Turbulence hits, the seatbelt sign lights up. My daughter leans her head on my lap and I loosen her seatbelt for her – a meaningless gesture of comfort in a very uncomfortable situation. The night before, I lay in bed fretting over a 2-hour flight with a feverish kid. And so here we are. Our plane lands, and I carry her through immigration, her head lolls on my shoulder as I hoist our bag from the carousel. The taxi driver is mercifully silent. Our apartment is just like I left it; I’m glad to be home. I tuck her in, make a doctor’s appointment for the next day, lie in my bed but I do not fall asleep.
I remember being ill when I was a child. I was the sickly one: always left behind on out-of-town trips, always alternately sweating and shivering from fever, always looking out the window. Vision is tinted a slight orange when you have a temperature, have you noticed? Or maybe it’s blue. I remember a parade of fruits and juice and rice, left uneaten, picked at, abandoned on a tray at my bedside. I do the same for my kid now, my offerings of oranges and cookies and water ignored. She turns her back to me and hugs her fox closer. “Ear ache’s a bitch, isn’t it?” I murmur against her hair. “Quoi?” she asks sleepily, not understanding, and I imagine my voice through her ears, like someone whispering into a bowl of water or under the sea.
The good thing about being sick (or taking care of the sick) in France: online groceries. I order apples, Coke, bread, tomatoes, popcorn, bacon, water. I select an early morning delivery. At dawn I hear a van pull up the alley. I lean over the balcony. “Don’t ring the doorbell, I’ll buzz you in,” I tell the man who hops out of the vehicle, and he nods. He doesn’t care, he just wants to get this delivery over with. Minutes later my fridge is full thanks to this modern-day convenience, and I stand by the kitchen window in my pajamas, absently tracing circles on the floor with my toe as I watch the sun rise lazily, hesitantly, as if reluctant to even show up.
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