Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
That’s all I had left of the school year. Thursday and Friday were off for Italy’s national republic day meaning just six more days and I was done. My kids were happy and agitated. I was happy and agitated and running lists in my mind to finish the school year out strong: The Second B’s recital was next Tuesday after school and the farewell with parents directly after; I have to switch my hours to make it to grade four’s recital and then there was the fifth grade’s big grand farewell! My first fifth grade class. These students have been with me since my start three years ago. They are loving, fun students filled with personality and I was emotional just thinking about it.
Tuesday I went out to lunch with colleagues. We gabbed, laughed, and found time to eat in between. I finished the day out strong and nearly skipped home in the sunshine. And yet as soon as I walked through the door I could feel my body collapsing. All of a sudden I had an overwhelming headache. I chocked my fatigue up to that. Though I diced and sliced, when Marco got home I left the actual cooking up to him – I had to lay down.
Wednesday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Just four more days of school. Wednesdays I work afternoons, offering me a respite in my feverish state. I sat melting into the couch, trying to understand a strange Spanish sitcom and not worry that I could barely lift my head. Just a few hours of lessons and I was done for the long weekend. I could recuperate then.
I rolled up my sleeves on the drive to school to ease the sweating. I felt weak and feverish, and a pimple I had brusquely ripped off my neck without thinking was stinging. I must have been too harsh. Luckily the teachers I worked with on Wednesday were more than understanding. After all, there were only four more days of school left. I parked myself in a chair and helped at intervals. I mostly concentrated on breathing.
“You’ve had chicken pox before, right?” asked Eliana, the teacher I was working with at the time.
“What? Yeah when I was little – why?”
Because it turned out Rossella was home with chicken pox. We have a case at school, she told me, eyes widening.
“No”, I laughed, “Alessandra in Second A told me that she was down all last weekend with a fever, she probably attacked me.”
Only in retrospect are these conversations worth recording. Only in hindsight do you notice the details. Now, covered head to toe in pox I can see myself walking into the fourth grade classroom and my hand shooting up to my crest, itching paranoiacally before I sat to discuss the recital. Now I understand that that pimple wasn’t, in fact, a pimple and that fantom hair I felt along my lip line was actually the beginning of a pus-filled pox rising to the surface.
At the time, all that was useless. I went to bed exhausted and happy for the long weekend. Thursday morning a constellation of pox covered my stomach. After waiting approximately ten minutes for Marco to wake up, I raised my shirt before his eyes were even fully open to show him the damage, then burst into tears. I had chicken pox.
The diagnosis proved itself to be worse and worse as the day went on and I read up on the disease online:
“Chickenpox causes spots (a rash) and can make you feel unwell.” Got it. “Treatments can ease the symptoms until the illness goes. An antiviral drug may limit the severity of the illness if the drug is started within 24 hours of the rash first starting. Full recovery is usual.” Okie dokie. “Symptoms tend to be worse in adults than in children.” Great. “Serious complications are rare, but are more common in adults than in children.” a.k.a. YOU’RE GOING TO BE IN AGONY AND MIGHT LOSE AN EYE!
Chickenpox is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Actually, in Italian chicken pox is called varicella, just like the virus itself. It’s extremely rare to get the virus twice, but it can happen. So in summary: I’m an adult getting chicken pox for the second time and I risk basically dying. Thanks Google.
Actually, it’s not so far off. The pox kept appearing as the day went on. By nightfall I was covered, scared and super-sick. It was a national holiday on Thursday – Italy’s Independence Day – so no hope of antiviral pills. I set up a nest on the couch and whimpered myself to sleep.
Nothing turns you back into a child like an illness. Your basic adult defenses are gone, replaced only by an overwhelming urge for your mamma and unreasonable mental requests. “I don’t wanna I don’t wanna I don’t wannaaaaaa be siiiick!” If that’s true, then the chicken pox takes you back to infancy. For the following three days I lay prone, getting up only to use the restroom every hour or so. Though it was nearly impossible to eat (the virus zaps your appetite) I was drinking quite a bit of water and eventually got antiviral pills as well. Though they couldn’t lessen my symptoms at that point, they could help to avoid all those complications Google was telling me about, like not losing an eye.
On Saturday the itching started. I took it like a champ for approximately 30 minutes. Then all I could do was lift my head from the couch and sob. Marco came running downstairs completely alarmed to see the state his once charming wife was in: prone, unbathed, covered in pus-filled pox and writhing on the couch in tears. Cold cloths on my back calmed me down like a mother holding her baby.
Obviously, chicken pox is a terrible disease. Now eight days in at the time of writing and my appetite is back, my fever is down and my energy levels are improving. Many of my pox have crusted and fallen (yes I know, and it’s disgusting in real life too) though there are many more to go. They’ve left behind a harsh red mark, but I’m more positive than I ever could have imagined during that Saturday breakdown.
This bout of adult chicken pox didn’t just turn me into a miserable mess, because of it I also missed the end of the school year. I missed the second grade puppet show we worked so hard for and the fourth grade recital. I missed the last three days of gelato and garden time and relaxed English games with my kids. I know you’re thinking that I’m lucky, but the real tragedy is that I missed my chance for a final goodbye with my first ever fifth grade class. Videos were sent to me of the class singing their final song on the last day. The children and teachers were crying and hugging, they were waving to me and saying goodbye in a mix of Italian and English. Still. Covered in pox like this I wasn’t able to hug them all goodbye, to wish them the best in middle school. I’m not able to go to the final aperitivo to send us all off for the summer.
I completed the first round of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but the next three I was too sick, too contagious for school. Now summer has started and I can only hope that I’ll see the kids around town, that they’ll stop back at the school next year so I can say goodbye. My pox will clear up soon and I can go about fully enjoying my summer off and trying to forget about this quite – ahem – bumpy ending!