I don't remember the exact year. I know that I was in college at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence. There was a party. There was a new dress. There was the promise of romance with another member of the theater arts department (I was a theater major, with a minor in English). I remember that there was much "looking forward to" involved in regard to this party.
New Year's Eve has always been hit-or-miss for me. In high school, it was all about getting drunk and kissing everyone in sight at someone's house whose parents were away getting drunk and kissing everyone in sight at someone else's house. I figured that, in my college years, maybe it would get a bit more sophisticated, like the Martini & Rossi advertisements I saw on TV that always portrayed a hip couple in evening dress clicking champagne glasses at a glamorous party full of twinkling lights, waiters carrying trays of hors d'oeuvres, and other happy hip couples grouped in circles of titillating conversation. That was the New Year's I had always dreamed of, and this was my chance. The event was touted as a "cocktail party," as opposed to the usual "kegger." So like I said, I had the invitation, I had the dress, I had the shoes...and I had the flu.
I'd been in denial all day, trying desperately to ignore that weak feeling that I had no bones, that there was a Brillo pad in my throat, and that the horrid pain in my head was not going away any time soon. An hour before the party, trying to muster up some energy, I put on some lively music, struggled into the dress and shoes, started to do my hair, and threw up all over myself. Jalapeños from lunch. I wept tears of cheated fun, changed, got into bed, called my friends and bailed out.
Then the fever hit, and suddenly there was a large, orange couch in my room that shouldn't have been there, and then wasn't there. The music from A Charlie Brown Christmas kept running through my head over and over, and in my delirium I kept thinking Schroeder was a real person whom I'd once met. Chills and sweating, chills and sweating.
I slumped in and out of sleep, and just when I thought things couldn't get worse, my roommate's cats started "doing it" under my bed. This was not a hallucination. I don't know if you've ever heard cats "doing it," but it's loud. They scream like monkeys. I kept trying to throw shoes at them to make them stop, but I was too weak and kept missing. Did I mention that the cats were brother and sister? I was horrified.
And I couldn't breathe, I was so stuffed up. I took a decongestant, something I'd never taken before. Immediately, I shot through the ceiling. It was the worst anxiety I'd ever experienced, except for the time I dropped acid in junior high and thought my legs were gone. All of my veins were jumping. I had to bang my head against the wall to keep myself from thinking about jumping out of the window, like Art Linkletter's daughter. I read the warning on the box: "may cause excitability, especially in children." To counteract the decongestant, I downed four Benadryl. Finally, I slept.
The next day, my friends called. Apparently, the party was a blast. Everyone hooked up.