every time you breathe, it's as if your lungs have been filled with molasses, or Elmer's glue, or that last stubborn bit of shampoo that refuses to budge no matter how hard you shake the bottle. the struggle wears you out, and leaves you wondering how you'll make it thru the next breath. suddenly, it's not something you take for granted.
your bed has gone from a comforting cocoon to a sea of taffy. it's nearly impossible to move, and when you do manage to stir, you seem to sink deeper into immobility. you vaguely recall reading about how to escape from a quicksand trap; it involves lying on your back and using a long pole. you wonder if you can convince the cats to bring you a broomhandle. and after a while, you stop trying, because drowning in taffy sounds worse than many of the ways you thought you might die.
you stumble into the bathroom; as you fish around in the cabinet for another box of Kleenex, a coughing fit attacks you. the coughs come from deep down, the bottom of your ribs or maybe your toes. the sound is sort of frightening: what you imagine the beginnings of a volcanic eruption might be. as you start to get lightheaded, you wonder if it's possible to measure coughing fits on the Richter scale. you lean weakly against the towel rack, praying for the spasms to stop, praying that you don't pass out because the cats haven't learned to dial 911 yet.
this is what it feels like to be older and alone. your legs are about as reliable as Silly Putty at this point, and while your brain knows you should force liquids, your body won't move. you wonder if anyone will call to check on you. you think that you really should go to the store and get some orange juice, but even walking across the room is difficult. going outside would drain all the rest of your energy as you struggled to keep from pitching headfirst down the front stairs. falling down the stairs has been a recurring nightmare for you. granted, in your dreams, it's usually M.C. Esher-ish sorts of stairs, and you fall for days, but you're not interesting in tempting fate.later:
you're so sick that even your skin aches. you're trying to be good and get litter for the cats, ginger ale for yourself, but the inseam on your jeans rubs against the inside of your knee just wrong and makes you want to cry. you never knew you could be so sensitive to touch. you want to stop in the middle of the street, stomp around, flailing your arms and crying, and strip off the offending articles.
you're awake, late at night, gripped by that not quite queasy, not quite dizzy, not quite sick but definitely unpleasant stomach ickiness. you're afraid if you close your eyes, you'll fall off the bed, because you feel unbalanced. you'd forgotten how much fun cold medicine can be on an empty stomach. you finally fall asleep, somehow, only to jerk awake later as the sedative part of the medicine wears off and the allergy part kicks in. sluggish when the alarm goes off, you call in to say you'll be late, hoping to grab another hour or two of sleep, only to be rocked by another coughing fit (see above).
somehow you drag yourself in to the office. trying to focus is like trying to think underwater. it can be done, but it feels foreign. the lightheadedness starts to seem like a boon, because if your head weren't floating down the hall, you don't know what would be holding up the soggy mess of your body. meetings happen, notes are sent, conversations are held, and you observe all of this thru the wrong end of the telescope. in the end, you pack up your sorry self to head for the doctor's. ironically, you'd scheduled a physical last week for completely other reasons; you're grateful for that now, as you don't think you could muster the wherewithall to call the doctor just about now. you pack up a few memos to review, and head out.