The year was 1995, and my family had just returned from a two week vacation to New York, with stops in Philly, equipped with plenty of public transportation rides under our belt. Dad insisted that if we were going to head off to the Big Apple, we were going to do it like real city slickers. None of that Georgia hick stuff- No guided tours, no fear of navigating the big city. In New York, we would do as New Yorkers. And we did. Just a little shy of two years following the ’93 bombing of the World Trade Center, he insisted we go to the top. Mom argued in favor of the Empire State Building, but luckiliy she lost the battle, and so we cruised the express elevators to what seemed the top of the world. To my twelve year old mind, I had found my place of belonging. Immediately, I saw endless possibilities open before me- laid out in busy streets filled with colorful, vibrant people. Culture and learning was bustling, loud, and brilliant at every turn. I. was. in. love. I found inspiration in the movement of people, the speed of subway systems, and the calming, evening ferry ride back to Staten Island. On the last ride over, I tossed a quarter into the Hudson and promised myself I would one day return. For now, it was time to return to the crop dusters and abandoned strip malls of home.
Soon enough, Mom and Dad returned to work, and I spent a few days keeping Grandma company before school started. That’s when the red bumps started appearing. I noticed when I put on my bathing suit, I had five. Then, when it was time to dry off, I had twenty. Also, they itched like hell. Grandma told me not to scratch, so I tried not to. I don’t remember when exactly things took a turn for the worse, but turn they did. I woke up one morning to find that my former red bumps had turned into inch-plus sized blisters, filled with mystery fluid. Worse, they covered my entire body. I couldn’t open my mouth without a blister popping.
In keeping wth political tensions at the time, most of which I was completely unaware, my Mother began to get nervous. What kind of devious witch’s brew of a disease did I have? Some sort of mutated, genetically modified chicken pox? Was I patient zero in a biological attack? She even consulted with her nurse friends who said I looked like pictures they had seen in medical textbooks of Smallpox patients. My breathing had become affected by the pus pockets in my throat, and I couldn’t eat. So, off we rushed to the Medical College of Georgia, but not without first stopping at Checkers for something to eat, and in my case, to drink. We pulled up to the drive thru, and the window clerk was visibly horrified by what she saw in the backseat. She motioned for all of her friends to come over and take a look, and pretty soon there were five people, their mouth breathing faces pressed to the Checker’s window, jaws on the floor.
Eventually we made our way to the hospital, where we overheard the admissions clerk say I looked like “Someone beat the devil” out of me. At this point, I’m naturally feeling pretty bad about this whole chicken pox thing. We were told multiple times that I would be permanently disfigured from the blisters-that they were very similar to burn injuries. Turns out I had Chicken pox laced with Staph, not smallpox, much to my Mother’s relief. I was not a victim of biological warfare, just a victim of being born before the varicella vaccine. All in all, I spent over one week in the hospital and missed the first two weeks of fifth grade. This is all retrospectively funny only because I survived. Antivaxxers: You’ve been warned.
In response to The Daily Pose ft’s writing prompt: “Retrospectively Funny.”
Photo Credit: http://www.nonaiswa.org/wordpress/