By Brianna Levesque
The constellation of pinprick red dots on my palm is a marker of my contamination. Discussing the state of my health with friends, I watch their eyes as my status flickers from “one of us” to “one of them,” and observe as the increasingly cautious understanding spreads over their faces.
There’s a certain turning down at the corners of the mouth, elevation of the eyebrows and sudden recoil of the entire body. Recently, I have come to know this familiar look of terror well, along with the sound of chair legs scraping frantically across the floor in an effort to create the greatest distance politely possible. Welcome to real-life Humans vs. Zombies, Kenyon. I’m one of the latter (apparently).
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFM) sounds utterly terrifying. I get it. Sure, the virus — which often causes fever and a rash on the hands, feet and in and around the mouth (somewhere out there, someone is having a eureka moment) — kind of reminds me of the plague. The wonderful news is that it is decidedly not the plague. Although there were some more severe cases on this campus, most are only mildly discomforting and disappear within a week or two. (Note: I have heard of a few people who needed to visit the hospital after contracting this virus. Here is a sincere shoutout to anyone reading this who has truly suffered from HFM: I wish you the best of health and happiness in the future.) Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing pleasurable about repeatedly traversing campus, north to south, with myriad pesky blisters on one’s foot. Yet, in the end, I’m lucky the pain is only temporary.
However, the memory of the stigmatization I’ve experienced is permanent, and I’m only slightly exaggerating. This is not my first encounter at Kenyon with one of the grotesque illnesses the Health Center sends student-info emails about, but I found this particular outbreak the most interesting by far.
Yet, as it turns out, nobody else shares my same curiosity. If you are a sufferer, anyone with whom you engage in conversation regarding HFM will undoubtedly be less enthused than you, and is more likely to beg you take a step back or squirt Bath & Body Works Island Nectar hand sanitizer on you from afar than respond with, “Oh, please tell me more!”
If you, however, are one of the humans yet to be infected, I can only wish you luck in sitting next to that chronic cougher in your English class, using door handles and selecting a pre-grabbed apple in Peirce. My only advice? Wash on, my friends. Wash on.
Brianna Levesque ’17 is a prospective English major from Medford, Ore. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.