lawyer + mono

“It’s spaghetti – fresh. Hot. Prepared like you like.” I handed him the box. He eyed me. “Is it good?”
“Why else would I give it to you?”
“True . . . did you taste it?” I was tired of holding the box out to him at arm’s length so I let it plop onto his desk. “Of course I tasted it. You always want me to taste things before I give them to you.” He smiled. “I have to go,” I told him, sensing the golden moment for an exit. I jingled my keys at him, winked, and left as he started to open the box of noodles.

Four days later I sat in his office telling him what I thought was a rather complicated story when I noticed he was pale and silent. He is a lawyer: silent is not one of their operating modes unless it’s a prelude to entrapment. “What’s wrong with you?” I asked, slightly worried but trained not to show any sort of genuine human emotion around him. “You look like your own corpse.” He shrugged, non-combative. “I told you I didn’t feel well, Lola. I have a headache and I just . . . where did my time go today?” He looked at me vaguely, as if I might answer him, but also as if I might be a llama. How could I know where he’d been – or what he’d been doing?

I recounted our meeting to the director and handed her the files, untouched. “He just sat there looking pale and not saying anything useful,” I told her, deciding that I would refrain from either anger or frustration until I was entirely sure what had occurred. “Pale?” she asked, head snapping up. “Yes, pale. Weird, right? I didn’t think ‘pale’ was a colour he achieved, but evidently it is. He kept rubbing his head and he couldn’t focus on anything and -” she stood up, and I stopped talking. “What is it?”
“Lola, you said he was pale?” her voice had a strained, uncanny sound. I nodded. She crossed the room and looked at the calendar, then turned around and faced me. “Did you give your attorney mono?” she asked, in the same tone.

Oh no.

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contagion

“What is that?” asked the director, poking my bottle with a pencil. “What are you drinking now?” I looked over my shoulder. I was painting a rather dodgy flower on our chalk board. If all the minions in the grocery store can paint produce in such exacting detail, I can surely replicate a single flower. “Basil seed . . . banana . . . honey . . . ” I murmured, deciding that no one would possibly mistake the flower for flames of destruction if it were pink rather than red. “They look like pollywogs.”
“Like what?”
“Tadpoles. The seeds look like tadpoles.” I made some noise of affirmation. The flower was growing wildly.
“They’re crunchy, Lola. It’s actually pretty good, despite its looks. Hey, I might have to get me some of this stuff.” She walked off holding it up to the light, looking at the little seeds suspended like so many polka dots.

Two days later a case of basil drink appeared at school. I grabbed one and toasted Elsa during break. “To cultural understanding via oral – via food.” She smiled. “I wish the director were feeling better,” she said, picking at the label of her drink. “What happened now?” I asked, stomach sinking. She shifted one shoulder and shook her head. “I don’t know. She just says she has a headache and doesn’t feel too well and – what’s wrong, Lola?” I had covered my mouth with both hands.

I was thinking about mono.

mono + legal

There was a stack of papers waiting for me: contracts that the parents had signed. The words ‘legally bound’ came to mind – but so did the word ‘mono.’

By the time I had read the contracts I had also finished the entire pot of coffee (no cream, no sugar) and, although my hands were shaking and I knew that the euphoria would last no longer than ten minutes I still felt that there was no legality beyond my grasp. I outlined a plan of action on a sticky note, sketching rapidly all possible outcomes into a flow chart.

When I woke up three hours later the sticky note was in my hand and the pen was semi-adhered to my face.

But really on the whole I think it’s almost over – the mono, that is.

doctor

I leaned backwards slowly and stared at the generic ceiling tiling. My doctor prodded my stomach gently, talking to me about fluid intake and her own mono experience, when suddenly her brows furrowed deeply. “Have you ever been pregnant, Lola?” I laughed. “No.” (Sidenote: why do doctors never read charts?)

“Do you know what I think I’m feeling?” Her fingers, cold and clinical and dry as if they were themselves instruments, had stopped prodding, had come to rest. “My enlarged spleen?” I whispered hopefully. She shook her head. “No, not that. I think you have . . . I think you’re . . . ” she bit her lip, and looked at me, worried.

dengue

“Is mono a good diet?” she asked me, brown eyes widening. “What?” I asked, confused. “Are you going to lose a ton of weight?” I shrugged, more in lack of comprehension than anything else. “Marina you’re a size zero at most, so anyway . . . ” I lost my point.

“I know but I feel so hippy,” she said pouting.

I know what happened and what was said, but I can’t contextualize anything with mono – it’s all fever dreams, all the time, only this time it isn’t the tropics and there is no radio warbling oldies and no one is spoon feeding me white rice in water. And I can’t blame a mosquito, only “the industry”. The sneeze.

besieged

Either I give too much, or – now – I feel secretly guilty for maybe not giving enough, and I don’t know which feels better. Or less bad. When I’m stressed, stumbling and bleary-eyed I can think only of what will ensure my survival moment to moment, such as sleep.

I’ve never worked anywhere where there seemed to be highly motivated individuals with a strong sense of self and dedication to the company as well. Take Elsa: so much dedication. Endless dedication. Personality of – well, I was telling the director “You know, the thing that gets to me about her is that -”

“She’s a sweet girl, but you know,” she cut me off, but didn’t know where to go next. She is, by all accounts, a sweet girl. Educated too. “The thing that gets me about her,” I continued with an attempt at vigor, then paused.

“The essential thing to understand about Elsa is that if we were all in our coonskin caps in a fort being besieged by attackers and we told her ‘Open fire when they get here!’ She would see them running up, and ask ‘Well, do we want them to get here, like the immediate vicinity, or like here here, like climbing up the fort? Should I waste my ammo on the ones leading the attack or should I wait until more arrive – how much ammo are we in possession of, anyways?’ and then we would die, coonskin caps and all.”

“Really? That’s the analogy you’re going with today?” I touched my forehead. I’d broken out into a sweat: I should have been flat in bed, resting with the mono.

“Fever dreams,” I told her.