Oboy. You’re all in for such a treat. My senior year in high school I contracted a disease during the spring. Initially I approached it as a welcome respite from school; however, it didn’t take long before I realized that catching this disease as an adult is significantly – no, torturously, worse than it catching you as a child.
What follows is an essay I wrote for Mrs. Rousseau’s English class at Pulaski Academy in 1986.. I got a 50/50 on it, and she wrote on it, “A wonderful satire as you related your tale as one of the ‘bumpy’ roads we sometimes take during our lifetime. I loved this satire!” Aaah, I just love reliving Teacher’s Pet Syndrome.
Re-reading this piece brought back all kinds of memories and forgotten “inside jokes” that were shared among friends and classmates. You probably won’t pick up on all of them, and even the writing style is a little sophomoric, but if you can look past all that, we’ll continue to observe High School Blog Week. And now, drumroll please, the never-before-published epic of… Journal of a Plague Week (or Under Siege)
Journal of a Plague Week (or Under Siege)
Sunday, February 23, 1985
“Jeff, It’s for you!” screamed my own personal yard ape.
“I’ve got it!” I yelled back. I heard her hang up on the other end. “Hello?”
“Uh, Jeff, this is Nick.”
“Hi, Nick, Whazzup?”
“I won’t be able to go today,” he continued. He was referring to a Close-Up party that several of us had planned. We were to meet at Mazzio’s at 1:00 p.m. to look at each other’s pictures of our trip to Washington.
“Aw, that’s too bad. Why not?”
“I, uh, have the measles,” he meekly replied.
“You what?!” I half-screamed. He went on to tell me how he felt – fever, chills, bumps, etc. It all sounded too familiar, except for the bumpy part.
After we hung up, I dashed downstairs and selected the “M” volume of the World Book Encyclopedia. I learned that first bumps or spots usually start in the hair or around the hairline and work their way down. Hmmm… My head had been itching that morning, and I had felt hot yesterday; in fact, I had felt bad enough to take a nap.
Suddenly, it hit me! I frantically hurtled myself back upstairs and into my bathroom. With a silent prayer, I slowly lifted my hair… and promptly fainted dead away.
Once Mom learned, there was a volley of telephone calls to her friends and “medical advisers.” They quickly determined that Nick and I had been exposed to the disease on our Close-Up trip.
The rest of the day was consumed by my chasing Amy around the house threatening to breathe on her and talking on the phone to friends, trying to get as much sympathy as possible. It was great.
“Measles aren’t so bad,” I thought smugly. “I’ve only got about six bumps, and I’ll be out of school for at least a week, and everyone will feel sorry for me.” I stayed up late Sunday night watching TV, reading, and generally enjoying myself. I was extremely content with my situation.
Monday, February 24
Monday morning, I lay in bed blissfully listening to the normal hustle and bustle of getting-ready that occurs around our house every week day. It was heaven knowing that I didn’t have to participate. Waiting until everyone left so I wouldn’t be pestered was total frustation. I couldn’t wait to see where the two or three new bumps had chosen to form. As soon as I heard the last car drive off, I leaped out of bed and sprinted to the bathroom mirror.
AAAAUGH!! THE IMMORAL LITTLE DEVILS! They had multiplied by the dozens!
“Oh no,” I thought. “My boyish good looks and clear skin are ruined! How will I ever be able to face Sue Ella? … OK, Jeff, you’re just overreacting.”
I sat down on the “throne” to contemplate. I squeezed my eyes shut , hoping that everything would be back to normal when I opened them. In doing so, I rubbed my finger across my face. It was like reading braille.
“GREAT. Just great! Not only am I clumsy, a terrible athlete, and the proud owner of a pair of 1986 ‘Love Handles,’ but now I am going to be shunned by society,” I remorsefully concluded. I could see and hear it now: “Mommy, mommy, look at that boy’s face! I didn’t think there were that many zits in the world!” Dejected, I dragged myself back to my room and fell into a fitful sleep.
I awoke about 10:30 a.m. I remembered that old saying, “Make the best of a bad situation,” so I began to think. “Hey, I could freeze my face and let germs go sledding on the bumps! Nah. Or I could be the ‘before model in an Oxy 30 commercial. Nah.” I could just hear the fateful telephone call: “Jeff Noble, I am sorry to say that your bumps have been accepted by Princeton, but you have not been. Have a nice day.”
At 12:30 p.m., Mom came home to make me lunch and to check on me. “Don’t look at me!” I yelled as she brought the food into my room. I maturely buried my head under the covers.
“Jeff, don’t be silly. I’ve got to take your temperature,” she retorted.
“Just give me the thermometer and don’t look!”
I heard her leave my room to go get it. I heard her rinsing it off. CRACK!
“Oh dear, I’ve broken it,” she stated.
“Heh, heh. The will of God,” I thought.
As she entered the room again, she said firmly, “I have to see your face. What am I going to tell the doctor?”
“Aha, that’s a rhetorical question. She doesn’t expect an answer,” I intelligently surmised, as I kept my face covered.
“LET ME SEE YOUR FACE!” she said in her most authoritative voice. I obediently pulled back the covers. The corners of her mouth twitched. She walked out of the room, aghast, yet suppressing giggles.
“I knew it! I knew it!” I yelled after her. “You just wanted to make fun of me! Some mother you are!” I heard her pick up the phone. Thinking she was bringing dear ol’ Dad into the fiasco because of my sass, I hastily dashed into the her room, apologizing to beat sixty.
“Calm down. I’m just calling the doctor,” she said.
“The doctor!? Why are you calling the doctor? I thought it was measles, cut and dried,” I anxiously stated.
“But he may want to see you to check on secondary infections,” she answered.
“See me!? Today?! Like this?”
I rain back to my room. I few minutes later, she yelled at me to get ready because he wanted to see me right then.
“I can’t go out like this! I look like the Elephant Man!”
“Jeff! Get dressed!”
“Great, just great!”
Thinking quickly, I snatched a cap and a towel. “I may have to go, but no one’s gonna recognize me.” As I stepped out of the house, the bright sunlight pierced my eyeballs. “AAAUGH!” I cried. “I can’t see! I’m blind!” I groped my way to the car.
“Here, wear these sunglasses,” my mom offered. “You’re not supposed to be in direct light.”
“Good, let’s turn around,” I retorted. She glared at me. On the way, I put on the cap and sunglasses and then hung the towel over the hat so it draped my face. “An effective disguise,” I disguise.
As we pulled into the parking lot, I was dismayed to find it already well-populated with cars. “I can’t go in there! Everyone will laugh at me!” I pleaded.
“No one’s going to laugh at you,” she replied. She went ahead to make sure that there were no children in the office. I locked the door. She came back outside and gave me the “come on” sign. Reluctantly, I got out of the car, walked down the sidewalk and entered the building, and walked into the waiting room. The five or six nurses and/or receptionists tried to suppress their amusement and horror. I gave my mom a look that would kill small animals.
“See! I told you so,” I muttered. I looked up. She was giggling!
“Follow me,” the nurse said. Fortunately, there were no other patients in the halls. She whisked me into my own little room with cute little animals on the walls. “How charming!” I thought. The nurse then took my temperature, weighed me, and left the room.
As the doctor entered the room, he said, “Yep, it looks like the measles.”
“What a comedian,” I thought. I gave my mom another look – one that would injure large animals. After he was done poking and prodding, he told me to come back the next day just to be sure of his diagnosis. I made a dash for the car, stumbling down the steps in my blindness.
After I was dropped off at home and Mom had left, I settled back to a good Archie comic book. The phone rang. “Hello?” I said.
“Hello? Are you Jeff Noble?” a woman asked.
“This is the nurse at OBU. Have you confirmed that you have the measles?” she asked. (I had spent the weekend there.)
“Pretty much so,” I answered. “The doctor thinks I have the measles.” She then asked me some questions regarding my health and informed me that she was reporting my case to the State Health Department.
“I’m not in trouble, am I? I’m sorry I exposed your campus,” I apologized.
Answering negatively with another one of those laughs, she hung up. I felt a little guilty. I probably had helped start an epidemic. I went into the bathroom and took a look. “They” had spread down to my waist (calm down, girls) and out onto my arms. The telephone rang. It was the Health Department.
The lady asked me a bunch of questions concerning my disease. She told me that she’d call back the next day for my immunization record. I felt like a criminal. I sauntered back to bed and fell asleep.
I was jolted awake by the phone. I fought back bravely, but I finally answered the pesky noise-maker. “Oh, hi, Nick. You feeling any better?”
“Oh, yea. I feel like I could go to school tomorrow,” he replied.
“Jerk!” I thought. You mean you really don’t feel bad at all?” I asked.
“Not really,” he answered.
“Don’t you have lots of bumps?”
“Not too many.” (I groaned.) “Sorry, Jeff.”
At that moment, my mom and sibling entered the house.
“Oh gross! He looks like one of those new fruit bars!” Amy shouted, horrified at my appearance. “Good and ugly!” she continued, dodging my alarm clock. Nick laughed on the phone. I growled.
“Sorry, Jeff.” I could hear Amy down the hall, chanting “good and ugly.” I bade “adieu” to Nick and then loped after her. I threatened to kiss her. She screamed bloody murder and dashed downstairs. Content, I went back upstairs to write more on my journal for Mrs. Rousseau’s class. As I sat at my desk, I relished the thought of all the healthy people at school having to get painful measles shots. I snickered, but that just made me hungry.
Sunday, March 2
It’s been a week of sheer torture! Not only have I been unable to eat anything because of the pox inside me, but I also missed two episodes of GI Joe. It’s been awful! Today has been the first day since last Monday that I’ve been able to eat anything solid.
As I slowly recover, bits and pieces of the past week resurface in my mind. Last Tuesday was one of the worst days of my life. That morning, dear ‘ol Mom actually brought two people from the Health Department to the house and allowed them to gawk at me. (She certainly won’t win “Mother of the Year.”) While they stared at me lying in bed in my pajamas, I delighted in the thought of removing my mom’s fingernails with pliers.
At high noon on Tuesday, Mom came back home and took me to the doctor. It was another traumatic experience. I had to dodge babies and weather appalled looks from adults as I was hustled to my own personal room. Then I had to wait for an hour for the doctor because he thought that circumcising some little tyke was more important than telling me that I had the chicken pox. I felt so miserable that I expected to die at any minute. “How humiliating to draw my last breath in an examining room of a pediatric clinic,” I thought.
The next few days are a blur in my mind of vomiting, suppositories, high fever, oatmeal powder baths (euphemistically called Aveeno baths), half-remembered phone messages relayed by Mom, and constant misery because I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep. As I began to show slight improvement, I couldn’t lift my hand without someone yelling, “Don’t scratch! – it’ll leave scars.”
By Friday, I had improved to the point that I at least knew my name. Tired of lying in bed, I dragged myself to the den to lie on the couch. It was the first time I had been up since Monday except to relieve myself, take an oatmeal bath, or go to the doctor. I flipped on the TV and tried to down a glass of orange Kool-Aid, my personal favorite, but it still hurt to swallow, due to the pox inside my throat and stomach. “Great. I’ll just starve to death before I recover,” I thought glumly. (Because of the USA for Jeff campaign, we all knew starvation was much closer for me than for others). I fell asleep watching Petticoat Junction.
THUD! THUD! I woke up wondering what the noise was. It sounded like the slamming of car doors. I glanced out the window. AAUGH! It was Shawn Buffalo and several of her cohorts. They ran up to the door and rang the doorbell and then began beating on the door. “They can’t see me like this!” I thought.
“I know you’re in there!” Shawn yelled. “Come see us!”
Ducking low, I made a dash upstairs. I looked out my window. They were still down there. “Go away!” I yelled through the window. “Hmmm, my first classmates to visit me (and females!) and I tell them to go away. How ungrateful,” I thought before yelling “go away!” again.
“Come out!” they yelled.
“Go away! You’re not seeing me like this!” After a few more minutes of disjointed conversation, I convinced them to leave. I sank back, confident in my handling of the situation.
Tuesday, March 4
I have spent most of today watching TV. I don’t know what I’d do without cable, since I hate soap operas. Dad came home at noon and brought the meal they must serve in heaven’s cafeterias – Taco Bell burritos. I haven’t had any visitors since Shawn’s feeble attempt.
After the three-hour stint at the TV, I trudged back upstairs to do more homework. I read my Close-Up and AP Biology. I also worked on my Calculus. “I’ll be catching up for the rest of my life,” I thought wearily. I had made a lot of progress though. The phone rang. It was Dr. King, my physics teacher! He made a couple of cracks about my complexion and my weight, and I responded with some remarks about his pork rinds. He proceeded to let me know all I’d missed in his class and assignments.
“Thanks, Dr. King,” I said as I hung up. I whined a little and then got back to work.
I’ve already decided that I’m going back to school, scabs and all, on Friday, at the latest. Sure, I will probably ruin my image forever, but I’ve got to get back. Facing my classmates will be interesting. I’m sure they’ll start the ol’ USA for Jeff campaign again, since I’ve lost ten pounds. Like the Ethiopians, I never did get any funds from that deal.
I’ve learned that Nick started back to school Monday and that no one can tell he ever had any bumps. “Great,” I thought. “I wonder how his delicate skin will react to hydrochloric acid in lab?! Naw, everybody would hate me for that.”
Well, doing two weeks’ worth of catching up should be great fun! It’s comparable to belching dust. I may be mistaken for a prisoner of war, but what’s even worse is that my social activities will be severely curtailed until I catch up in all my classes. At least I have the consolation of knowing that, in spite of everything, I still have my “Love Handles.”