M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Sunday, March 26, 2006  

Fever Dreams

Supposedly the great thing about being sick is that if all goes well, you get to sleep through the worst of it.

I felt the ague insinuating its creaky fingers through my ribcage on Wednesday afternoon. Since I had not one but two ginormous (and I'm adding that to my spell-check already) projects due the next day, it wasn't like I could take the rest of Wednesday off. I'd just have to cowboy through the rest of the day and Thursday, and crash on Friday. Wednesday night I got home and told Trash I thought I was coming down with something, because I know from experience that she hates it when I leave her to figure that out for herself.

Especially considering the way she would have found out in this case. At about 1:30 Thursday morning, she woke up in what had apparently become an old-school Magic Fingers bed, with yours truly as the vibrating unit, engorged with a jingling bellyful of quarters. Apparently I had the kind of fever that got people dumped in tubs of ice on Little House on the Prairie. She got extra blankets without my having to ask, which was good because my teeth were chattering so violently that I wouldn't have been able to verbalize the request anyway.

The next morning, all that was left was a soreness in my throat that made it painful to swallow. Well, that wasn't so bad, I thought. I figured that thanks to the flu shot I'd had in the fall, my system had managed to make short work of whatever pathogen had decided to visit me. I went to work, got both huge projects done minutes before seven p.m. without breaking for lunch (which was fine, because lunch would have been painful anyway), and headed home to recuperate for the next day; because another huge project had just come in that was due the following Tuesday. So Friday and Monday would be crunch time all over again.

But Trash wasn't having that. Despite my assurances that I would be fine going to work Friday, and screwed if I didn't, she bargained me to a compromise where I would take a half day. "Fine," I scoffed, "But I'm going to feel just fine by one o'clock, and there won't even be any point in my coming home."

I did feel better by the time I actually left work Friday, but that was only because I'm not sure I've ever felt worse at work than I did from 10:00-10:30 and 11:30-12:00. Because on the morning I insisted I would be "fine," I suffered through not one but two bone-wracking bouts of fever, alternately shivering and sweating at my desk, breathing hard, my face feeling like a tingly mask and my hands seeming somehow really far away from my body. I don't know how high it actually got, since I never took my temperature, but when I stood up, there were singe marks on my chair. I finished slightly less than the bare minimum I could get away with before bailing for the day at 1:30. It would have been 1:15 if I hadn't spent so much time waiting for the shakes to subside so I could properly wield a pen.

I went home and crashed hard, until Trash brought M. Small home from day care at the end of the day. We all spent the hours before his bedtime together. After he went down, I rooted through the medicine cabinet, downed some LiquiTabs of uncertain provenance, and went to bed early. 9:30, to be exact.

Looking back, it seems that as soon as I closed my eyes, the dreams started in. My slumber was haunted by the demon spawn of every giant project in my pipeline, past and present, racing towards its deadline riddled with yawning gaps, internal contradictions, blank grids where tables full of numbers should be, and unanswered questions that would have stymied the greatest minds in my field or any other. Holes would be filled in, only to reappear elsewhere, while the minutes ticked away. I don't often have nightmares where the situation becomes so intolerable that I simply wake up, but this was one of them. Still groggy, I took in the blackness of the bedroom and the clamminess of my t-shirt, and only hoped that I would have the chance to get some actual, restful sleep in what I estimated was the thirty minutes or so before the sun came up and M. Small awoke for the day. And then I turned my head to look at the bedside clock.

11:08 p.m.

Normally such a sight would have filled me with elation, but the potential of another seven to eight hours of this filled me with dread. Asleep or no, how would I get any rest with my work-guilty subconscious tormenting me? But all I could do was hope for the best and go back to sleep.

As it happened, the best was over, because that first stretch of unbroken sleep was to be the longest of the night. Trash tells me that I woke up about every fifteen minutes thereafter, although I would have guessed it was every forty-five. And every time I looked at the clock, knowing I should be counting the hours of sweet sleep remaining to me, but all that seemed to be coming was this nasty, bitter variety. Because that nightmare project haunted me through the night, assimilating elements of everything in my subconscious--from an upcoming trip to Mexico to that night's episode of Doctor Who--into its misshapen, Lovecraftian bulk. When M. Small finally announced at 6:30 a.m. that the night was over, I told Trash, "That was the least restful nine hours of sleep I've ever had."

"Tell me about it," she slurred into her pillow. Why she didn't kick me out of there is a mystery to me.

The next night, I skipped the LiquiTabs of uncertain provenance, but again went to bed early.

Let me tell you about now my relationship to the show Prison Break. I've never once seen an episode, even though it's now on right before 24. I have read some of Sobell's excellent recaps on Television Without Pity. And on Saturday, I read an article about the show in Entertainment Weekly over the lovely and very soft brunch that Trash had made me. That's it. And yet, somehow, when I fell asleep on Saturday night, I found myself solely responsible for every plotline, every character, every dark conspiracy, every logistical detail of this by all accounts labyrinthine show that I've never actually seen. I woke up at 11:00, exhausted all over again.

I turned to Trash, who was reading next to me with the light on, and explained what had happened.

"You've never even watched, Prison Break, she pointed out in disbelief.

"I’m saying," I agreed. "Is this why you don't like to sleep as much as I do? Because you have all these complicated dreams that are so much damn work?"


Trash and I understood each other a lot better after that. I didn't wake up as many times over the rest of that night, and I felt quite a bit more rested this morning, despite having shepherded my evolving band of escapee pilgrims through an odyssey too digressive and boring to even spare the number of words I'm using to describe it now. And when I took today's afternoon nap, I woke up before M. Small did, which never happens. So I must be caught up on my rest, right? It still hurts to swallow, but that's only good because, like I said, going to Mexico soon.

I don't know why I'm telling you all this. Maybe I'm hoping that if I get it all down and out of my head, I'll sleep well and normally tonight. As for you, after reading all this, you probably already are. Consider it my gift.

posted by M. Giant 7:56 PM 7 comments


this comment has to do with your recap of the episode the Silence:Six Feet Under. I'm watching in France so a little behind the USA schedule.
I doubt the amateur actors were playing anything by Chekhov, let alone The Seagull. Maybe Gorky? Maybe Gorky's The Lower Depths? (If so, pun probably intended.)
your bio makes you sound like a literary kind of guy so what's with the black hole where a passing knowledge of classic Russian literature should be? (You guys say it, Spare the Snark...)
And what's with the Bet-two-na instead of Bettina?

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 26, 2006 at 11:46 PM  

Sounds like those pesky animal crackers got their revenge. You must have really cheesed off that zebra.

Feel better!

Motherboy XXX

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 27, 2006 at 6:09 AM  

Holy cow, my boyfriend had the exact same flu.... except that we hadn't heard of anyone with the same symptoms (sweating, restless sleep that felt like hours, ribcage aches), so of course we went online to self-diagnose and came up with the fact that he obviously had cancer.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 27, 2006 at 9:12 AM  

Your household seems to get sick ALOT. Eat a vegetable or two. I hear that helps

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 27, 2006 at 10:18 AM  

You might want to keep an eye on your throat, so to speak. I had similar symptoms around Thanksgiving, and it turned out I had strep - an illness I hadn't had since I was nine.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 27, 2006 at 10:25 AM  

Sounds like typhus, or maybe Dengue Fever. Have you been to the Equatorial Congo lately?

As to the dreams, listen carefully: I hear that Natalie Portman has always wanted to be a nurse. Portman... nurse... Portman... nurse...

By Blogger Febrifuge, at March 27, 2006 at 2:34 PM  

"Your household seems to get sick ALOT. Eat a vegetable or two. I hear that helps."

Hey, hey, hey, smartass. You clearly don't live with a very young child, because otherwise you'd know that they carry more plague than a 14th-century rat. Eating vegetables doesn't mitigate against the 27 types of ebola little kids regularly come home with every time they're around other kids. So while you're eating your vegetables, chew on that for a while.

M.Giant, I you have my utter sympathy. I've only been sick like that once in my adult life, and it was INSANE. Fever, hallucinations, lost time... you name it. And I also sympathize with your wife: I, too, am not such a big fan of sleep, for pretty much the same reason she states. In my case, it's because I'm repressed (hey, knowing it is half the battle!), and we overly self-controlled types don't like the living, breathing Escher landscapes that our dreams impose on us.

By Blogger Tammy, at March 28, 2006 at 4:02 PM  

Post a Comment

Listed on BlogShares www.blogwise.com
buy my books!
professional representation
Follow me on Twitter
other stuff i