Eleven days ago I read Charlie Brooker’s article on The Guardian website about how to avoid catching norovirus. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the gist of his theory is that if you spend the Winter months pretending you’ve committed a murder and so must not leave your nasty murdering fingerprints anywhere, you’re neither going to end up being caught by the imaginary police or catch the very real virus he describes as “200 times more infectious than Daydream Believer by The Monkees” – although you will most likely welcome Spring with sore elbows and a lot less friends. I thought that line about Daydream Believer was pretty hilarious but I’ve tried to open doors with my elbows before and not been overly successful, so I forgot about Charlie’s words of sarcastic wisdom.
Three days ago I handed in 6600 words of university coursework which had been having a similar effect on my life as being on the run from the law: I hadn’t left the house in days; was scared to contact my loved ones; and found it hard to sleep at night. I celebrated my newfound freedom by sharing breadsticks and guacamole with Sam. (Yeah that’s right: I celebrated a massive deadline with guacamole, not alcohol. But it was a Monday night, okay? And I was tired. And guacamole is freaking delicious. On a totally unrelated side note, the further I get into third year less I act like a student: possibly as a way of lessening the shock of graduation; possibly because I’m slowly turning into my mother. Hi Mum.)
Two days ago Samantha sent me the following message: “I think I have norovirus.” Now, I’m going to give you all some friendship advice. Do not say to someone that you like, who you spent time with and shared food with the day before, that you think you have norovirus. By all means, contact them to say that you do not have norovirus. And by all means, if you know you have norovirus then do tell your friends because it’s only polite to give them a heads up to put their heads down a toilet. But never tell someone who you may have infected that you think you have norovirus. Because that, ladies and gentleman, is torture.
Yesterday I woke up and nervously considered whether I needed to be spontaneously and violently sick. Thankfully (especially for Boyfriend snoozing next to me, blissfully unaware) the answer was no. I did not feel especially healthy, but I couldn’t tell if it was a symptom of noro-fear or of norovirus itself. At one point I had an overwhelming urge to throw up into a hedge, but as it was Sam’s hedge and I wasn’t feeling particularly pleased with her, I’m not sure that it counts. By some miracle, I made it through the day without losing my stomach contents. I curled up into bed last night full of appreciation for the beauty of the world, the wonder of life, and the surprising strength of my immune system. And then my stomach started to hurt.
Today I woke up feeling as though my intestines were playing a game of cat’s cradle. I crawled out of bed for my morning lecture and dragged myself to uni, feeling all the while as though I was suffering from a severe hangover. I could now plot my symptoms on the timeline of Sam’s symptoms, and the future looked decidedly neither bright nor orange; rather, a sickly pale yellowy green feverish colour. My lovely friend Henry told me in no uncertain terms that if I was sick on him during the lecture he would punch me in the face, and couldn’t promise not to aim for my nose. To be clear, I used the adjectives ‘lovely’ and ‘friend’ with as much irony as possible there, but as he did let me in his car despite the way I was throwing the N word around with dramatic abandon I suppose I’ll have to forgive his lack of sympathy. My post-lecture study group perked me up, possibly because it was the first study group meeting for my module on J.R.R. Tolkien and I’m a bit of a fan girl, and possibly because my (much nicer) friend Fi took over and, in a soothing voice of the kind with which you might speak to a frightened horse, gave me firm instructions such as to sit down, eat food, drink water, listen to some Newton Faulkner, and stop saying the N word. I have spent the rest of the day repeating the mantra of “Notavirus! And definitely not a Norovirus!” in an increasingly hysterical manner and giggling to myself at how clever and funny I am. For dinner instead of doing the sensible thing and having soup, I ate an entire tray of cheese canapés. My logic was that they were unlikely to remain in my stomach for long anyway so the calories didn’t really count.
At this point, if I wake up tomorrow and – to put it politely – know for sure that I do have Norovirus, it will almost be a relief. If not, I’ve wasted a great deal of energy panicking about nothing.