Nothing chicken about this pox

I had the misfortune, early last month, of contracting chickenpox. According to history books, the origins of chickenpox date as far back as the 14th century. It is unclear where the disease got its name from. One theory is that it is called chickenpox due to its relatively mild nature, when compared to smallpox, a now eradicated disease with similar symptoms but a much higher mortality rate. That theory is bullshit. There is nothing chicken about chickenpox, at least not when contracted in adulthood. Now that we’ve established that fact, let me tell you a few conclusions I’ve reached after my experience with this truly awful disease.

First, let’s get this clear: the chickenpox people contract in childhood is not the same as the chickenpox others get as adults. Medical books would tell you that chickenpox is more severe in adults than in children, but I’m not talking about severity here. The chickenpox people told me they had when they were 6 or 7 and laughed about and said was over in about a week or less after rubbing calamine lotion cannot be the same disease I was afflicted with last month. Virologists may not know this yet, but there are 2 variants of the virus – the type that likes to pester kids and is little more than a nuisance, and its vengeful, malicious sister that only goes after the few of us that were lucky (actually, unlucky) to have escaped the former in childhood. For the purposes of this write-up, we would give to the variant of chickenpox that people contract in adulthood the fancy name “chickenpox AD”.

Chickenpox AD was invented by the CIA. No, I didn’t spend all my time in quarantine gorging on conspiracy theories, and I haven’t lost my mind either. But I am 100% certain about this: Chickenpox AD was deliberately created by a covert programme established by the CIA. I arrived at this conclusion, not through research, but intuition and very simple logic. First, chickenpox AD is not a creation of nature. Why? Because nature does not have the capacity to create a disease so evil, so virulent, so … ugh. Words fail me. Man on the other hand? We all know fully well man’s infinite capacity for evil. It’s a smoking gun really: if nature didn’t do this, then man must have. If it was man, of course we know who was behind it. Like we know who’s behind HIV, the Middle East crisis, Ebola, Africa’s underdevelopment and half of the problems of the world. The Americans of course!

After contracting chickenpox, you realize, in a very profound sort of way, that you are (or used to be) very good looking; you just didn’t know it then. By the time the outbreak of blisters on your face is full blown and you look into the mirror and Gollum stares right back at you, you would realize – in that brief, illuminating moment – how beautiful you once were. My recommendation for anyone that is insecure with their appearance: a healthy dose of chickenpox AD with concentration on the face. You would be grateful to have your face (or a semblance of it) back when the blisters have scabbed over. By the time my black spots have completely faded – I hear this can take as much as a year (chai!) – I’m sure I will think I look like David Beckham.

One of the most remarkable ironies of chickenpox is that it is when you have it that some people will insist on visiting you. Now, that anyone would want to visit someone with a highly contagious disease that requires being in quarantine makes little sense, right? Well, so does the way of the world. I am not talking about the kind visits of genuinely concerned close family and friends. God bless them. No, I am talking about that guy that has been asking you out for several months but you’ve kept turning down. He would want to come around, offer his sympathy from the safety of a few metres away, while thinking to himself: so this babe can look ugly like this? Thank God she never gree sef. Who knows what her face will be like after this. Or that busybody neighbor that is a nurse, who takes the saying “seeing is believing” a little too literally, and would insist, in spite of your assurances that you have chickenpox, on visiting you to confirm it with her own eyes.

Apparently, everybody and their dog has had chickenpox at some point in their lives. The standard response from folks to my disclosure that I had chickenpox was that they too, their spouse, sister-in-law and third cousin had had it too. Although most people appear to have had it in childhood, several people contracted it in adulthood like me, and were willing witnesses to how awful the disease is when contracted in adult life. I don’t know whether those stories made me happy or sad. They may have been meant to provide some “you are not alone in this” consolation, but at that time I would have given anything to have roles reversed and be the one consoling the other person. Anyway, now that I’ve had mine – and survived it – I wear my survivor badge proudly around my neck and look forward to the day I have a first opportunity to comfort someone with my “oh dear, so sorry about that; I also had chickenpox in er .. yeah it was June of 2015”.

I emerged from my experience with chickenpox generally a more grateful person. The denial, during the period that you are infectious, of little liberties we often take for granted – a hug from your spouse, carrying your child in your arms, taking an evening walk in your neighbourhood – generally leave you a little more appreciative. I’ve told some folks that in order to ensure that Damisi – my 19 month old son – didn’t get infected, my wife locked me up in a dungeon in the basement of the house and passed food to me under the door. That, of course, is a joke – but that was how my 10 or so days of isolation sometimes felt. I am still haunted by the bewilderment in Damisi’s eyes that evening he innocently ran towards me – expecting me to sweep him up in my arms and I had to literally flee from him. It almost took having to get a certificate of discharge from a government hospital for my wife to readmit me into our bedroom. I cannot remember any other time sleeping on my own bed had felt so good.

The word “affliction” has several definitions in most dictionaries. One of its definitions in the Free Dictionary is “a condition of pain, suffering, or distress”. I don’t know why the writers of dictionaries bother with so many words. If I ever get to write a dictionary, here’s how I would define the word “affliction”:


noun \ə-ˈflik-shən\ Chickenpox AD.