A white butterfly against green grass. A cool ocean breeze and roar of waves against rocks. A sunlit porch where we watched the sunset last night. Each a promise of paradise just at the edge of my finger’s reach, but one I’ve been unable to touch.
Thanks to some bootleg Nyquill, I slept an entire night through without waking myself up coughing. But I woke straight into the unwelcoming arms of my sick, sick body. Forced myself through breakfast, tried to escape my misery with Solitaire, burrowed back into my book just at the point where the heroine is stricken with pneumonia in Paris. The symptoms almost matched mine, but not quite. Had my wife research both pneumonia and bronchitis on the Internet, and the latter was closer, with a discouraging footnote that it can last up to three weeks. I’m in my 11th day.
The fact is, besides the physical discomfort of each and every moment—stuffy head, sinus headache and the unpredictability of simply being able to breathe without triggering a body-shaking coughing fit—there was the guilt of being a bad traveling companion for my wife, a bad guest for our generous hosts putting us up at their beautiful house in Rabat. I did teach a guest class at the school they both teach in and their three kids all go to and got through it okay, but not with the dependability of a voice in full-function mode. Then of course, the way we humans keep piling imagined future problems on to the feelings of the moment, I’m wondering about the two back-to-back courses in Brazil and Colombia I will be teaching within the week.
But here is the most disturbing thing: I lost the ability to remember what it feels like to actually be well. The simple fact of normality which we all build our lives around and then paper the walls with real and imagined sorrows with occasional low-energy fatigues and sicknesses, I just couldn’t imagine ever feeling that way again. That was scary.
Hope you noticed “was.” Far from out of the dark woods of my discomfort, but I took more Nyquil and Advil PM and awoke from a mid-day nap with that extraordinary sensation of coming back from the dead. Lazarus rising out of his tomb could not have been more astonished to find himself alive again than me in this last half-hour. An old-fashioned market-shopped-put together lunch of avocado, rice cake, carrot, cheese and more awaited me as I walked some 30 feet without a cough.
The whole beauty of Creation, as well as Morocco’s impressive aesthetic human-wrought creations, was not just the backdrop for my gloom and distress, but actually something I might again participate in and savor and enjoy. I think I would have rejoiced equally to have woken up in some dumpster in a bad neighborhood as long as I recovered my health again. But even better to have the ocean greet me and the promise of a beautiful day invite me to step out of my wretched state and re-join the world.
Of course, more coughing and stuffed head and headache awaits me, but perhaps just a bit less. And then I can finally give this marvelous land the attention it deserves. Find some words that sing its soothing tune and some thoughts that keeps the dialogue open of how near the “other” is to us and how much every “other” has to offer until the “they” becomes “us.”
But first, a walk on the beach.