Source: Flickr CC
Source: Flickr CC

You instantly know something is wrong today because your face feels heavier. The pressure extends from your temples to the bridge of your nose, and it is unrelenting. Your lips separate, cracked and chapped, to allow for optimal airflow. You are a mouth breather for the indeterminate future.


You wait on the platform. Floating from your meds but also heavy, so heavy. Each foot a thousand pounds. After the sixteen-minute delay, you trudge onto a red line train.

A snuffly inhale causes the phlegm in the back of your throat to catch and leads to a coughing fit that can’t be contained.

Droplets of spittle spew into the stale air. Strangers on the Metro leap back as far as the confined space allows. The germs exit your body, cartwheeling happily, until you frantically grab ahold of the crumpled tissue in your pocket and press it to your mouth.

Being sick on the subway is like being fat on a plane.

No one wants to sit next to you, but you’re far more miserable than anyone around you could possibly be.

The six stops from home to work never feel as endless as those days when you’re not well.


Your usual morning coffee run becomes unappealing. Hot tea seems like a weak substitute for the triple shot latte you enjoy most days, but the thought of thick, frothy milk makes your sinuses shudder.

You burn your tongue on the tea.

As angry, textured welts emerge on the tip of your tongue, you pull your coat closer against the January wind. Gusts whip through the streets and race around corners. The stoplights along K Street sway and groan. You softly let out a tortured sigh of your own.


A broken elevator in your building means the working one is packed with people. You debate whether seven flights of stairs will kill you this morning. Yes. You conclude that it just might. You reluctantly wedge yourself in with the crowd and pray it moves quickly.

The tickle starts in the back of your throat as the elevator lurches to its first stop. One person disembarks for their day. The remaining ten shuffle around uncomfortably, redistributing to fill up the pocket of empty space.

You start to feel a familiar build-up of pressure behind your eyes. Maybe it’s the wool particulates flying off the damp coats, or the dust that has accumulated deep within the mauve elevator carpet after years of use, but you know exactly what the feeling means. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

The group travels upward another floor. Your eyes water. You clench them shut. The doors open. And then there were eight.

It becomes an unstoppable force. You pinch your nostrils angrily, frantically fighting back the urge. Your cheeks tingle. Preventing this is a lost cause. You haphazardly shove your face into the elbow of your coat and expel a rocket of slime with such intensity, you didn’t realize your body was capable of that level of phlegmatic propulsion.

You silently curse patient zero, exit the elevator, and walk to your desk. Today will be a long day.

Leave a Reply