For Christmas this year, some people got bikes or new phones or cosy jumpers. Some people got a nice candle or earrings or a generic voucher from a relative that doesn’t know them that well.
Me? I got conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis is basically when the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye becomes red and inflamed and, as a result, causes your eye to produce manky yellow pus that makes you want to crawl under the covers and hide. This option was made even more tempting by the fact that one of my eyes was literally sealed shut so I had to ply it open with the same precision I usually reserve for plucking my eyebrows or nibbling around the edge of a Kit Kat until only the wafer is left.
Conjunctivitis is not a disease suited to the festive period. Conjunctivitis in mid-February? Fine. You can hunker down and avoid seeing people for three straight days if needs be. Conjunctivitis in July? Easy breezy, chuck on a pair of sunglasses and you’re good to go.
But at Christmas, there’s nowhere to hide. You have to go to the party at your neighbours’ house. You’re expected at your cousin’s place to play endless games of charades. You’re practically legally obliged to see your grandparents. And then, on top of that, you have to see the family friend you used to have a crush on, knowing that for the next year, the image that they’re going to have of you in their mind won’t be of you in a nice sequinned dress, but of you with puffy red eye that periodically fills with gummy snot.
Almost every every single conversation I had over the four days while my eyes looked like the final, haunting scene from a horror film that keeps you awake at night was some variation of this:
Me: Hi – oh no, I wouldn’t hug me, I have conjunctivitis (lifting up my sunglasses and pointing at my gammy eye. Why conceal something when you could draw attention to it, right?)
Person: (pulling a face and taking a step away from me) Oh. That’s… (person searches frantically for a word to say that isn’t ‘gross’ or ‘repulsive’) …unfortunate.
Me: Yeah, it’s all full of pus. And I can’t really see out of it at the moment so your face is slightly blurry.
Me: But you look great blurry. Er, not that you wouldn’t look great if you were, um, un-blurry.
Person: Is it contagious?
Me: Oh, it’s super contagious.
Person: (taking another step away from me) I mean, it’s not *that* bad.
Me: Really? I’m paranoid I have pus on my eyeball at all times.
Person: (pulling awkward face).
Me: I have pus on my eye don’t I?
Person: Only a bit. Well, actually quite a lot. But, er, Happy Christmas! (awkwardly pats me on the shoulder and makes a hasty escape).
After four days of avoiding any contact with anyone and baffling my family by wearing my sunglasses indoors, my conjunctivitis cleared up. Mercifully, I don’t seem to have passed on good ol’ pus eye to any of my loved ones – and let me tell you, I have never appreciated my normal, un-gummed eyes more.
Hopefully next festive period, the only thing I’ll be spreading is Christmas cheer.