Plaint, n. 1.a., Oxford English Dictionary: “The action or an act of plaining; audible expression of sorrow; (also) such an expression in verse or song, a lament. Chiefly poet. after 17th cent.”
Here beginneth the lament of a weak and whiny ladie who cannot fucking believe that she’s been laid low these last 3 weeks, felled by a winter illness in the very dead of summer:
So. I will not succumb to magical thinking and insist that because I was feeling smug as hell for not getting sick this winter, I am now paying, painfully and inevitably, for the hubris of imagining my immune system had finally gotten its shit together. But it does seem significant that, having held off discussing my excellent 2016-2017 health, I got sick shortly after finally breaking my superstitious silence and timidly mentioning it to friends.
I’m not taking this gracefully or patiently, and my irritation is infecting (haha!) my book choices. I chose Linda Rosenkrantz’s Talk for light reading that might not make my headache worse by requiring much thinking. All it’s doing, however, is confirming my aversion to anything at all resembling reality TV (except, of course, Jersey Shore Gone Wilde!).
The other book I began at the lowest point in my illness was Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Very much the opposite of Talk, this also was not a good sickbed reading choice, for it mostly just filled me with unwieldy and impotent rage towards all the terrible people who’ve been awful to her. (I think Hunger is an important, good, and very timely book; but it would have been better if I’d read it when I was running at full strength, as it’s also a very difficult book.)
Gay’s assumption, only fairly recently challenged with any success, that people are basically the goddamned worst (my words, not hers) seems accurate. But based on a recent offensive and maddening interaction of my own, in which someone who should have known better repeatedly suggested I get my cat Jones put down so I could spend more money on my own physio, I think there’s another possibility:
Alongside (not instead of, oh no!) being hopeless dinks, some people also harbour a strong but sublimated desire to have their heads punched. Were I still a hooligan with very tall and crunchy 80s hair, I might be inclined to ask who I am to deny anyone such a dearly held wish? But the 80s are long gone and so therefore are the days in which I wield my small fist in the service of administering big pain. (Note: In spite of all the analysis they undergo, all three characters in Talk obviously suffer from this sub-conscious desire to get knocked).
Since I’m clearly going down some kind of track in which modern psychiatry and evolutionary theory will eventually meet, it seems important to point out that I, although I’m sure I’m not the only one, lose patience for humanity much more easily when I’m being attacked, not by humanity, but by tiny bacteria that require me to ingest antibiotics in both pill and eye-drop form. (Oh yes, not only have I been a hoarse, coughing, exhausted, and sleepless mess, I’ve also been visited with an exciting infection in BOTH eyes which result in my crying, whether I feel moved to or not, tears resembling pus more than water. I’ve probably never looked, or sounded, lovelier than I do right now.)
Clearly, what I’m experiencing here is sublimated anxiety about how weak we are as a species, an concern amplified by my reading choices. I do seem to choose, most of the time, the very worst kind of books to read while ill; having finished Gay’s memoir of horrific abuse, I chose, not something by Douglas Adams or P.G. Wodehouse or Stella Gibbons (with large font), but rather a dystopia: Basma Asbdel Aziz’s The Queue.
Set in the Middle East, this novel nonetheless describes shiver-inducing similarities to some of what’s going down in the US; it’s a sort of nightmarish and hyper-amplified re-imagining of Dickens’s Circumlocution Office, but stripped of any of that venerable Victorian’s bombast or glee or irony. It’s very good, don’t mistake my crusty attitude or eyes. I just think it would have been better for all involved if I’d saved this for some time, in the very near future, when I will be back to my fun-loving, hyper-optimistic, bubbly (why not?) self.
What all this comes down to is this: illness-induced crankiness must go somewhere, and mine right now is simply too wordy to go into the void. Also, things end up in the void–or should, such as people emailing R. Gay just to abuse her–aren’t things everyone instinctively understands. Everyone’s been sick, so the above will be familiar in some way to everyone on this contagious little rock as it speeds through space.
Or not. I just remembered that I used to know someone who, last time we spoke, had never been sick. And not only had this person never been ill, but they also self-righteously and with angry disgust insisted that when anyone vomited, under any circumstances whatsoever, it was without exception that puker’s own fault entirely and they were therefore just a jerk. Five-year-olds who got the roto virus before there was a vaccine? A bunch of wee assholes! Excuse me while I go scream that person’s name into the void.