Item

In Sickness and In Health

Title (Dublin Core)

In Sickness and In Health

Description (Dublin Core)

My brother and I have an argument that has been going on since we were children; regardless of our age, however, it has always been a rather vicious, stubborn battle, comprised wholeheartedly of hubris and the unyielding belief that one is right and the other wrong. He’ll say, You have a weak immune system, not me! And in complete disregard of the trap I have already drawn myself into, I will retort without fail, You get sick more than I do! In this situation, we’re both playing the role of the fool, blindly ignoring the vast number of individuals who struggle with legitimate health problems and compromised immune systems, purposefully sticking our heads in the sand as we burrow further and further into the gilded age of misguided youth and immaturity. Perhaps this can be said of me more so than him, given that I am older and also usually the one who instigates these petty squabbles. The question of physical health and strength has always been a sensitive spot, a result of my years spent simmering under a household ruled by gender roles and conventions. But I like fighting, even if I can never win any of these fights, even if the blatant lies I tell my younger brother are merely pitiful attempts to dissuade the truth.

In all honesty, Jonathan never gets sick; I do. Like most people in the day and age of COVID-19, I used to take my health for granted (and no, this won’t be a post about having an existential crisis regarding my mortality). But after being hauled in an ambulance twice––got exposed to the perils and fallacies of the American health care system real quick!––both for stupid reasons and resulting in a pair of pale blue socks and two missing front teeth, I have begun to realize more and more how futile my argument is whenever I try to prove to him that I am the child with the stronger body, the stronger immune system, the stronger sense of self.

My body has endured a good bit of wear and tear, thanks to several instances but most infamously when I cruised down the roads of Clifftops, a gated neighborhood in Monteagle, TN, going 20 miles per hour on a longboard. Gravity, speed wobbles, and naiveté caused me to faceplant into the ground. I spat out a mouthful of blood when I finally regained consciousness, full-body abrasions wrapped around my arms, legs, and knees, skin seemingly marred beyond repair and my face looking like a swollen, beat-up punching bag. At first, the doctor thought I might’ve broken my face (maybe I wasn’t destined to be a cool skater and carve roads after all). I had two black eyes and pus for days. Taking a shower and unwrapping and wrapping my bandages was a two-hour hassle, one that I dealt with myself, determined to do alone without the help of my parents. Afterward, I would wipe the glass mirror, stand atop the cool tiled floor of my childhood bathroom, and ogle at myself and the mass of wet, rugged flesh sagging along with my wounds. Even when I was in a drug-induced haze of Percocets and could hardly walk, I was afraid of revealing to my mother and father what my body had become after accumulating ink at various tattoo parlors. Aside from the black pigment that permanently stained my skin, I was also scared of them seeing what I’d become after skidding across the pavement.

I finally learned what it meant to be selfish when my grandmother saw me after the accident. She turned on the light and moved to look at me, taking a few hesitant steps. Then she came closer, cradled my face in her hands, and stroked the unscarred side of my cheek with her coarse, callous-ridden fingers as tears began to streak down the corners of her eyes. She murmured to me in rough, unbridled Chinese, her voice cracking at the edges and stumbling over words. My father stood in the corner. When she began to quietly cry, he looked away. My reply got mangled in the lower parts of my throat, my voice splitting at various intervals when both of us would falter. With our heads bowed in unison under the dim light of the kitchen, I imagined our two dark silhouettes of hair merging into one. It was then that I also learned what it meant to be loved.

I never tell this side of the story because it reveals the ugly, careless parts of myself that constantly depend on others to pick me up when I have been the cause of my undoing. This is the part of me that I love and hate the most, this selfish, childish impetuousness that has allowed me to experience the world, unencumbered, but at the cost of others. Usually, when I explain to people what happened at Clifftops, I am laughing, joking, making myself seem hardcore and dumb all at once. It is pretty funny if you think about it. Over time, though, while I’ve learned that my physical body is fragile and my soul and spirit deceivingly invincible, I myself am still an uncompromising idiot. Despite everything, I am reckless to this day, still very aware of how I have hurt my loved ones being like this and the many ways that I will continue to do so. Just as I sit in a black leather chair and feel the needle prick into my skin, knowing the anger that will make its way towards me if my family finds out how my skin has been violated, I throw myself into hopeless fights with my brother I will never be able to win. Just as I have grown accustomed to hiding my tattoos in extra-large clothing whenever I go home, I cling to the lies that I tell Jonathan, to the fresh, pink flesh that slowly grows along my face and allows me to forget about my grandmother’s tears.

The other day, my brother called me sickly, once again setting off another debate. I’d been coughing and developing symptoms of COVID-19, except for a fever; I was sequestered into my room for around a week and a half, and when I came out, I felt victorious. Allergies, I told myself. Just annoying allergies. I went on bike rides and wore makeup. I listened to music and made art. I still coughed, though, which he’d pointed out. And when I woke up at 2 AM with a raging 103-degree fever for the first time in years, I found myself curling up in a ball once more, grieving for something I didn’t quite understand or know.

Date (Dublin Core)

Creator (Dublin Core)

Contributor (Dublin Core)

Type (Dublin Core)

Text

Controlled Vocabulary (Dublin Core)

English

Curator's Tags (Omeka Classic)

Date Submitted (Dublin Core)

04/18/2020

Date Modified (Dublin Core)

11/24/2020
1/26/2021
2/2/2021

Date Created (Dublin Core)

04/18/2020

Text (Omeka Classic)

My brother and I have an argument that has been going on since we were children; regardless of our age, however, it has always been a rather vicious, stubborn battle, comprised wholeheartedly of hubris and the unyielding belief that one is right and the other wrong. He’ll say, You have a weak immune system, not me! And in complete disregard of the trap I have already drawn myself into, I will retort without fail, You get sick more than I do! In this situation, we’re both playing the role of the fool, blindly ignoring the vast number of individuals who struggle with legitimate health problems and compromised immune systems, purposefully sticking our heads in the sand as we burrow further and further into the gilded age of misguided youth and immaturity. Perhaps this can be said of me more so than him, given that I am older and also usually the one who instigates these petty squabbles. The question of physical health and strength has always been a sensitive spot, a result of my years spent simmering under a household ruled by gender roles and conventions. But I like fighting, even if I can never win any of these fights, even if the blatant lies I tell my younger brother are merely pitiful attempts to dissuade the truth.

In all honesty, Jonathan never gets sick; I do. Like most people in the day and age of COVID-19, I used to take my health for granted (and no, this won’t be a post about having an existential crisis regarding my mortality). But after being hauled in an ambulance twice––got exposed to the perils and fallacies of the American health care system real quick!––both for stupid reasons and resulting in a pair of pale blue socks and two missing front teeth, I have begun to realize more and more how futile my argument is whenever I try to prove to him that I am the child with the stronger body, the stronger immune system, the stronger sense of self.

My body has endured a good bit of wear and tear, thanks to several instances but most infamously when I cruised down the roads of Clifftops, a gated neighborhood in Monteagle, TN, going 20 miles per hour on a longboard. Gravity, speed wobbles, and naiveté caused me to faceplant into the ground. I spat out a mouthful of blood when I finally regained consciousness, full-body abrasions wrapped around my arms, legs, and knees, skin seemingly marred beyond repair and my face looking like a swollen, beat-up punching bag. At first, the doctor thought I might’ve broken my face (maybe I wasn’t destined to be a cool skater and carve roads after all). I had two black eyes and pus for days. Taking a shower and unwrapping and wrapping my bandages was a two-hour hassle, one that I dealt with myself, determined to do alone without the help of my parents. Afterward, I would wipe the glass mirror, stand atop the cool tiled floor of my childhood bathroom, and ogle at myself and the mass of wet, rugged flesh sagging along with my wounds. Even when I was in a drug-induced haze of Percocets and could hardly walk, I was afraid of revealing to my mother and father what my body had become after accumulating ink at various tattoo parlors. Aside from the black pigment that permanently stained my skin, I was also scared of them seeing what I’d become after skidding across the pavement.

I finally learned what it meant to be selfish when my grandmother saw me after the accident. She turned on the light and moved to look at me, taking a few hesitant steps. Then she came closer, cradled my face in her hands, and stroked the unscarred side of my cheek with her coarse, callous-ridden fingers as tears began to streak down the corners of her eyes. She murmured to me in rough, unbridled Chinese, her voice cracking at the edges and stumbling over words. My father stood in the corner. When she began to quietly cry, he looked away. My reply got mangled in the lower parts of my throat, my voice splitting at various intervals when both of us would falter. With our heads bowed in unison under the dim light of the kitchen, I imagined our two dark silhouettes of hair merging into one. It was then that I also learned what it meant to be loved.

I never tell this side of the story because it reveals the ugly, careless parts of myself that constantly depend on others to pick me up when I have been the cause of my undoing. This is the part of me that I love and hate the most, this selfish, childish impetuousness that has allowed me to experience the world, unencumbered, but at the cost of others. Usually, when I explain to people what happened at Clifftops, I am laughing, joking, making myself seem hardcore and dumb all at once. It is pretty funny if you think about it. Over time, though, while I’ve learned that my physical body is fragile and my soul and spirit deceivingly invincible, I myself am still an uncompromising idiot. Despite everything, I am reckless to this day, still very aware of how I have hurt my loved ones being like this and the many ways that I will continue to do so. Just as I sit in a black leather chair and feel the needle prick into my skin, knowing the anger that will make its way towards me if my family finds out how my skin has been violated, I throw myself into hopeless fights with my brother I will never be able to win. Just as I have grown accustomed to hiding my tattoos in extra-large clothing whenever I go home, I cling to the lies that I tell Jonathan, to the fresh, pink flesh that slowly grows along my face and allows me to forget about my grandmother’s tears.

The other day, my brother called me sickly, once again setting off another debate. I’d been coughing and developing symptoms of COVID-19, except for a fever; I was sequestered into my room for around a week and a half, and when I came out, I felt victorious. Allergies, I told myself. Just annoying allergies. I went on bike rides and wore makeup. I listened to music and made art. I still coughed, though, which he’d pointed out. And when I woke up at 2 AM with a raging 103-degree fever for the first time in years, I found myself curling up in a ball once more, grieving for something I didn’t quite understand or know.

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1798

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