Monday, November 21, 2016

Bad Patient

To this day I have an odd relationship with sick days. 

When I was a child, it would happen from time to time that I would awake feeling crummy. I would crawl into the kitchen, croaking, "Ma, I think I'm sick." Ma would take one look at my woebegone form and say, "Nah, you're fine. Go get dressed." 

Not the ending you were expecting, I'm sure. 

To this day, I never know if I am sick or if I am imagining it. I take polls if my forehead is hot. I experiment if my legs can support me. I peer into the mirror to analyze my skin hue—pale green, perhaps?

Luke had it differently. There were mornings he would cheerfully boom, "Ma, I think I'm sick." 

He would be bundled back into bed with a cup of hot cocoa. 

Ergo, my firm belief that I was adopted. 

I remember once leaving my bedroom, attired in the atrocious polyester uniform skirt, walking past Luke's room. He was merrily burrowing under the covers, thermometer leisurely swirled in his hot cocoa, sending me off with a smirk and a jaunty wave. 

Now, what was Ma's thought process? 

She knew that missing a day of school is no simple matter. The concepts taught in those few hours never take root the way it does if one is there to learn it firsthand. On some level, one just cannot catch up, especially when the whole class has had a shared joke about something that happened in one's absence and, well, "You had to be there."
Since I was a good enough student, Ma thought it was worth it for me to be nudged. Whereas Luke . . . she had already kinda given up on him. He spent his class time spacing out, bringing home meh grades, so if he isn't paying attention anyway, what the heck, let the kid have a sick day. (He surprised everyone later on when he shot to the head of high school classes and became a pretty smart cookie.)

It was only in college when I comprehended Ma's logic. In those years, if ill, I made the choice to heave my diseased self on the subway, clinging to the pole for dear life as fellow commuters nervously edged away. I could never find a classmate whose notes were more than four words and doodles; mine, by comparison, were four pages of closely written script. I knew then what a difference a missed day makes, and I was adamant, even if I collapsed trying, to get there.

Now, I have a job when I can take a sick day. But I still hesitate to do so, associating it still with opportunities missed.        

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