How did I catch it? Could be a lot of things. Could be the thirty-some hours spent on planes in the last two weeks. Could be jetlag, lack of sleep, changes in climate, cold to hot to cold to colder to Lima, where it’s summer, where I am now, staying in the Barranco district southeast of the city center along the coast of El Mar Pacifico. Could be I caught it from my dad, from my brother, both who showed similar symptoms when we were in Australia and Shanghai. Could be allergies, could be side effects of the typhoid vaccine, hep A and hep B boosters I got before left. The worst part of this cold is the coughing, the kind that keeps me from going to sleep and wakes me up when I do. In the past week and a half I’ve tried hot vegetable soup, ginger tea, garlic lemon tea, cough drops, neti pots, eucalpytus oil, steam therapy, anti-inflammatories, decongestants, suppressants, expectorants, hot showers, sleeping on my chest, sleeping on my side, sleeping on my back, taking a prescription gelcap that the sixty-year-old retired Peruvian man from Fort Lauderdale who was sitting next to me on the flight to Lima and who has four daughters all grown and living in New York or California and working as software engineers or web designers or doctors and who says of Brazil las mujeres son terribles slipped me to see if it would help. These attempts to remedy the cough have been met with limited success, hardly repeatable, and now I’m waiting it out for a couple more days to see if it improves on its own because la medicina para tos I bought from una farmacia using broken Spanish and hand gestures and was instructed to drink “ten milliliters, eight o’clock” in equally broken English isn’t working either. All this means that I’m taking it easy, getting some rest, which makes me both uneasy and restless. I’m eating food but not too much, walking around but not too much, postponing plans for sightseeing and going into the city, sitting on a couch in a bed and breakfast reading an ebook of Travels With Charley (my first Steinbeck) that I’ve borrowed online from the Brooklyn Public Library. I’m trying and failing to take naps or, like today, sitting and listening to the hoots and chirps and honks of the owls and other birds and street traffic from the grapevine-canopied garden patio of a friend’s landlord’s incredible colonial house where I’m spending the night in a guest room.
Not a bad way to be sick, you might say. But when I’m sick like this the last thing I want is novelty. What I want is the most un-novel, most familiar thing of all: eight hours of uninterrupted can’t-remember-my-dreams sleep in a bed I’ve had for more than a week. Estoy cansado.