The cough I have is like another one I had back in 2015. Then, I was working in Hurlingham with a group of beautiful people who so willingly hurled smiles in my direction -- until the day I coughed during a data review meeting. And I have never seen so many scowls mixed with concerns in one room.
I coughed so ‘persistently’ that when the person who was presenting got to this slide on Tuberculosis, he paused and looked at me. I coughed. A pin dropped and everyone covered their ears. He continued, “we are advising people who have any cough of any duration checked.” He paused again just to check if the message got to the intended person.
Calmly, like one about to receive sacrament, I retrieved my phone and texted my boss, who was also in the meeting. I had myself checked at a nearby hospital.
I had then coughed for over a month and had been treated at the several hospitals. I remember coughing so much one day, I thought I had swallowed my epiglottis and had someone check if it was still there. It was so painful. I couldn’t swallow anything for days.
It’s the same time I visited this hospital and when I explained I had this pain in my sternum, the doctor so calmly told me some supernatural powers are fighting for my soul. He even recommended a book. I don’t know why doctors are usually calm and quiet, perhaps that’s why their strikes sometimes go unnoticed.
The only reason I didn’t buy the book is I was skeptical about my soul being so beautiful that some unseen beings could be scratching, scathing and drawing whatever liquid that flows in them for it. Don’t be deceived. I know I have a beautiful soul. If my soul was a person it wouldn’t be a socialite. It would still be me.
Recently, in 2020, when I coughed, I saw the matatu driver shift in his seat uncomfortably, and they don’t scare easily.
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Now, I haven’t been bothered before -- even when the Covid-19 cases in Kenya were in their hundreds, but I have spent a better part of today Googling about this disease that has been on everyone’s lips for the past few months. I have read literature. I have read about its vaccine. I have read about the intended clinical trials. I know there’s a street called Han street in Wuhan. I also stumbled on an article explaining the difference between cases and infections. I feel like an expert.
If you coughed back in 2015, the only thing you would get was a stare and probably an occasion ‘cover your mouth when coughing.’ If, for some reason, the cough decided to come just when someone informs you your kennel is open. What would you do? Cover your mouth or protect future generations? Tough one.
A few months ago, when the coronavirus was new on the scene, if you coughed, a lot would have happened. There would have been stares, and scowls. And people grabbing their masks and scuttling away.
There would have been a worried guy praying and beseeching The One Above to just let the cough be just a cough. In some situations there would have been guys dressed like guardian angels only that they will not be there to protect you but to whisk you away. And you would have been reported the following day as a new case.
I couldn’t imagine being in a long distance bus, train or at the airport with this cough. Not the normal clearing-your-throat-cough (do people still clear their throats in this era?) but a proper cough. The one that shakes you so much you feel your appendix swing like a pendant.
So I rushed to the hospital, and when the doctor asked the usual questions, I was careful to avoid the mentioning the symptoms that everyone was aware of.
I will stop here. The cough is on again just as the curve is flattening in Kenya. At this point, I have chosen to be positive. I will blame the AC in my office and not what’s on your mind.