“How are you feeling, Lola?” Mary asked me, smiling. “Getting better!” I chirped. Which is, you know, true and also not true. I am sure on some cellular level the frightening antibiotic I’ve been given is working; after all I have to keep it in a ‘cool dark place’ and there’s a plentitude of yellow warning labels plastered to the container so obviously it’s the good stuff.

However, on a not cellular level I feel just as crappy as before. Mostly because I have a sort of extreme shortness of breath and the sort of dry, hacking cough actors employ to portray a grim death-by-consumption.


“Hello, how are you doing . . . oh shit,” his voice trailed off. “You look like sh – I mean, you’re sick, aren’t you?” I nodded. “I have pneumonia,” I announced flatly, feeling like adding “And I am not long for this world.” He took two large steps backward quickly, almost instantaneously.

“Where’s my Purell?” he half-joked.


I can overcome this feeling, I told myself. It may be sadness but sadness can only exert so much physical influence, only so much – and suddenly I was lurching forward, reaching for the steps in front of me although there was no doubt I would meet them. I was falling fast, but it felt slow and the colours smeared at the edges.

“I think you’re depressed,” my doctor told me, has been telling me for a few weeks. I shook my head “I keep telling you I just can’t breathe,” I panted out. My old friends the fluorescent lights glowed wanly at me. “I can’t – I feel like something heavy is sitting on my chest,” I choked out. He frowned. “Classic, textbook depression.” he folded his arms, looked me up and down. “Why do you keep half-heartedly patting your chest? Sorrow?” I shook my head, again. “I tell you I just can’t – just can’t – ”

When I woke up my face had been commandeered by something they called a ‘nebulizer.’ I saw a new nurse looking at me with pursed lips. “Pneumonia,” she whispered, with a shake of her head, like I was a bad little girl who’d gone out and caught it against all advice, like it was an STD or a baby. I nodded, said ‘whatever’ but the sound was lost to the whirring machine.

purple drank

“What’s wrong?” I asked Clary, putting the back of my hand to his forehead. “Don’t you feel well?” He shook his head, lower lip trembling. He was a little too warm to the touch – but just a little. “Are you sad or do you think you’re sick?” He feels roughly the same way about Christmas that an elf does. He shouldn’t start looking vaguely tearful midway through painting reindeer. But he shook his head again. “Alright, what do you think is wrong?” He sighed deeply. “I don’t think what is wrong, I know what is wrong, but the purple drink made it better for a little bit.” Oh no. Not purple drink. “So your mommy already knows you’re sick?” He sighed again. “She said it was a very big secret and not to tell anyone at all especially not teachers! but even my friends that I have nununyah.”

“You have what?” And even as I was asking him to repeat it I already had the word. “Pneumonia. You have pneumonia, Clary.”

I jumped back. I needed to wash my hands, find the director, and – my head reeled a little. Maybe it’ll be fine, I lied to myself. Maybe no one will get it.