Transmission

Influenza

 

E.R.: [Unintelligible] you got sick I remember all I could think about was all that beautiful dark hair turning snow-white, like that woman in the book about Spanish flu. Joyce—well you know how she is about pandemics and all—she gave it to me when I was maybe 10 or 11. Scared the shit out of me, the woman with the fever-blanched hair. And of course, your having the same kind...

M.R.: Scared you?

E.R.: God, yes. Weren’t you? Or, I mean, were you scared when they brought you out of the coma?

M.R.: I was. It was probably the only reason I stayed with [  ]. He was there when I came out and later mom said how good he had been and how men like that, or, how a man like that is hard to find. And myself still in the hospital!

E.R.: Ugh, helpful.

M.R.: I know, I know: “you need to hold on to him” and “you’re not always a prize” and “look at everything he’s done for the family.”

E.R.: Now, with the divorce, do you wish you hadn’t gotten sick? Or do you wish you had just made different choices?

M.R.: I’m not sure there was a different choice afterwards.

E.R.: No, yeah. I was talking to Maxwell about [    ] the other day and her dad dying and wanting to get married. She booked this photoshoot around that time for a wedding gown...whatever...designer. I think for some people that kind of phantasia lets whatever their present sickness happens to be, lets it escape—alleviates the pressure, you know? But for others it only infects greater. I mean, I’m an artist, right? So I can play that any time I want, whether there’s a partner to return or not. But others...I’m not sure how they work problems and shit out. How they debug.

M.R.: Well that's really the long and short—I stopped being an artist. Or, he made me. And I just went along and became more hostess than anything else. And once you turn your back on making things besides families and parties, especially as a woman, you have very little chance of ever getting up speed again.

E.R.: Mm, it’s what I’m most terrified of. Not that I’ll stop writing...but you know, you probably didn’t think at 30 that you’d ever stop working—really working. Right?

M.R.: No, never. You’re more afraid of that than fever?

E.R.: [Laughs] Oh, no doubt. Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s more like the same thing to my mind. That’s why I have to keep things, keep somethings for myself, always. Retain the hôte. Only someone with confidence to the point of naivete doesn’t pull a Bluebeard, a confidence entirely foreign to me. I’m sorry, no offense, but I have too many women in my life...

M.R.: Who make you sick?

E.R.: [Laughs] who have fallen into that. It’s not a luxury I get. There’s a ton of things—

M.R.: A whole host?

E.R.: [Laughs] That I’d like to be, you know? But when has simply wanting ever entitled anyone to anything? When has that ever been enough?

M.R.: You got your flu shot this year, right?

E.R.: Yes. I read they’ve slightly miscalculated though.

M.R.: We all do.

E.R.: What’s that?

M.R.: Miscalculate which strains are gonna do the most damage to any given year.

E.R.: Cute, can I use?

M.R.: Be my guest—

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Derrida, Jacque and Anne Dufourmantelle. Of Hospitality. Anne Dufourmantelle Invites Jacques Derrida to Respond. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. Stanford UP, 2000.

Porter, Katherine Anne. Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1990.

Brennan, Theresa. Introduction to The Transmission of Affect. Cornell UP, 2004.

E.R. Emison