When I’m sick like this (somewhere near the darker side of the middle line between healthy and barely-not-dead), my limbs melted into the mattress, not asleep, though not alert, vaguely hearing my son and husband pretend-Kung-Fu in the living room, my brain distresses me by remaining consistently ON FIRE. Agony! Eyes shut, I see myself blogging or working on a poem or browsing the websites of literary agents. But I don’t sit up and bring about any imaginings. I remain in my strained limbo of Walter Mitty-ing. Look! There I am typing The End on my 5th novel—on a remote beach in Kauai deep in a turquoise June. Agony! That short story of Aimee Bender’s about the guy immobile on his couch—suddenly it makes complete sense and is more terrifying than clever. And, suddenly: I am officially older than Pi, Marie Callender’s and ancient Egyptians. Nessie and the Titanic and sedimentary cherts. The man in the moon, Mars’ anger, stars above and those burning so prettily on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. The cat’s collar’s bell is a clocktower’s kabong. The bedside lamp’s light is a comet exploding. There is nowhere to go but everywhere and I’m not going anywhere. I am frenzy, paralyzed. Agony! You are the most dramatic flu victim I’ve ever known, my husband says. He hands me a bottle of sparkling water and 4 Advil. Sleep, he insists, clicking off the lamp. You’ll feel better in the morning. At 3 a.m. my eyes open and I lie in darkness listening to the dog snore. I am tempted to read, Swann’s Way by the light of my iphone, but I’m not that sick, I’ll never be that sick, if I’m ever that sick, just—never mind. If anything, I think, rolling over and accidentally clonking my husband’s spine with my elbow, I’m better. Around 10 a.m., bolstered by couch pillows and a mug of coffee, I’m typing. The view through the windows is not turquoise ocean, but a mockingbird dive bombing my cat’s head as he hurries across struggling yard,
but it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay—not an ounce of agony creeps (eyes shut or otherwise).