As much as I try to differentiate them, my New York summers always turn out the same: they open with a Williamsburg barbecue on a roof or terrace, by some magic, an invitation always materializes. Mid-summer I end up on a Rockaway Beach and Montauk with a few last-minute trips to Boston.
I laughed about this when I landed in Boston on Friday. Alistair met me at the gate in our rental car, and we had a beautiful, busy weekend. He took me to Harvard, where we walked hand in hand through the yard to make stops at all his old dorm rooms. After dinner we went to Hamilton to stay the night with his relatives. In the morning Alistairs little throat irritation on Thursday and Friday turned into a full blown cold. I didn't see it coming, but by the middle of the week, I would also become ill.
We drove down to Boston to meet with Natalie and her friends at a brewery. At a big table we knocked back beers and played Jenga before departing for Lexington. We hopped back in the car, checked in at our hotel in Lexington and dressed for Alistair's work event. I had a fun time there, his coworkers were so nice and the food was delicious. The hostess even made creme brûlée for desert.
By Sunday, as we boarded an Amtrak train back to New York, Alistair was at the peak of his illness. He busied himself with work and I stayed glued to the window. My ride home was sadder than my bus ride to LaGuardia. Homes with backyards and pools and toys went by. I thought about everyone I know without those things, my handful of extended family who lived in trailers and HUD homes. Something in the economic disparity of the world depresses me. Enough sometimes, to make me feel suicidal. What is the point of hanging around, I asked myself. Life feels like a bunch of unsolved problems that will become other unsolved problems, and a lot of the times I just don't feel like being here. I would say, half of the year, I don't feel like being here.
We trudged out of Penn Station and took the subway to Alistairs apartment. I ran out to buy him bone broth and made him chug it to get well. By Tuesday, I was feeling sick myself. I couldn't make it to work Wednesday and left early on Thursday. I fought a fever and felt so miserable I called a tele-doctor on the phone (it's the new in thing).
"You should get a flu test," he urged. It was 10:55 pm. looked up the nearest Urgent Care center and called a Lyft. Street closures forced my driver to take the long way. Waze kept giving him dead ends. He put the car in reverse once, for a three point turn, and sighed.
"Just take Broadway," I said, looking at my watch. The Urgent Care facility closed at midnight. It was already 11:15.
"Are you going to work?" he asked.
"No, the doctor. I'm feeling unwell."
The three front desk attendants looked ashen when I walked in at 11:45, putting a dent in their plan to leave on time. There was a man in his 60s in the waiting room, a couple with a snoring kid, and another man on the phone. I sunk into my red pleather chair and covered my eyes with my hands. My cough was enough to make me gag (in public this made me look like I was choking on something, my shoulders up leaning forward, closing my eyes). My head was pounding, my eyes watery and red from the fever.
My flu test was negative, but the doctor directed me to take a three over the counter medications before wishing me good luck. I took another Lyft home and slid into bed at 1 am, feeling like I'd accomplished nothing except spending $100 bucks on medical care in two hours.
I went to work on Friday but was in bed by 9 pm. The cough woke me up, and perhaps the neighbors, too. On Saturday I crossed through the apartment in my pajamas. Nothing to do but eat, sleep and watch TV. A prison of my coughs and groans.