She shuffled over to the door coughing the entire way. Why her fuzzy blue slipper socks sounded so loud on the rug she had no idea. Everything sounded too loud, including the hacking she was doing. She was going to die; this surely had to be the end. Maybe the Grim Reaper was at the door to put her out of her misery. Looking out of the peephole, Gina saw that wasn’t the case. She opened the door and watched the smile fade from her boyfriend’s face.
“Oh my God, you like you're dying.” He said.
“Yeah, nice to see you too.”
“Why didn’t you call me? I would've come sooner.”
“You know its super contagious the first three days. Come in and close the door; I don’t want to be responsible for the pandemic.”
Anderson walked into her apartment and closed the door behind him. Gina was already walking back to the living room couch. She was coughing into what he was sure was the most contagious purple blanket on the face of the earth. He was going to have to do his best not to be mortified by the whole thing.
Anderson was never very good around sick people. When he was sick he preferred to go comatose and wake up when he was better. But Gina was his girlfriend, boyfriends were supposed to take care of girlfriends. They were supposed to swallow all their maybe irrational fears about cooties and take care of their girlfriends.
“I'm here to take care of you.”
“Oh yay.” Her cracked voice dripped with sarcasm.
“Damn, you could muster up a little excitement.”
“I'm sick babe; you be excited.”
“OK, OK. Well I bought medicine, some soup, movies, and even a little surprise. Do you have much of an appetite?”
“No, but I probably should eat.” Gina replied. “I haven’t at all today.”
“I’ll warm this up for you. What are you watching?”
“The Powerpuff Girls are on. I sometimes manage to enjoy them while drifting in and out of consciousness and the occasion…” she stopped as the coughing wracked her body. “Coughing fit. Kill me now Anderson; just kill me now.”
“I'm not going to do that. I'm going to help you feel better and we’ll go from there. What are you taking?”
“Please stop asking so many questions. Everything sounds so loud right now and I can't take it.” Gina covered her ears. “I need quiet.”
It was then that Anderson realized that the TV was on mute. So she really was just watching The Powerpuff Girls. This had to be the flu. Colds were bad but this was worse.
This was her fourth day down so the tide would probably turn over the next 24 hours. But he needed to be vigilant. Gina needed food, fluids, medicine, and a lot of love. If you neglected someone with the flu the consequences could be dire.
“You have to tell me what you're taking and then I’ll shut up.”
“I took Tylenol Cold and Flu. Its bullshit babe, it doesn’t fuckin work. Damn meth addicts ruining all the over the counter medication. Phenylephrine is no more than a sugar pill, I swear. I need some real drugs, the hardcore stuff.”
“Well I have some for you. But first you need to eat and have some Gatorade. Then we’ll drug you from here to next Sunday.”
“You really love me, don’t you?” she asked.
For a while he didn’t reply but Gina could hear him tinkering around in the kitchen. He was just going and going as if he hadn't heard what she said.
“Hey, Anderson, answer me.”
“First you wanted me to shut up and now you want me to answer you. Make up your mind, woman.”
“I hate you.” she mumbled before having another coughing fit.
“Well I love you so there.”
He came into the living room carrying one of the tray tables she kept folded under the kitchen counter. There was hot chicken noodle soup, cold Gatorade, and some bread. Just looking at the food made Gina want to barf but there was nothing to barf. She needed to eat; she at least needed to try. So she sat up on the couch and managed a smile when he put the tray in front of her and sat down.
“You should probably have a surgical mask.” She said, picking up the plastic spoon.
“It’s the flu, not SARS, I’ll make it.”
“I'm thinking it could be SARS.”
“That would suck. I'm too pretty to die like that. Haven't you ever seen Outbreak?”
“I wonder if there's an oxygen compression bomb small enough to take out just my apartment.” Gina pondered. “This smells so good. Too bad it’s making my stomach turn.”
“Just eat a little. You should probably by lying down; I’ll get the other tray.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“Shh, I'm doing it.”
“OK, OK.” It was true, she was already feeling dizzy. How the hell could you feel vertiginous when you were sitting down? The flu sucked.
Anderson went to the kitchen, got the other tray, and came back. With Gina lying down he took the food and drink and put it in her lap. She gave him a smile. He watched her slowly, cautiously, eat the chicken noodle soup. It was the homemade stuff, though he didn’t make it. He went to Krupin’s because Gina loved their sandwiches. Anderson even had a little sample of it himself and it was tasty.
“Its Krupin’s soup.” She said smiling.
“Only the best for my sweetie.” He smiled too.
“I would totally do you right now if I didn’t need the air to barely breathe.”
“It’s the thought that counts.”
She couldn’t stop smiling as she ate. The soup was delicious and it was weird but she had no appetite and was ravenous at the same time. Anderson kept gently telling her to drink the Gatorade, which annoyed Gina and also made her happy. She was glad he’d come.
She didn’t even have to call and ask him to…he just showed up. He did that because he loved her. He did that because she was his girl. She didn’t need to tell him that she couldn’t remember the last boyfriend who did something like that. Gavin definitely hadn't, neither did Steve or James. It wasn’t about being seen as a good boyfriend, it was about being one. She and Anderson had been together for a couple of years now. This thing was something.
Gina didn’t know how she would've felt if he hadn't shown up sometime during this illness but she was sure she would've felt differently. The true test of how someone is happens when you're down. Down could constitute any number of things. Today, for Gina Sharp, down was the flu.
“You know the best movie ever to watch on mute?” Anderson asked.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day?”
“Now that’s a definite classic but it’s not the best. The best is Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.”
“Ooh, that would be such fun.”
“We can do it tonight.” Anderson smiled. “You know, in lieu of sex. I'm pretty good with Star Trek in lieu of sex.”
Gina laughed. She started laughing, then wheezing, then coughing. Anderson patted her back but it didn’t subside for a while. His face was as wracked with guilt as her body was wracked with pain.
“Don’t wear that face.” She whispered. “That’s your sad face.”
“I didn’t mean to almost choke you to death.”
“It surely sucked. But you made me laugh and trust me, when a person is feeling like I'm feeling, making them laugh is the best thing you can do.”
“Still, no more joking around at least until you finish your lunch and I can give you some drugs.”
“What did you bring me?”
“I brought Robitussin Cold and Congestion and some Nyquil. Don’t worry I got them from behind the pharmacy counter so they have the good stuff in them.”
“Oh my God, Anderson, you're gonna dope me up.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” he kissed her hand as kissing her mouth would surely be deadly.
“You should get something to eat…have you had lunch?” she asked.
“There's a Baconator in that bag over there but I worried that the smell might bother you.”
“If by bother me you don’t mean make me jealous than no. Enjoy your lunch; I'm doing my best to enjoy mine.”
“Alright, and drink some more of that Gatorade.”
Gina nodded as he got off the couch and went into the kitchen. Anderson took the Wendy’s bag from his backpack and heated the sandwich. Then he was back with a Coke from her fridge.
“I took tomorrow off.” He said.
“Why?” Gina asked.
“So we could be together. You shouldn’t have to be alone when you're sick. I’ll look after you, spruce up a bit, hang out and watch TV on mute. I only got the one day, I think Agent Hotchner understood but I couldn’t ask for more. Things don’t get done when I'm not there to do them.”
“So true. Well at least we have one day and maybe I’ll be feeling a little better and you'll want to cuddle instead of run for the hills.”
“Oh I want to cuddle right now.” Anderson said.
“Me too, but I can admit it’s mostly because that bacon smells heavenly.”
“That means you're getting better. It’s a good sign.”
“I hope so because I'm tired of being sick. There's only one upside.”
“What's that?” he looked at her.
“I get uninterrupted time with you. If I have to be wheezing and feeling like crud, at least I have you by my side.”
“Me, your favorite soup, cartoons, and Star Trek…take away the flu and it’s the perfect day.”
“Even with the flu Anderson, it’s still the perfect day.”