I don’t know how it happened that before this past weekend, I had never left my family for a trip by myself. It’s not like I’d never felt the need to go away (believe me, that happens once a day at least) but I guess I never made it a priority.
But when you haven’t seen your childhood friend in more than seven years, and she just happened to move one state away from you after living in Malaysia and Australia - really, anywhere but close to me - for so long, I jumped at the chance to meet her halfway in Dallas for a girls’ getaway. Oh the food we would demolish and the conversations we would enjoy together; I just couldn’t wait.
When the day came for me to drive the 200 miles to Dallas however, I woke with chills, aches, and a sore throat. What the what? I couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t just random shitty luck. It’s TOTALLY shitty luck because I never get sick. Okay, almost never. I’m not exaggerating because even my six-year-old Little Miss noticed and commented several weeks ago: “Mama, I’ve seen Pickle sick, I’ve seen daddy sick, and I’ve been sick, but I’ve never seen you sick. Why’s that?”
“Well,” I started smugly, grateful for a teaching moment, “That’s because I work out and I eat healthy and…” Yada yada yada yada. As I miserably fought my symptoms on my way there, I thought back to that moment and leered at myself. Where’s that healthy immunity now, %#@*&#@%*?!
After our gleeful reunion at DFW airport, where my friend landed, and we finally found our way out of the frickin’ airport, which has the worst signage of any airports I’ve visited, by the way, we made our way to our first stop: the Malaysian restaurant. Like that’s a surprise.
Because of my ailment, I could barely eat the food I’d been dying to inhale for the past few months. Even Char Kuey Teow couldn’t get me out of my appetite funk, and that was a sad, sad day.
What’s worse is that after the meal, we went back to the hotel...to take a nap. I don’t know if it’s my sickness or just aging in general, or that we were both weary from travel, but we were perfectly content to rest in a darkened room until our next meal time.
We then explored Lower Greenville with their many trendy restaurants and cocktail bars, and all I could think of was some kind of soup with some kind of noodles. My friend, who had to overcompensate for my underperformance and ate more lunch than she would’ve liked, was craving something much lighter, and sushi sounded great to her. We compromised and went in search for a Japanese place that served both ramen and sushi.
Once again, when the food arrived, my appetite failed me. In fact, the complex flavors of the broth that often reeled me in actually offended me that evening. I preferred eating the fried chicken gizzards and the agedashi tofu (have I mentioned how much I adore eating with my Malaysian friends?) but the green tea was my favorite part of the meal. Again, what a sad, sad day for this food fanatic.
Pathetic, in fact. Especially when we arrived back at our hotel at 9PM on a Friday night. Oh yeah, we ladies sure knew how to party. I was so grateful for a friend who understood, and who is generally pretty low-key so all this eating and resting didn’t bother her. All wasn’t lost however. Despite my aches and chills, we still managed to catch up on each others’ lives throughout the day and “The Bridget Jones’ Diary” movie that played on the hotel TV kept us entertained that evening.
When I woke the next day with the same dreadful feeling, I knew I had to snap out of my denial and admit that my friend was right - I had all the symptoms of the flu. I was sick and I needed to find a way to get over it. I was just supremely annoyed that it had to happen the one weekend I finally made plans just for myself after what, nearly seven years of planning my life around others’? And since I’d always been the caretaker of the sick bodies at home, it would’ve been nice for the flu to hit when I was actually home, when I could finally claim some payback and be the one who got pampered while the rest of the family scrambled to tend to my every whim and need, like fetch me water, fluff my pillow, feed me soup…hey, one could dream.
And so I begrudgingly made CVS our first stop, took the DayQuil I procured, and made our way to brunch, determined to beat this thing. Drugs are often my last resort, but without my usual arsenal like bedrest, homemade chicken soup or “jook” (Chinese rice porridge) available to me, I had no choice but to choose the alternative.
And voila! It worked.
Even though I hurt in some places, ate a little less, and walked a little slower, I was well enough to explore Dallas and continue to have deep, long conversations with my friend of 33 years. After all, when you go way back like that with someone, you have plenty to talk about. The memories alone would’ve filled the weekend, but we also opened up about the lives we led apart as well as our current personal challenges.
Within the pristinely manicured grounds of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, on a stroll in the Uptown neighborhood, during a late-evening trolley ride to Downtown Dallas for cocktails, on a walking tour of the historic West End district where we could see the X that marked the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and during our food truck lunch at the family-friendly Klyde-Warren Park that’s built over an expressway, our conversations flowed, often punctuated by laughter and interrupted by selfies.
The city we explored felt more like a backdrop to the connection we were both trying to re-establish. It had been years after all, and so much has happened in between.
Can we ever remain the same in some ways to some people? Apparently, this weekend had shown me that it’s possible, and I, for one, am ever so grateful. I’ve lost so much from my past to build my life here in the States; I couldn’t lose this friendship too. Sometimes it feels like the only thing that’s keeping my memories of my school days from fading completely. (Thank you, my sweet friend.)
After goodbyes (and miraculously navigating out of the airport labyrinth on my own), I’d arrived home in one piece, but gladly fell apart at the sight of My Guy. Having had to hold it together all weekend so as not to ruin my friend’s time with me, and having always been the one to care for a sick kid or husband, I just wanted to give myself permission to crumble for a bit.
I think I’ve earned it.