Christmas in the Pest House

Dearest Rachel –

You might remember it from one of your parents’ books of old New Yorker cartoons. There was a particular artist in the magazine’s early days, one John Held, Jr., whose style tended towards old fashioned woodcuts, as opposed to the typical line-and-shadow drawings one thinks of. Whether that’s what they really were, or he just made a point of drawing them that way, I couldn’t tell you. They didn’t strike me as particularly funny (although you could argue that most New Yorker cartoons weren’t trying to be laugh-out-loud funny – that wouldn’t be properly ‘sophisticated,’ after all), but they were memorable in their own way. Anyway, life at the house at this point reminds me of this one; at least, its title:

The thing is, I can’t seem to find the book here at the house. Maybe we never took it home from your folks’ place, or I got rid of it during the Great Purge – or, maybe it’s still here, and I just don’t know where exactly it is. It’s irrelevant for the moment. Anyway, it even took some hunting to track down an image of it online; this is the best I could do. As I said, not much of a funny-ha-ha cartoon, but perhaps things were different back in those twenties; anyway, Mr. Held seemed to think of his work in sufficient regard as to sign it in surprisingly prominent letters for a cartoonist.

Of course, our place, despite the purge, is certainly more sumptuously appointed than the pestilence confinement as illustrated by Mr. Held here (precluding any of us from being quite so self-pitying as all this), but when one is in the throes of illness, unable to move or motivate oneself to do anything, one recognizes one’s own face in that of the poor suffering inmate he depicts.

And I have tried to keep myself confined to ‘my’ wing of the building, for the most part. As homes go, this one is surprisingly well-suited for compartmentalization. I restrict myself to the southeast corner, where the master suite extension is. Logan has been keeping to himself in his room, even keeping his door closed most of the time (a commonplace sight in most homes, to be sure, but not one we’re familiar with, to be quite honest). Meanwhile, Daniel theoretically has the run of the house, but has, as you know, restricted himself to the couch (where he sleeps) and his chair by the window in the family room. So we’re all about as far away from each other as we can be while still under the same roof.

Not that it seems to have mattered. For all my attempts to remain sequestered, it would appear that I haven’t been able to keep my germs (or viruses? virii? I can never get the plural form straight) to myself. Then again, it’s not as if they come to a door and think “Uh oh, guess we’re stuck here.” If they’re small enough to seep through a cloth mask, they’re small enough to shimmy under the crack at the bottom of the door, looking for someone else in the house to infect. And since I don’t occupy the house by myself, there is going to be someone else in the house for them to find for that purpose.

Ironically, it seems that Logan has been hit first and hardest. While my fever was finally breaking on Saturday, he appears to have spent the day in his room (as opposed to hanging out with Daniel). I say ‘appears to have’ because I’m getting most of the information from Daniel, rather than observing it firsthand, which probably should be obvious. Even though I might have been recovering at that point, I was neither in any condition to notice anyone else’s situation nor to be able to attend to it had I been able to do so. By Sunday, while Daniel was healthy enough to go off to church, Logan actually came downstairs; upon admitting he was under the weather, I explained my symptoms to him in an effort to let him know what to expect – and that, if they were in line with my own, he should be starting to feel better by the end of the day, if not at his best.

The trouble is, his symptoms weren’t exactly like mine. By this morning, Daniel was filling me in on the events of the previous afternoon and evening. It would seem that Logan had actually thrown up at some point, whereas I never suffered the slightest bit of nausea. Then again, there were fairly lengthy spans in which (despite knowing not to ‘starve a fever’) I went without eating for the better part of a day at a time several times throughout the weekend, so I wouldn’t have had much to throw up in the first place. But it does suggest that whatever he and I had might not have been the same thing, so assigning blame might be trickier than it would appear on first glance.

With this in mind, I was mildly surprised that he left for work at the same time as he usually did this morning. On the other hand, I’ve certainly been there, where you assume you have no real option but to report to your job until your superiors practically insist that you head home. Given Logan’s work ethic, such as I’ve witnessed, this behavior shouldn’t come as any great surprise, all things considered.

Meanwhile, it’s not as if Daniel has gotten off completely scot-free, either. While he did go to church yesterday (and got lost trying to make his way to a restaurant to pick up an early lunch for me after offering to – that little misadventure would make quite the story, if he ever took the opportunity to tell it. It’s not really mine to go into detail, and it probably falls short of the time he tried to pick us up at the airport after we got home from our second trip to Israel in 2018 and wound up halfway into the city proper, but still), he made a point of going to the early service, so as not to meet with as many people (particularly the folks) and run the risk of passing any infection on to them. And it’s not as if he’s afraid of being some sort of asymptomatic carrier (you know him well enough to know he’d be as likely to consider that scenario as just so much hogwash); he’s admitted to having something of a ‘raw throat’ these past couple of days. Still, if that’s the worst he faces, we probably both can consider him to be quite fortunate, especially as he observes what both Logan and I have gone through individually.

In fact, here’s hoping that he doesn’t have to endure the mental fog induced by either the sickness itself or whatever I’ve been using to put it behind me. This morning, I went shopping for a 9-volt battery for the bedroom light switch and some breakfast cereal. Since I made the mistake of shopping hungry (I was there without having had breakfast yet, kind of by definition), I got plenty of food, but I was halfway out into the parking lot before I realized I hadn’t bothered to look for the batteries! It took a bit of self-deliberation, but I did go back in there and got some after all. Similarly, when I picked up breakfast for him at his request, I only got the sandwich he ordered, and didn’t consider how he often gets a smoothie from the same place (maybe Mohinder had a point when he complained about how I would do “exactly what [he] asked” of me). I made up for it by stopping at a separate place where we often get (larger) smoothies for him already, so all’s well that ends well.

Such is life here in the pest house, at least for now. Hopefully by Christmas (heck, hopefully before this weekend), this will all be behind us, and we can carry on as normal – or at least more like normal; I can’t imagine how Logan is coping with his workday. Best keep an eye on him as well as the two of us, if you can.

And wish us luck, honey. We’ll need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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