Day two of suffering from the lurgy.
I called in sick at work this morning and I'm feeling even worse. Yesterday, apparently, was a mere introduction - a teaser, if you like - nothing compared to the nose-dripping-like-a-tap, glands-the-size-of-melons, thumping-headache, ear-drum-throbbing hell that I am living today.
After finishing the one box of Paracetemol we had in the apartment earlier this morning, I realised that I ought to venture out into the real world to pick up some more from the Pharmacy. So off I went; skanky, unwashed hair stacked on top of my head, wearing jogging bottoms baggy at the knees, two jumpers and a scarf wrapped tightly around my swollen neck, and carrying a packet of tissues in my hand.
But when I arrived outside the nearest pharmacy I knew of, I discovered it was closed for refurbishment. Letting out a long and mournful sigh, I turned back and went off in the search of the next nearest chemist. I had been walking for a whole ten minutes, by which time my legs were like jelly, all weak and trembling, and I was beginning to sweat under all those layers, when I saw the big green pharmacy sign. Oh the relief! And I stumbled on inside.
There was no one to be seen in the chemist. No customers and no one behind the counter. This was something of a surprise, because the French are, in the nicest possible way, complete hypochondriacs. They spend hours in the pharmacy, sharing their entire health history with the pharmacist, spending half their salary on mountains of medicine prescribed for their cold. The news doesn't seem to have reached this country that there is no cure for the common cold yet.
Anyone who has lived in France will tell you that the people here run to their doctor as soon as they have the slightest sniffle or tickle in their throat. And they will also tell you that the doctor will send the patient home with at least three prescriptions (I've been known to come away with six before) for several medicines to treat a symptom they didn't even know they had. Included somewhere in those medicines prescribed is almost always a large dose of suppositories.
An elderly man appeared from behind the shelves of pregnancy tests and condoms - always a little odd to see the two products sat side by side - and greeted me with a solemn nod.
"Bonjour Monsieur," I choked with my hoarse voice.
"Bonjour." He said and made his way behind the counter. When he got there, he looked at me disparagingly over the frames of his glasses and said "What can I do for you?" in such a way that said to me 'feck off and stop bothering me'.
I cleared my throat. "I'd like to buy some Paracetemol, please." And I waved my ten euro note in the air, as if to prove I was worthy. He looked at me as though I was an eejit.
"Which type?" He asked. When I hesitated he sighed, loud and long and impatiently. "Is it for an adult?"
I nodded. "Yes, it's for me."
"In powder form or tablets?" I had the sudden sense he had started tapping his foot.
"What's it for?" He barked.
"I've got a cold," I barked back. Nosy gobshite.
"You should go and see your doctor if it's that bad."
"Yes, maybe." I couldn't be bothered arguing.
He stood his full height, which was only about 5ft5, but it was supposed to be authoritative and menacing. "Paracetemol is only for pain."
"And I have a pain in the ass." I wanted to say. Instead I said "I have a sore head. And ear ache. And a sore throat." As if to prove something I lifted my scarf away from my neck and pointed at my glands.
And finally, my point proven, he walked away, returning a moment later with a small yellow box of Paracetemol in his hands. He handed me the box and I held out my money. He shook his head at me, frowned and looked at me from over his glasses again.
"You pay the cashier at the pay desk," he said, jabbing a finger in the direction of another counter five feet away. There was no cashier there, it was still just the two of us in the shop. My eyes were drawn to the till sitting in front of him on the counter where he presently was. What was wrong with that one?
"Uhm, okay then," I said and sidled the five feet to my left. Once I was there I watched him as he made his way five feet to his right, and stood in front of me again, playing the roll of the cashier now, at the pay desk.
And then - and I can only hope that he was either joking or trying to annoy me - but then he said "Bonjour, what can I do for you?" As if we hadn't just been having the previous conversation atall.
Unsure of whether to laugh or cry, I slowly handed him the box of paracetemol and as soon as he was finished I got out of there damn quick. No wonder that place was dead, I thought. The pharmacist is a nut case!
And now, back home, I am wondering if it even happened at all. Perhaps I had a fever, perhaps it was the lurgy playing tricks on my mind. Did I imagine the entire thing? But as I sit here popping two white pills of Paracetemol into my mouth and chasing it down with water, all I know is that making a trip to a French pharmacy is not an easy thing to do. Just like French administration; if you get out alive, you deserve a bar of chocolate.