Revenge of the Nerd Ch. 50byrpsuch©
I had been feeling a little strange all day and after dinner I was out of energy and out of sorts.
At 8:30 I told Jeff I was going to bed because I didn't feel well.
He put his lips to my forehead and said, "You're hot. Get into bed and I'll get you something cold to drink."
"I just want to get some sleep."
"That's a sure sign you're sick."
I was asleep before I could answer.
Later that night I woke up drenched. I noticed the light on in the corner over the easy chair with books piled on the edge of the desk.
Then Jeff was walking to my side with a towel. He wiped off my sweat. He put down the towel and placed a cold, wet washcloth on my forehead. It felt so good.
Next he was running another cold washcloth over my body. The water replaced the clammy feeling of perspiration and cooled me as it dried.
I still felt like shit, but I did get back to sleep.
Jeff woke me some time in the morning and I was sweating again. He had ginger ale and ibuprofen for me. The latter was a good idea because I was starting to ache all over, which I told him.
"I called the campus hospital and they said the flu's going around. Sorry, but you seem to have joined the club."
"Get me some antibiotics," I said.
"It would be just as effective to sing the National Anthem. Antibiotics don't work against viruses."
"Now you're a doctor?" I should have anticipated the answer.
"I read a book."
"Do something," I said. I hurt.
"I do have something very effective against the flu."
"Good. Get it. What is it?"
"Placebo. I have some in the kitchen."
I didn't know whether to laugh or be angry.
"I know what a placebo is. How dumb do you think I am?"
"I just thought you might be too sick to notice. But placebos actually do work. Sometimes they work better than the medication they're being tested against."
He was serious. I wasn't about to ask again. The answer was a book.
"But how can it work when I know it's a placebo?"
"Do you? Maybe I told you it's a placebo but it's the real thing. Then when it works, you'll begin to believe in placebos.
"Next time, when I use a bona fide placebo, your mind will have fooled you into thinking they work, so it will work.
"But what if it really is a placebo and I told you all this to get it to work this time because you think you're getting the real thing?
"But what if -"
"Shut up, Jeff! You're making my head hurt. Just get me something."
He left the room and returned a few minutes later.
"Open up," he said.
He didn't want me to see what I was taking. I let him get away with it because it just might help.
I woke up some time later. There was an aroma of something cooking but I couldn't identify it. My head ached and I was hot, but at least I wasn't sweating.
Jeff walked into the bedroom with a steaming mug with a spoon sticking out of it.
"Homemade chicken soup," he announced. "Studies have shown it to be the most effective flu remedy by thirty five percent."
"You're just making that up," I said.
"Yes. But that makes sense because ninety three percent of all statistics are made up."
"You're just making that up," I said.
"Yes. But I'm pretty sure chicken soup will help."
I laughed and started my soup. I don't know why, but I glanced at the clock.
"Why aren't you in class?"
"I'm missing some classes to help you get better."
"That could hurt your grades. You go to class, now."
"Do I care what grades I get?" he asked as if they were of no importance to him.
"Hell, yes," I said. "You're a freakin' perfectionist. Do you put in all that time studying because it's the absolute minimum you need to graduate, or do you do it because you can always do a little better?"
I can't say it enough. This is one of the things I love most about Jeff. Ask that kind of question of anyone else and they will give you their perfunctory, defensive answer.
He thought about it. I could see his eyes moving around, not really focusing, like he was trying to see facts and logic somewhere in the air. That's what he looked like when he was thinking.
I didn't care what he answered. That he took my question seriously was enough.
"I think you've got something there, Fifths. I may be a studyholic. Here, take your placebo."
They looked a bit like sugar pills but they were deep brown.
I finished the soup and part of a glass of ginger ale and was exhausted from the effort. I rolled onto my side and put my head on the pillow.
I woke around 4:00 and turned on Oprah. I didn't finish.
I next awoke to sounds in the kitchen.
Soon Jeff came into the bedroom with a tray of soup and crackers.
He took the glass and refilled my ginger ale. He gave me two more of the placebo pills. This was awfully strange behavior if it really was a placebo.
He removed the tray when I finished and returned with lime Jell-O, without the alcohol.
"I thought you deserved a treat since you've been such a good girl," he said.
I perked up. "What's the treat?"
"Nobody likes a smartass."
He sat down on the other side of the bed and watched the remainder of the evening news with me.
My fever was gone. I thought this was a good sign until I noticed myself getting colder rapidly. In a heartbeat I had the chills. I was shivering uncontrollably.
Jeff threw off his clothes and jumped into bed with me.
"I'm this sick and you want to do me?"
"Grace under pressure," he said.
He snuggled tight to my back to warm me.
"Get out of bed, Jeff. You're going to catch it."
"If I'm going to catch it, I already have. You were spreading it around the house before you got symptoms."
I was still shaking. He rolled me over so I was facing him and pulled me tight against him.
"Are you crazy?" I asked, but I noticed I was warming up.
"The odds are the same no matter which way I'm facing."
"You made that up, didn't you?"
I didn't know whether to be angry with Jeff for risking his health and blowing off classes or pleased that I was more important. I think I was a little of both.
A little after I stopped shivering Jeff got out of bed.
"No need to further tempt fate," he said.
The shivering had taken a lot out of me and I drifted off to a long night of sleep.
Once again I awoke to sounds from the kitchen. I was feeling a little better so I put on a robe and slippers and went there to join Jeff.
"Good, the patient's improving."
He served me toast with grape jelly and Jell-O. He was having sunny side ups and home fries with his toast. It didn't seem fair.
I devoured the toast.
"I'm really hungry. How about some of the home fries?"
"I'm not sure you're ready for that," he said.
"I'm starving, Jeff. Please?"
"No; not a good idea."
"Okay," I said with resignation. "Could you get my ginger ale? I left it in the bedroom?"
He got up from the table and headed into the bedroom. I reached over and scraped some of his fries onto my plate and shoveled them down with my fingers before he got back. As he returned to the room I burped.
"Oops," I said.
He looked at his plate suspiciously, but what could he do? To smell my breath would be stupid. I smiled and gave him an innocent look.
My stomach rumbled. I started to feel queasy. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea after all, let alone eating them so quickly.
My stomach started to roil and I took off for the bathroom. I almost made it to the toilet before the lion's share of my breakfast wound up on the floor.
I remained on my knees and continued to retch for some time. As the nausea eased I felt Jeff's hand holding my head while he cleaned me up with a warm washcloth with the other hand.
When he was done he tossed the washcloth into the sink.
I remained on the floor until I could regain a little strength. I started to reach for the toilet paper to clean up but Jeff was helping me up.
I pointed toward the floor and said, "I .…" I really wasn't in the mood to name it or finish the sentence.
Jeff said, "I've got it," when I pointed.
That was fine with me. I felt sick again and I just wanted to get back into bed.
Jeff brought me a glass of ginger ale and my placebo. The episode had taken enough out of me that I slept until dinner.
When I awoke, I felt better and worse. My aches had subsided. I still had a fever. My skin was sensitive but it no longer hurt.
The nausea was gone but my head was stuffy and my eyes were watering. I seemed to be in the stage where it morphed into a nasty cold - a considerable improvement.
Jeff brought me more ginger ale and placebo for my appetizer.
"You were asleep at lunchtime so I left you alone. The more time you spend sleeping when you're sick, the less of it you feel."
"Thank you," I said, though it sounded more like, "Dak you."
That night, when I displayed the energy and ability to do things for myself, Jeff brought me a black loose leaf binder.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Your notes and assignments from the days you've been sick."
I opened it.
"You can see I've got a divider for each of your courses. There are notes I was able to get from your classmates and notes I took for a couple classes I couldn't get coverage for."
"You went to my classes instead of yours so you could take notes?"
It was my turn to be incredulous. That was crazy. Who would do something like that? Who would even think about doing something like that?
He shrugged. Aw shucks, ma'am. T'warn't no big thing.
It was such a big thing I was stunned into silence.
I continued to look through the binder and my astonishment grew. He had read all the assigned material, summarized it including all the key details he thought I might be asked in a test, and added his commentary on what he thought was most important. At the end of each section, he put the material in a conceptual framework.
I wanted to say something but I couldn't think of how to start or what I even wanted to say.
Jeff sat a minute, got up and said, "I've got some studying to do."
That's it? Would this cost him enough time that it jeopardized his finishing by the end of the school year? How could he risk that? Did he think I was incapable of catching up myself?
Maybe it would be difficult to understand the new material when I hadn't even seen the stuff that came before it. This was like what he had done for me when we were in high school except he didn't have the time to spare.
Back then he had done it to win me over as a potential date. This time he had already won me. He did it because, because why?
He returned with some books, sat in one of the chairs on the other side of the bed and turned on the light on the table. He looked tired.
"Jeff, please don't stay up too late."
He nodded and said, "Okay."
Jeff continued to pick up the notes while I was out and attended one of my classes himself to take the notes when he knew they wouldn't be available any other way.
I regained enough strength to return to class the following week.
I didn't have the energy to work out my feelings about all this so I contented myself with ambivalence.
In the weeks that followed I learned that Jeff had developed a nerd network in my classes. Not only did he speak fluent nerd, he was able to show them his girlfriend's picture so they would know who the favor was for.
I had a boyfriend, as if that affected their chance with me, but it allowed them to dream and hope.
Jeff was almost always up before me and always went to sleep after me, except for those times he fell asleep while reading or working at the computer.
He was not only burning his candle at both ends, he was burning it in the middle as well.
I was not happy to see him exhausted so often. I began to think about how I could get him to modify his behavior.