COUGH
by Bob Flanagan
© 1994
 
 

Called my doctor, trying to find out why I'm up coughing all night. Coughing a lot. Very congested. Still coughing. Going to bed. A little short of breath but no coughing, not tonight. Woke up with that tickle again and sweaty legs. Cough and runny nose which I hope won't last all night. I want to go back to sleep. Great fuck last night after a good dinner, no coughing - well, a little - but I slept well. The doctor said I'm "doing too damn much" and gave me some antibiotics. Tickle in my chest. Lungs feel itchy. Quiet night without much coughing. Had a dream about the Manson Family. Feel almost human. Horrible time breathing today. Christ! Still up, rolling around in this damn bed. Leg cramps. Coughing. Stuffy nose. The sweats. Too tired to read and too awake and uncomfortable to sleep. Woke up coughing and I haven't stopped yet. Hope I can stop long enough to get back to sleep. Sitting around, sweating, trying to breathe, pulling my pants down to play with myself. Wheezing won't let me sleep. Creaking in my lungs. Congested and tight chested. Slight sore throat. Chest still hurts. Hope I'm not coming down with something - at least I think I hope I'm not. Can hardly breathe. Riding in the back of Uncle Dick's pick-up truck, on the way to summer camp. Tish is riding up front and I'm glad because she's not breathing too well, coughing a lot. Sometimes I can't stand to be around her like that. But who am I to talk. Dr. Rucker gives the camp staff his usual DOCTOR (slash) GOD speech. He reminds us that we're not just dealing with a bunch of kids who cough, but with kids who have the number one killer disease of children. I'm still coughing but it's under control. The cold is getting better but I still have this cough. I can't breathe. Who's going to take care of me when I'm sick? Another rough night sweating and coughing so I slept in this morning. Breathing heavy. Woke up in the middle of the night feeling shitty. Not sick not sick not sick sick? Coughing coughing. Something different: I feel good. Not wheezing. I'm taking new medication and I think it's working. Another sick day. Up since 8:30 coughing badly and wheezing. Chills. Want to hide under the blankets and jack-off. Don't remember if I mentioned the sore throat yesterday, but it has turned into a full-blown fucking cold with runny nose, chills and fever. Sick now and I miss Beverly. I want her to know I'm sick. I want her to worry about me. Feeling better physically, but still feel like shit. I think I'm getting better. It's raining and it's cold outside, and I still don't don't feel very well. Nose nose nose. Trash bag at the side of the bed full of tissues, orange peels, and phlegm. Breathing hard. Coughing in the library, under the sign that says "QUIET: STUDY AREA." Stuffy head. Chills. How sick could I get? Sick enough to go into the hospital and have her call me? Anyway, I'm breathing better and the hospital seems very far away - where I want it to be, I guess. Oh, oh . . . I'm starting to cough again. Hospital time? No, but I'm feeling really bad in the chest and nose. Should go to the doctor maybe. Did absolutely nothing today except feel sick and try to feel sicker. I don't want to do or think anything about anything - I just want to be sick and let it go at that. I want to go into the hospital and tell them all to fuck off. I'd like to be sick, really sick, sick enough to worry the shit out of her and let her know she did it. It's all her fault. Why do I have this sore throat? A little bit of a cough. It's hard to go back to sleep with all this coughing, but I'd love to. I love sleeping. I love breathing too. What is this shit all the time? Had to leave in the middle of my history class because of a coughing jag. Couldn't breathe. Causing a disturbance. Heads turning. Bodies shifting. Coughing sweats. Fuck. Tickle in my chest. Why? Coughing fit. I threw up all the phlegm I swallowed during the day. Deep breaths, watery eyes, post-nasal in Julie's bed, where I coughed all night long and now it's really bad. The doctor says there's nothing he can do about it, it's just my disease. Now I have a cold. Now I'm in bed. Now I'm in the hospital - and for once I'm glad to be here. I feel like shit and I want to be taken care of. Bobbie told Beverly I was in the hospital and she gasped, "He was never in the hospital the whole time I knew him." Home from the hospital, feeling strange and depressed. I miss my ID band. I miss my pills. I miss having my urine checked. The attention. The visitors. The phone calls. I have a scratchy throat and I'm afraid of it. I can't be sick again. Too much to do. I coughed all through the movie tonight (Pretty Baby) wondering what Sandy thought, sitting next to me the whole time having to listen to it. Today I spend doing not much of anything but being sick. My plastic yellow trash pail and my cowboy boots overflowing with tissues. Why am I downstairs reading the paper while Lisa is upstairs asleep in my bed? Coughing fit. Drinking hot tea so maybe I can go back there and sleep quietly. How do I explain that this coughing is a normal and semi-regular thing with me? I'm wheezy. Third, fourth, fifth night in a row. Couldn't breathe all day, all night, last night, night before. Here I am: a l'opital (that's French), in my private room with tubes in my arms, needle marks and all the rest. Sore throat. Dripping sinuses. Pissed pissed pissed. Still here and I want everyone to know it. I'm spitting up green shit. I'm breathing this clean artificial hospital air and I'm spitting up green shit into my yellow plastic kidney-shaped container. It's overcast outside. I seem to cough more when it's overcast. Vale won't believe me when I tell her that this is normal. She's never seen me cough this much. "That's it - no more coughing," I tell myself. Ha! If Vale keeps acting so worried and distant and making me feel worse and self-conscious I'll have to leave. The breathing is none too good right now. This guy wants me to get out of here - the library - because I'm coughing so much. "Excuse me," he says. "Could you go study some place else? You're making too much noise." But I'm not moving on his account, that stick in the ass. I stay right where I am, reading Walden, but not seeing any of the words, holding my coughs, until, finally, when it looks like I'm ready to leave, I get up and head for the elevator, where I explode in a spasm of phlegmy coughs and the beginnings of a cold. Sneeze, sneeze, sneeze, sneeze - four in a row and - SNEEZE SNEEZE - two more. Alone and crazy and the cold is worse. The wind is blowing. My chest hurts. Boo! I'm better, but not best. Still with a slight fever and difficult breathing. Still in bed. Another day of feeling sick and sad and dumb. Cough cough cough. Lemon grass tea to try and stop it. Up all night hacking away. Bad, uncomfortable cough. Spit mucus all over myself and my carpet. Sneezing. Red eyes in the mirror. Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to be like Tish and the rest and grow steadily worse. I'm ok now, but most of the day was miserable. Heaving like I have to vomit, but there's nothing there. Headaches. Chills. In the back of my head I'm scared, not of dying - that doesn't scare me, but being sick, getting steadily worse, my whole lifestyle changing because of the illness, my whole life revolving around the illness - that scares me. Gotta slow down. Feel that scratchy feeling in my throat. Don't want to be sick. I'm afraid of it more now than I was before Tish died. There's that inevitability looming in front of me. Cold and feverish. Bad cough this morning. I'm feeling better now. Sheree was disappointed that we couldn't go out last night. What kind of a good time can you have with a guy who's coughing his brains out and burning up with fever? The bottom line is I'm afraid of losing her. The disease strikes again. I'm depressed. I'm sick. I can't breathe. I've got a hard-on and Sheree looks real sexy in her white skirt and tank top, so we fuck, even though I'm sick and not breathing well. She climbs on top and slides up and down until we both come. Tired and sick. Spent the past week in the hospital, and the week before that sick as a dog in bed with fevers as high as 104. Lungs full of crap. Am I awake, or am I in hell? Out of breath from walking up the stairs. Hard time moving and a hard time breathing. First time in a long time I've felt this bad. Getting a cold. Sneezing in the nude. Congested morning. If I try to explain to Sheree that I don't feel well and need to rest, she'll get upset and say that because of my health she can't depend on me. I feel awful. Trying to get back to sleep, but most likely I'll be coughing some more. Hard to explain, without her getting scared, that sometimes I just don't feel well. Ok, let's drive these little snots (Sheree's kids) to school, me with my sore throat and all. I'm wheezing. I'm dying. (Not really, but it sounds as heavy handed as I feel). Cold cloudy morning. All of a sudden I wake up coughing. No sickness, please. Breathing badly, coughing and choking, runny nose, aching chest, tears streaming down my face which is a bright red. Feels like I've got a hang-over and I haven't had anything to drink. Everybody's out having fun and I can't get myself together. Fighting off a cold and losing. Sheree tries tying me up in bed because it's our anniversary. But nothing happens. Not into it. Too sick. Too tired. No hard-on. No fucking. Could go into the hospital. But now I'm going to get up and clean Sheree's kitchen, just to show that my heart is in the right place, even if my lungs aren't. Not much else inside me tonight but these crummy feelings and a shit load of phlegm. Getting my tattoo gave me a surge of adrenalin which felt like pure oxygen and all of a sudden I was breathing perfectly well for a while. It's hard work being sick. I've got the IV running and my wrist band on. What right does she have to come into my hospital room and spread her fucking gloom? Who's the sick one around here anyway? Still not breathing or feeling well. Fever gone and now I'm drenched in sweat. Mucus worse than ever in my right lung. Last night I started spitting up blood, a little at first, pink mucus, but this morning - gobs of red phlegm. Coughing and complaining to no avail. The hospital looks good to me, like home. Coughing my head off. My internal organs are saying "What the fuck?" It's damp outside (and inside, where my lungs are). I can hardly move but I have to lift my arms and pound my chest, force the phlegm out of its cage, and then breathe. Broncho Bill is riding a wild phlegm-ball named "Mucus Plug." And why the hell don't the birds sing anymore? My wheezing has scared them away. I'd like to go back to sleep, but I don't think I will with these watery eyes and this runny nose. The sun's already coming up, and so am I, coughing and sniffling, but it's not too bad.