It has taken me about a week to recover from our Costa Rica vacation. We arrived at one in the morning on Monday night/Tuesday morning. I woke up with a severe head cold, and my back was killing me. The zip-lining near the Arenal Volcano was fantastic, but now I was paying the price.
I have always acted differently when I am sick. When I was younger, I ignored any ache or cold, but if my sickness truly debilitated me I either lashed out at whoever was near me or I sunk into a temporary depression. This week, barely able to walk, my head, eyes, and nose gushy with fluids, I slept. I slept until I couldn’t sleep anymore, and I kept quiet and observed everyone around me, Laura, Aaron, and Isaac going about their business without me.
It was a strange experience not having almost any reaction to my week-long illness; I was probably feverish. I wanted to recover. I thought about my father and his chronic back problems, which eventually reduced him to a walker in his mid-70’s. I really did not want to become my father. I lay in bed, wincing with pain, not quiet able to breathe right, and I felt like part of the bed, as if I were sinking into the mattress itself. I imagined I had been abandoned in a mud pile. I was now half-mud.
It’s not bad being half-mud. You have no responsibilities. You lie in bed, or mud, and look at everything. Conversations occur around you, about you, but you are not a part of them. A crash in the other room? Somebody else rushes to see what it is, to clean it up. For me, for that week, there was no drive within. That was the fascinating part. No anger. No self-loathing. No urge to do. The kids needed to get ready to go back to school? This pain-in-the-ass was the ultimate observer. ‘Action Bear’ (Laura’s oft times moniker for me) was in hibernation. Half-asleep. Probably delirious.
There was a point, later in the week, when the bed felt too soft, when I stopped thinking about the strange colors in front of my eyes, when I thought about what bills needed to get paid by the end of month. That’s when I knew I was better. I missed being half-mud, half-dead, and I even wanted to go back. I imagined for a few hours before I rose like Lazarus from the dead why Lazarus would even want to get up from being dead. I mean, if you could be half-dead, looking at the world but nothing else, that would be the ticket.
As I hobbled to the mailbox and to Broadway Farm for pounds and pounds of California yellow peaches, nectarines, and a watermelon the size and weight of a bowling ball (Do all young teenage boys eat this much fruit?), I missed my half-mud existence. Zabar’s. Dry cleaning. The mailbox again. Returning emails. Filling out back-to-school health forms. My back was killing me. But I could more or less walk now. I said to Isaac, as he watched me grimace on the sidewalk, “It feels as if a crazy carpenter has driven nails into my spine.” But yeah, I was getting better.
By this weekend, I was back. My back had but a hint of my previous torture, and what was left of my cold was a weak cough. Gone was the Pumpkin Head of the half-mud man. Did you have the swine flu? somebody asked me. No, I don’t think so, I replied. But perhaps for one week I did live the strange and sweet existence of a Pig Man in the Half-Mud.