New Year’s Cold

When I was a kid my family took a vacation to the Philippines. I was young at the time and so the memories are unstructured but comprised of visits to Fiesta Carnival (us and cousins and other relatives tumbling out of big vans), excitement at riding a tricycle and pedicab, amazement at drinking soft drinks out of plastic bags, the heady buzz of catching a Shake Rattle N Roll flick, and most importantly for this entry, a sudden interest in fireworks. I couldn’t get near fireworks in the States, though New Year’s celebrations there featured some of the Pinoy traditions, the fruits and round things, throwing coins and money, jumping up for height (terribly important to my height-challenged household). But once I got my hands on those fireworks I was amazed. Even the lowly, and now banned Watusi, which was something like a dancing firecracker, which you just kind of scraped on the ground with your slipper and it would ignite and jump around, was great fun. And I forgot what they were called, but there were these ones that were just little pebbles with powder, and they were wrapped in paper and you’d throw them on the ground and they’d come off with a loud pop.

And so as a high schooler, when we migrated back to the Philippines, fireworks became a major thing for me. My friends and I would go around the block with packs of different fireworks, though our favorite was the cheap and ever-reliable Five-Star. What we did was a combination of fireworks and vandalism, I suppose, as we were never satisfied with just letting the fireworks go off. We wanted to blow stuff up along with it, and we’d find stuff on the street which looked ripe for exploding. One of our favorite targets was the “Tubero” metal plates that we’d find on posts. We would wedge Five-Stars into a few sides and then, boom, the metal plate would go flying somewhere. I think our biggest target was a few years ago there was some congressman’s banner or other which we blew up and eventually set fire to. That was before I started getting sick during the holidays.

I know most people get colds or the flu during the season. Mine work like clockwork, especially in accordance with the massive amounts of smoke generated during and around the New Year’s celebrations.

The worst incident was a few years back. It was the first and only time that I had to be rushed to the hospital (apart from football injuries). I had been begging my mom to take me to a doctor because I couldn’t breathe. I would normally just buckle down and power through anything, just to avoid the prospect of doctors and hospitals. But I knew this was different, because I was wheezing and I could feel that something was different, something was definitely wrong. We called a cousin of mine who had studied nursing, and she offered the quickie remedy of boiling water and throwing some vaporub into it, and then having me inhale the steam. It worked a little, but served only as temporary respite. I was still breathing short, clipped breaths. And then after a series of hacking coughs, I could not breathe and I keeled over. It was then that my mother acceded to my requests to be rushed to the emergency room. I was put on some oxygen for a couple of hours and then sent home. The official explanation was that the  mucus in my lungs had hardened because of the smoke that I had inhaled.

Since then, I have been sick every year. Every single year. And so I approach the New Year’s celebrations with a mixture of excitement and dread. Of course a new year means new potential, a sense of renewal (even if it’s all only psychological), and all that. But at the same time, for me, it means that the festivities will take their toll on me, leaving me wheezing and coughing, as I am doing as I struggle through this entry.

But this year, I’m thinking it may hold something else too. This year I had one of the most fun New Year’s celebrations of my life, with the warm Katigbak-Lacuesta families (my own family is scattered and problematic), who welcomed me wholeheartedly, and from Sarge and Mookie’s 33rd floor home we watched as the whole city launched its fireworks. And it was a good celebration, great food, great drinks, great company, and lots of fun. Which made me hopeful. And it prevented me from what I was really expecting of myself as the new year set in; I thought that I would spiral into some drunken fit and start screaming. “F*#^ you 2011, f@$# you!”

Needless to say that while the last year had a lot of boons, it had some pretty nasty banes. And though I feel lucky for all that I’ve accomplished and received, these bummer things have weighed heavily, so heavily on me. And so, as I was coughing up nasty stuff and sweating like it was summertime as the air-conditioner chugged on, I was thinking that perhaps this is a sort of purging. All of those bad germs, all the bacteria and infection and whatever, getting forced out of my body as the year turns. Maybe my mind should follow suit. Maybe as my physical body rids itself of these negative things, my mental and emotional aspects should similarly expectorate all of the bummer things of 2011.

For all the good the year did me, it served me betrayal, deceit, job insecurity, politicking, people ready to stab me in the back at the least provocation, and the dissolution of another relationship. And these things, I now expectorate. I take a few hacking coughs, gather them up from my throat up into my mouth, the thick gooey suspension almost causing me to gag, and I spit them out. Crappy things from 2011, I spit you out. And then I flush you down the toilet yo. That’s where you belong.

And with the passing of this nasty cough and cold, I hope that I come up fresh and ready to face 2012. Happy New Year everybody.

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