that y’all reached out and helped me. I’ve been such a baby about this whole thing and no one let on how annoying that must be. And look! Your good intentions have pulled me from hell’s heart, have brought me back to whatever this godforsaken place is—a place better still than the place where I burned for hours in the dreary nothingness!
Had I allowed any of you to pick up groceries for me, let me tell you: it would have been ice cream and almond milk and strawberries and bananas and things like that. Everything I’ve eaten in the last week has been liquified. My throat cannot possibly handle full-blown solid foods right now. I wonder when it will again. Last night I made this horrible mistake of trying to grocery shop for myself . . . not because I was too proud to accept help . . . just too shy, or something. I deflect help for the same reason I deflect compliments: it makes me feel embarrassed that anyone would ever think about me. Hand to God, it really does. And so I went all by myself, which was, yes, a very bad idea, because about thirty seconds into driving to Trader Joe’s I realized I should not have been driving. I was all feverish, and I’m sure I was swervin a li’l bit. I did make it there dressed in a black sweatsuit and combat boots and a denim jacket, looking crazed, with purple rings around my eyes and a sick sheen that I could not wipe away. And suddenly the world was somehow more hideous to me than it always seems to be. There was this godawful plinky clownshoes Hawaiian music playing, and everyone there was frightening in their own way . . . I zeroed in on small horrors, which is already a bad habit of mine, but because I was badly slanted it seemed all the more wrong to me. They were almost human, but not quite. They got some of the details wrong, and only a fucked-out idiot-psycho like me in that particular state of mind and at that particular moment in time could have detected these barely perceptible tremors of non-humanness. It was bad news for everyone. You know, like, it kind of felt like this:
They live, we sleep. That was the way it was gonna be, and I was in no shape to battle evil just then, and so I beelined to the ice cream aisle while some ukulele horseshit plinked on overhead. There was this grey-haired dude hovering over the freezer. He had absolutely nothing in his hands. He just stood there looking and looking. I waited several feet behind him for probably five minutes. Finally he turns around and looks at me and flashes a smile and, I’m telling you, he looked exactly like that guy in Colorado who just murdered his whole family. I must have gasped. My first thought was . . . do I tell someone? But then I remembered how fucked up I was, how cooked my brain was, and so on, and so I let it be. He walked away still empty-handed and I reached in and grabbed some coffee ice cream and sprinted to the exit. At the registers I did not recognize anyone. I have been shopping at this particular T-Joe’s for six years, and have known and liked many of the people who have worked there. Just the other day one of the cashiers said to me, she said: “Do you live around here?” I said I did. “I always see you in here.” I told her I didn’t know what the hell else to do with my life, and she said she knew what I meant. For whatever reason I believed her. And then she said: “Well, you’re always very nice to me.” I told her she’s always very nice to me too, and that it was nice that we were so nice to each other even though we were strangers. And so, because my life had been devoid of any sort of comfort for at least seventy-two hours, I looked for her, knowing she would be nice to me. But of course she was nowhere to be found, and as I scanned the faces of those who could help me complete my transaction, I couldn’t help but notice that they were all off-brand doppelgängers of other people who worked there. I was frightened just then, but I caved and let some cheese-eater ring me up. After I’d bagged everything, I briefly forgot how money worked. I told this square to toss my receipt and got the hell out of there right quick.
Outside were two of those stupid rentable scooters everyone’s riding around on now, the ones you can just leave any old place. I did the Lord’s work and kicked both of them over. I wondered: Is the fever turning my present reality in a facsimile nightmare of my actual life, or has the whole world flipped for good?
I drove home erratically. I had the windows down and the air was cool on my cheap Halloween mask of a face. KALX was playing some all right stuff, and between songs Space Ghost did a little promo. It was cool.
I realize now that it is entirely possible that none of this actually happened. The only proof I have is the liter of half-eaten ice cream in my freezer.
Well at any rate, good-bye to all that. I’m sucking down three big white pills a day for the next week. Supposedly they are nuking all the bacteria in my throat. I hope that includes the white exudate, which is possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever knowingly grown inside my body. I think maybe I’ll be OK, but then who knows.
Also: Thank you to Dante, who used his greatly enhanced cat senses to smell the sick on me, and who has not left my side since I first started shivering on the couch last Sunday. Here are some pictures of him staying close to me all the livelong day. Thanks dude.
In lieu of flowers, please come hang out with me once I am not extremely contagious. I promise not to cough on you. Actually, one of the symptoms, or lack of symptoms rather, that separates strep throat from your garden variety sore throat, is that you do not cough. Or didn’t you know? Just bring your own ice cream, dude. That bucket I got is full of bacteria, and trust me, you don’t want none of that. Well, good-night everyone.