samedi 22 janvier 2011

Winter bugs and other malaises


The Seine from the living room window


Whenever people come to the house, they want to see two things and know one: the renovation and the fabled garden and where is the Seine?

It is on winter days when the sun is bright in the afternoon that one can see that we are very nearly on the Seine. It is on these days that the Seine actually catches my attention and my eye when I look up to one of the south-facing windows on the ground floor. Every other day and moment of the year, I can at best point to an object that can be distinguished moving along beyond the line of trees after the field in the foreground and at worst to the line of trees itself, in the summer when they are in full leaf, and say, "You see the line of trees past the field? Just beyond, there is a bras mort of the Seine, then a narrower band of field, and the Seine is just there."

They must take it on faith. If they arrived by car from Méricourt, they are more likely to believe me, having followed the Seine on their right up to the S-curve at the recycling bins, where the road turns away from the river -- which cannot simply disappear --, although most people who come here are inclined to, anyway. No one shows up by accident in Moosesucks.

I didn't.

But, on days when the winter sun shows through the clouds, the Seine shines silver or gold (silver on this day, as you can see beyond the lime tree and border) and I can more comfortably boast, "Yes, we live on the Seine." This afternoon, a péniche rumbled past, its huge engines turning, and I hallucinated that it was in the bottom garden. I could hand the captain a cup of coffee and the sugar bowl.

This is about as exciting as the last week as gotten. Hallucinations of coffee with river boat skippers. Every day I think, "Today, you must make something happen, at least so you have something about which to write in your journal. Come on."

Can't it wait until tomorrow, or next week? said myself.

For those who are familiar with my prodding or worrywart self, this is another self, the most present one, the companion of my days and evenings, until everyone starts to arrive home and expect a meal, my foot-dragging, deflated self. But, perhaps it is seasonal (see again the first link above). It is neither winter, the holidays, nor gardening season, and until fortune smiles, renovation feels like the stone that did Sysiphe in.

"There might not be anyone waiting around to read about it by then."

I know. How about the plumbing failure last night? You could write about that.

"If husband's sue, I'd probably get sued for defamation for that." It's true, though. It was the latest failure in a string of failures contributing to my ultimate failure to motivate.

Did you know that bathroom sink plumbing is not generally sized to cope with violent 24-hour flu? I didn't, and my husband certainly didn't, but even if he had known, I don't think it could have made a difference last night, an hour and a half after I came to bed and he grabbed his stomach, let a breathe out and grimaced.

"J'ai mal au bide." I continued reading. He lay there.

"Ah. J'ai vraiment mal au bide." I glanced over, nervous, and we turned out the light and drifted off to sleep, until he rose quickly from beside me, negotiated the unpacked bag from my ski trip, the dog bed pressed against my side of the bed since we returned with Fia accustomed to her new access to me to sleep at night and headed out the door. A moment later, I heard him retching violently into the bathroom sink.

His? my worrywart self hoped aloud.

I looked at her with disgust, "Of course," and pushed up on my elbow to look at the time on the alarm clock. 1:55 am. The retching continued, and then I heard him go downstairs shod, unbelievably, in shoes. Not recalling him go to bed that way, I wondered what on earth he was doing, getting dressed when he was obviously in the throes of a virulent stomach bug. "Qu'est-ce que tu fais?"

"Je vais chercher quelque chose au garage. Le lavabo est bouché."

"Comment?" He was going to the garage, in the middle of the night, to unstop the bathroom sink?

"Le lavabo. Il est bouché," he said, reaching the bottom of the steps. I heard the French door grind open on the terracotta tile, and a moment later his shod steps returning up the stairs. And then the swearing began, along with the sound of the snake being forced down the pipes. The swearing gathered force, and then he headed back downstairs.

"Tu ne peux pas juste mettre un peu de produit, du Destop?"

"Non. Tu devrais le voir," and he went on to tell me how the sink had been half full and he had had to put his hands in it. Clearly, Destop was sousmusclé for this job. I nearly gagged, and then I heard him let loose an oath and hurry back down the staircase, the sound of water cascading just on the other side of the wall behind my head. I looked to the darkened ceiling and closed my eyes, listening for the next explosion.

"Merde! Putain de merde! Il y en a partout, mais PARTOUT. Putain! Pu-TAIN!"

Let us say that I was not disappointed.

"Qu'est-ce qu'il y a?" I called, feeling guilty for lying there in bed, when he was trying to clean up after his violent and painful sick and evidently having big problems, and headed to the staircase outside our door.

Passing the bathroom door, I glanced in and saw the dismantled pedestal sink, the plumbing removed, the blue plastic pail in the middle of the room. It occurred to me that having just been very sick, to get the pail he had had to unearth it from under an economy pack of paper towels and empty it of the laundry detergent and an assortment of cleaning products and rags, and then unwedge it from its tight fit between the brooms on the one side and a pile of junk stuffed out of sight on the other. I hate needing to use that pail when I feel perfectly healthy in the middle of the afternoon.

At least he'll know where you keep the box of dishwasher detergent tablets, said myself, looking on the positive side.

I peered down over the banister to see the mop leaning against the table, and my husband frantically sponging a lake of water from the table, with more on the floor.

"C'est partout, mais partout. L'eau s'est coulé en bas, et il y en a PARTOUT!" he thundered, furious.

"Mais, d'où? Comment cela?" I risked.

"Le trou dans le sol. C'est passé par le trou dans le sol."

I saw. There is a hole next to the pedestal of the sink, and when he removed the elbow, the water somehow missed the bucket, or overflowed the bucket he had retrieved from the kitchen closet, and flowed down through the hole, through the ceiling and flooded the dining table. I saw the shallow blue fruit bowl sailing on a raft made of the blue handmade place mats in the lake he had made.

A lake I suspected as being polluted with the contents of his stomach become toxic. I risked another dangerous question.

"Il y a du vomis dedans?" I scanned the scene for the piles of sick I was certain had to be there.

"C'est plus de l'eau." That was somewhat reassuring, but I didn't entirely believe him. I didn't see the sick, but I was sure I'd have cleaning to do in the morning because given my husband's standards of cleanliness, there are moments when being married is like having a child: you know you are going to wind up with your hands in it.

Myself prepared to speak, Maybe you should offer to do this for him? I knew I was right. It was the right thing to do, under the circumstances.

"Tu veux que je fasse ça? Tu es malade."

"Non. J'ai presque fini." It didn't look that way, but it was not the moment to press the point. Instead, I wandered back to my bed, and a few moments later, he came to join me, something in his hands.

"J'ai pris la cuisine-tout," he said, reading my thoughts, "Dans le cas de besoin."

"Le quoi?"

"Le cuisine-tout --" A terrible understanding dawned. Did I dare push the issue? He had brought my Calphalon aluminum pot up in case he needed to throw up again?

Please tell me no, not that, the worrywart chimed in. I had to.

"Ma casserole? Dans laquelle je fais de la cuisine?" That did it. He was more disgusted with me and my lack of concern and understanding than I was by his retching and the overflow through the ceiling and onto the dining table and floor below. He was right. "Laisse tomber. Je suis désolée."

He set the pot down, slid under the covers and went back to sleep. So did I, until I woke to hear him sit up suddenly and retch into my Calphalon, brought all the way from the States. I looked at the glowing face of the alarm clock. 3:07 am. He was beginning to become a sort of Big Ben. I was disgusted. I felt sorry for him.

Maybe you should risk offending him and go sleep in the guest room, said myself. I mean, he might have germs. I waited until the retching stopped and he got up to empty his pot.

You don't think he's going to do the same thing to the sink again, do you?

"That I cannot risk asking."

He returned to bed, placing the now empty pot back in its place. I proceeded delicately.

"Tu pense que c'est un virus?"

"Je ne sais pas. C'est peut-être le poisson."

"Mais, moi, je ne suis pas malade, et j'ai mangé le poisson aussi."

Are you sure you don't feel just a little bit off? asked myself. I focused on my stomach for a moment and wondered. He groaned, and we went back to sleep until he rolled over and the sounds of retching woke me a third time. 3:55 am. He was regular, that was for certain. I lay there and listened. Revolted. I waited for it to stop.

How impolite and uncaring is it to get up and leave? asked myself. I didn't honor that question with a response. After several very long minutes, he became silent. I lay there. He lay back into his pillows.

When is he going to get up and take that horrible pot away? myself was asking. He will, won't he?

"I think so. I mean, he can't want to lie there and try to go back to sleep with that next to him." Myself nodded, hopefully. Yes, he would get up, surely he would. And a few seconds that I measured in minutes went by and he hauled himself and the pot back out of the room.

It's probably just water by now, said myself helpfully.

"Ugh. That's enough," I said, and turning to him as he crawled back under the covers and turned slightly toward me, rather wishing he wouldn't, I asked, "Tu va pouvoir prendre ta garde demain?" He was on duty at the hospital, all day, and all the next night.

"J'espère," he sighed. In any case, he didn't have much choice. That's how it is for a doctor; the rest of the night was blessedly uneventful.

The morning light, when I finally got up, showed that what he had said was mostly true: the flood had mostly been water. Mostly. His daughter's riding magazine was soaked, and I considered throwing it away and asking him to apologize to her for ruining it, before deciding to see how it would clean up, as was a stack of mail, and there was a somewhat fouled puddle on a box I had intended to put in the recycling anyway. A little later, I reached him at the hospital to see how he was.

"Ca va," he said, "Je suis un peu vaseux, mais ça va. Il y a," he continued, "une épidémie de gastro à l'hôpital. Plein de gens l'ont eu."

"Mais, je t'ai demandé. Tu m'as dit que tu pensais que c'était le saumon, et maintenant tu me dis que c'est probablement infectieux?"

Oh-oh, said myself. See? You should have gone to sleep in the guest room.

"Oui. Mais, je n'ai pas pu le savoir."

I didn't press the issue. He was making no sense; you know, or you don't know, and if you know there is a 24-hour bug ravaging the staff at the hospital by daylight, then you knew by night. For now, my stomach is still alright. I am watching.

I'll take the cuisine-tout up to bed with me. Just in case.
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