I have the flu today. Or something like it. Something that involves getting blazing hot and then so cold I shake. Something that makes me sweaty and cold at the same time. Something that makes me burrow under three blankets only to kick them all off after twenty minutes. I have something that makes me feel anxious and worried. Something that makes me wonder if I’ll grade all those exams by Monday and then wonder if I’ll ever write the book I had been planning on. Something that makes me think I don’t practice the drums enough and glad that we don’t have gigs lined up. I have something. Something I’ll just call ‘the flu’.

I’m a teacher and calling in sick is more work than just going in sick. It took an hour just to e-mail all the students because I hadn’t entered all their addresses yet into my address book. It also took me a while to figure out how I would change the syllabus if I didn’t go in tomorrow. After awhile a teacher starts to realize it’s more work to miss the class than just to drag in one’s self, hacking, coughing, and sweaty, to teach the damn class. Missing a class just means getting behind. But after an hour of contemplating that, I started getting dizzy and hot again and nauseous and I realized that going in would mean just more of that. So, I e-mailed the students, gave them a revised schedule and went to bed to sweat out the next round of fever.

The flu always reminds me of my first drum set and the day it arrived. I’ve written about the first drum set before (“Drum Set Sick“), but when I have a fever I always remember it again, because the arrival of that green drum set is so vividly connected in my mind with the fever that accompanied. It is almost as if my spirit was telling my body “get ready, life’s never going to be the same.”

And it wasn’t. But since then, almost two years later, Brian and I have decided to stop gigging, for right now. We did a show on Sunday night, the night my fever started coming on and it was the first time since we started playing out that I didn’t want to go.

We were both napping the afternoon before the show. Afternoon naps are customary on gig night. Not being 22 year-olds means we both schedule naps in the afternoon to ready ourselves for the long night ahead of loading gear, setting up, playing, and unloading gear. But Sunday afternoon we didn’t just nap for an hour, we slept. We slept a heavy sleep for 3 or 4 hours and even after waking we both still felt tired. Our schedules must be getting to us, we thought. Too much teaching and grading, we thought. Too many shows, we thought. Do we have to go? I thought. Of course. We have to go. It’s a show.

And so we went, following quietly or usual routines. Once at the venue, I sat at the bar, ordered a club soda and began reading from a book I was to teach the next day. I wore ear plugs while another band played. Eventually, it was our time to set-up and play. The bar had emptied out. Now were just playing to the sound guy who was reading a book at the board and two guys in the back playing pool. I wasn’t in the mood to play. Why am I here? I wondered. And yet, because of all the playing we had done all year and because of the gigs we had done weekly through the summer, I could still play. Meaning, I could play the drums even without concentrating on it. I was sick. And I was still playing, moving effortlessly through parts I used to struggle through. Brian even threw some new songs at me during the set and without thinking about it, I played them. I didn’t worry about finding the right beat, I just played a beat. The flu, which was starting to come on as a kind of fatigue and sleepiness, kept me from worrying about what I was going to do next. Instead, I just played whatever happened next. I just played. Before I new it the 40 minutes were over and we were loading the car, giving another musician a ride home, and unloading at home by 12:30 AM.

The next morning, a Monday morning, Brian rose at 6:30 AM and was out the door by 7 AM. I lingered on in bed, feeling the fatigue from the night before continue on in my bones. By noon, in front of a classroom of students I felt my body grow warm and sweaty and my limbs begin to shake imperceptibly. Oh shit. I’m sick. I canceled my next class and drove the forty-minute drive with the heat full blast, my body still shivering. When I got home Brian was already in bed, sleeping. He came home between classes to nap.

I slipped into bed, fully clothed.

“When did you get home?” I asked.

“An hour ago.”

“When are you going back?”

“Two-thirty.”

“I’m freezing.” I said, my teeth chattering.

Brian muttered something at me, while I fell into a deep, dark sleep. For the next twelve hours, on and off, I was hot and cold. This morning, I felt slightly better, but as soon as I tried to move too much or do too much the fever would come back and drive me back to bed.

This afternon, after another long day at school, Brian and I talked again about not gigging.

“There was something about that last show,” I said.

“Yeah. I know.” Brian said as I sat down at the kitchen table.

“I didn’t feel like we were accomplishing anything. I feel like were just playing the same old thing even when were doing new songs.”

“I think we need to just record.” Brian said.

“Something needs to change.” I added.

“I know.”

And so we’re not doing shows, for right now. I had an idea for a Christmas EP, five songs, one traditional, 4 originals. I like Christmas songs. I like sleigh bells. I want to play the glockenspiel. I can hear it now: the ringing of bells.

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