Sick to the bone.

I hate getting sick.

I avoid popping antibiotics as much as I
can, mindful of viral and bacterial mutation. I take Flanax to reduce
inflammation and fortify my immune system, try to remember to take my vitamins
and ask for massages from yaya (in her absence, my kind sister or whoever
happens to be visiting will do).

(an affectionate term for a nanny, but in this case applied to the cool woman
who comes to clean out the apartment every Sunday) apprenticed with an old
healer in her hometown. She gives massages (or “hilot,” which implies a massage
meant to heal or assuage symptoms of illness) to close family, and sometimes is
called upon by the neighbors when drugstore medicine doesn’t seem to help. She
looks for little bumps under the muscle; she says those little bumps are where
sickness hides, and she says massage breaks them down and “releases” the
sickness and forces it out of the body.

When she feels one of those little bumps
on me (and surprisingly, I can feel them too), she kneads really, really hard
and I twist and shriek; it’s quite painful.

Afterwards, I’m not supposed to take a
bath, or the sickness will find its way back into my

There is a belief, in Javanese
culture, in this illness called “masuk angin.” (Literally, entry of wind.) The
symptoms vary from fever to listlessness to a hollow feeling in the stomach. But
it’s blamed on an ill wind residing in the body. My mom used to nag me to put on
a shirt immediately after drying myself off from a bath, in case “tamaan ka ng
hangin.” I see related concepts in Chinese culture (chi, or energy flow, in the
same way wind flows), in Ayurveda, even in the ancient theory of the four

My humors do not have a
sense of themselves, obviously, or they wouldn’t be putting me through