It all started with an ache in my legs. The fall semester was winding down during my freshman year at Temple University and the weekend approached. My friends and I decided to venture out in the frigid weather to go to an ugly sweater party. Without having an ugly sweater, I had a feeling the night would not go over well, but little did I know how bad things would get.
Making my way around the cramped, dimly lit box of an apartment, the ache in my legs started to kick in. A slight yet menacing numbness soon turned into a stabbing ache that made it painful to even stand. I shuffled over to the wall and leaned against it, red solo cup in hand, hoping that it was just my drink convincing me that I felt like crap — wouldn’t have been the first time. But as I stood near the surprisingly realistic overhead-projected fireplace among a swarm of hot bodies and incoherent chitchat, I knew I had to get out. The ache was building.
I shoved my way through people until I found the only familiar faces in the room. Staying as collected as I could, I told my friends I needed to leave. As we all stumbled back to the dorms, I felt pins and needles jabbing at my leg, just around my shins. Each step felt as if someone had repeatedly kicked my shins, and the cold midnight air was only adding to the soreness.
Finally making it back to the dorms, I slumped into my room dreading the pain that was creeping its way up past my knees and to my thighs. Since the health center was closed until the following afternoon, Ibuprofen was the only friend I could turn to at that point. I took two and climbed into bed, hoping the next day would bring me relief.
Let’s just say it didn’t. I woke up the next day feeling like an elderly woman attempting to walk sans walker with a rhino sitting on her face. The pressure around my sinuses and eyes convinced me that I had slept in a snorkeling mask, and the ache throbbed throughout my whole body. Thanks a ton, Ibuprofen. Dreading the quarter-mile walk to the student health center, I prepared for the agonizing trip ahead of me and hoped I wouldn’t look too much like Quasimodo.
The easiest route from my dorm to the health center runs down the main walk of Temple’s campus, Liacouras Walk. There weren’t many students around but I tried not to scare the few I did see by maintaining a semi-ordinary appearance until I reached the entrance. After checking in, I sat silently with the other terminally ill patients and rocked back and forth to try to suppress the aches. Within an hour of waiting and seeing the physician, I learned nothing that I didn’t already know and got a prescription for anti-inflammatories, which I later learned to be Ibuprofen. Excellent.
Feeling useless and drained from my journey, I collapsed into my pillow and didn’t move an inch until it was dark. Alone in my room, a brilliant thought struck me: I should do my laundry. Hardly able to stand, I piled my dirty clothes and detergent into my hamper and — at a snail’s pace — inched my way to the laundry room on all fours, pushing the hamper ahead of me as I went along. I’m half surprised someone didn’t see me slumping over the washing machine, pitifully throwing my clothes inside. In the real scheme of things, doing the laundry was not on a high priority list and could’ve been saved for another day. I think the Ibuprofen had taken a toll on my judgment.
I hardly remember getting back to my room after that. The next thing I know, I woke up to my roommate announcing that she and some of my other floor mates were all going to her house for the weekend — a trip we all were excited for, but one that I’d have to miss out on. I would’ve said goodbye but my throat had become too inflamed to even get a word out. My eyes turned into mere slits under my eyebrows and the pressure around my nose got so intense that a sneeze made it feel as if it would fly off my face. So there I stayed for the next two days with nothing but my TV and ineffective meds to keep my company.
To this day, I still don’t know what left me practically disabled for three days. The plague of my freshman year will always remain a mystery to me.