The undergraduate cold comes as the convulsive culmination of a five-week run of all-nighters, talking, reading, , finding previously undiscovered locations to have sex, drinking through the weekends, popping pills on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the soft easy chairs of the campus lounge. The undergraduate cold forces you to lie in your own dormitory bed alone, as you hack and sweat your way through two whole days of blurry solitude. By the second afternoon, you wonder if you should give up smoking, by the next day you are willing to follow that hippy girl’s advice on how to eat healthy, but by the third day you are back outside sucking in the nicotine, cold breeze, ready for the next round.
The graduate student cold sweeps up on you unexpectedly as if you had no idea it was coming, at first you resist, confident that if you focus on your course readings you can shake off these minor symptoms, then the fever overpowers you, and you bike to the drugstore only worsening your condition, so that you can take too many pills that leave you head spinning as you coast down the hill to your apartment. The loudest, nihilistic music fills your head as you sweat on your fake leather sofa, left over from a design era you thought had been completely superseded.
The dissertation cold comes mercifully just as you have finished your second chapter, but have no idea how to proceed. You have written all the new, original thoughts you could muster and you are barely halfway done. Too exhausted to consider failure, you have no idea what could possibly exist outside completion, you collapse into your queen side bed as your “partner” decides to sleep over at her girlfriend’s apartment, so as to leave you more space to recover.
The untenured cold is like an on-campus job interview for which you prepare madly, only to have the opportunity pass away within a few days. You guzzle cold medicine like it has no effect. The head of the search committee runs into you in the bathroom sucking down Nyquil and just smiles. You sweat through your talk while the audience prepares their uncomprehending questions. You drive home alone in a blizzard that forces you to sleep on the side of the highway for the first time.
The tenured cold is like the tiresome colleague, who emphasizes his own grand accomplishments in relation to your minor successes every time you have a meeting. Tenured colds have to be tolerated with an air of Buddha, for if you are not sanguine enough they may dog you to the grave. The tenured cold may have no end, it may never leave you. It may embrace your being completely, until you submit to the dean’s retirement package, forcing you to vacate your office even as your brow sweats feverishly.