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Tucker Leighty-Phillips

In Sickness and In

In the beginning, we fell ill one at a time. When sickness bit my blood, she spooned me a thimble of honey, made ginger and turmeric tea, swaddled me in blankets like a newborn. When it was her turn, I brought 7UP, Campbell’s Soup, saltines—balms my mother taught me, the only ones I knew. As our love spiked, so did our sick, or perhaps it was the other way around. By Summer, we’d both caught it. The affliction settled between us like an armrest. We bought two lovebirds because we were two lovebirds. We made amorous proclamations through coughing fits, french kissed between our bounty of mucus, made love through fits of sweat until we were no longer nauseous. We moped cheerfully from pharmacy to pharmacy, oozing mucus and fluids like a couple of carnival-sized snails; wincing in sunlight, sniffling in moonlight, faces red and sunken as if sat upon by the buttocks of God. When I vomited the remains of my alphabet soup, I swore I saw the word FATE in the floating pasta bits. She said she saw some of last week’s vindaloo. Perhaps we were looking at the same thing.

We kept each other close as trash cans and bed pans. Into the toilet we tumbled our Oxyplacerine and Vicobin, our Polylixinol and our Vykinzor, the pills plinking the porcelain and collecting in the small pond of the bowl, each dose a coin in a wishing well. But it was all becoming so much. Our bodies were failing. When the doctor separated us, quarantined us to our separate sickness bubbles, we pressed our lips against the nylon in simulation. Our love would only spread.

And then—we were better. Our noses flowed like gratitude, our eyes blinked unanchored by crust or slime. Our bodies had not only healed, but grown strong. Immunities like oxen. And then she didn’t love me anymore; said we had nothing in common. And I knew it was true, but maybe she’d misdiagnosed us, maybe we needed a second opinion. She left the birds. One died the other day. I buried it in a comic book lunchbox next to the compost pile. The other sits at the dinner table with me. I’ve named her Lady of the Lake. She sings sad songs. We probably aren’t helping one another, but we’ve got no other treatment.

Tucker Leighty-Phillips is a writer from Southeastern Kentucky. He is online in one place at @thenurtureboy and in another place at TuckerLP.net