Lily livered

Was it a shower in a Karachi hotel? Or a leaf in his salad? Fayes T Kantawala considers the causes of his latest life-threatening crisis

Lily livered
I’m sorry I missed our appointment last week. In the years since I began writing this column I haven’t skipped a single one, and so I felt particularly irked that I would have to abandon you to some unknown assailant without a word of explanation. (‘Fayes T Kantawala is away,’ sounds vague and impossibly glamorous.) It might soothe you to know I was in agony. The good news is I’m back. The bad news is I have eyes so yellow I could audition for the part of Mystique in the next X-Men movie and give Rebecca Romijn a run for her money. That’s right: I have Hep. (Not C, thank God, but the no less painful A.) Can you imagine? Actually, don’t. It’s not pretty.

I’m sure everyone is aglow after last month’s literary festivities. Barring the first morning, the weather held out beautifully and everyone who attended seemed in generous spirits. I was there the first morning, brisk and ruddy with possibilities. By afternoon my skin had become dewy, and by evening I was feeling nauseous, and then I was shivering and feeling like death warmed up.

I decided to skip the festival when my doctor told me I had Malaria. I was actually pleased with that diagnosis. Malaria is quickly treated with three giant pills taken all at once. But even then a part of me knew this wasn’t just malaria. There was something far more sinister that was living rent-free inside of me.

The next doctor I saw (that’s right, I had to see more than one) told me he thought I had a captivating mix of Dengue and Hepatitis. Eventually, after a lot of gut-wrenching, we figured it was either Hep A or E, and that either way I was pretty much done living for the next few weeks.

How, you ask, did my saintly body contract this most wretched of diseases?

I went to Karachi. Now I’ve always been tolerant, even fond, of that rancid city, but currently I can’t help looking upon it as anything but a tropical incubator of viral atrocities. I was visiting there a few weeks ago and I vividly recall swallowing a little water by accident when I was having a shower. (Oh the consequences of showering in Karachi…) Of course it could just as easily have been the many mutant mosquitoes I came across on my trip, or a stray lettuce leaf I consumed at a restaurant. It’s probably not Karachi’s fault that I’m sick. I just feel such unbridled anger at having been selected for the revelation that, over and above every other petty, life-threatening thing one deals with here, there is always the lurking possibility of being struck by a random, incidental and utterly unforeseeable disease.

Whatever caused my illness, I know my convalescence will be long and complicated. I remember eyeing with envy the empty seats of children at school who got two months off for jaundice. Now, the idea of taking that much time off from my life sends shivers down my spine. (Okay, more shivers.)

The worst of it is hopefully over. I can sit up now, and have begun eating things, and as of last night I can get through a single episode of ‘Poirot’ without reaching for the bucket.
I now cry while watching commercials for disinfectant soap

Before that it was repetitive 3-hour cycles of fevered dreams, cold sweats, body aches, retching and extreme profanity followed by glowing health immediately punctuated by the desire for suicide. It’s quite an emotional rollercoaster; I now cry while watching commercials for disinfectant soap. Also, I’m hallucinating a presence called Itit for reasons I have yet to discover. Itit is a preverbal creature, hairy and fanged, and spends most of its time skulking in the corner of my room, pointing at me as I try and figure out if I’m the only one who can see it. (I mentioned Itit to my mother but the idea that I was yellow and hallucinating proved too much for her to take.)


The thing about feverish illnesses is that they make time stand still. Minutes seem like centuries with all the stuff that is happening in your mind and you are reminded that your body and you are not distinct entities in this moment. Both of you are very screwed and you should hug each other to get through it, cause girl, you need company. I find that when I wallow in the illness, it gets worse and I feel more pain. If I keep my spirits high, then I can at least sit up for 30 minutes, which is a triumph, really.

The upshot to Jaudince is how much weight you lose since you don’t want to eat anyway and even if you do the only thing you can eat must be fat-free. It also puts you off smoking and drinking, and so I think about the whole thing like a biologically inspired rehab program but without the therapy. In a few weeks I shall emerge resplendent with razor sharp cheekbones and no body fat. In the meantime, however, I have many dates to keep with a bucket.

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