Bones breaking, bones broken? Coconut, a straw pushed into my mouth. Cold coconut water sloshing in the empty cavern of my belly. Dizzy, definitely broken bones. Cold, so very cold… and hot, so very hot. Where are my socks? So cold. Laying as still as possible. Pain, oh so much pain. Air conditioning hurting my skin. Need my socks. So cold. Coconut on the bedside table looking at me. The sheets hurt. Blurry vision. Skin HURTS! Bones do not want to be under my skin anymore. Let them out!
Sleep did not come. The weird translucent, delusional state of mind that the dengue fever had left me in was like seeing the world through a camera that couldn’t focus. All of the bones in my body felt broken and my skin felt like an unwelcomed barrier keeping my bones inside my body. My brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening, not even enough to wake my sleeping husband to alert him that something wasn’t right. This lasted through the night and the entire next day. The sweltering heat radiating from the outside battled with the blasting air conditioning until I was finally able to summon enough cognitive ability to turn the air conditioning off. I was freezing to death in the 100+ degree temperature. The coconut, my saving grace, took me 36 hours to finally drink. For nearly two days it stared at me from the bedside table, challenging me to drink it and allow the life saving fluid to work its magic in my body. The fever finally broke and I was welcomed back into the world we know. Happy to leave that delusional, agonous world behind, I was far from better but at least able to comprehend that I was me, in my body, in a hotel room, with a coconut.
Meanwhile, the super typhoon made contact with the earth a few hundred miles away on a nearby island. The storm had been brewing for the past week, grounding boats and planes, prohibiting any sort of inter-island transport and any beach or water activity. Hospitals were hundreds of miles away from me in my illusory state in a tiny, dingy town on a remote island in the Sulu Sea. My recollections of the past day and night were foggy, but I remember changing hotels in the middle of the night—before the onset of my fever—when we were woken by the whores next door doing their job, which shook the paper thin walls of the awful pay-by-the-hour hotel. We forked out what seemed like a fortune ($20) for a nicer hotel at one-o-clock in the morning and celebrated that we had air conditioning for the first time in a month. Little did I know, that air conditioning would be the bane of my existence a few hours later.
The great thing about dengue fever is that you feel worse than death for 48 hours and then the fever breaks and you feel like a million dollars because the only recent comparison you have is a state worse than torture. With overhead waves crashing on beaches where waves shouldn’t be, water activity was out of the question, so we rented a motorbike from the awful pay-by-the-hour hotel across the street. The wind made me feel alive again. An arm wrapped around Isaac’s sweaty back with one hand, another hand holding my trusty companion— the coconut, I didn’t regret for a minute that I happened to be on a tiny, remote tropical island in the middle of the ocean, during a super typhoon, recovering from dengue fever, riding on a motor bike that may or may not have been used in weird sexual acts. Yep, this was the real Philippines, not the white-sand, umbrella-in-your-cocktail and big floppy hat on a perfect serene beach version of paradise. Somehow, in this dingy, underbelly of a shithole, too weak to stand on my own two feet, typhoon-scale winds blowing through my hair, on the back of a bike with my favorite person in the world, I had found my paradise.