You think you know your friends fairly well. You’ve talked through long car drives; you brought them Alpine that one time they were crying (just a little, but still); you’ve slowly adopted their mannerisms, morphing into one indistinguishable presence. Ask yourself, though: do you really — like, really, truly — know your friends until you’ve seen them struck down by a vicious 24-hour stomach bug?
For context: yes, it was entirely my fault — I was patient zero, and I infected, over several days, eight of my friends while on a trip to Montreal. It’s not something I’m proud of. They all succumbed in their own unique ways, but, ultimately, inevitably, they all did succumb to the horror that is gastroenteritis.
Watching my friends projectile vomit, I realized: It’s hard to pretend to be someone else when you’re vigorously emptying your stomach of its contents. All pretenses are dropped pretty quickly. Some people, I found, insist on sleeping on the floor when they’re feeling truly awful, out of a masochistic insistence on containing the illness; some people ask for Gatorade, even though there’s Powerade readily available. To each their own.
What became most apparent throughout this prolonged period of infection, though, was the myriad ways that the people around you can show you they care. Small gestures take on immense meaning when you’re immobilized by nausea. I truly believe that you have not known real gratitude until you’ve woken up to find your best friend handing you two Powerades — not the stupid small ones, either, the good kind with the twisty top — and a cup of ginger tea.
Who takes care of you, and how they do so — things that matter, unceremoniously uncovered by a common stomach bug. Of course, in my last week of break, I got the flu, probably as payback for the scarily aggressive stomach bug I unleashed. The flu is as lazy and meandering as the stomach bug is rapid — I was sick for days. I truly couldn’t leave my bed. I had weird, feverish dreams that involved rotting teeth and deep-sea hunting for fish. I went to urgent care and discovered that they have Bibles in their waiting rooms, which struck me as uncomfortably morbid.