MONDAY: Patient Zero was a seven-and-a-half year old girl with a rasp like Vader and green gunge coming out of her nose like the slime from Jabba the Hut. On her forth trip to the tissue box I asked her how she was feeling. “I’m fine.” She snuffled, wiping her nose inefficiently. “My dad says it’s a sinus infection.”
I’ve had those. They make you feel miserable. Every time you blow, the snot doubles in production. She can’t have felt fine. I made a point of telling dad when I put her into her car that afternoon. “Yeah,” he said. “I should take her to the doctor.”
She showed up the next day with her own pack of tissues and a little pep in her step. Obvious home doctoring at work. I’m not a parent. I shouldn’t judge. But I will.
TUESDAY: Two more children began making the trek to the tissue box. Each one taking turns to pull out a tissue and swipe it across their nose, smearing the goo around the cheeks and fingers. I began to obsessively wash my hands every time I pass a sink. But the sinks are few and far between and the slime is spreading faster than I can disinfect.
Seven year olds are touchy buggers. They like to put their hands on you when they speak, running their palms up and down your arm. They like to ask for help opening bottle tops or fruit bars or whatever, usually after they’ve eaten something with their fingers and smeared the wrapper with their gunk. I did my best to not touch my face but the day was long and the children were frustrating and the cooties were free-range.
WEDNESDAY: One kid out sick, three more with the drip. We were now on our third box of tissues. In their defense, the tissues are cheap and not one child had been taught how to blow. And yet, as the tissue supply is depleting, nothing we seem to do will halt the contamination. Seven-year-olds like to touch each other. Especially when the teacher tells them to keep their hands to themselves. Especially after they’ve visited the tissue box and swiped a tissue across their drippy nose.
And, to add to the joy, we have one kid with an obvious earache whimpering in the corner. "It's allergies." Dad says when I let him know as I put the kid in the car. He obviously does not have the same WebMD degree I do.
I no longer believe my hypothetical parenting of my hypothetical children will be perfect.
THURSDAY: We now have six kids doing the tissue box to trash to seat circle. Earache boy is back and very bouncy. So is the sick kid from the day before. Then, the kid who leaned against me during circle time and slipped his hand into mine while we were going to the bathroom and then told me about his sore throat spends the afternoon laying on the floor and moaning. He tells me his parents know about it and does/doesn't/does/doesn't/does/doesn't want to go home depending on what activity we're doing. Every time I mention his peely wally-ness to the powers that be, he rebounds and is seven-years-old and bouncy and fine.
It’s possible the sore throat is a call for attention and not actually a sore throat but I’m doubtful. I’m not the boss; I let the higher-ups make the call. They opt to wait and see. I opt to wash my hands again. I’ve added hand sanitizer to my routine but between the alcohol stripping away my skin and the cootie-fied kids touching the boogers then the hand sanitizer and then me, I’m losing the war.
FRIDAY: Another kid out sick. Patient Zero is still with us, still wiping and sniffing and sliming. Of the sixteen kids, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every single one stick a finger up their nostril, root around, pull it out to examine the findings and then either put their fingers in their mouth or wipe them clean on their clothing. Or on someone else’s. In fact, during lunch, I actually witnessed a four-year-old from another class stick two fingers down the BACK of her pants and then put them in her mouth.
I have PTSD.
Despite the trauma I manage to make it through the day intact. I head home planning to douse myself in pure alcohol – inside and outside. Perhaps pouring the stuff down my gullet so enough of it seeps out of my pores will scare away the creepy crud. I plan on stripping down at the door and leaving my infecting clothing to be burned. I am feeling victorious at having made it through the week without a sniffle but I forgot about the damn door handles. Those damn door handles will be my undoing.
SATURDAY: I wake up in a good mood. The sun is shining and it’s a work-free/child-free day. I spend it putzing about the house doing things I should have done last week. I’m so happy I ignore the tickle at the back of my throat and the heat that begins to grow behind my eyes. I pretend it is lack of sleep or dust. That it is just a sad thought bringing about the congestion in my throat. I disregard the first sneeze, excuse away the second and ignore the third. It’s only when I realize that I’m at the tissue box for the umpteenth time that I have to admit it. There is nothing to be done. They got me. They freakin’ got me.
I curse them all as I hunker down in my blanket, tissue box at the ready. Husband curses me as he grabs a squirt of hand sanitizer and prepares to disinfect himself. He doesn’t know yet, it’s futile to resist. No matter the precautions, I will do my level best to infect him so I’m not alone.
SUNDAY: I alternate between attepmting to do yard work in the beautiful sun and lying on the couch trying to breathe. Husband is still cheerful. He is not sick yet despite my attempts to love up on him. In fact, he's smug and way too amused by my suffering. "Just you wait." I snuffle as I pull the last tissue from the box. "This will be you in two days."
I am not going down alone.
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me