Another day. Another cough, another sneeze, another deep draw of air through aching throat and rheumy lungs. God, I love being sick. It’s just so much fun.

Especially when my spouse shares the same malady. Normally we take care of each other when the other person isn’t feeling well, but when you’re not well yourself, it’s difficult to muster the energy to care for another person. So we just sit next to each other and groan in mutual stuffiness. This is the third time we’ve been sick together, and all within the past eighteen months — after spending our first two and a half years together with no such occurrence. How is that possible?

One small entertainment in my currently much-abridged world comes from the cold medicine, as the word for congestion in Portuguese is constipaçao — literally, constipation, in this case of your head. The first time someone told Gabe she was constipated, he thought she was sharing way too much information. But no, she was simply trying to tell him that she was sick. Ha. An unfortunate false cognate.

What’s most frustrating for both of us are not the physical symptoms of a cold, but rather the mental constipaçao that accompanies them. We’re both used to thinking and acting very quickly, stretching our work day out over twelve or fourteen hours, and to being mentally agile for that entire period of time. When we’re sick, that productivity becomes severely limited.

This is especially frustrating for Gabe, because at least I can curl up with a book on the couch and pretend I’m being productive, staying on top of the industry or doing research… or some such. I’m learning here, I swear! (Ha! See?) But Gabe’s work doesn’t take sick days — it never gets any easier or less demanding. Of course he bullies his way through it anyway, but I sympathize with his frustration. As I’m reading my book. Ha.

Yesterday I took said book (Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I’m finding both repellent and addictive in equal parts) and escaped into the one clear hour of daylight that we had in the late afternoon. I walked slowly up the hill, leaning on our large umbrella, as between my lungs and my knee, I was going nowhere very fast.

I found a semi-dry bench on the miradouro, where I sat outside and read for about 45 minutes. It had turned into a beautiful afternoon, and after spending so long cooped up inside, I was thrilled by the piles of puffy clouds on the horizon and the reflection of the setting sun on the buildings opposite me. I laughed at the antics of first a short, squat sausage dog and then a big burly German shepherd, both equally energetic and enthusiastic in their own way. (Yes, this is a city full of dogs, as evidenced most often by their detritus on the sidewalk.)

It grew cold as the sun went down, so I slowly wandered home. As I did so, I was transfixed by the colors of our city in the late afternoon light: the orange Vespa standing in bright contrast to the pink building across the street; the green of a tiny florist shop exploding out the door onto the sidewalk; brightly rain-coated tourists snapping photos of the yellow tram as I turned to go down the hill. To my cold-addled eyes, this panorama I’ve seen so many times seemed newly saturated in color, and I drank it in gratefully, reluctant to go home yet knowing that I didn’t have the energy to continue further afield.

I consoled myself by diving straight back into my book when I got back to the flat. As I said, my French friend lent me her copy of In Cold Blood, which I’d never read before. It’s a fascinating book, not just for the story it tells, but mainly for the way in which he tells it and the story behind its research and creation. The whole thing is damn creepy, not least because of Capote’s clear fascination with Perry Smith, one of the criminals who committed the murders. However, as I am “inhaling” (Gabe’s word) this book just as I would a novel, doesn’t that leave me just as guilty of taking a macabre interest in tragedy?

For a break from the creepiness, I turned to my Kindle before bed, just so I could get to sleep. I continued reading the recent surprise bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a scientific history of the first “immortal” cells to be reproduced for scientific study. (OK maybe it’s no less creepy, I admit it. But creepy in a different and less sleep-disturbing way.)

Again, I’m just as interested in the this book’s creation as I am in the story it tells. The author, Rebecca Skloot, spent most of her twenties researching the story of Henrietta Lacks, getting to know her family, earning their trust, and sharing the story of their mother’s cells with them as she discovered it. I empathize strongly with Skloot, as she is close to my age, and as a still-recovering academic, I can definitely understand the need to pursue a topic to those extremes.

It was a hugely brave thing to do, as those ten years could’ve been spent doing any number of other things. But her gamble has paid off — just this morning, she posted on Facebook that her book has now made it to #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. I get a little vicarious thrill whenever I hear more good news about this book and its success story.

When even Henrietta’s cells proved too exciting for me, I lulled myself to sleep with the lyrical prose of In Morocco, a 1920s travel guide by Edith Wharton. I’m totally charmed by her quaint and slightly condescending descriptions of the desert and its inhabitants… so charmed that I dropped right off to sleep, despite having taken a nap in the afternoon.

Books and sleep: that’s all I’ve written about this week. Guess I must be sick, eh? Promise life will get more exciting soon. For my sake, if not for yours!

In that spirit, check out a cartoon Gabe just sent me…

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