My voice has just lowered a few registers. I try to breathe from my diaphragm, the one-more-breath after the last breath, and I come up short. What gives, here? I must be tired, I rationalize, stretch my legs out in front me, and stick my nose back into my book.
“Are you okay?” my husband asks, as we head toward the overpass at Portage-la-Prairie on the way to Winnipeg.
“I’ll let you know,” I reply in a resonating contralto. My speech arts coach from high school would be proud.
“Try to lower the timbre of your voice,” he counselled once, before a competition. “Have you ever noticed that all the great actresses have low voices?” I hadn’t, to that point, but I have made a study of it since. Today, I could be short-listed for a spoken book performance, or a late-night news broadcast.
Kilometres vanish, and, with them, my hope that the symptoms are fatigue. I’m worried for two reasons. Maybe this is the flu—an epidemic of news bulletins has been conveying the stats and the states of the flu vaccine. Worse yet, I have a date with my daughter for the wedding expo the day after tomorrow. If I extrapolate the progression of my symptoms, based on past experience, Sunday could be touch and go.
We are pulling on to Perimeter, now, heading toward St. Vital. It’s time for action. Serious action. Although I have my daily garlic dose with me, my body is in crisis, and I need reinforcements. At the mall, I am on a mission. Within minutes, I have a full container of garlic and a large bottle of Buckley’s. I take a capsule from the first and a swig from the second. No time to lose. I repeat the dosage before bed. By morning, the oppression has left me, and I can function. I will make it to the play that night, and, even more important, to the wedding extravaganza the next day.
Given my sensitivity to my body in that moment, I can’t explain why I have ignored the tickle in my throat for almost a week now. No increase in the garlic consumption, no pulls from Buckley’s. Why am I coughing as I try to fall asleep? Oh, I must have a cold coming on. As lucidity returns from its hiatus, I head to the kitchen for an orange (double benefit—Vitamin C and some food with garlic) and my father’s default cold remedy. I go back to bed. I continue to cough. Advil to the rescue this time. Now, I sleep.
The next day, I repeat the regimen before I head off to work. The symptoms have not worsened, and there’s consolation in that. There’s no consolation, however, in my lapse of vigilance. It’s not just that 2 + 2 equaled 37; it’s that the addition itself didn’t register. No synapses connected the symptoms and my brain.
I can’t expect to have come out of this any better. The cold hovers, but does not advance. I resort to the Advil at night, but enjoy unmedicated days. For now, I have dodged a bullet. Not only have I avoided a time-consuming illness, but I have been confronted with a critical reminder. Stay alert. Pay attention. Pause. Reflect. Make connections. Mental lapses can have dire consequences. In the end, I am grateful for the warning trumpeted from such innocuous experiences--the (mis)management of the common cold.