Illustration: John Ritter
I had the flu. But not just any flu. No, this was the kind of bug that forces a normally rational human being to dial information and beg the operator for Jack Kevorkian's home phone number. This was the kind that leaves a generally well-groomed woman crumpled on the sofa in her rattiest flannel nightgown, the one that her 79-year-old aunt from Detroit presented with the keen observation: "Magenta puppies always make things look zanier." Such was my state when Johannes (in those days my boyfriend, in these days my boyfriend and the father of my child) walked in. "Man," he called out while hanging his coat in the front hall closet, "I've never seen so many beautiful women in one city." The love of my life continued from the foyer, "I mean, it's like a convention of supermodels out there." He rounded the corner just in time to watch me sneeze cherry Jell-O over the Arts & Leisure section. "But," he stammered, "none as beautiful as you, my darling."
"Avert your eyes, for I am hideous," I whimpered á la the Elephant Man.
"No, seriously, you look...not horrible," which was true, provided you're drawn to individuals who appear to have combed peanut butter through their hair. Finally, in what can only be described as a genuinely pathetic effort to change the subject, he added, "So, I'm just curious. When was the last time you, uh, you know...showered?" I gathered up my Sudafed, my Tylenol, my Mucinex, my Puffs, my honey-and-lemon cough drops, my lip balm, my thermometer, my blanket, my TV Guide, my diet ginger ale, my wonton soup, my cordless phone, my few remaining shards of dignity, and with all the icy élan a woman dressed in a soup-stained frolicking-puppy print can muster, I replied, "Good day, sir!" He tried for a last-minute save: "Are you losing weight?" But I cut him off. "I said good day!" and flounced gracefully (okay, I tripped over the vaporizer) to our bedroom, where I proceeded to lapse in and out of seven back-to-back episodes of Law & Order.