A little under the Zurich weather

A derelict alley near the University of Zurich.

A derelict alley near the University of Zurich.

Throwing myself around in a bed that wasn’t mine in vain attempts to find the spots least dampened by my feverish sweat was not what Zurich had promised me. Or, more rightly, what I had promised Zurich. Sickness stole more than it was owed. Like a gangster who didn’t get her tax when it was ‘due’, Sickness was extracting interest in Zurich for what I had only half-paid her in Geneva. A small amount of interest felt warranted – I had tried to cheat. But this wasn’t just interest; I was being made an example of. To whom, I don’t know … perhaps myself? When I arrived at the the university on Monday morning, I knew something was wrong. Barely able to stand, I excused myself repeatedly to get water or rid my lungs of the muck that made me breathe like Darth Vader. Incessant chimes echoed in the chamber of my mind like spiked flails clamouring into rotted wood. The sudden thunder of coughing disrupted even my most basic trains of thought and briefest moments of rest. Over and over the episodes of violent breathlessness came. Again and again I yearned for nothing but home. Medicine be damned, this sickness was killing more than my body. But home was too far. For now, medicine could be my only salve. I arrived at the university hospital sometime in the early morning. My patient information card was made nearly illegible by the liquid dripping from my hair and hands. I was admitted hastily. Tests. Semi-consciousness. Nodding to earnest attempts at English. Being poked and prodded and taken to this machine or that. Different doctors. Documents written in Swiss German. Bags of medicine with funny instructions ‘take before the meal’, ‘for couthing’. Out in the rain, disorientated and drugged, I somehow found my way back to the hostel. With European sirens from the ambulances moaning in the background, I felt like it would be more appropriate to go by Bourne, not Burns, had anyone asked my name in that moment. A private room was now not my blessing exclusively. While walls tend to block pathogens rather well, their ability to muffle the harrowing grate of forced air against constricted airways at three in the morning is less of a guarantee. Whether my neighbours slept through the nights any better than I was a mystery I was happy to leave unsolved. “How did you sleep?” the hostel manager asked when I checked out at the week’s end. “Well, thanks,” I replied. “As well as you could have, I guess.”


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