“Please God. I’d like to get the chickenpox.” The most unlikely of wishes escaped from my mouth.
My little sister slept in the next room, covered in tiny rose colored bumps, three days into her quarantine.
I wanted to be next.
At age five my mother took me to a “Chickenpox” party at a neighbor’s. Unknown to me at the time, her goal was to infect me.
The party was a total bust, my immune system refusing to comply.
I never understood until this night why any parent would wish for a child to get sick; my parents regaling a story about a grown man hospitalized from what was a mild itchy irritation for my sister.
“I really really want chickenpox.” I said again, just in case.
* * *
The morning was dark, cold. I ate breakfast. I watched Jem. Alone.
My sister nowhere to be found; she survived two more days of sequestered itching. Two more to go.
My cartoon ended and I rushed upstairs to get dressed. I quickly pulled the nightshirt over my head.
Wait. Was that a spot on my arm?
I ran to the bathroom, the giant mirror covering most of the wall. I peered into it, trying to see my back.
More angry spots.
“Mommy! Mommy!” I raced down the hall to my parent’s bedroom.
“I have spots! I finally have chickenpox!”
My mother, confused over my joy, sighed. “I’ll call the school and tell them you’ll be staying home.”
“Whoopeee!” I did a happy dance down the hallway. “Hey Mom?”
“Can I take a bath in baking soda?”
The bumps didn’t itch. Not really. Not unless I imagined it. I simply wanted to see how a baking soda bath varied from a regular one – my sister had one daily.
It smelled funny.
* * *
Blackness in my bedroom.
The bed soaked. My arms and legs sticky. My long hair twisted and damp – as if I had fallen asleep immediately after showering.
My nightshirt clung to my torso as I crawled out of bed.
As first, I thought I’d wet the bed.
My teeth danced, chattering uncontrollably as the air hit my skin.
The clock yelled 4:45 AM.
Too early to bother Mom and Dad.
I went to the bathroom, stripping my soaked clothing. I turned on the hot spray, climbing in to warm myself.
* * *
The Price is Right.
The Young and the Restless.
Three days paraded by, the same old shows numbing my mind. No cable. Five stations. Nothing else to watch.
The couch my home.
Too lethargic to move.
Bouncing from fire to ice to fire to ice to fire.
My body flushed as my skin burned with the 103 degree fever again.
“I want Taco Casa for dinner.” I ordered my mother – my appetite devoured by the fever. It was the one food my stomach yearned for.
“I don’t think we’ll have it tonight.”
“I WANT TACO CASA! NOW!” I raged, the demonic heat unrelenting, pushing me past the brink of reason.
I ate Taco Casa.
It was delicious.
* * *
“But I feel fine! Why can’t I go to school today?”
“You might be contagious. It hasn’t been a full week yet.” Mom sympathized, but was firm.
“But it’s the Valentine’s Day party!”
I dreamed of frosted cupcakes, rainbow Sweethearts, and vivid cherry Valentine’s addressed to me.
My “homework delivery service” returned that afternoon. My mother staggered, laden with books, instructions, a plate of holiday goodies and an envelope of Valentine’s.
All other parties forgotten.
All but my unexpected 3rd grade chickenpox “valentine party”.
Goldberg offers this challenge:
“Give me a memory of the color red. Do not write the word ‘red’ but use words that engender the color red when you hear them. For example: a ruby, a tomato, fire, blood.” Word limit is 600.