Tennis practice on Friday afternoon began like it always does—with dynamic stretching drills that make us look like morons. Our club tennis team coach has recently been watching a lot of YouTube videos by the “professionals,” and apparently the professionals are into things like running across the court while flapping your arms in circles. We also practice swinging at empty air, balancing on one leg in a variety of strange positions, and running frantic circles around our own tennis rackets. The team gets a lot of encouraging honks from passing fans.
But as we grabbed our rackets and started to get into position for triples—3 vs. 3 tennis, also kind of silly looking but a good time as long as you don’t collide with too many teammates—my friend Bruce* gave me some startling news. “Did you hear about Rachel?” He asked. I hadn’t seen Rachel since our tournament the previous weekend, so I shook my head no. Bruce grew serious. “She has mono,” he said.
Mono—or mononucleosis, as Web MD would say—is a stupid illness. Affectionately known as “the kissing disease,” mono spreads primarily through the sharing of saliva. (I formally apologize for the phrase “sharing of saliva.”) On top of making you feel like shit for months, mono causes inflammation of the spleen, and if you fall on your spleen while it is inflamed, there’s a good chance that it’ll rupture. (Aside from swelling up and benching you from all physical activities when you have mono, the spleen doesn’t do a whole lot. It’s like the right-fielder on a little league baseball team. Just sort of stands there.)
The bottom line is mono sucks. I felt terrible for Rachel and her spleen. I was about to tell Bruce this, but then I had a flashback so vivid, it could’ve been the final scene of a Law & Order episode.
6:15 AM on September 27, 2014. Fifteen or so members of the tennis team crowd the local Dunkin’ Donuts. Almost all of us are wearing grey sweat pants with our team logo and matching I regret signing up for this tournament but I’m trying not to show it expressions. It is still dark outside. The college we’re traveling to for our tournament is two and a half hours away. We’re excited, deep down we really are, but it’s a Saturday and all of our neighbors were blasting music until 2AM and no one can report getting more than five real hours of sleep. Rachel orders a large, cream-colored iced coffee. I do not order a coffee, because I know it will give me a) the jitters, b) a stomachache, c) an intense and prolonged need to pee, or d) all of the above. But Rachel’s cream-colored coffee looks damn good.
“What kind of coffee did you get?” I ask her out of genuine curiosity. (Coffee fascinates me. Most of the time it makes me feel like I’m going to die and I never know how to order it right, but it’s just so sophisticated, you know?)
“French Vanilla decaf,” Rachel says. “Want to try?” Then she smiles, tilts her straw towards me, and…
I TOOK A SIP. I TOOK A SIP OF RACHEL’S LARGE FRENCH VANILLA DECAF COFFEE FROM DUNKIN’ DONUTS. MAYDAY. MAYDAY.
My stomach dropped. My skin went cold. I gulped. “Damn,” I said to Bruce, “that sucks.”
Things I chose not to say to Bruce:
- Rachel is patient zero, and I am whatever the next victim after patient zero is called. Because I’m an idiot, Bruce.
- Oh god, I can already feel my lymph nodes swelling.
- I had mono in fourth grade and my mom made me sit on the couch watch Little House on the Prairie with her for six straight weeks. I can’t go back there, Bruce. I CAN’T.
I managed to swallow my fear—noting that my throat felt a little dry, like it was on the verge of becoming severely sore—and I played through the rest of the practice. It was a great practice, actually. Shout out to my friend Alfred for making it to the final round of Around the World two games in a row. (In the final round, you have to drop your racket and spin around in a circle after every shot you hit. I’m starting a petition to bring that rule to the Wimbledon Championships.)
Since the flashback, I’ve had two doctors, several family members, and most of the Internet tell me that contracting mono twice is a highly unlikely scenario. Julie has decided that she is immune. My other roommates are pretending that I have the Bubonic Plague.
Moral of the story: club sports rock, mono sucks, and fuck French Vanilla decaf.
*All names have been changed to protect the ill. Also, all names have been inspired by Batman.