Monday, May 19, 2008

The Subway

"I spend most of my time not dying. That's what living is for." - from "Fog" by Frederick Seidel

(From the look of the jacket cover, he's in his mid-sixties--a lot older than me. Despite this, I see no conflict in identifying with him...)

I woke up this morning with a sore throat and the simultaneous determination to poke at it with the elongated cotton swabs that I picked up at the Polish apothecary on my block. This is the same pharmacy where they once sold me two Benzedrine inhalers at once without batting an eye, but now--after purchasing the swabs at the same time as a pill slicer--regard me cautiously, I'm assuming, as a deviant medical fetishist. (It is they who refer to themselves as an apothecary, by the way, rather than me attempting to apply medieval polish [paw-lish] to the tone this post.) I've found that three times out of five I can battle back the onset of a sore throat by jabbing the swab at the pouches near my tonsils to see if I can dislodge the smelly chunks of white blood cell-covered food particles that get sometimes stuck there, piling up and causing problems. (I eat very fast and I have large, open, cavernous tonsils, so I am especially afflicted with--what I assume to be--this common condition.) I admit that I find this activity pleasurable when it bears [fruit] in the same way that I used to (and still do occasionally) enjoy popping zits, when I don't make a big mess of it. This current activity has actually all but taken the place of former, which I think is a healthier and less public form of purgation; a sign I'm growing up maybe.

Unfortunately, the same foresight that prompted me to grant myself thirty minutes of extra sleep this morning prevented me from performing either this operation or the nettypot (nose kettle) evacuation that also sometimes helps--especially in conjunction with the tonsil jabbing, so I was forced to commence my commute knowing I had taken no progressive steps towards forestalling the onset of a potentially involved illness (because a sore throat can indicate anything!). This condition in turn led me towards the obsessive recounting of the various individuals I have encountered over the past four or five days of viral gestation who I know could be responsible for passing their germs onto me. In this respect, there are several social situations that I regard to be unquantifiable for the multitude of individuals of unknown health status present, like large social gatherings, the city pool or the subway, or any time I'm at the library where I work (where I am ever beset), that I am--for the most part, of necessity--able to move past. Nonetheless, there are a few suspects, who will be the subject of my anonymous rage as this sickness progresses, who will remain nameless.

It is this bemused state that prevented me from noticing the woman attending to her bestrollered child more quickly. As I could not see into the stroller from where I was sitting, what I did observe was a scene bearing striking visual resemblance to the teaser pram shot from Rosemary's Baby, which I submit was only slightly less horrifying to me. At the point at which I encountered the pair, the mother was engaged with offering a pacifier to her frustrated child, who--based on both the form of his or her frustration and the strength of his or her arm (which I would thereafter be granted opportunity to measure), I took to be about one year old; preverbal and terribly frustrated by it. Each time the pacifier was offered it would be quickly refused and would seconds later sail into the air and end up on the floor of the car (this was the G-train--notoriously filthy even by MTA standards). Alarmingly, instead of removing the pacifier from service in accordance with her child's wishes, the woman would retrieve the pacifier from the floor, insert it into her own mouth, give it a few brief sucks and then return it to the mouth of her sputtering toddler--presumably to enlist her saliva with the task of disinfection, which, needless to say, I do not feel that it was up to. This act, in which mother and child operated a circuit whose sole purpose seemed to be the removal of filth from the floor of the train, repeated itself over and over as I looked on disgusted until finally I deboarded at the next stop.