Have you ever had a ‘flu you just can’t shake? I’ve been stuck with one since Christmas Eve. It waxes and wanes in strength – some days I feel relatively normal but on other days I can barely drag myself to the kitchen to get some juice.
The doctor has said I have ‘a non-specific virus’ which I think means she can’t specifically tell me what to do to cure it, so I’ve been trying bed rest and plenty of fluids. I am loose-limbed from spending so much time lying down but when I get up I feel nauseous and light-headed.
I cannot lie on my back for fear of coughing so I lie on my side as if toppled from a basket. I feel like unfolded laundry piled on a bed. Yet I manage to glide in and out of dreams with the fluency of someone sleeping with a clear head.
When I wakened in the afternoon I heard rain falling on the rose bushes outside, so soft, so elegant, it was almost inaudible as the rainfall I sometimes hear in memory. The petals were the colour of the claret my grandfather used to drink in flagons from crystal glasses so huge I thought he must have been a King. Gusts of wind hurled themselves at the roses and the raindrops that had taken shelter on their leaves were sprayed all over, tiny as baby tears.
My son found a little shell in his box of treasures and gave it to me to ‘cheer me up.’ It was entirely white, flawless, smooth as water in glass. ‘It’s a mermaid’s tooth,’ Jake said. ‘It’s magic. It will make you feel better.’
I went back to sleep with the shell under my pillow, remembering the tale my mother used to tell us as children when we lost our baby teeth – that if we slept with a tooth under our pillow we would dream of the man we were going to marry. I still wonder if the tale is true because I never had the courage to try it. I was frightened I would dream of Frankenstein or the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I wakened for the second time in one day after dreaming of mermaids tempting sailors with their smiles and the treasures of the deep. The windows were blurred like a camera lens spattered with water; the rain had filled the room with an earthy freshness. My throat was still sore but I felt better. I felt as if the rope binding me to the bed was fraying. And I wondered if a shell shaped like a mermaid’s tooth had some kind of power of its own.