My name is Miss Jones and I live in a dysfunctional relationship with the cold virus.
I am weak and I am needy, and he is always stronger.
As soon as the wind starts biting, and my mum and I have the year's first Sunday-evening conversation about needing the heating on, and my mum says, 'The woman I was sitting next to on the train yesterday had the most terrible cough,' I am waiting for him, chewing anxiously on vitamins and peering at my throat in the bathroom mirror, and thinking, 'Soon, surely, soon… but when?'
Sometimes it seems I ache purely in anticipation of him, and by the time he arrives, I am almost grateful. Sometimes, I wait so long I think, 'This is it. I've done it. I've broken the pattern. I'm free of him for ever.' But then, there he is, tickling at my throat, rendering me hot and helpless in the same old way and it has started again.
And then I'm pathetically trying to please him with nose-kind tissues and clumsy lumps of ginger in hot water, and I'm changing my plans, cancelling my friends to just Be With Him. And there we are on the sofa, surrounded by tissues, exhausted and miserable with each other.
In the winter I know to look out for him. I watch for his shadow. But even in summer, when I least expect him, there he'll be, ruining a weekend at the seaside, embarrassing me at weddings. I am an idiot. I think I can change him. But all the Pret Vitamin Volcanoes in the world can't stop the thing that always brings us back together.*
Everyone has an opinion. People always do. 'What do you mean you're not taking Lemsip?' 'XYZ gets this amazing stuff from Holland & Barrett.' But they don't know him like I do, and they don't see how it works between us. Also, Lemsip is disgusting.
And then, after a few days of tangled sheets and lost sleep and rushing straight home from work, he has gone. Slowly, I am myself again. I watch my red, peeling nose become white and smooth again, and I give Dorothy from The Golden Girls back the voice I borrowed, and I wonder when the next time will come around.
*My innately feeble, Victorian-child constitution.