He has survived twenty-two days of a relentless virus, which has invaded his sinuses and descended to the weak link – his asthmatic lungs. War has raged and the old medicine barely touched that which under different circumstances would kill him. Hold it off, he tells himself.
“Here is something stronger to inhale four times a day until the coughing stops and then twice a day to strengthen your lungs to ward it off the next time.” — to ward it off the next time. How ominous. He remembers that another physician had told him years ago to spit out what he coughs up; don’t swallow it.
A day before, he coughs and coughs, spins, faints and lunges head first into a nearby wall. At least the glass in his hand doesn’t smash cutting him to the bone and requiring another trip to the emergency room. He coughs more carefully.
He has survived the war. The virus wears down, retreats but doesn’t give up the ghost completely. One day a cold will return and will descend again. The man thinks about the black plague, about the small pox that killed so many touched by European invaders, the pandemic of Spanish influenza and about his grandfather who died at thirty-nine of that particular virus in his lungs.
At sixty-eight, the man, without anyone saying it, knows how close he has been to not being here, if it had been another time, another location. He is becoming aware of how vulnerable humanity is, not even counting all the ways humanity has of killing itself off.
He inhales the new medicine. He breathes deeply and smiles for now and hopes that this medicine really is stronger than the last. He thinks about the wonders of modern medicine
and laughs when he thinks most of the progress is in his bathroom — the cammode and a bar of soap.