A Guidebook for the Ill

“Brace yourself, pal, here comes the stewardess spiel.” Fat tilts her head in Boyfriend’s direction. She’s sitting in the office chair; it’s the perfect place for her to see me, hunched in the light of the refrigerator, in the kitchen and Boyfriend, in the fetal position, on the couch in the living room.

“There is orange juice here and another bottle on the bottom shelf if you need it.” I point at the items as I mention them, then kick the fridge door shut as I move down my list. I open the cupboard above the kettle, “Should you require tea it’s in the cupboard along with plenty of honey if you’re in a hot water with lemon kind of mood.” The cupboard slams shut with force after I ensure there is enough of both to withstand the next few days.

Fat watches as I enter the living room with purpose.

“If you’re going to throw up,” both hands point to the bathroom like it’s an emergency exit, “you know where the bathroom is located. If it’s a dire situation,” my index fingers extend to their full length as I indicate the glass door opposite, “please avoid ruining the furniture, carpet or my appetite and eliminate your stomach contents over the banister.” Seems disgusting, but it’ll give Creepo downstairs something to observe that won’t require him to employ his binoculars.

Boyfriend sniffles and nods. Fat buries her face under her paws to silence the laughter trying to escape.

I pick up the can of disinfectant and spray enough of it to sting my eyes and harm my lungs; it tickles my esophagus enough to solicit an irritated cough.

“While you’re in this state, please remember the following: don’t sneeze on me, don’t kiss me, don’t touch me, avoid breathing my air, don’t talk to me – text me if you need more orange juice, don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t exaggerate your condition. When you change your pyjamas, burn the infected ones. Don’t expect any sort of sexy nurse role playing. I don’t give sponge baths, I don’t administer cough syrup, I don’t take temperatures. I won’t call your mother. I won’t baby you and I’ll be out the door before I put up with any infantile behaviour.” I see Boyfriend’s eyes glaze over as he tries his damnedest to listen. “Chin up, I’m almost finished.” I scratch my head, trying to remember where I left off. “Right. The best meal you can expect is a can of soup and/or toast. I will not pity for you or lavish you with affection because neither will generate a result that will improve your condition; it just puts me closer to sharing your plague and I absolutely refuse.” My eyes look up to search the archives of my brain – everything that was there has moved out. “That about does it then. Stay hydrated and best of luck to you.”

I spin on my heel and head into the bedroom. I hear the gentle sound of scurrying footsteps behind me. Fat jumps up onto the bed as I grab the iPad off the night stand.

“Your bedside manner is really quite cold, isn’t it?”

I tap my finger on the icon to check my email. “Fat,” I look at her for a fraction of a second, “If I wanted to nurse people back to health, I’d have gone into a healthcare field.”

Fat cozies up to my pillow and curls herself into a grey ball of flabby fur with a cat face. “No empathy in you at all, is there?”

“This is the first time Boyfriend has been sick since we’ve been dating. I have to set a precedent for future illness. You’ve heard of how men become babies when they’re sick; if I’m all nice and Stepford to him, he’ll always expect it.” I shake my head emphatically, “No, no, Fat. If I wanted an infant right now I’d be somebody’s baby mama.”

The feline stares up at me, appalled.

“What, doc? Clearly you have an opinion. I’m not going to apologize for what just happened in there. He’s not dying, to my knowledge he hasn’t become a recent amputee.” I delete a bunch of junk mail.

“Your lack of compassion is astounding, boss. Makes me wonder why I didn’t consider you a sociopath sooner.”

“We’re not doing this right now, Fat.” I drop the iPad on the bed and grab Fat under her armpits and carry her into the living room.

Boyfriend stares at me, not risking a syllable to ask what I’m doing – he knows not to verbally prod the unbalanced. With a gentle lob, Fat sails over the coffee table and lands beside Boyfriend’s hip. “Here’s the cat for company. Use her as you would a hot water bottle or punching bag. Cough on her, vomit on her, she’ll just purr and be a sweetheart the whole while you’re infected. She’s compassionate like that.”

All Kinds of Fancy and Two Kinds of Assholes

“No. No-no-no-no. Nuh uh. This isn’t happening.” Fat’s eyes grow huge staring at the bejewelled collar in my hands. “Just because you’re decked out like Liberace doesn’t mean I have to be.”

My advance slows. “Decked out like… what do you mean?” I’m not wearing any more jewellery than usual: necklace, a few rings, earrings. Nothing ostentatious. Not like I’ve all of a sudden decided I adore sequined rose-coloured glasses or a tiara made of the feathers from hundred-year-old Great Horned Owls.

“You’re not fancy enough for diamonds.” Fat’s eyes stare from the purple feline jewels I hold to my second set of earrings. She dons a fake English accent, “Off for high tea at the Denny’s? Just remember: cross your legs at the ankles – you’re not a common whore, and bring me home what’s left of your Grand Slam. Pinkies up, dear.”

Defensively, my right hand reaches up to touch the diamond studs. “The mocking is a bit much.”

Fat’s shoulders hunch when I take another step closer to where she sits on the desk. Her eyes dart from the collar in my hand to my face, and back to the collar. She fishes quickly for something to say to prevent my drawing any nearer. “So you decided you like the earrings he gave you after all. What changed your mind?” The mocking in her tone evaporates as she fishes for what sounds like sincerity.

I remember opening the gift from Boyfriend and how feelings of adoration and overwhelm formed the strangest hybrid of internal conflict. Fat’s right. I’m not fancy enough for diamonds. That was my worry when I let my mouth control the situation instead of my logic asking, “Would you be offended if I returned these?” The answer is yes. Yes he would. Boyfriend didn’t have to say it, the look of disappointed shock talked as much as a drunk bitch at a house party.

Rather than verbally call myself an idiot, my hand slaps my forehead when I remember deflating his excitement with my lack of tact. This seems to please Fat, as she smiles when my self-slap leaves behind tingling pink skin. It’s not enough that I hate myself, but my fingers hate me too. Not cool, digits.

I perch on the edge of the desk beside Fat. She sits rigidly, though the reason for her hyper-awareness to my proximity is lost on me. “It wasn’t my best moment, was it?” My face scrunches as I brace myself for confirmation.

“Doesn’t even make the top thousand, boss. You are your own special kind of disillusioned idiot.” Fat chuckles, “I know you’re not good at relationships, but rule number one if you’re ever given anything made out of diamonds: be gracious. Not like he bought you a diamond chuck wagon.”

“A diamond chuck wagon is at least six different kinds of awesome. No word of a lie, I would use that every single day.”

Fat says nothing, just shoots me a your-mother-clearly-threw-you-out-of-a-second-floor-window-as-an-infant look.

I take my phone out of my pocket and take a quick selfie. Fat peers over my shoulder as if she expects the photo to be of somebody else. I zoom in and see how I look with diamonds in my ears. “I look…” I know exactly what would make me enjoy this picture more, “like I need bigger diamonds. At least a few carats. Maybe a necklace and some glittery goodness for my fingers.” I feel my eyes grow wide with greed and notice at the same time that there’s still a bejewelled collar still tucked in the palm of my hand.

With as much speed as I can muster, I grab Fat and belt the collar around her neck. Her ears point backward and she glares at me with the look of a serial killer.

“Fat, you look so pretty!”

“Get this shit off of me. Get this shit off of me right now.”

I open the camera app on my phone again and start taking some pictures. “Hey, what happened to rule number one? Be gracious, Fat.”

Her green eyes glare directly at the camera. “That rule only applies to real diamonds, you disgusting wench.”