It isn’t so much the cough itself, though it’s persisted for 10 days, comes and goes as it pleases, creates excruciating bad breath and fills my throat with an occasional rattle.
It’s the noise.
As in, a sharp warning to all around me. “Watch out,” it says, “Sicko coming through. Take cover and hide your children.”
I know the sound of a cough is lost in the din as things get colder – and, therefore, better filled with the sound of a billion additional coughs. But I still imagine others hear it as I do.
Loud. Filling the room like a Labrador bark. Dripping with disease, stagnating in the air, presenting a biological hazard as it floats through doorways.
I cough, and I know others roll their eyes. I cough, and I imagine the backhanded comments. I cough, and I feel the glare of overprotective mothers, of health care professionals, of cubicle-mates who would rather not end up with bronchitis.
I’ve been branded. And until this scarlet “C” has been wiped away, I’ll always feel self-conscious.